The power of Yang

By Legal Eagle

Until I was about 5 years old, most of my best friends were boys. I preferred boys because they were more direct – if they had a problem with you, they told you about it – there was none of that emotional politicking and passive-aggressive stuff that some girls seem to enjoy. If a boy wanted to be aggressive, he’d be aggressive openly, and that was it. Then, as time went on, I had more close female friends than male friends. I went to all girl high schools. I didn’t have any brothers, and my male cousins were substantially younger than me.

One thing I have really enjoyed since I’ve had my son is being reminded of  great things about blokes. Sometimes male figures in popular culture seem to encapsulate the negative aspects of masculinity (think of Sam Newman, for example – sexist, disrespectful of women, braying).

My son can be very gentle. He really loves babies and animals. He met a friend’s baby for the first time today and told her she was “lubbly” (lovely).

Yet he is fundamentally different to his sister. For one thing, he has an obsession with wheeled and motored things which has never been matched by his sister. (An acquaintance called this tendency the “wheel gene”). This morning my son saw the garbage truck unload our rubbish bin. You would think all of his Christmases had come at once. He stood at the living room window and shouted, “WOW! Truck-garba!” (garbage truck). He is constantly observing planes, diggers, trucks, cars, motorbikes, bicycles and lawnmowers.

My son also likes to take things apart and to tinker with them. If he can’t work out how the thing works, he bangs it on the floor or on the wall. He loves bats and balls. When he burps, he smiles hugely and says proudly “BURP!” (just in case we missed it). Unlike his fastidious sister, he has no problem with being totally filthy, and will quite happily roll in mud. He’s direct and very physical. Sometimes the latter is hard to deal with – he’s very strong – and restraining him to take off his nappy is challenging.

Nonetheless, my boy is in touch with his feminine side – he has a penchant for his sister’s My Little Ponies ™ – and the pinker and more glittery they are the better. I bought him an orange one, but it really didn’t cut the mustard and he still attempts to get Princess Pinkie Pie when she’s left within reach. (Believe me, that will come out at his 21st.)

Of course, the stereotype of masculinity is a generalisation, but sometimes boys will be boys. And there’s a lot to celebrate about masculinity. It’s not all negative.


  1. Patrick
    Posted June 7, 2010 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    They do love garbage trucks!

  2. Posted June 7, 2010 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

    My partner made up a game with our eldest daughter, smashing her truck into castles of wooden blocks. She wasn’t impressed. A couple of days later, he found her decorating her truck, with flower stickers.

  3. Posted June 7, 2010 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

    Now there’s a kid who knows what he wants 🙂

  4. Martin
    Posted June 7, 2010 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

    From about 18 months, until about 4 years old, my daughter and I had a mandatory early Thursday morning date to watch the garbage trucks, even at 6 she still is quite interested in watching them, though thankfully not to the point of jumping out of bed at 6am anymore.

  5. Posted June 7, 2010 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    According to Mr Deity, to simplify things, males were programmed with attraction to round things (wheels, balls, breasts), while women were programmed with the word “shoes”.

    I must admit, it’s a bit hard to deal with the daily barrage of vroom-vrooms from my 3yo grandson after having only really dealt with my more sedate daughter who tended to plink on my keyboards or blow recorders. It wasn’t so bad when it was vroom vroom only on weekends… but now… call me Mr Totally Unprepared For How Annoying It Is.

    I’m hoping Leaglet 2 gets a well-behaved immune system from the love of dirt, rather than a troublesome one.

    On cultural sterotyping and toys – I remember asking my mum in early primary to buy a doll, which she thought was weird (it /was/ 1965 or 66) until I explained it was in case one of the girls in the neighborhood came over and had nothing to play with while our parents yarped for ages (yep – I believed those stereotypes then)- but it had to be a /boy/ doll, and the only clothes it had were shorts and the little blue and white cats jumper I made my mum knit. I had to draw the line somewhere!

  6. Jason Soon
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    I remember collecting matchbox cars when I was a kid too. I had boxes of them.

    My other favourite toy was enacting stories using a combination of Lego figurines and toy soldiers. When my baby sister came along I had a captive audience. These usually involved plots and counterplots of coups, betrayals and assassinations within a royal family.

  7. lilacsigil
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    Ha, you’re describing my fastidious, gentle brother and I, only with the genders reversed; or his two sons, one of whom is “feminine” and one “masculine”. I do think those qualities are more commonly seen in boys, but also more likely to be praised (or at least tolerated) in boys; the same way that more “feminine” behaviours are reinforced in girls. (Note that I say “reinforced”, not “invented”!)

  8. John H.
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    Mind you, I also pulled the heads off some of my Barbies, and gave them multiple piercings with pins. But I didn’t purposefully slam them into roofs or walls. Mostly.

    Was that portend of your future career? If so, how come you are not a prosecutor?

  9. Peter Patton
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    While I thought cars were idiotic and pointless, I loved my train sets.

    The one gender atypical fixation i had — and I was obsessed was of all things, vacuum cleaners! Whenever I was taken to a new house, I would instantly hunt down their vacuum cleaner.

    I think it was a form of proto-trainspotting. I knew all the brands; which models were old-fashioned, and apparently had very definite opinions on the matter, extending to advising complete strangers they should buy a new one!

  10. Posted June 8, 2010 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

    Damn. Someone mentioned train sets. I was hoping I wouldn’t have to reveal this aspect of my own childhood geekiness. I even had tracks and switches and relays and a fake tunnel… and we’ll stop there.

  11. Posted June 9, 2010 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    This post reminds me of my Tonka truck. 🙂


    My son also likes to take things apart and to tinker with them. If he can’t work out how the thing works, he bangs it on the floor or on the wall.

    My brother and my Sony Walkman and my PacMan portable computer game and….

    Hey he learned how to put it all back together, eventually.

  12. Posted June 9, 2010 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    And on workplace conflict resolution, sorry ladies the guys are superior. Chinese whispers are a fucking drag. If you’ve got a problem with a colleague learn to belt him upside the head like a man. 🙂

    I mean seriously.

  13. Posted June 9, 2010 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    Are you sure you two hotshot lawyers aren’t actually countryside protestant Vicars? Model train sets are always the first sign. Personality reassignment surgery may be possible!

    (It’s not just a cliche, the Presbyterian Minister in Balranald where I grew up was crazy about his model trains.)

  14. Posted June 9, 2010 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    Some people never grow out of lego.

    We had a big ol’ bucket of lego around our house, and I hardly ever remember putting any ‘new’ models together, impressive though they looked – from a very early age I just began to mix and match and play creatively with the blocks that we already had.

  15. TerjeP (say Taya)
    Posted June 10, 2010 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    My daughter even before she could talk had strong opinions about which clothes she was going to wear on any given day. I’m still not up to speed on which socks go with which shoes and all that stuff.

  16. TerjeP (say Taya)
    Posted June 10, 2010 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    p.s. And naturally I agree that blokes are okay. Was it ever in doubt?

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