How Not To Be a Boy | Robert Webb

Summary of: How Not To Be a Boy
By: Robert Webb


Dive into the world of Robert Webb’s ‘How Not To Be a Boy’ where societal stereotypes and expectations of boys’ behavior are scrutinized, leaving no stone unturned. This illuminating and engaging summary reveals how cultural norms shape the way parents approach their sons and daughters, leading to unintentional gender biases that perpetuate inequality. The book explores how historically entrenched ideas about boys’ physicality and lack of emotional intelligence have long-lasting consequences on both personal and professional relationships. Get ready to rethink the way you perceive ‘male’ and ‘female’ brains and challenge the limiting constructs that define gender.

The Falsehood of Gender Stereotypes

Parents reinforce harmful gender stereotypes, but there’s no biological basis to them according to the book Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine.

It’s not uncommon for parents to say that a girl chooses to play with a doll or a boy with an action figure because of their gender. However, many parents fail to realize that these behaviors are not biologically determined. In fact, most cognitive and behavioral traits are unrelated to gender or biology. All brains are unique. Gender-specific behavior is often the result of social expectations and biases in society.

Psychologist Cordelia Fine explained in her book Delusions of Gender that society is biased towards gender. She cited a study from 2000 where mothers underestimated the ability of girls to climb steep walkways while overestimating that of boys. These biases start at a young age and can influence personalities throughout life.

The book challenges the notion of gender differences and the belief in inherent biological traits in men and women. The idea of a “male brain” or “female brain” is a myth. We need to break free from these stereotypes and biases to promote gender equality and allow individuals to be themselves.

The Unnecessary Gender Stereotypes

For decades, society has enforced rigid gender stereotypes, especially in regards to clothing. While women can wear pants without a second thought, men are still ridiculed for wearing skirts or dresses. Author James Andrew Wilson shares a personal story of how strict male dress codes are enforced in youth and perpetuated by bullying. He argues that the unnecessary gender stereotypes surrounding clothing create unnecessary tension and harm. Wilson’s story highlights the absurdity of gender stereotypes and how they can lead to unpleasant, even traumatic experiences.

Absurd Gender Stereotypes

Absurd gender stereotypes are still prevalent in society, despite being wrong. Comparing these stereotypes to racial or religious generalizations shows their unacceptability. The author shares how her brother, who meets society’s expectations of what a man should be, also possesses emotional and nurturing qualities. Both men and women are capable of having these traits, and it’s time to stop perpetuating harmful stereotypes.

The Absurd Expectations of Male Behavior

From childhood, boys are raised with specific expectations of how they should behave. These expectations include being tough and not showing vulnerability or intelligence. Author Webb grew up in rural England with two older brothers who would push, nudge and engage in play-fighting with him. These displays of affection were deemed acceptable as they aligned with the expected rough-and-tumble behavior between boys. However, the belief that intellectual prowess is unmanly can have detrimental effects on the academic careers of young men. Studying hard or showing an interest in intellectual pursuits can attract bullying and hinder useful study habits. Therefore, it is necessary to address the absurd expectations society has regarding male behavior to create a healthier and more accepting environment.

Boys’ Communication Skills

During a school outing, Webb played chess with his classmate Gareth, who violated several rules. Webb didn’t confront him and continued playing until Gareth won. The incident highlights how poorly boys communicate, leading to conflicts and social isolation in adulthood. Unlike girls, boys aren’t expected to become experts in human interaction, resulting in men who avoid conflict or get into fights. This avoidance can cause isolation and loneliness, making it essential to teach boys good manners and conversational skills to prevent these unfortunate consequences.

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