Toddler Beaten To Death For “Acting Like a Girl”: How Gender Stereotypes Killed a Young Child

A child’s death is always shocking, and a child killed by a caregiver is even more horrible.  But when the physical abuse is caused by an adult for no other reason than because the toddler was “acting like a girl,” there are simply no words.

I read about the story of Roy Jones, the 17-month old boy beaten to death by his mother’s boyfriend, with the shock and anger that any person has when a child is murdered.  But those feelings were heightened when the cause of the boyfriend’s rage was revealed as simple inability to deal with the child not being “boyish” enough for him.

Pedro Jones, 20, has been arrested on manslaughter charges.

Jones told reporters outside Southampton Town Justice Court that he didn’t mean to do it.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “That’s my baby. I loved him to death.”

The agony spilled into the parking lot.

“You’ll get some jailhouse justice, you pig!” shouted one person.

State police say Jones beat the life out of 17-month-old Roy Jones.

“He’s a beautiful baby boy that didn’t deserve what happened to him,” his cousin, Rainbow Hill, said.

According to court documents, Jones, who was not related to the boy, punched him over and over with closed fists and grabbed him by the neck.

Documents say he confessed to the crime, telling troopers, “I was trying to make him act like a boy instead of a little girl. I never struck that kid that hard before. A one-time mistake, and I am going to do 20 years.”

I can’t help but wonder what was so “girly” about the toddler’s actions.  Was he getting upset easily?  Crying too much?  Anyone who has dealt with a toddler or preschooler knows that they have very little control over their emotions, that they get angry, upset, hurt or frustrated at the drop of a hat, especially due to their inability to express their wants and needs verbally due to still learning and grasping the language.

Are tears “girly?”  Overall, no, and especially not in a child below the age of five.  But that doesn’t seem to be stopping parents from attempting to force their children into perceived gender roles, in some cases leading to disastrous results for the child. 

Trying to define children by their gender is nothing new, of course.Michael Rowe at Huffington Post writes about projects and therapies that existed at one point to “orient” little boys into proper “masculine” roles, even at an extremely young age.

A May 2010 article in the Miami News by Penn Bullock and Brandon K. Thorp reported on Rekers’ 1974 “Feminine Boy Project” at UCLA. The article highlighted the story of a 4-year-old-year old “effeminate boy” named Kraig was subjected by his parents to Rekers’ aversion therapy.

Part of the therapy involved putting Kraig in “play-observation room” with his mother, who had instructions to avert her eyes from her child when he played with “girly” toys. An essay by Stephanie Wilkinson published in Brain, Child magazine in 2001 recounts that, during one of the sessions, Kraig became so distraught and hysterical at what must have seemed to the 4-year-old like the withdrawal of his mother’s love, that he had to be carried out of the room by the staff. At home, the “treatment” continued, with Kraig being rewarded for “masculine” behavior and spanked by his father for “feminine” behavior.

After two years of treatment, apparently “cured” of his effeminacy, Kraig was held up by the psychologist as proof that his treatment worked until, at 18, shamed and scarred by his diagnosis and treatment, Kraig attempted suicide.

Yet as Rowe points out, the urge to fit children into tightly defined gender roles at a younger and younger age appear to be increasing as mass media is both caricaturing the masculine and feminine, and selling it to the public, and especially younger and younger consumers.  It is those consumers who grow up, and who force their own children into the same molds, in this case even murdering a toddler who allegedly didn’t fit.

In the end, the story does have one definite take away.  Regardless of whether or not a child is capable of acting “girly” or masculine, especially at such a young age, we know for sure that hitting a child never, ever makes someone a man.  We can only hope that no other children die in the pursuit of a parent’s ideal of the perfect child.

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Luca T.
Luca T1 years ago

It just sickens me what people will do because of the fact that some may act too girly, it's normal to cry at 17 months old, sense its how a child expresses it-self because of the fact they have not learn words yet. It's a depressing world when one looks at all the gender remark stereotyping. I'm a boy and I remember playing my little pony with my little sister when I was little, and I did cry when I was 17 months old younger and old, not once did my dad think I was girly and my dad is very masculine and his job is working on big trucks. Not once did he ever think playing with girl toys would make me like a little girl, he also remembers playing with barbies with his own brother and other sisters, and they both turned out fine, my dad has been married to my mom for over 15 years sense they were teenagers, and has me and my little sister, his brother has his own family and works hard doing maple sap. I also have turned fine, I'm almost out of high-school and have big plans on my future. Crying on the other hand is a natural thing, it is what expresses emotion towards something and what also keeps our eyes well, it does not make a men "girly" nor does playing with tools or legos make a girl "boyish/manly". This men honestly i feel like should have life-time, like as i seen on my crime shows if a men can get life or death-sentence for killing an another teenager than this men on here should of gotten life instead of 20 years, so that maybe his mistake will actually ring in his h


20 years? He should've gotten life!!!


20 years? He should've gotten life!!!

Josie Eldred
Josie Eldred7 years ago

Literally sitting here shaking my head.

The fact parents are so worried about the sexuality of their children to the point where one gets beaten to death and one commits suicide, when there are so many other more important, *actual* problems to be focussing on, just sickens me.

I wish people would wake up and realise that not conforming to stereotypes, or not being straight or whatever else, isn't the end of the world and that there are in fact much better things they could be doing with their time than openly hating and abusing people who are a little different.

Ms.R. S.
MsR S7 years ago

My Son played w/my purses, wore my nightgown, my shoes, when he was a toddler. It didn't worry me a bit. He had classes in Aikido, plays just about any kind of musical instrument... Today he has 5 children, long hair (he's a musician), and except for spouting Libertarian "illogics", he acts like a "normal" man. lol

My Daughters were encouraged to be independent, had classes in car maintenance & repair, besides musical instruments, ballet, crafts, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Capoeira,
& seem to know they are wemin.
Ignorance keeps us stuck in the middle ages. This guy is an insecure, pathetic male in need of serious guidance. I wish I could pick up that little baby & hug him back into life, just tell him that everything is OK, that he's beautiful and will grow up to be just fine.

Lauren A.
Lauren A7 years ago

This is truly disgusting and it makes me apalled at the human condition. Gender stereotyping is wrong, and it's what leads to a lot of the problems that people have as adults. A lot of men have a hard time expressing emotions because they feel they need to be 'manly' and somehow that tears are a feminine action, and this is because of gender stereotyping. We all do it, even if we don't mean to.

And even taking into consideration that gender stereotyping happens with all of us, something like that never should've gotten so out of hand. No matter what gender the child identifies with, it shouldn't matter. I don't think that the whole issue is with people not understanding the problem of gender stereotyping, but the problem is with that man.

He is obviously mentally disturbed. How could he harm and kill a child were he not?

Cindy B.
Cindy B7 years ago

There's no benefit in trying to understand the actions of a pathetic piece of sh*t who would murder his own 17-month-old baby for a "reason" such as that. Throw him in jail and try to forget he existed.

Diane L.
Diane L7 years ago

This was very tragic, and the "perp" is trying to claim he didn't mean to kill the kid and only hit him "that hard one time" and now he has to do 20 years? Well, that's 20 years of life his victim will never have.

Trying to mold a child into a pre-conceived "mold" or pattern is stupid. I'm female (now 68 years old) and never thought of myself as anything else, but I remember distinctly as a child, not wanting to play with dolls. I wanted an erector set or LINCOLN LOGS. I like working with my hands, always have. Nobody thought I was a boy in disguise, though, and while I did have dolls, just wanted the "boy" things. I remember leaving the doll department in the stores to go watch the electric train displays. I finally got my own electric train as a free gift when I bought a new mattress at the age of 50. I think I turned out just fine. Just because I liked "boy toys" had nothing to do with my gender, and I always had boyfriends, got married and had children (by my choice and was what I wanted, not what was expected).

Why on earth would someone question the sexuality of a 17-month-old? It makes no sense.

catherine s.
catherine s7 years ago

we have no gender specific anything in my house. I am a single leabian mom and I actually had a family therapist tell us that I cant teach my daughter anything about being a woman, most ridiculuos thing we ever heard. so sad when so called professionals are idiots. my heartfelt sympathy goes out to everyone involed in this tragic situation.

indy rose
indy rose7 years ago