Thursday, April 2, 2009
White House Program for Women and Girls
As laudable as this new initiative is, I wonder if any thought is being given to men and boys. It's not just a matter of equal rights, but of equal protection. It could be argued that girls and women often are victims of abuse because boys and men haven't learned that it's not right, or they have witnessed it in their own homes. At the same time, the recently reported abuse of singer Rihanna generated some interesting reactions from teenaged girls. Many thought she must have done something to deserve the beating. Perhaps what we need is an office on human values to address issues in both genders. Unless both are taught the same respect for human life, whether female or male, stereotypical ideals and skewed values will remain. Boys and men have been trying to figure out their role ever since the women's movement began. They have not had much practical help. Expectations for men still are based on old values which include the abilities to control, coerce and rule over others. Is it any wonder boys and men are caught in a bind of wanting to be "good people" while fulfilling the role that historically has been imposed upon them? Girls and women are equally guilty of perpetuating male stereotypes. On the one hand, we want males to be tough, strong and protective while, on the other hand, we want them to understand our feelings and needs. We too often assume they can read our minds and know how to and have the ability to make everything better. The culprits in infamous school shootings have been what I would term disenfranchised boys. For whatever reasons, they were unable to fit into the world around them. Ostracized and feeling shamed they turned to violence in an effort to stop the harrassment and turmoil they could no longer handle. A bully is created when a boy or girl discovers his/her strength and ability to physically and/or verbally control others. I cannot believe all bullies actually want to be that way. Once a reputation is established, it's hard to change it. Intervention frees the bully from having to continue hurting others. I wonder if personal relationships would improve if men were convinced they would not be chastised for crying or feeling empathy and sympathy. Stifling emotions all their lives must be painful and frustrating for males. How fair is it that females are allowed to feel pain and freely express their feelings but not males? People talk about double standards -- well here's a prime example. Boys and men deserve the same consideration as girls and women do when it comes to learning to live peaceful, fulfilling, satisfying lives.