Everybody just get off the damn elevator.
It’s that time of the week, ladies. In this edition of Sexist Beatdown, Sady (of Tiger Beatdown) and myself (of a less cleverly-named blog) totally dish about boys! (and how to teach them not to rape girls without hurting their tender man-feelings).
Ripe for discussion is Dr. Perry Klass‘s recent New York Times piece on how parents should talk the Talk, in which she argues that teaching boys about sexual assault could hurt their feelings, setting them up to be future rapists and/or emasculated girly-men. (Also, something about elevators? We didn’t really get that part).
Let the prepubescent victimization begin—-but let’s try not to hurt Klass’s feelings, shall we?
SADY: hey lady! are you available to talk now? about BOYS?
AMANDA: i have so much to dish about. particularly, why is “when to get off the elevator” the only specific circumstance that story ventures to apply to its analysis of teaching girls and boys how to behave?
SADY: well, you know. clearly elevators are the most pressing sexual or gender issue for our nation today! i refer you, of course, to aerosmith’s “love in an elevator,” which explores these issues in depth.
AMANDA: “what can the most gender neutral experience ever teach us about how to teach boys not to rape people?”
SADY: that whole article weirds me out, because she’s talking about giving boys The Talk, yet stubbornly refuses to address anything in a specific or concrete manner.
AMANDA: yeah, anything. i was glad the Times decided to bring this issue to the forefront, after all the discussion lady publications have been giving to victim blaming / empowerment in domestic abuse situations. but it was mishandled
SADY: “you should know that there are certain people who will view you as dangerous in certain situations which are related to certain things.” she would give the worst Talk ever!
AMANDA: i know.
SADY: i mean, and i got this whole weird aura of defensiveness “people make MISTAKES [hitting people? raping?] and could be AUTOMATICALLY viewed as aggressors in AMBIGUOUS situations [again: hitting people? rape?]”
AMANDA: and, you know, maybe she really was just talking about getting out of the fucking way on an elevator? what was she talking about? the comment this piece begs to include is: well, girls learn about some things because they have to. boys will learn about them if we teach them.
SADY: ha. i think it’s important to address this stuff head-on with guys, because not only do they get messages that disrespecting girls is ok from the culture at large, they are likely to know other boys who ACT on that even if they personally do not. and, i mean, how awesome would it be if there were all these well-educated boys intervening with their friends to be like, “hey, perhaps you should not be such an asshole, for it is uncool?” god knows they won’t listen to GIRLS about this stuff, having already been told that girls should not be listened to, ever.
AMANDA: yeah, and of course there are more delicate ways to teach these lessons than say, you know, “you are a strong dangerous rapist in training, stop being the way you are!”
SADY: right. i mean, i too would probably give the worst Talk ever, because I would be like: Timmy, you have Urges. Girls also have Urges. Your Urges are OK and you should not treat anyone like crap because they respond or fail to respond to them. One day you will meet a nice person with Urges like yours – maybe a lady, maybe not – and on that day you can act on your Urges together in a mutually respectful manner. I apologize for naming you Timmy. The End.
AMANDA: haha. so i had forgotten what Perri Klass, MD’s conclusion was.
SADY: that we should teach boys AND girls to get off the damn elevator?
AMANDA: yeah (that also made absolutely no sense), but right before that: “It’s too bad that one side of teaching our children about sex and relationships means reminding them that there are bad people in the world; stay away from them, stay safe, speak up if someone hurts you or pushes you. But everyone needs that information, and that promise of adult support. We have to get that message across without defining some of our children as obvious perpetrators and others as obvious victims, because that insults everyone.”
SADY: yeah, and teaching both genders to protect themselves from predators is a nice message, or, to be more precise, FIFTY PERCENT of a very nice message. because teaching people not to BE predators is important too.
AMANDA: yeah, and nobody is saying, “don’t tell girls that their strength can be used for hurting.” i just can’t really see where klass is coming from here. she seems to think it’s a widespread problem that parents are only teaching their boys not to be bad citizens, not to rape, not to hit, not to be fucking jerks about the abortion. is that happening? i’m all for teaching girls not to be jerks about the abortion too, but i don’t think these conversations are happening at all, much less that there is a huge gender disparity in them. she seems to still be focused way back in time, on chivalry, which is horrifically misleading and not important.
SADY: yeah, exactly. lots of boys can be very courtly on a date, but courtly does not equal actual respect. i mean, yeah, i’m sorry, teen boys are getting messages that being predatory and violent specifically towards teen girls is acceptable. so addressing those messages head on (how do your friends talk about girls? Ah, I see, your friends are dicks) is maybe the only way to counteract that, and we can’t be afraid of HURTING SOMEONE’S FEELINGS by telling them that it’s not OK to hurt someone else. if she’s thinking that guys are getting traumatized by folks telling them that women are people and no means no, i really don’t get where she’s coming from.
AMANDA: agreed. it comes from the same place as the idea that like, teaching men about these things will emasculate them and they’ll turn into puny feminine gay boys. we don’t want oversensitive boys running around!
SADY: yes, if your son is taught to talk to ladies like they are people, his male parts will wither and he may BECOME a lady overnight. sad, but true.
AMANDA: it’s just funny that after months of conversations about the Celebrity Domestic Violence Incident that Klass Shall Not Name that focused on the idea of victim blaming and making women responsible for ending violence, we see this response—-“hmm, awkward, should we really be blaming boys before they’ve actually done the violence?” ??? who is doing that?
SADY: yeah, right? because all i hear about these days is how it’s the lady’s responsibility and [via that crazy Linda Hirshman lady] ladies who get into abusive relationships should just leave – leave! LEAVE RIGHT NOW! – or else they are weak. i hear about nine million things each day about “don’t get drunk, don’t walk home alone at night, leave immediately if abuse happens, take responsibility or your raping/abuse/whatever will be YOUR FAULT for letting your guard down.” and women do have so many things they do to protect themselves. but one way? one REALLY EFFECTIVE WAY to make sure rape and abuse don’t happen? is to make dudes take responsibility for not abusing or attacking women. and to intervene with friends or peers when they see something like that take place.
SADY: perri klass seems to think it’s incredibly sad that some people are scared of boys. i agree. so why not teach your boy to be someone people don’t need to be scared of?
Photo by freeparking