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I wish to know why

...toddler boys who throw tantrums are said to be "strong-willed,"* and why if a little girl exerts her personality, she is thought to be capricious.  

The first implies that, yes, the boy can be stubborn; he can hold on to what he thinks is right, all the while acting like a terror. A strong will denotes reasoning power on the part of the "afflicted."

Capriciousness, however, lacks reason. It is irrational. It is whimsy at its worst, stripped anything fanciful or flattering.

Are there other similarly biased adjectives to describe boys and girls in English or other languages?

* used in French, strong-willed can be a two-edged sword, a compliment as well as a deprecation.  However, when I've heard it used by parents to excuse their children (boys), it is with a touch of pride, concealed but there all the same. Capricious is always, as far as I can determine, negative.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 15th, 2012 08:48 pm (UTC)
I think that, in English, the words used to describe the behavior you call out are not necessarily "capricious" and "strong-willed," but the dichotomy is very much real. (In my area, we might say a boy is "all boy" and a girl is "being a princess"; the latter isn't necessarily a compliment.)
Apr. 20th, 2012 12:29 pm (UTC)
Yes, it seems that most of the terms that refer to boys underline some strength of spirit, adventure, and audacity. All things that can be said ruefully but with underlying praise. Girl "terms" on the otherhand SEEM all right on the surface most times (what little girl doesn't have thoughts of being a princess? Not many with Disney in the world, most likely. :P ), but yeah, at their heart, not compliments at all.
Apr. 16th, 2012 01:32 am (UTC)
Boys get to do all sorts of things that are considered "naughty" (or worse) for girls. And we all know that the same things that make men strong-willed and determined just make women bitchy, don't we?
Apr. 20th, 2012 12:31 pm (UTC)
It does indeed follow us into adolescence and adulthood in all sorts of judgmental ways, doesn't it? The "good ol'" he's just sowing his wild oats VS she's a slut/loose woman, for example. *sigh*
Apr. 16th, 2012 12:05 pm (UTC)
In very small children--kids under three--I think that attributing any sort of adjective at all i is just a way of asserting that these random actions and lurches toward patterns of human interaction equate to stereotypical notions of boys or girls--or even just children. It's funny to see the same sorts of behaviors looked at approvingly by some people, based on their notions of what children are or do, and disapprovingly by other people, based on their notions. So a kid opening cupboard doors and pulling things out may be praised for being curious or investigative, or criticized for always messing around in things.

... I guess what I'm saying here ends up being tangential to the issue you're raising. To get more directly to your point, what I noticed more than a gender split (though I'm sure that's there too) was just the differences in whether things were viewed with approval or disapproval.
Apr. 20th, 2012 06:54 pm (UTC)
*nods* A resounding yes to attributions reflecting the "speaker's" own approval/disapproval. Sometimes, when S is underfoot and in to everything, I feel like she is being a pest. Other times, when I'm not stressed or tired, I think she is just being curious and learning more about her world.

Funny how our own moods can see-saw our views. :P
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )


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