I ran into to use the toilet at a really popular pub on Friday night and as I dashed past three young girls at the mirror I overheard one of them say to other,
“You look great, babe. You look soooo skinny.”
It’s no surprise to any of us that we live in a society and at a time, where the word ‘skinny’ is synonymous with great. I don’t want to place any shame in the direction of these women. I’m glad they were rocking it and I’m glad they’re complimenting each other, but it makes me sad. It makes me sad that this is the first world. We did this. We made this happen.
I’ve been having lots of conversations this week about the Brock Turner case and about how ultimately the world is broken. We’ve broken it. We need to fix it. It may be completely simple minded to believe that some form of empowering education is the way to do that. But I really, truly, wholeheartedly believe that this is what we need to do. I feel like we need to teach young men to be better. To feel more, talk more, cry more. I feel like the inherited version of maleness that’s been placed upon them is what’s making them kill each other, women and themselves. The biggest threat to women in this country is men they know. The biggest threat to young men in this country right now is themselves. We’ve taught them that it’s not okay to ask for help. It’s not okay to talk about the times you get so angry you black out. It’s not okay that the only exposure to sex and sexuality is in pornograpghy.
I watched YouTube videos last night of a young men jumping into cactuses and throwing bowling balls at their testicles for likes, subscribers and notoriety. This is our reality. We have no rights of passage that mark the end of your adolescence aside from slamming down a yard glass and spewing in the back yard, because that’s what being a man is. Our adoration of athleticism and being ‘one of the boys’ in the team, perpetuates a hive mind where groups of young men think it’s acceptable to gang bang a girl without her consent. We then talk about the elite level of their skill as recompense for their actions. We let them off the hook.
It’s broken. We broke it. We need to fix it.
I feel like we need to stop drawing definitive lines about gender and just be people. Better people. People who know how to talk about their shit, whose value doesn’t come from the amount of beer we drink or volume of our cries when we have thousands of cactus needles jammed into our flesh, or how many years its been since we’ve shed a tear and our value most certainly shouldn’t come from how quick we can swim one-hundred meters.
I worked in a school last year where the male PE teachers challenged themselves in the throes of a really cold winter to see who could wear shorts for the longest period of time. Like that would prove something about their masculinity. These are the examples young men see. This is the culture we perpetuate every time things like this happens and we don’t say anything about it. It’s why people feel like they can wave a “not all men,” flag like it immediately excuses the behavior of the minority. Being grateful that not all men rape women, or not all men commit acts of domestic violence, or not all men are incapable of emotional vulnerability, or not all men think drunkeness is consent, dismisses the very argument that SOME MEN DO. Some men do these things. Some women do these things. Some people are assholes. Fact. But when we become complacent about our reality, when we stay quiet because we’re not one of these people, well, the ice caps melt, we don’t recycle, mass genocide happens, we believe in leaders who think building a wall is sensible policy and we have water cooler conversations where we don’t tell people they’re wrong for saying things like, “maybe that girl should’ve <insert stupid victim blaming excuse here>”
I think we have a responsibility to do better, to teach, to empower, to expect more, to demand more of humanity. Enough with our general complacency.
Men shouldn’t be killing themselves because they feel like there’s no way out of their anguish. Women shouldn’t have to second guess the amount they drink at a party or gain value from bathroom conversations about how skinny they look. I shouldn’t have to second guess posts like these in case someone on the internet cracks the shits about my opinion.
One day I’m going to have a kid. There’s a fifty percent chance that that kid will be a boy. I think about the young man I would hope I would raise. I think about the man I hope he would be, and the kind of world he’d get to be that guy in. I think about his friends and their mental health. And it scares me. By the very logic of percentages there’s also a fifty percent chance that this long into the distance child may be a girl. I think about the young woman I hope I would raise. I think about the places where I hope she would get her value from. I think about her esteem. About glass ceilings and opportunity. About the world she’ll live in and if she’ll feel safe. And it scares me.
We’ve broken it. We need to fix it. We need to do better.