The Terrible Things we do to Boys are Why Women Aren’t Welcome On The Internet

I saw these two articles on facebook yesterday, and they seemed related: why women aren’t welcome on the internet and there’s something absolutely wrong with what we do to boys before they grow into men.

A lot of feminist reading I’ve read has focused primarily on the female experience, which is important. It has been helpful for other women to call out their experiences getting hate mail, getting harassed on the streets, and having it be dismissed as unimportant. It has helped me realize that I’m not alone, and I’m not crazy.

That said, there’s not a lot of discussion about the male experience. Why do some little boys grow up to be so angry at women? How have we produced a world, where for every feminist blogger, there are hundreds of men who want to tell her to go get raped? Many people, male and female, I know would basically just dismiss these men as human scum, but it doesn’t address the problem. Apparently, 6% of college aged men will admit to attempting to force a woman to have sex when he knows she doesn’t want to (but, will decline to call themselves “rapists”.) 6% is pretty high. If you think of 17 men who have been to college, in theory, one of them will admit to attempting to force a woman to have sex with him. And this is just men who come clean about attempting rape – if we include men who didn’t admit it, or behaviors that aren’t rape but are still intimidating to women, the percentages are probably much higher.

In fact, you probably interact fairly regularly with a lot of men who have committed some assalt-type behavior on women. And, you know, they might actually be a pretty nice. The majority of men who send death threats to women on the internet are probably totally capable of interacting with society on an acceptable level in public, but for whatever reason, have a need to vent some anger when they’re alone.

So, what’s going on here?

Why will some men present a politically correct front to the world, while hiding a much more sinister personal view on women?

Male majority sexist conversations I’ve been a part of (which, I’m sure are biassed because I’m a woman) tend to go one of two ways. Either, a group of men goes on to make a bunch of jokes about women unchecked, or one of them will speak up and say something like “not cool, bro.”

But the question “why are you so angry at women?” never goes asked. I don’t even think it can be asked. To ask a man why he feels something in a social situations is inappropriate (dare I say, “emasculating”.) For men to admit that they have emotions, that things might go wrong for them sometimes, can be an admission of failure. (This is not true of *all* men – I have many male friends who are able to articulate the problems they have without shame, but I think it’s true of enough men, particularly in professional settings, to cause problems.)

And, feminist men who speak up on the behalf of women are really great. But, I don’t think they’re gong to change the world.

I think the world is going to change when more men speak up – sexist men, rapist men, angry men, stalker men – and explain what happened to them that made them act the way they did. And, the more we blanket condemn these behaviors without asking *why*, the worse they’re going to get. We can’t arrest half of Reddit.

We can’t stop this by force. That is both the curse and the blessing of the internet.

7 thoughts on “The Terrible Things we do to Boys are Why Women Aren’t Welcome On The Internet

  1. This isn’t a real answer, since I’m a woman, but maybe it will shed some light. As a butch lesbian, I’ve occasionally given in to the impulse to bash women as a way of getting in good with a group of guys. This especially happened when I was younger and less confident. Taking down women, and being respected and liked for it by guys, helped solidify my identity by showing what I wasn’t (ie, one of the girls). I imagine this is true for actual men as well- the ones who feel the least secure in themselves need to be reassured that they’re men by being sexist jerks.

    For me, and perhaps for some angry, sexist men, the anger was at not being as respected and admired as I felt I was entitled to be. Like most bullies, I looked for people smaller than me to make myself feel big again. As a masculine woman I felt keenly that I was the lowest on the hierarchy in a group of men- but at least I could make it clear that I was above all the other women in the world. I think something like this is operating for many sexist jerk type men as well.

    • Hey, thanks for responding. I would guess butch (or, masculine of center/androgynous/etc.) women and trans men would have some fairly good insight into this. (Conversely, my personal appreciation for femininity has been informed by reading writing by trans women.)

      It’s interesting that you say you had anger at not being respected and admired as you felt entitled to be. I suppose a follow up question would be, do you think it is difficult for a person (any person) to have their masculinity respected? To come across as “feminine”, all you really need to do is go out and get a dress. However, a lot of articles “masculine” clothing (say, pants and t-shirts) are acceptable for women to wear as well.

      I have sometimes had the suspicion that people trying to cultivate their own masculinity don’t feel like they have many options available to them. Certain behaviors towards people who project femininity is one of the few ways left to appear “masculine.” Maybe what we really need are less destructive ways for people to act masculine? I don’t really have any specific examples of what types of behavior that could be, however, and I don’t think it’s really my place to suggest it.

      • I’d agree with that. Masculinity is too wrapped up in being not-feminine, rather than in showing positive qualities.

  2. I’ve been thinking similarly to what you’ve written here for a long time, particularly after reading (what feels like to me) yet-another-‘men-suck’ post/article/rant.

    Your insight is applicable to a lot more than what you touched upon too. In general, express anger is only really productive when its target *cares* about your feelings; and even then, anger risks making its target defensive instead of sorry or ashamed. [Of course it may be productive personally to express one’s anger, regardless of its effects on others.]

    • There are a lot of “men suck” articles out there. I think maybe women are in a lot of pain and don’t know effective ways of articulating it (or, at least not yet.)

      I’ll have to think more about the role of anger, our personal relationship to it, and how it functions in our society. I’d add to your thought, anger can also be effective if you’re already in power – is possibly an expression of power? I don’t know. But, I do agree we need new options for how to process it as expressing it in its natural form (yelling/blaming/violence) tends not to get the desired results on an interpersonal level.

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