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.
I think it’s odd that society often blames the victim in a variety of crimes or discriminatory behaviors directed at said victim. I’ve seen it in similar instances as this, and in other areas such as when a person is robbed or raped. People make excuses for the perpetrator. They try to rationalize it. I don’t know why this happens, but society is in a real need of a social paradigm shift. Thanks for sharing this, and your views.
I assume you know how to link to a YouTube video at a given time, and just wanted us all to watch some classic Hepburn, which I approve heartily. Here in case anyone is interested, is how to jump directly to the scene in question:
BTW, Hillary was played by Virginia Christine who, according to IMDB, was in EVERY TV SHOW EVAR…
Oop, I didn’t expect that to embed! Here’s the string. Concatenate the two lines together for the working link
I disagree with you that men do not experience discrimination. There’s a hot debate happening right now over whether to change the language of the Violence Against Women Act to provide support for men who are also victims of domestic abuse. The gender pressure is different, but it exists. Not only are men expected to never fight back (no matter what she does to him), but he faces shame that he got “beat up by a girl” from his social support structure, and sometimes even his doctor if he admits what happened. There are nearly no battery shelters that accept men. Last number I heard was 3, total, nation-wide. I don’t think that’s okay.
The thing is…NONE of that is relevant to a discussion of misogyny. They do not cancel-out. The resistance and sexism that a man may find while trying to pursue a career in early childhood education (for example) does not forgive, eliminate, or even counter-balance the wage gap. These facts don’t provide an excuse for rape jokes or personal attacks, and the existence of many good men in this world does not obscure the problem of sexism. But neither does the existence of misogyny in our culture obscure injustice against men, where it exists.
Anyway. That’s where I fall in the issue. A very well-written article, thank you.
I think we can agree that the instances in which men experience discrimination are comparatively few and very few of us will ever encounter them. The odds are good that most white males will never have any personal experience that can compare. Even if they do, their experience will be limited wheras most women face it every day.
You are right, though, that issue is not relevant to the quesiton of the misogynistic behavior that was the inspiration for the entire conversation.
It’s not only based on sex, or discrimination it’s in a lot more places as well. Your story somewhat falls in the “Oh she got raped cause she dressed provocatively, she brought it on herself” category.
But there are many more “Oh, he left his car unlocked so he deserved to have it stolen”
And just recently I read an article on a High school football player being shot to death on New Years.
In the replies are countless ignorant souls who actually blame the kid that was shot!!!! Simply due to the fact that he was only 16 and out past midnight. Some even took it farther and played the race card.
The point of it all is that there is a growing sediment in society that actually places the blame on the victim instead of where the blame should lie, the offender.
While the internet and social media can be a wonderful asset to our lives, more and more it seems a rabid swamp for the scum of the earth to manifest their views without fear of accountability that would otherwise affect them with consequences in real life.