I was born and raised in America and I could recall my earliest memory of “boys being boys”. In kindergarten, I remember my male classmates pushing girls around saying “ew” or that girl had “cooties” as a means to separate themselves from the girls. It was seen as weak to be friendly with the girls and that hierarchy was established at around the age of four. Continuing into middle school and high school, those differences became more obvious. It was seen as weird for boys and girls to be just friends. If people were to find out, the boy would be called homophobic slurs and the girl would be called nasty names, as if she was sleeping with any guy she came into contact with. That expectation of what masculinity and femininity looked like was being acted out by children. It seemed that some of my closest friends at the time would distance themselves from me just because I was a female. I didn’t think too much into it but looking back, it is pretty obvious why our friendship ended. We live in a culture where this idea of toxic masculinity is what defines a man. Movie characters and video game characters emphasize that idea. These men that are violent and lack emotion are glorified as the ideal alpha male. Now with the introduction of social media, people are more connected than ever. At the click of a button, you can receive millions of results for a topic on Google. Young boys will look at what is being presented to them of what a man should be whether it is from games, movies, music videos or even pornography. As these boys grow into men, they will become what they are exposed too. While this is not limited to girls, the culture around masculinity is violent.
“Men Explain Things To Me” by Rebecca Solnit is a collection of essays that defines what being a woman is under the patriarchy. Solnit does not hesitate to go into the nitty-gritty of the negatives of being a woman in a man’s world where abuse and disrespect is the norm. Both [men in power and toxic masculinity,] are trying to silence and punish women for claiming voice power, and the right to participate.” (Solnit 31) While this is a deeprooted issue that has been established for thousands of years, with the expectation of what a man should be, men tend to become violent and act out their frustrations in unhealthy ways because men are seen as dominant and women are perceived as secondary objects. This idea dates back to the biblical times where the woman were the caretakers of their husbands, homes, and children These women had no rights and were seen as weaker than men are when that may not be the case. Society enforces that agenda with fathers teaching their sons that emotion was feminine and that they must repress those feelings or they would be seen as less of a man. With all of these odds stacked up against women, it’s easy to see why the idea of “men being trash” is widely accepted by women especially on social media.
When talking about acts of violence against women domestic abuse and rape are some of the most common. Children and women alike are abused by men sexually, physically, or verbally. It stems from the idea of having to dominate and control the things around them that men begin to attack their prey, females, regardless of how it is done.
“We could talk about the assault and the rape of a seventy-three-year-old in Manhattan’s Central Park on September 2012, or the recent rape of a four-year-old and an eight-year-old in Louisiana, or the New York City policeman who was arrested in October of 2012 for what appeared to be a serious plans to kidnap, rape, cook, and eat a woman, any woman, because the hated wasn't personal (although maybe it was for the San Diego man who killed and cooked his wife in November and the man from New Orleans who killed, dismembered, and cooked his girlfriend 2005).” (Solnit 23)
These are a fraction of a percent of the violence that happens to women across the world on a daily basis. I've experienced first-hand men prowling o either me or my friends. It’s an unsettling feeling that makes you fearful of being around a group of guys. It starts with catcalling, then confrontation, which can lead to aggression. Have you ever been fearful of going to a gas station by yourself at night because there could be a group of guys hanging around and you don't know if they'll surround you trying to get your number? Have you ever been to a college party with an eerie feeling that you're being followed but every time you turn around, that person seemingly goes away? Have you ever been fearful of going to your car by yourself in an empty parking lot at night because you don't know if some guy will snatch you up? Sure these are all hypothetical scenarios but it is becoming a norm and a reality for a lot of women. The buddy system of going to a bathroom with a friend started when a lot of these women were children but the reasoning behind that was to protect themselves from other men unknowingly.
If you still watch the news even as depressing as it is, you will turn it on and you will get your daily report of the weather, traffic reports, and another violent crime. I will scroll through Twitter and the trending topic will be another athlete abusing his girlfriend. Deciding that being cooped up in my home, I will hang out with my girlfriends and a group of guys will start whistling at us trying to get our attention. It seems like females can't escape those disgusting behaviors. Why is there so much crime against women? Why is there so much sexual abuse by both men in and out of the limelight? Why can't I go out with my girlfriends without being catcalled? ” Rape and other acts of violence, up to and including murder, as well as threats of violence, constitute the barrage some men lay down as they attempt to control some women, and fear of that violence women's most women in ways they've gotten so used to say hardly notice- and we've hardly address.” (Solnit 29) This sentence alone truly describes the female experience. It is not new to our society. it is been conditioned and taught too young men who grow up to become abusive. “Of course, women are capable of all sorts of major unpleasantness, and there are violent crimes by women, but the so-called war of the sexes is extraordinarily lopsided when it comes to actual violence.” (Solnit 33) While crimes are not excluding females, a majority of crimes are committed by males but why is that? Toxic masculinity is a prominent figure in a growing boy’s life. Wanting to meet those standards and expectations without disappointing people around them is no easy feat. Having to suppress emotions every day and put on the mask so you are depicted as a man would be extremely exhausting. As they grow up into adult men, those repressed feelings will manifest into anger to the point where they start becoming violent and abusive because it is all they were allowed to do.
In the chapter “Cassandra Among the Creeps”, it explained how women are not given the credibility to deserve when they do decide to speak out against these acts of violence. “The story of Cassandra, the woman who told the truth that was not believed, is not nearly as embedded in our culture as out of the boy who cried wolf…” (Solnit 103) Being a woman and having be “embedded in our political system, and our legal system, which before feminists fought for us didn’t recognize most domestic violence, or sexual harassment and stalking, or date rape, or acquaintance rape, or marital rape, and in cases of rape still often tries the victim rather than the rapist,...” (Solnit 31) A lot of these terms were not created up until recently. New terms for sexual abuse and rape blurs that line. As Solnit said, “language is power.” (Solnit 129) It feels as though women have no one but their own clients to fight for their rights which is why feminism was created. neither side is perfect as to how the law should be upheld but it is increasingly becoming alarming. A mutual belief is not established. “ the implication that women as a category are unreliable and that false rape charges are there real issue is used to silence individual women and to avoid discussing sexual violence…” (Solnit 114)
The time for change is now and I feel that in the next coming generation if we change the culture of what a man should be the roles of a woman, we can effectively make a change by creating an equal middle ground for both genders. A lot of these issues stem from a lack of education or even the lack of guidance in a child's life. If teachers, coaches, youth advisors fill in that void and teach them kindness rather than violence, a lot of these issues would be resolved but it starts with you. In order to create a safe place for our future daughters, we need to make changes now.