We need a paradigm shift: Real Men Don’t Harm.
The New Delhi gang rape and murder seemed to give a lot of Americans an opportunity to practice denial, national elitism, and perhaps even a little racism all at once.
By focusing on how in need of change Indian men/society are, we were able to allow our ‘boys to continue being boys’ and avoid the discomfort of owning our own epidemic of male violence. There was, after all, someone worse.
We’ve (U.S.) had numerous gang rapes with adolescents in the past few years, even on school grounds, sometimes with audiences of up to 40 or more peers watching/participating (for hours as girls were brutalized), students sharing video and texting their friends to participate.
Do you remember the big uproar about those? Probably not: there wasn’t any.
I was often frustrated, well before these two particular incidents occurred; earlier cases weren’t receiving much coverage and seemed to be glossed over by media. Steubenville certainly wasn’t the first time.
While American press was curiously in an uproar over two individual rapes, the Violence Against Women Act, created to help protect millions of American women against the plague of rape/violence, seamlessly and silently disappeared.
The crimes (but for the details) did not change, in either country, but the press coverage certainly did: “Why then?”
The India and Steubenville rapes also provided a distraction from the horrific shootings we were still reeling from. Committed by young, white affluent males, these crimes reflected entitlement: entitlement over other people’s bodies and entitlement over other people’s lives. (If being a ‘real man’ infers power and control, they certainly reclaimed theirs—at least temporarily.)
Yet, the over–riding social context, in which there is a desperate need to maintain authority and control, at all costs, is never mentioned.
While ‘masculinity/manhood’ (as in socialization, not as in natural condition of male born humans) has always been the one thing miraculously left out of the mainstream media maelstrom, this time, there was a hum.
Social media isn’t regulated to the degree that conventional ‘media’ has been; people are talking, revolutions are happening and paradigms shifting: threatening, threatening, threatening status quo. Even if mainstream media has a vested interested in sociological blind spots, social media has become a vehicle for outing the interests of the people, regardless.
Articles started to circulate in social media, putting words to those ‘things-that-must-not-be-named’ in conventional media. Rather than the mainstream media’s old, tired routine of, “Why is violence in America so out of control?’ some in social media actually dared to flat out state, “We weed to address the way we culture our men.” <Gasp!>
In fact, some even had the audacity to suggest that we should use terminology, which squarely calls out the violator: “Men’s Violence Against Women”, rather than the violated, “Violence Against Women.”
While we all know men are the main perpetrators of crime: sexual, violent, white collar or otherwise, we’re hard pressed (v-e-r-y u-n-c-o-m-f-o-r-t-a-b-le) to use the word ‘men’ as part of the equation. (Did your hair rise when I said, ‘young, affluent, white males’ above?)
Just articulating those demographic facts, is tantamount to male ‘bashing’—threatening a fundamental belief system. Danger!
Even the proposal of analyzing the concept of ‘masculinity’ is challenging entitlement of male authority and runs strikingly close to questioning the entitlement of global dominance and institutionalized violence and discrimination: to be avoided at all costs. And let’s be clear, preserving this type of system through silence is creating great costs—for everyone. But, apparently, publicly naming the culprit and discussing ‘manhood/patriarchy’ is a greater threat.
Bottom line: These acts are not pathological, if they are born in a culture, which condones violence/dominance as the be-all-end-all of reclaiming masculinity.
By skirting around accountability and putting the focus on labeling the victims, mental health, guns or the crimes instead, we can guarantee unchallenged ‘manhood’ and expression of that in continued entitlement, violence and control. But do we really want to, at the expense of more outbreaks of ‘masculinity,’ paralyzing and terrorizing society/humanity as a whole?
If we really do want peace for our children, for our future, as we say, we need to get clean on the reality of the situation and own up: The current definitions/expressions of masculinity are killing us.
We need to look at all the ways these underlying belief structures advocate violence, dominance and control. Why should our boys be denied this anymore than anyone else? Let’s start to create a new dialogue, challenging concepts that limit men’s value to dominating and using violence as the final instrument of control and ‘manliness’.
Let’s start putting out the r-evolutionary idea that being a ‘real man’ doesn’t need to be contingent on power-over and control, or the potential threat thereof.
How about promoting messages like, “Real men don’t harm,” and in fact, they can be really amazing nurturers! Certainly, there could be many positive applications.
We need to make structural analysis of gender part of the open dialogue of dealing with violence; we’re only as sick as our secrets.
Onward human evolution!
Tanya Marie is a yoga teacher and former sociology teacher, focusing on awareness of both body and mind. Loves stimulating critical analysis and traveling the world. Creating an acceptance/understanding of all things ‘other’; while, highlighting interconnectedness, at the same time, is one of her passions. She has three lovely kitties; who she’s determined are little Buddhas to help her along The Path.
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