Calls to ban common phrases including “boys will be boys” and “it takes two to tango”.

The Excuse Interpreter, released as part of the Government’s $30 million “Stop it at the Start” campaign against domestic violence, claims that certain expressions absolve disrespectful behaviour towards young women.

The pamphlet explains that “he picks on you because he likes you” sends the message to girls that they “shouldn’t get upset” when boys insult them, and tells boys such behaviour is OK.

It says comments such as “he’s going through a phase” and “he didn’t know he was doing anything wrong” accept aggression as just part of being a boy.

The guide explains that when we use phrases such as “it takes two to tango” and “she probably provoked him” we shift the blame on to girls.

It also says we reinforce outdated ideas of how men and women should behave by unthinkingly using gender stereotypes in everyday life.

For example, we need to stop asking boys “who wears the pants?” and telling them “boys don’t cry” and we need to avoid calling girls “bossy”, “feisty”, “know-it-alls” or “tomboys”.

We might be surprised to recognise some of the most common ways we excuse disrespectful and aggressive behaviour.

These include:

  • playing down disrespectful or aggressive behaviour (“don’t worry, it wasn’t that bad”)
  • accepting aggression as just part of being a boy (“boys will be boys”)
  • blaming girls (“it takes two to tango”)
  • raising girls to accept disrespect (“it’s okay, he probably did it because he likes you”).

It is these seemingly harmless phrases we say in front of young people that can be interpreted in ways we don’t intend.

A spokeswoman for Minister of Social Services Christian Porter told news.com.au: “The Stop it at the Start campaign is one element of a national, long-term strategy to reduce violence against women and their children. It is underpinned by the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children 2010-2022. The $30 million campaign is designed to help break the cycle of violence against women and their children by targeting the disrespectful attitudes and behaviours adults might dismiss or ignore in young people.”

She said the campaign was informed by extensive research that found a clear link between violence towards women and gender inequality, beginning with disrespectful behaviour that is often overlooked by adults.

The guide was developed by the Department of Social Services in consultation with parenting experts, child psychologists, a behavioural change expert and the Department of Education and was concept-tested on the target audience — adults in a position of influence for young people aged 10-17.

Fairy tales are also under a threat, The Respectful Relationship program argues that traditional fairytales can create unrealistic standards as well as a “sense of entitlement in boys and lower self-esteem in girls”.

stereotype 2 stereotype

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Share your comments below.

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  • kids should just be taught right and wrong. it s not ok to encourage or dismiss violent behaviour ever


  • I agree with you about the sayings. However in a very few cases it is the girl who initiates the sexual behaviour. I personally know a girl who complained that she had to teach the boy how to have sex. I am not kidding out it either because I overheard part of the conversation


  • Good to be aware of our words and their impact and very important to avoid gender stereotypes indeed !


  • I feel so bad. I used to say to my daughter when a boy was being horrible to her at school, he probably just likes you. Mind you, I also gave her coping mechanisms and said he shouldn’t be doing what he’s doing. It’s getting so hard to raise kids with all the political correctness around now


  • Changes definitely need to be made & boy’s need to learn from a young age. As someone who had been in an abusive relationship, I was often told “it wouldn’t have come to this if you’d just kept your mouth shut.”


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