Shaming isn't the answer

A judge in Ohio sentenced a man to a public shaming for being a bully and harassing his neighbors, a woman and her disabled children.  While there is no question that what the man did was awful and illegal, I don't believe the judge's sentence served justice.  When a man is harassing his neighbors for being different, especially using racial slurs against disabled children, he's not doing it from a place of confidence and strength.  Men typically act like bullies from a sense of weakness, where the typically "macho" behavior is meant to compensate and bestow manhood on them.

What the judge did in this case is demonstrate that she's the bigger man, by publicly humiliating him.  Maybe this will break him, maybe he will be more self-aware and change his ways, but it seems more likely that this public shaming will reinforce the feelings of insecurity that caused this problem in the first place.  Even if he doesn't retaliate against his neighbors, I would bet that he will take this out on other people in his life. 

The judge also sentenced the man to 15 days in prison, take an anger-management course, and to write a letter of apology.  I believe the time in prison and the anger-management course were well justified and probably helpful.  I'm agnostic about the apology letter, as while it might be forced and un-genuine, it does provide an opportunity for reflection.  I believe any good done by these measures, however, will probably be undone by the shaming.

When we attempt to publicly shame or humiliate men for behaving poorly, we are only serving to reinforce the system that makes them act this way in the first place.  Making someone feel weak and insecure is no way to stop them from acting out of a sense of weakness and insecurity.  That does not mean that you do not hold people accountable, or that you cannot punish wrong-doing, just that it should come from a place of justice and seeking to make others whole, not out of retribution.

The full story is here.

NASPA 2014 Presentation: Moving beyond "boys will be boys"

Thank you so much to everyone who attending my NASPA 2014 conference session: Moving beyond "boys will be boys: Theory and practice to better support male college students.

After the session I got the (very good) feedback that I didn't say anything about cisgender or transmen and how this plays out.  The hegemonic masculine ideal is embodied by straight, white, upper class, christian, able bodied, cisgender men.  The influence of hegemonic masculinity affects both cis and trans gender men, and working to redefine this masculinity improves the lives of all men (and women) cis gendered or transgendered.

Selling Womanhood: FiO

The way that people talk about gender make it sound like it's purely biological and immutable.  Boys and men are aggressive, driven by their biological urges, and competitive; girls and women are passive, reserved, and gentle.  What this idea misses is that gender is a social construction that has changed over time, and is shaped by many different forces.  One of those forces is from billions of dollars in advertising.

While there are multiple examples of how the media reinforces negative gender stereotypes, sometimes the media helps construct positive gender images, and Verizon's Fios "Football Girl" commercials are a great example. The commercials started out with a little girl (Ella) who's big brother won't let her play football with him and his friends ('Cuz duh! she's a GIRL!).  So instead of crying or complaining to mom, the girl gets onto her super fast Verizon FiOS internet connection, learns all about football, and ends up on the NFL broadcast talking like an expert.  Her brother looks shocked (and probably feels stupid) and his friends seem impressed.  

While there's always something you can critique about media messages, as far as gender goes, this one is pretty great.  It shows a girl as empowered and capable and doing things that are typically male.  I must not have been the only person to appreciate this commercial, because it's since become a whole series of commercials with its own promoted hashtag (#FiOSFootballGirl).  Below is another one of the commercials, which builds off the same message (this girl can do anything, and Verizon FiOS can make it possible).

Selling Manhood: Old Spice

 The way that people talk about gender make it sound like it's purely biological and immutable.  Boys and men are aggressive, driven by their biological urges, and competitive; girls and women are passive, reserved, and gentle.  What this idea misses is that gender is a social construction that has changed over time, and is shaped by many different forces.  One of those forces is from billions of dollars in advertising.

So the idea that Old Spice is selling manhood in a can shouldn't be surprising to anyone who has paid attention to their commercials.  This one is particularly noteworthy because of 1) How creepy it is and 2)It literally claims that Old Spice will make you "smell like a man" and therefore you will be treated like one.  It's important to note that the defining characteristic of manhood, according to Old Spice, is romancing women.  Any other interests would appear unimportant, and non-heterosexual relationships would not be valid for masculinity either.  It's not just that men should be sexual, it's that it's a very specific form of sexuality that is important.  Young, thin, attractive, able-bodied, and same-race women are what is desirable.  The other women are older, unattractive, and very creepy mothers who want to stop their boys from growing up, reinforcing the idea that women are sex objects or obstacles to boys becoming men.

Selling (Wo)Manhood: Samsung

The way that people talk about gender make it sound like it's purely biological and immutable.  Boys and men are aggressive, driven by their biological urges, and competitive; girls and women are passive, reserved, and gentle.  What this idea misses is that gender is a social construction that has changed over time, and is shaped by many different forces.  One of those forces is from billions of dollars in advertising.

Here's an ad so bad, that even they realized it was awful and took it down.  The script and acting are awkward, but that's not my main concern.  It's the blatant sexism.  There's one woman (a mom) and two men.  The woman is technically illiterate, and just uses her computer for kids and cooking.  The men are tech savvy, one is Asian and into games, and the other is White, and uses his computer for business.  Give it a(n awkward) watch.

Credit to The Loop and Fast Feed for posting about this and bringing it to my attention (original links below).