Hey. Have you seen that video where the little boy won’t take no for an answer from a little girl?
Some people see this little boy’s behaviour as a cute reminder of a young man’s persistence when it comes to talking to a young woman. After all, it’s a romanticized behaviour celebrated endlessly in our favourite television shows, movies and songs spanning across generations and cultures. “I can’t help myself. I love you and nobody else!” For a number of women and girls though, this video isn’t cute, it’s actually upsetting.
The idea of men who ‘can’t help themselves’ when it comes to women is laughed off with a jolly ol’ “boys will be boys!” The flip side of this is the horror of sometime telling a young girl, dealing with bullying or aggressive behaviour from a male, that it just means ‘he likes you’. Women everywhere are forced to accept and navigate men’s behaviour where they live, work and study. Is that because all men speak in a language of violence? That’s just the way all men are? Men: is being violent in our genes, because of what’s in our jeans?? How does that make you feel?
Guys. Seriously. Why aren’t more men pissed off by this, the idea that we cannot help ourselves and likely need to be saved from ourselves. We have guys like Tim Hunt saying we can’t help ourselves when men have to work with women, as they are distractions.
We have guys like Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Tom Lawson of the Canadian Armed Forces saying (in an interview regarding the very serious issue of sexual harassment and assault in the Forces) that, you know, boys will be boys because they are “biologically wired in a certain way…“
These are prominent MEN saying this. DUDES saying this about DUDES?!!?!?
They are saying that you cannot help yourself. Your natural, biological state is dishonorable, is disrespectful, is rapist. We, half of this planet, are helpless to control ourselves and behave in a humane, respectful way. Really? Why doesn’t that offend you, get you pissed off?
The Pervocracy had a take on this I’ve quoted before: “(Men) aren’t walking penises. They’re people. They make decisions. Let’s stop talking about “he couldn’t stop himself” and start talking about “he decided not to stop.” Men deserve that dignity, and the responsibility that comes with it.” Dignity and Responsibility. Why aren’t more men frustrated over warnings directed towards women because ‘men can’t help themselves’ (i.e. ‘Don’t dress a certain way, don’t be a victim’)? We need more men moved to act, fighting these ideas that leave men struggling and women suffering?
So, do men need to be saved from themselves? No, we need to be saved from ‘Boys will be Boys’ rhetoric.
It is a mentality and excuse failing us all, hurting us all and damaging us all. From the focus needing to shift onto young men’s behaviour versus what young women are wearing in school, to the endless torture for women throughout the service industry, to Trans Women of Colour being silently slaughtered: we can do more, and now is the time. If you’re a man reading this, you can’t say ‘you dunno’ anymore because now you know.
And like Dr. Maya Angelou said:
Time to do better.
Jeff Perera has spoken to people from all walks of life for over 6 years (from organizations to community spaces to grade school, high school and post-secondary students) about how society’s unattainable concepts of masculinity are effecting men and boys as well as impacting women and girls. He has delivered two TEDx talks on Masculinity and men’s toxic pursuits of identity: Words Speak Louder Than Actions and The Ladder of Manhood. Jeff started Higher Unlearning, as an online space to explore how ideas of gender and masculinity play out in everyday life where we work, live and study.