Boys will be Boys – Even when they Shouldn’t
In my traditional act of commenting on something on the internet long after everyone is done talking about it, I have finally started to collect my thoughts about a recent post on Skepchick.org about guys being idiots on Reddit.
The initial post by Rebecca Watson was in response to a Reddit thread in which a 15-year-old girl posted that her super religious mom gave her a Carl Sagan book for Christmas. I personally think it is fantastic that a very religious mother gave her atheist daughter a book that was all about her daughter’s interests rather than her own.
What happened next was a whole lot of comments that strayed from people just saying “how awesome is that” to a bunch of people (and when I say people – I mean “men”) making rape and pedophilia jokes about this young girl. The young lady in question is quite pretty but I imagine similar jokes might have shown up no matter her appearance. That, or there would have been comments talking about the fact that no-one who looks like her is ever going to get laid.
Rebecca thinks (and I agree) that there is a huge problem here. A fifteen year old girl can’t post a picture of herself on the internet without having that picture hijacked by a bunch of guys who feel the need to make pedophile/sex jokes at her expense. So having made this comment, what happens next?
Guys (and a few women) defend the whole thing with the argument that on the internet, the buyer must beware. This internet thing is a scary place and little girls should watch their step.
Well…yes. It is and they should. As the Reddit thread so clearly points out, there are assholes on the internet.
Thing is, the rest of us shouldn’t think that is OK. We have to move beyond telling girls that the internet can be a dangerous place and move towards making it a safe place.
Yes, there are lots of inappropriate misogynistic jokes out there and I’m going to admit that I even find some of them funny because a well written joke can be funny no matter what the topic. Thing is, I enjoy offensive humor and I’m willing to look for it. I know what I’m getting and I’m open to it.
A fifteen year old girl posting a picture of a Christmas present was not inviting that experience. She wasn’t looking for it. She was trying to tell people that her mom might have been a little bit cooler than she thought.
So when people start saying “well she needs to be careful out there on the big bad internet” and, in essence, blaming the victim because she shouldn’t have put her picture out there in the first place, we have a problem. The community that she looked to for support and guidance basically said “that’s the way it is.”
Amanda Marcotte wrote a fine article about this and I’m not going to rehash what she said.
I am going to explore a tangential problem that, I think, some feminist guys face when they look at a situation like this and the reason they fall into a “yes…but” response that Amanda talks about.
As guys, we will never experience misogyny directed at ourselves. We may witness it directly or indirectly but we are not going to experience that kind of discrimination. We may experience discrimination based on race or sexual orientation or religious beliefs but we will never experience discrimination based on our sex.
EDIT: Yes, I know that misadry exists and that mysogyny is, by definition, something men do not experience. As I’ve said to a few people, I think that discussing this one question obfuscates the point. Yes, some men do experience discrimination. I concede that to be true.
I know someone out there is going to pull some “men’s rights” BS on me and I’m going to use Katharine Hepburn to illustrate my response (the relevant passage is at 2:03 but watch the whole thing because Ms. Hepburn is awesome).
I think most men recognize that when it comes to discrimination, we did OK. Thing is, it isn’t our fault that the sperm with the Y Chromosome was the fastest. As such, I think many of us have a problem noticing that some guys can be real jackasses to women and failing to recognize that those guys are not, of necessity, us.
Defense of a dude who does stupid shit is, at least in part, born of a the need to assert that guys aren’t jackasses just because they are guys.
At least that is what often goes through my head when I read a feminist post that pushes certain buttons. I know it isn’t about me and yet, I feel like it is because these feminists are hating on men (they aren’t) and I’m a man (I am). Even though I’m smarter than that, I feel attacked. I feel like I’m expected to answer for every jerk out there and somehow turn their stupid, thoughtless behavior into something everyone can understand.
Thing is, they aren’t hating on men. They are hating on assholes who happen to be men. There are assholes who happen to be women as well.
The fastest sperm has nothing to do with that. I’m not ashamed of being a guy. It isn’t my fault. I didn’t do anything special to be born a guy. Hell, I didn’t do anything at all.
Defending the behavior of a guy just because he is a guy misses the point. The point isn’t that ALL guys are assholes. The point is that a fifteen year old girl ought to be able to post a picture of a Christmas Present on the internet without some assholes (who – in this case – are guys) making crude jokes about her.
Feminism – at least the feminism I believe in – isn’t about how girls are so much better than guys. It is about recognizing the way society treats women compared to men and how that dichotomy isn’t really a good thing for anyone.