At a young age, we all probably heard the saying that “girls mature faster than boys.” This is something that has become so commonplace in our society that we accept it without thinking too deeply about it.
I find this idea to be highly problematic for several reasons. The idea that “girls mature faster than boys” is just an excuse to force adult responsibilities onto girls at younger ages.
If girls have no choice but to grow up fast, of course they are going to be perceived as “mature.” Are they really more mature or are they just playing out their expected gender roles?
Providing emotional and physical labor is something that has been expected for girls and women for centuries. Although society is becoming more equal than in previous decades, gendered ideas of labor still fall on women’s shoulders.
Take, for example, the concept of the second shift. After returning home from their jobs, women are still expected to be the sole providers of additional work such as cooking, cleaning and taking care of children. The second shift has become more prominent during the COVID-19 pandemic when many women dropped out of the workforce to take care of household responsibilities.
Women are conditioned since childhood to put everyone else’s needs before their own and this leaves women in a position where they do not receive the help or support that they desperately need.
Additionally, the idea that girls mature faster than boys perpetuates the idea that women are responsible for men’s behavior. How many times have we heard “boys will be boys” when a boy or man does something irresponsible? Why are girls and women not granted the same freedom to make mistakes?
The “boys will be boys” and “girls mature faster than boys” themes are also major components of rape culture. Whenever a girl or woman is raped or sexually harassed, society is quick to find fault with the victim. She is expected to know better, and the crime is somehow her fault. Meanwhile, the man who committed the crime is not judged as harshly because “boys will be boys.”
Lastly, what I find most disturbing about the “girls mature faster than boys” stereotype is that it normalizes relationships between adult men and literal children. Men who prey on underage girls often use “girls mature faster than boys” as an excuse to groom and manipulate their victims.
In some states, the age of consent is as young as 16. Therefore, a 16-year-old girl could legally marry an old man. This has happened before, most famously between Courtney Stodden and Doug Hutchison. Stodden later called the marriage abusive.
Lessons we learn in childhood carry over into adulthood and promote unhealthy behaviors. Just like the trope that “if a boy hits you, it means he likes you” normalizes abuse, so does “girls mature faster than boys.”