Double Standard and Harassment

Ms. Melissa Atkins Wardy writes at length on her blog Pigtail Pal & Ballcap Buddies about attitudes towards boys and girls and how it connects with street harassment. She starts by describing a threatening incident that her daughter’s friend went through, and connects it to the culture at large:

“The way the incident happened, there was something about her that this guy felt made it worth his while to engage with her in a very threatening manner. In this encounter, she wasn’t simply walking by on a sidewalk and he chose to cat call her. In this instance he put himself in her path, stopping her in her tracks thereby treating her as an object to be moved or disrupted, as opposed to an autonomous human being with thoughts, feelings, and purpose. […]

“From infancy boys are taught to be rowdy rock ‘n roll bad boys who are little masters of the universe and tiny stud muffins.

“From infancy girls are taught to be sweet and pretty, things to be adored and kept beautiful while pleasing everyone around with the sweet prettiness.

“These messages are all over media, apparel, toys, and are relayed by people who interact with our children. […]

“Unless taught by his family, a boy is less likely to learn from our culture that girls and women are worthy of respect and equality or that aggression does not make you a man.

“Unless taught by her family, a girl is less likely learn to offer herself as a whole person rather than a sexual object or that she can be many things without needing the approval of men. […]

“By the time they are teens most boys will have seen very little media that respects women and most girls will have seen very little media in which women ask for or take respect. Then we consider all of the advertising they have seen up to this point, the vast majority of which shows women as objects to be used for male sexual desire. […]

“So when I […] think about my friend’s daughter being harassed while she is out for walk I, [sic] also think about how this fits into the big picture in how we raise or children and what messages we choose to accept or reject. I think about how I try to teach parents to see the forest through the trees, and that while one gendered item or media component may seem trivial, it all adds up to a deep, dark forest we have to shepherd our children through. We also have to teach them how to find their own way, because we won’t always be by their sides.” [emphasis added]

(Quoted at length to fully reproduce the point.)

Kudos. Because patterns of behavior matter, and patterns of abusive behavior need to be nipped in the bud.

Football Stars Speak against Violence towards Women

Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten, among his other off-field activities, has also dedicated himself to stopping domestic violence. Witten’s JWSF SCOREkeepers initiative places trained male mentors in battered women’s shelters throughout Texas to demonstrate positive male behavior in an effort to break the cycle of violence that plagues families affected by abuse.

Don McPherson is an ex-quarterback, member of the College Football Hall of Fame, a feminist and educator. In a CNN article in 2013 Mr. McPherson writes:

“Men do not just need to stop being violent. The vast majority of men are not violent. But men do need to stop being silent. Calling violence against women, whether street harassment or sexual harassment or rape or murder, a “women’s issue” allows men to ignore it as if we have no responsibility for it or stake in ending it. We all have grandmothers, mothers, sisters, daughters and female friends and colleagues. Our lives are inextricably interwoven; women’s issues of safety and equality directly affect our lives as men.”

“Beyond that, women are humans, with the same rights to safety and freedom as men. It is therefore our moral responsibility to not remain silent or passively on the sidelines, but to be actively engaged in confronting this problem in every corner of homes, communities and societies.”

Kudos. These two men show in very concrete ways that the concept of manhood defies narrow confines sometimes thrust upon it. Because football players can be – and are – so much more than their stereotypical meathead reputation.

Libraries as Safe Places

Jenn Hooker speaks out about making libraries safe places at Public libraries Online:

“We are not therapists, counselors, or social workers, but many librarians find themselves becoming well acquainted with their frequent patrons. If you see a patron, especially a young one, who is being taunted or abused for any reason, you can offer them a place in the library.

[…]

“Now that I work in a library and carry some power, I feel it is my duty to offer the same safety that was offered to me many years ago. I wear a rainbow Mickey Mouse pin on my work lanyard so as to subtly inform people, ‘I’m like you,’ and so far it’s worked. I smile at kids when they come in and make sure to speak up when I hear people using hateful epithets. No one, especially children, deserves to be attacked with malicious words. Sticks and stones may break bones, but no matter what anyone says, names can still be hurtful. With a little bit of effort, we can make sure that no harm ever befalls a child inside the walls of a library.”

Even though she writes specifically about LGBT youth, the principle has wider applicability. As one librarian – and a human being – to another, I say: Kudos, Jenn!