I always questioned why my mother trusted me to walk to and from the bus stop alone in 7th grade but not my brother when he reached the same grade. As I have thought of it, I have come to realize the bus stop situation wasn’t an isolated one; growing up every event that benchmarks itself as a sign of growth, walking alone, cooking, taking care of other kids, to name a few, was always expected to be completed by me at a certain age while my brother, at the same age, didn’t face the same expectations. This resulted in my parents to, ingeniously, spout the same sentence I hear everywhere else outside the house, “girls mature faster than boys”; but do they actually?
Before confronting the widespread myth that “girls mature faster than boys” it is worthy to explore what maturity means in this context. Maturity can be defined as a fully grown state, but the ability to read the social environment around oneself and act accordingly to the established social norms in context of the situation is more relevant to this discussion. So with that in mind, examining the way there are more spoken and unspoken rules, that root from our sexist society that labels girls as ‘quiet’ and ‘feminine’, for girls to follow than boys, especially in brown communities, from their choice of clothes and cosmetics to what they can and can’t do around men, this conditioning results the differentiation of maturity age between girls and boys. That is because these socially constructed rules are internalized by girls because any deviation from them is punished, socially and/or physically. In addition, those rules work synonymously with sexist stereotypes to repress over all self-expression of girls resulting in them to perceived as “mature” when in reality they are repressing expression that could lead to the disruption of the established social environment. For example, girls, with the exception of few, are usually the quiet ones in a classroom compared to the boys, and this behavior results in the teacher concluding that girls are more mature than boys; but the teacher reached that conclusion without taking in the fact that girls, in our patriarchal society, are conditioned to conform to authority more than boys, resulting in them being quieter than their counterparts not maturity.
Beyond the inaccurate saying it has ruinous implication on girls. Saying girls mature before boys implies that girls are ready earlier than boys to handle mature things like labor, especially, emotional labor. This implication asks labor from girls in the family by asking them to cook, take care of siblings,etc., in romantic relationships by the girl serving as a venting outlet, and even work places by asking more from girls than boys resulting in them having to take on a burden bigger than their age constitutes. Also this emotional work, which girls aren’t doing by choice, is viewed as proof of girls’ superior maturity level continuing the misconception of different maturity level based on gender.
In addition to emotional labor, not only does saying girls mature faster than boys create an excuse for older men to prey on younger girls since they are viewed to be “more mature” than their age, but it perpetuates rape culture. This is due to the unsaid saying that comes with “girls are more mature,” “boys will be boys,” a saying used excuse to boys/men’s behavior and victim blame. On a larger level both of those harmful beliefs/sayings work together to bore girls/women with labor and blame in all aspects from minuscule activity like folding laundry to scarring ones like rape and acquitting boys from the same responsibility and accountability.
Because of the deep and intricate negative implication it has on girls/women in our society, it is imperative that we, scientists, doctors, teachers, parents, etc., stop saying and believing the false belief that girls truly mature faster than boys. Additionally, we need to assign and expect accountability and emotional labor from boys, just as we do from girls, so both genders are not only responsible human begins, but aren’t bagged with extra labor and can grow and mature without societal conditioning and pressure.
Photo: MabelAmber via Pixabay