And so we have another example of how, in rape culture, observing how men and boys are taught to be aggressive and violent is actually worse than men being aggressive and violent.
I first read about this last week, right after posting my "On Threats" article.
Josh Jasper, who heads an advocacy group for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, conceived of a commercial to bring attention to the ways society teaches and condones aggressive behavior in men and boys. In this commercial, which can be viewed here, a white baby appears on the screen with a male voice saying, "He's tough. He's strong. He's aggressive. He's powerful. He raped his girlfriend. But he wasn't always this way. What are you teaching your son?"
Although brief, the commercial implies that (a) many parents teach their sons to be tough, strong, aggressive, and powerful, as possessing these traits is what it means to be a man in our society; and (b) these traits also correlate with entitlement to violate other people's sexual boundaries. What has gone unspoken, and perhaps could have been more explicit to heed off at least some criticism, is that while boys are often taught to display these "masculine" traits, many girls are taught to be the "opposite" of the above characteristics, frail, weak, passive, and powerless.
This binary contributes to a gendered power dynamic where men are disproportionately on the dishing-it-out end of rape. The commercial's gendering of the hypothetical perpetrator and victim seems to acknowledge that.
However, from the Des Moines Register:
"A men's blog that linked to the commercial said it promotes hatred of men."
A "men's blog," huh? I wondered what happened next. Oh, right:
"[An] offended viewer put it this way: 'You [Jasper] would be better off dead.'
Jasper, 36, the president and chief executive of Riverview Center in Dubuque, said the backlash prompted him to call the police and change his personal information on Facebook from the married father of a toddler to 'single.'
...The [men's] blog drew comments such as: 'That is such a disgusting ad' and 'I teach my son whenever I can: never protect a woman' and 'Josh Jasper should suffer the same fate as Nazi sympathizers after WWII - taken out and shot after a five-minute trial.'"
Undoubtedly, the commenters at that "men's blog" (and at Jasper's own blog) are upset because they view the commercial as framing All Men As Inherently Violent. Which, I don't think is true. Not at all. The phrase "what are you teaching your son" implies that violence and aggression is something boys and men learn through parenting and conditioning.
Yet, naturally, some see that as proof of "man-hating," which of course these reactionary types always use to justify further male violence and aggression. If people hate men, or are perceived as hating men, it's then okay to threaten their lives and compare them to Nazis.
These fellows don't seem to realize that it hurts their PR Man Campaign For Men when they try to prove men aren't violent by being violent themselves.
Anyway, one guy has a theory:
"The responses exemplify the way anonymous online forums can bring out the worst in people, said Michael Lashbrook, president of the Iowa Police Chiefs Association."
Or, you know, they exemplify exactly what the commercial was talking about. Part of being a man in our society means being justified in making death threats whenever men's social entitlement to violence is challenged.
(See also: Of Course]