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更新时间:2017-6-18 14:15:02 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Talking to Boys the Way We Talk to Girls

At a Father’s Day breakfast, my 5-year-old son and his classmates sang a song about fathers, crooning about “my dad who’s big and strong” and “fixes things with his hammer” and, above all else, “is really cool.”


Now, there’s nothing wrong with most of these qualities in and of themselves. But when these lyrics are passed down as the defining soundtrack to masculine identity, we limit children’s understanding not just of what it means to be a father but of what it means to be a man — and a boy, as well.


When fathers appear in children’s picture books, they’re angling for laughs, taking their sons on adventures or modeling physical strength or stoic independence. There is the rare exception in children’s books where a father baldly demonstrates — without symbolic gestures — his love for his son (a few are “Guess How Much I Love You” and “Oh, Oh, Baby Boy!”). Just as women’s studies classes have long examined the ways that gendered language undermines women and girls, a growing body of research shows that stereotypical messages are similarly damaging to boys.

出现在孩子画册里的父亲不是在逗笑,就是在带着儿子冒险,或是展示体力或坚韧的独立。在孩子的画册中,父亲不加掩饰地表现——没有象征性的举动——对儿子的爱是少有的例外(出现这种例外的是《Guess How Much I Love You》和《Oh, Oh, Baby Boy!”》)。就在女性的研究课题长期研究这种有性别区分的语言对女性和女孩的不利影响时,越来越多的研究表明,这些老套的言论对男孩同样有害。

A 2014 study in Pediatrics found that mothers interacted vocally more often with their infant daughters than they did their infant sons. In a different study, a team of British researchers found that Spanish mothers were more likely to use emotional words and emotional topics when speaking with their 4-year-old daughters than with their 4-year-old sons. Interestingly, the same study revealed that daughters were more likely than sons to speak about their emotions with their fathers when talking about past experiences. And during these reminiscing conversations, fathers used more emotion-laden words with their 4-year-old daughters than with their 4-year-old sons.


What’s more, a 2017 study led by Emory University researchers discovered, among other things, that fathers also sing and smile more to their daughters, and they use language that is more “analytical” and that acknowledges their sadness far more than they do with their sons. The words they use with sons are more focused on achievement — such as “win” and “proud.” Researchers believe that these discrepancies in fathers’ language may contribute to “the consistent findings that girls outperform boys in school achievement outcomes.”

此外,埃默里大学(Emory University)的研究人员在2017年领导的一项研究发现的结果包括,父亲给女儿唱歌,朝她们微笑的时候更多,使用的语言比对儿子的更具“分析特点”,表现出的悲伤也多得多。他们对儿子的用词更注重成就,比如“获胜”和“骄傲”。研究人员认为,父亲的语言中表现出的这些差异,也许是“女孩在学习成绩上胜过男孩这个一致结论”的原因之一。

After visits to the emergency room for accidental injuries, another study found, parents of both genders talk differently to sons than they do to daughters. They are nearly four times more likely to tell girls than boys to be more careful if undertaking the same activity again. The same study cited earlier research which found that parents of both genders used “directives” when teaching their 2- to 4-year-old sons how to climb down a playground pole but offered extensive “explanations” to daughters.


Even boys’ literacy skills seem to be impacted by the taciturn way we expect them to speak. In his book “Manhood in America,” Michael Kimmel, the masculine studies researcher and author, maintains that “the traditional liberal arts curriculum is seen as feminizing by boys.” Nowhere is this truer than in English classes where, as I’ve witnessed after more than 20 years of teaching, boys and young men police each other when other guys display overt interest in literature or creative writing assignments. Typically, nonfiction reading and writing passes muster because it poses little threat for boys. But literary fiction, and especially poetry, are mediums to fear. Why? They’re the language of emotional exposure, purported feminine “weakness” — the very thing our scripting has taught them to avoid at best, suppress, at worst.

甚至男孩的读写能力,似乎也受我们希望他们具备的沉默寡言的说话方式的影响。在《美国的男子气概》(Manhood in America)一书中,研究男子气概的研究人员兼作家迈克尔·基梅尔(Michael Kimmel)坚称,“男孩认为传统的人文科学课程女性化”。这一点在英语课堂上表现得最为真实。正如我在执教20多年里亲眼看到的那样,当其他人对文学或创造性写作任务表现出公开的兴趣时,男孩和年轻男性会相互监督。通常,非虚构阅读和写作还过得去,因为它几乎不会对男孩构成威胁。但文学虚构,尤其是诗歌令人害怕。为什么?因为它们是表露情感,暴露所谓女性的“软弱”的语言。正是我们的脚本教育他们最好是避免,最不济也要克制这种语言。

Women often say they want men to be emotionally transparent with them. But as the vulnerability and shame expert Brené Brown reveals in her book, “Daring Greatly,” many grow uneasy or even recoil if men take them up on their offer.

女人们经常说,她们希望男人能够更加坦诚透明地对她们表达感情。但是,研究人类脆弱与耻辱感的专家布莱内·布朗(Brené Brown)在她的书《勇敢挑战》(Daring Greatly)中指出,如果男人接受她们这个意见,许多女人反而会感到不安,甚至是退缩。

Indeed, a Canadian study found that college-aged female respondents considered men more attractive if they used shorter words and sentences and spoke less. This finding seems to jibe with Dr. Brown’s research, suggesting that the less men risk emoting verbally, the more appealing they appear.


Such squelching messages run counter-intuitively to male wiring, it turns out: Guys are born more emotionally sensitive than girls.


For three decades the research of Edward Tronick explored the interplay between infants and their mothers. He and his colleagues in the department of newborn medicine at Harvard Medical School discovered that mothers unconsciously interacted with their infant sons more attentively and vigilantly than they did with their infant daughters because the sons needed more support for controlling their emotions. Some of their research found that boys’ emotional reactivity was eventually “restricted or perhaps more change-worthy than the reactivity of girls,” Dr. Tronick noted in an email. Mothers initiated this — through physical withdrawal.

爱德华·特朗尼克(Edward Tronick)30年来一直在研究母婴之间的互动。他和他在哈佛医学院新生儿部门的同事们发现,母亲与男婴之间下意识的互动要比和女婴之间的下意识互动更为专注和警觉,因为男婴需要更多的帮助才能控制情绪。他们的一些研究发现,男孩的情绪反应最终“受到限制,同女孩相比,他们的反应被认为更应当改变”,特朗尼克博士在电子邮件中指出。母亲撤回身体接触,从而开始了这种限制或改变。

“So the ‘manning up’ of infant boys begins early on in their typical interactions,” Dr. Tronick said, “and long before language plays its role.”


Judy Chu, a human biologist, conducted a two-year study of 4- and 5-year-old boys and found that they were as astute as girls at reading other people’s emotions and at cultivating close, meaningful friendships. In her book “When Boys Become Boys” she maintains that by the time the boys reached first grade, sometimes earlier, they traded their innate empathy for a learned stoicism and greater emotional distance from friends. Interestingly, they adopted this new behavior in public, exclusively, but not at home or when their parents were around.

人类生物学家朱迪·朱(Judy Chu)对四岁和五岁的男孩进行了为期两年的研究,发现他们在理解他人情感,以及培育亲密、有意义的友谊时,是和女孩一样敏锐的。她在《当男孩成为男孩》(When Boys Become Boys)一书中认为,男孩们到了上一年级的时候(有时更早),就会把天生的同理心换成后天习得的沉默坚忍,并与朋友之间保持更大的情感距离。有趣的是,他们只会在公共场合采取这种新的行为模式,但在家里、在父母身边时却不会这样。

Why do we limit the emotional vocabulary of boys?


We tell ourselves we are preparing our sons to fight (literally and figuratively), to compete in a world and economy that’s brutish and callous. The sooner we can groom them for this dystopian future, the better off they’ll be. But the Harvard psychologist Susan David insists the opposite is true: “Research shows that people who suppress emotions have lower-level resilience and emotional health.”

我们告诉自己,我们是在帮儿子们备战(从字面的意义上和比喻的意义上来说都是如此),在野蛮无情的世界与经济之中竞争。我们越早帮他们为这个反乌托邦式的未来做好准备,他们将来就会过得越好。但是哈佛大学心理学家苏珊·戴维(Susan David)坚持相反的观点:“研究表明,抑制情绪的人适应能力和情绪健康都比较差。”

How can we change this? We can start, says Dr. David, by letting boys experience their emotions, all of them, without judgment — or by offering them solutions. This means helping them learn the crucial lessons that “Emotions aren’t good or bad” and that “their emotions aren’t bigger than they are. They aren’t something to fear.”


Say to boys: “I can see that you’re upset,” or ask them, “What are you feeling?” or “What’s going on for you right now?” There doesn’t have to be any grand plan beyond this, she says. “Just show up for them. Get them talking. Show that you want to hear what they’re saying.”

对男孩说:“我看出你很不高兴”,或问他们,“你有什么样的感受?”或“你现在觉得怎么样?” 戴维博士说,这样就够了,用不着制定什么大计划。“你只需出现在他们身边。让他们说话。表示你想听他们所说的东西。”