If you weren’t tuned into the many Twitter kerfuffles last week, let me help you get caught up in as few words as possible. College boys find high school girl cute and talk about her in an obscenely sexual manner — complete with a penis drawn over her selfie, of course, and fantasies of masturbating to a young picture of her when they’re old — in a Facebook group chat. High school girl finds out about the conversation because college boys intentionally add her into the group at least three times. High school girl’s cousin posts screenshots of this conversation on Twitter, in an attempt to raise awareness of blatant misogyny, sexism and objectification, and while many rallied support behind the high school girl and her cousin, many still cried “foul” and claimed that public shaming of the college boys was “going too far” and “done for attention,” because obviously, women are just being their usual noisy selves and “boys will be boys.”
This may seem like a very small issue, when so many anti-women males are grabbing seats of power all over the world, but this is how sexism seeps into human consciousness. When we fail to stand up against “small” crimes like this one, we fail to stop sexism in its tracks, and we let it grow into a monster that’s even harder to fight. What is the message we’re sending to men, women, and to young boys and girls, when we say it’s okay to talk about women this way?
Much of the anger surrounding the issue likely escalated when unrelated parties jumped in to defend the college boys. We’re told: It’s not that big a deal. But it is. This is how sexist behavior develops and festers. When we say that it’s okay to engage in these “harmless” jokes that ultimately degrade and demean women, we say that it’s okay to do it on a larger scale. We can try and stop this from happening again and again by calling sexists out and debunking the myths surrounding the issue.
They’re doing it for attention. Even if they were doing it for attention, it’s not for the kind of attention defenders seem to think. The fact that this situation blew up means that, thankfully, more women have spoken up to say that this kind of behavior is not okay. And even though there are also women who spoke in favor of the perpetrators, at least it’s being discussed and the issue has come to light.
Why didn’t she go to the police? In this particular case, the high school girl and her family were already in the process of settling the matter in private. Unfortunately, we still live in a society where victims are generally compelled to prove their victimhood. Going to the police does not ensure justice, and many members of the police force, as with all other branches and industries, still hold sexist beliefs.
You don’t have control over the disrespect you get, only how you handle it. It’s really astounding how people seem to think that it’s okay to expect the victim to be the one to adjust to being victimized. How about we actually try to make sure that there is no disrespect that needs to be handled in the first place?
Boys will be boys, ganun talaga. Just because this is the current state of things, it doesn’t mean that we ought to keep living this way. Feminism has gotten a bad rap, because it’s viewed as an extremist movement where noisy feminists hate men and want to take over the world. It’s not that we hate men; it’s that we want to be viewed as equals, to receive equal rights, to be given equal respect. And what is so wrong with wanting that?
We have grown up in a world where men’s interests are favored over women’s, where making a sexual joke at the expense of a woman is acceptable because men need to be entertained, where the cause of rape is reduced to the victim’s clothes instead of the rapist’s actions, where we don’t even have the right words to explain male privilege to men. Because whatever we say will never be enough for them to stop and actually listen.
When we say “boys will be boys” as though it’s adequate explanation for sexist behavior, we say that men are above women, that it’s okay to keep disrespecting all women, even those in power. When we keep excusing the little things that make rape culture, workplace sexism, anti-women danger real, we say that it’s okay because this is the way it’s always been. It’s our job to keep saying, again and again, that it’s not okay and that it shouldn’t be this way.