When I was quite young, the phrase I heard around the playground was, “Boys rule, girls drool.” Anyone remember that, the war cry of little men that separated them from little women? At the time, the phrase seemed inane to me for multiple reasons. First, drooling—is it really that bad? People drool into their pillows during a good night’s sleep. Embarrassing, maybe, but not bad, perhaps even a sign of rest and rejuvenation. Or how about when a bowl of spaghetti hits the table? That basil and oregano smell flows into the nostrils, saliva squirts… Nothing to be ashamed of there, just appreciation for a flavourful meal. At the time, I don’t think I had the mental connotations that made drool imply a lack of intelligence. Mental illness, caveman caricatures, mouth-breather comics—none of that really registered in my mind, so I found the second half of the “Boys rule, girls drool” phrase to be a bit nonsensical. Still, the first half made perfect sense, and by connection to that, I could see that “drool” implied some sort of insufficiency. Boys rule. Great. Girls? Sorry, but they simply don’t.
That was the other reason I found the phrase inane. What a horrid assumption. Girls could be just as good as boys, so why were some people throwing around this phrase that cast general aspersions upon a whole gender? It didn’t make sense to me. As such, when the competitive games of red rover and dodge ball—and once, a multiplayer game of “Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy”—shaped up to be a segregated affair of boys against girls, I would choose to join the girls’ team. I knew that the team of girls could do just as well at the game as the team of boys. And often, I was right. (Ignore the fact that my joining the team of girls made it a “non-segregated” team rather than a “girl” team. I certainly never made that connection, and neither did the other children.)
I thought I’d done a great service to Humanity during those days, working for equality. Imagine my surprise a few years later when the phrase I heard suddenly became, “Girls rule, boys drool.”
What? Boy’s drool? But… I’m a boy! By then I’d learned the truth of “drool” and its negative connotations. I was betrayed. Instead of my promoting a non-segregated system, I was caught between two walls of prejudice, unsure on which side I could fall. Girls could be just as good as boys, but girls didn’t want me, even though boys could be just as good as girls. Why could none of my peers seem to see that?
These playground phrases are minor, I know. Some people might see them as cute, clever, natural instances of competition. Perhaps they are. In my mind, however, they are both instances of people using hyperbole to stereotype those they deem as “other.” Surely some girls and boys aren’t as strong or smart or good-looking or whatever as other boys or girls, but to make a blanket statement that one gender “rules” while the other necessarily cannot, feels like sexism. What’s worse is that the sexism is disguised by the “cuteness” and “cleverness” of innocent childhood. Gender bias appears even on the playground. Perhaps it even gets cultivated.
I’ve been fighting this trend of “boys against girls” and “girls against boys” all my life. It hurts when I continue to see and hear it, such as when I read an article on grooming habits and the author decided to claim (what felt like out of nowhere) that the article proved that “all men are pigs” who can’t think of anything besides sexual gratification. Surely men don’t only think of sex, but there’s the hyperbole, the gender bias. It strikes me the same as when the girls told me they didn’t want me on their team anymore. Boys drool, after all.
Or how about when my mother warned me (multiple times) that “all women are evil” and will manipulate me to get what they want with no care towards me? How cruel. There’s no love in those hearts, no compassion towards others? But what about my mother’s love for me? The phrase is just hyperbole again. But how many times can a boy be told he’s a pig and a girl be told she’s evil before they start to believe it?
As much as American society values “individualism,” I fear that it promotes and teaches stereotyping all too often, to the point that it can perpetuate the stereotypes that it claims exist. I yearn for the day when gender doesn’t have to be an issue, when I don’t have to say “girls can be just as good as boys,” and then that “boys can be just as good as girls.” And as much as I see America working towards equality, I can’t help but notice the competing hierarchies still vying for attention. We have a Feminism movement that works to bring about equality the of all people (thank you, Lord!), though sometimes the extremes of the movement promote that women are better than men. I hope we don’t ever end up needing a “Masculism” movement to contrast it.
And what does the Bible say about all this? There are multiple theories and interpretations. Some say that women and men are equal, but different, and thus have different roles (such as how, in Titus 2:3-4, Paul seems to say that older women should be teachers of younger women, but that in 1 Timothy 2:11-12, Paul seems to say that women shouldn’t be teachers over men). Others claim that “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28 NIV), and thus God could use any man or any woman to do any duty.
Whichever slant of the equality discussion someone may proclaim, it’s good to remember this: We are all one body. “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don't need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don't need you!’ ” (1 Corinthians 12:21 NIV). Whether only men get to be eyes or only women get to be hands, or if any woman or man might be one or the other, I may never know. What I do know is that we all have a job in the kingdom. We are all important to the body, whatever the role, and all deserve honor and respect.
Next time you’re on the playground and see the segregation shaping up, remember our equality. Who knows? Maybe “Neither of you drool, now go have fun,” might be just the phrase those kids need to hear.