The Secret Life of Boys
Tags: children/youth, emotion/desire, gender, violence, femininity, masculinity, socialization, subtitles/CC, 21 to 60 mins
Access: Films On Demand
Summary: In this archived episode of ABC News 20/20, John Stossel investigates why girls and boys express their feelings differently. Drawing from an interview with Dr. William Pollack of the Harvard Medical School and author of Real Boys, and researchers from Emory University and the University of Connecticut, Stossel encounters what was still a fairly radical idea in 1998: parents, peers, and "society" encourage girls to express their feelings but stigmatize boys for doing the same. As Pollack explains, the consequence of this is that girls tend to feel more comfortable with their emotions and are able relieve their stress and sadness by talking about their emotions. Boys, in contrast, are unable to express their feelings and often act out with violence against others. Despite the expert testimony and research on the subject, Stossel and his colleagues seem reluctant to give up the idea that boys are biologically determined to hide emotion, and in the clip's conclusion, he expresses the evolutionary fantasy that men are biologically predisposed to hide emotions because they had to "stand in the woods with a spear [and] be quiet." The clip works well as a means of discussing the powerful influence of socialization to a topic rife with biological determinism. Before I show the clip in my class I have students write down the number of times they have cried in the last 6 months, and I ask them to make a note of how many times they cried in front of others. Then, once the clip is finished, I ask them to compare their answers to the ones given by the children in the clip and to reflect on their own socialization.
Submitted By: Nihal Celik
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