Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Boys Will be Boys

 Like the common cold, there are certain games, hobbies, and products that catch on at elementary schools like a wild fire. Quickly spreading in Spain right now are these simple rubber-bands that the children weave into bracelets, necklaces, rings, and other objects. One of my 4th graders gave me this one. There is scarcely a child in the school that I haven't seen with a handful of rubber-bands or a bracelet made of them. It is like a rhyme or a song that students can't get out of their head, they chant it all day long, distracting them from class. With these, the kids in the back hide piles of rubber-bands under their desk as the deftly weave their little trinkets. Teachers chide "Not in class!" Students don't hear them. Or choose not to listen, at any rate. It is far worse, and far more distracting, than the forever hobbies like collecting football (soccer) cards or using jump-rope rhymes, because it is a fad.
What is most curious to me about this particular fad is that making craft-jewelry seems to the American mind incredibly feminine. And yet, there are at least as many boys with these as girls. It was a nine-year-old boy that gave me this one. One of my private students, a thirteen-year-old boy, also offered to make me one. The teachers say nothing about this curious situation, and I realize how biased my mind is towards what boys are 'supposed' to do as a hobby. There isn't even a major difference in color choices between girls and boys with their rubber-band jewelry. Although, a great deal more of the boys seem to pick colors based on a football team than do the girls.

Now, it is not to say that there are no differences between the boys and girls, especially in fashion. Although I suspect a great deal of parental influence in those aspects, because the older they are, the less difference there is among elementary students. Most girls in 1st and 2nd grade wear blouses, skirts, and tights with ballet flats or boots. Most boys wear jeans or trousers with a t-shirt and sneakers. In 3rd, 4th, and 5th, some girls wear skirts or dresses, but a good many wear track-suits or trousers with sneakers. In 6th, there is once again a strong difference, as the young ladies attempt to express their individuality and maturity. Puberty is a complicated age, after all. But, I have yet to see a boy in this school in a dress or skirt. Some gender barriers are still taboo to cross.

At the very least, adornments and accessories are no longer just for girls. The handful of boys at this school with ear piercings should be enough to show that, considering that many girls in Spain are given ear piercings at birth to help distinguish them from their male peers when dressed. I am curious to see the shifts in society as traditionally 'feminine' behavior and fashion becomes normalized for boys and men.

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