“Girls Are More Mature Than Boys” And Other Gendered Myths

Lately, I’ve been feeling frustrated. Like a low-key frustration, not a sudden, I’ve-stubbed-my-toe-why-haven’t we-evolved-to-not-do-this anger. I think it’s been building for a while now, but two particular instances brought it to light.

The first was a blog post I read by Jameela Jamil. She came across an image of some of the Kardashian sisters with their respective weights edited onto each of their bodies, and felt compelled to discuss how totally shit it was. She talked about how belittling it was, and how gendered that kind of judgement is, along with how it is often placed on women in order to establish control over them. How in society, a woman can be valued by her appearance alone. How we should value ourselves as humans, not kilograms.

The second was a conversation with my boyfriend about whether makeup was empowering or taking advantage of vulnerabilities, particularly the vulnerabilities of women. I am of the belief that makeup functions as a suit of armour for many, to protect against the plague of insecurity-inducing images and ideas that have confronted women for decades, along with being an outlet for creativity. To me, it is empowering. However, it was good to question my current perception, to have to consider the root cause of why we bought makeup in the beginning, and how it is influenced by patriarchal ideas of womanhood.

Both of these experiences made me think; we’ve always been taught to be ashamed of ourselves, as women. It is ingrained in us from the moment gendered stereotypes start being projected in our direction. From infanthood through to adulthood, it creeps in and makes us question how we behave, how we look and how we identify. So much pressure is put on us to behave a certain way. I’m not saying men don’t suffer from societal pressures too; toxic masculinity is a whole other damaging ball game, however there’s a particular flavour to the years of oppression women have endured that pushes us towards weakness, not strength. All expectations placed on us require incredible strength to endure, yet involve us staying silent, losing our power and complying in fear. It’s a destructive cycle.

I got thinking about how this has affected me personally, from generic assumptions all the way down to my very personal relationship with my body. I started thinking about the assumed wisdom that “girls are two years more mature than boys,” and how that phrase is used to hold women up to a higher standard and excuse boys, and even men, from taking responsibility. Whilst puberty may begin later in men, it’s unlikely to significantly hinder them in areas such as taking on new responsibilities, self-awareness and general empathy. All of these traits are expected and imposed on women from a much younger age, and they have to deal with the pressure of managing their weight and appearance, exceeding the expectations of their family members, and caring for people, emotionally and practically, in their lives. Of COURSE they’re going to appear to be more mature. But that’s due to patriarchal expectations, not science.

In my own life, the pressure manifested in the way I viewed my body. From every angle, growing up I was told that skinny was the only way. So when I hit puberty and developed hips, I assumed I was getting fat and took any action possible to stop myself from putting on weight. This developed into putting overwhelming pressure on myself to be perfect, which I didn’t even realise I was doing until last year. I assumed everyone did this! When I wasn’t achieving my ideal I’d beat myself up mentally, and eventually take my frustrations out on myself through alcohol. Not a fun period of my life, I can assure you.

I still struggle with being kind to myself, as despite the practice I put in, it definitely doesn’t come naturally. I’m getting there with all of this, but some days it just makes me so frustrated that had I been born a different gender, assertiveness would have been encouraged in me and not demonised. I probably wouldn’t have had the same relationship with my body, or have been consistently pushed towards doubting myself or holding myself up to unattainable standards. There wouldn’t have been the pressure to act more mature, to take on responsibilities beyond what I could handle, at such a young age. It isn’t about maturity or biology; it isn’t about sugar and spice and everything nice; it’s about the society we live in. We need to find a way to change it. We all deserve better.

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15 Comments

  1. February 28, 2018 / 6:42 pm

    This was such a great post Lucy, maybe even my favourite so far! I like how you mention the point of girls supposedly being more mature than boys the same age but how it might be a result of higher expectations and responsibilities placed on them from an early age, whereas for boys it gives them an excuse. This would be a great discussion for a panel!
    Thank you for this. Keep raising points like this and making us think. I personally love it!
    – Marta

  2. February 28, 2018 / 8:19 pm

    Thank you for writing this! I think it’s so interesting that women are said to mature quicker than men and yet still get the raw deal with pay and jobs in so many industries – you would think that perceived maturity would actually be a strength in those instances!

    Sidenote: just a reminder to credit the artist of the images at the top 🙂

  3. Olivia
    March 1, 2018 / 7:29 am

    this is so fucking good you are SO FUCKING GOOD

  4. Esalan
    March 1, 2018 / 10:07 am

    This is such an important discussion to have; I rarely see people raise this issue regarding girls’ supposed higher level of maturity. It frustrates me when the male authority figures in my life praise my ideas, only to add the caveat, ‘I wouldn’t expect the boys to have come up with that!’ Thus removing any expectations for boys to behave well, which is so damaging to children of all genders growing up in school.

    Thank you, Lucy x

  5. March 1, 2018 / 4:43 pm

    Your blog is really a go to when I want to read something which is not about fashion (nothing wrong with that), but deep and interesting thoughts.

  6. hannah
    March 2, 2018 / 2:08 pm

    I’ve also been thinking about this lately and i just feel so angry that my whole life i was brainwashed into thinking there was only one way to be worthy and that was through being what Hollywood says is pretty in every way!! i feel like society and media just tells me there’s only one way to have any actual power as a women and that’s being some fictional character, that we all waste so much of our time on attempting it,(giving me so much anxiety that i shouldn’t of had to of had at such a young age, leaving me housebound) having to be the impossible perfection that many people feel they need to portray. and now i need to rethink everything that i was forced to think and feel and redefine perfection for myself.

    thanks for putting this up x

    • hannah
      March 2, 2018 / 2:11 pm

      yeah went a bit off topic but its just been bugging me for so long.

  7. Holly Rowlands
    March 2, 2018 / 7:35 pm

    I do agree that there are some awful expectations put on women about weight, I too believed I was fat when I started developing hips, even though I was technically borderline underweight. However, I don’t believe much of this is patriarchal, as men usually don’t care (unless you are extremely overweight), if anything many men like slightly bigger women. A lot of the time, expectations of a woman’s appearance in regards to make up and weight are often pushed by other women, who can belittle each other. Part of this is due to biology, and how women are in an evolutionary competition to be the most desirable and get the best mate.

    In terms of toxic masculinity, I can’t accept this as being a real thing. There is nothing toxic about masculinity, what is toxic is society (including men and women) putting pressure on men to not be overly emotional and thus, more men are likely to commit suicide, become homeless, etc. This is not due to what some perceive as our society being patriarchal (if we lived in a patriarchy in the west, then it is the least effective patriarchy in human history), it is partially due to testosterone, as testosterone does inherently make men (who have more testosterone) less emotional or emotionally empathetic.

    Despite all this, I do believe that people should just let their biology control them, as human we have already begun to evolve past our instincts. However, these things talked about are not down to the oppression of women or the theoretical western patriarchy or toxic masculinity, but in fact biological factors.

  8. March 3, 2018 / 2:34 pm

    I know that women usually mature faster than men, but I defiantly don’t think that it’s fair to say that it’s always the case as everyone is different and develops differently. Love the post xx

    http://www.flolavita.co.uk

  9. Lottie
    March 5, 2018 / 3:54 pm

    I think these are very good points. I never realised you were insecure. I’ve always admired you and your style and how you are a relatively tall woman as I’ve always struggled with my height. I’m 14 so still growing and I get a bit obsessive and upset if I grow taller than people because I don’t like it as I am socially awkward and it just makes me feel uncomfortable. I think that the expectations on women are unfair and people should be seen as individuals instead of assumptions made on them based on their gender.

  10. JB
    March 8, 2018 / 5:42 pm

    I couldn’t disagree more with this take on girls being more mature than boys. This is speaking from my own experience – and I have to add that I’ve never known of anyone else to share your views here – but I have never ever felt that because I hit puberty sooner than a boy I’m held to a different behavioural standard than a boy of any age. What I feel is more important here is that I see this everywhere and I 100% feel that girls and women are more mature than boys and men, fact, end of. I’m 23 and still I have to restrain myself from rolling my eyes when I hear the stupidity that comes out of my almost-40 boss, and I can’t handle the company of any male who isn’t at least 3-4 years my senior, because they’re still stuck in their teenage years. No wonder there’s an abundance of relationships with age gaps. By default we really are apart in mental age.
    As for the make-up, I think it’s both. Of course we want to hide our blemishes or enhance our features, because looking good makes us feel better. I have a very supportive environment and despite my acne I’m told I don’t need to worry about covering it up. But even when my skin is good and I’m happy with how I look bare faced, there’s no argument about it – I LOVE make-up. More than anything else it makes me feel powerful and free to embody different characteristics as my mood dictates. Also I find it to be a great creative outlet and I think quite a lot of people feel the same way.
    All in all I agree with the idea of this post and the point it’s trying to make. There’s no doubt about the mysogynistic society we live in and the hurdles we have to face in our lives and it needs to end. Things are beginning to look up for us, but it’s not enough.

    • Elena
      June 1, 2018 / 5:49 pm

      I cannot agree with you. I am mother of 4 kids and my boys are actually more mature than my girls. My girls waste money on stupid things while the boys are the ones saving. You probably just have a fetish towards older men and are making conclusions easily.

  11. Lotta
    April 20, 2018 / 2:33 am

    Great post!! I so needed to read this right now. Struggling with the same things and not really knowing how to deal with all of the pressure

  12. Vero
    August 7, 2018 / 12:32 pm

    Tell me about it. Nice to see Google doesn’t have a bias for this subject when it I did a search. I know for sure, I made a lot of stupid mistakes in my teens and early 20s as a female. There many times I felt childlike. And I am an only child who rarely got spoiled or in trouble. I think it is a big misconception that females mature faster than males mentally. And maybe it is due to the fact the way the social system on the planet is geared mostly as a patriarchy.

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