By Rod Van Mechelen
Boy-bashing: good, clean fun, damaging to self-esteem, or does it promote violence?
Get a life!
2004 Olympia, Wash. - How times have changed. Just a few years ago, programs to sensitize boys to the plight of girls were making big headlines. Not that long ago, there was a story about a six-year-old boy who was labeled a lecherous harasser for kissing one of the girls--on the cheek. He was suspended and sent home for that. Last year, however, we began to see T-shirts urging girls to attack boys.
Yes, it's true. The latest trend in fashion apparel for teenage girls is a direct jab at their male counterparts: T-shirts that carry slogans like "Boys are stupid -- throw rocks at them," "Boys are goobers -- drop anvils on their heads" and "Boys lie -- make them cry." - Jane Ganahl, Chronicle Staff Writer, Will you please shut up and get a life, already?, San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday, February 22, 2004
Yet, had the shoe been on the other foot, or, in this case, the shirt on the other gender, we can only imagine the screeching from feminists as they sallied forth to quash yet another example of patriarchal badness. And that, as Warren Farrell, author of several books, including Father and Child Reunion, has long taught, is the measure of sexism: if it's funny about one sex but unacceptable about the opposite sex, then it's sexist.
With this view in mind, equalitarians, such as Glenn Sacks, started to campaign against the "Boys are Stupid" products. "As parents, we suffer along with our children," wrote Sacks. "Perhaps this explains why the campaign has struck such a chord--in the past week over 300 newspapers and television and radio stations have carried stories about it." Ironically, some of the harshest critics of Sacks' campaign have been men:
Other critics, mostly men, deride me as unmanly. I confess this attitude puzzles me. These men often grumble about TV commercials in which men are portrayed as idiots and clowns, and they read their kids bedtime stories from children's books where fathers--the few left in modern children's literature--are similarly depicted. Yet many of these men seem to be struck by cultural amnesia the moment somebody finally decides to do something about male-bashing. - Glenn Sacks, Why I Launched the Campaign Against 'Boys are Stupid' Products, February 4, 2004
Reasonably, some may question the fuss. As the old chant goes, "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me--unless I'm a feminist." Since boys are not victim feminists, what should a few humorous slogans matter? Perhaps because violent words can beget violence. Will they matter when girls start throwing rocks? Will they matter when these girls grow up to become batterers?
No parenting expert interviewed suggests that mean-spirited slogans on clothing will destroy a young man's sense of self-worth. They do worry, however, that derogatory and sexist messages contribute to creating a hostile atmosphere.
"Well, so what?" Feminists might retort. "Men have battered women for millennia, a little payback won't hurt them!" Feminists did write and say such things 10 years ago, but they were eventually silenced by the mounting resistance to their sexist remarks. But despite this they still snarl comments like that in unguarded moments of anger, and amongst themselves. And we might respond by pointing out that, while women are far more likely to be injured from domestic violence, because, in general, men are physically capable of far greater violence than women, women are slightly more likely to initiate domestic violence, so, sadly, there is already parity.
"If we said that about blacks or Jews or Norwegians even, you'd be stoned immediately," (Armin Brott, author and "Ask Mr. Dad" columnist) says. - Monique Beeler, Boy bashing: Some say girl power movement may have gone too far, Alameda-Times Star, January 21, 2004
Of course, the feminist retort to this is that this is sexist nonsense based on a relatively few studies, while the government and law enforcement statistics prove that, by a wide margin, women are overwhelmingly the victims, and men are overwhelmingly the perpetrators, of domestic violence:
Exact statistics shift from study to study, but results over three decades of investigation by governmental agencies, social service organizations, and women's health researchers consistently confirm that women are the overwhelming majority of victims of domestic violence--and that men who are victimized are most often assaulted not by women but by other men. - Jennifer L. Pozner, Not All Domestic Violence Studies Are Created Equal, Extra!, November/December 1999
What Pozner and other feminists ignore is that the government and law enforcement studies are based on crime statistics, where most of the victims are women, because, to this day, men are still far less likely to report themselves as victims of domestic violence, as the stigma from doing so would be roughly equivalent to a woman in the 1960s reporting that she had been raped.
What if the violence begins before puberty? Children can be cruel. Aren't these T-shirts encouraging girls to do more than taunt the boys? Isn't it a call to commit acts of violence? Ridiculous, says Ganahl, who sees it as a liberating joke celebrating that "today's high school girls have come into their 'power'."
It might not be great manners, but this is the kind of crowing that comes with knowing you've gained ground. Cut these young women a little slack, and have a sense of humor. And I swear, no one will hit you with a rock. - Jane Ganahl, Chronicle Staff Writer, Will you please shut up and get a life, already?, San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday, February 22, 2004
Assuming even half of the complaints modern feminists have leveled against the American male were true, she might have a point. But the uncomfortable truth today's feminists refuse to acknowledge is that, from the right to vote to the birth control pill to equal rights in virtually every bastion of society, all women's victories have been handed to them by men. And what men have given, the sexism of feminists may persuade them to take away.
Rod Van Mechelen
Rod Van Mechelen is the author of What Everyone Should Know about Feminist Issues: The Male-Positive Perspective (the page now includes several articles by other authors), and the publisher of The Backlash! @ Backlash.com. He is a member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and served for 9-1/2 years on the Cowlitz Indian Tribal Council.