This controversial phrase has created much ire in the past decade, but would you believe that women have been talking about these four words for much, much longer? I found this passage in a book, written a hundred and fifty years ago:
Very likely some Mrs. Grundy will observe, “I don’t believe it; boys will be boys, young men must sow their wild oats, and women must not expect miracles.” I dare say you don’t, Mrs. Grundy, but it’s true nevertheless. Women work a good many miracles, and I have a persuasion that they may perform even that of raising the standard of manhood by refusing to echo such sayings. Let the boys be boys, the longer the better, and let the young men sow their wild oats if they must; but mothers, sisters, and friends may help to make the crop a small one, and keep many tares from spoiling the harvest, by believing, and showing that they believe, in the possibility of loyalty to the virtues which make men manliest in good women’ts eyes. If it is a feminine delusion, leave us to enjoy it while we may, for without it half the beauty and the romance of life is lost, and sorrowful forebodings would embitter all our hopes of the brave, tender-hearted little lads, who still love their mothers better than themselves, and are not ashamed to own it.
What impressed me most about this was the tone the author uses to reprove the doubting “Mrs. Grundy.” The author gently insists that boys can be made better, if their female influencers believe and show they believe in them, and that the hope that young boys can indeed grow up to be fine men is not a misguided one.
It is statements like this, that display kind resolution in the face of a naysayer, that demonstrate to me that only the gentle side of women has the most influence to bring out the gentle side in men. There is power in femininity.
The passage above was taken from Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott.