April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). As a result I’m thinking and writing a lot about sexual assault/violence and the context in which these things exist, Rape Culture. Though it should be clear from the prior post, I think it is also important to directly state that Rape Culture is perpetuated by sexism and misogyny.
Misogyny isn’t only overt hatred of women. It is all the beliefs, attitudes and actions that convey contempt, disdain, objectification or the idea that women are in any way less than men. It is all the ways femininity is used as the brunt of the joke or something to be avoided.
Our culture over-values men and masculinity and devalues women and femininity in ways that are destructive for us all. Rigid gender roles and stereotypes do not serve any of us well. They tell us there are only limited acceptable ways to be men or women (and ignore those who are transgender). They insist we wear gendered facades rather than allowing us to be our authentic selves.
Even those with privilege are impacted negatively by sexism. Carol Gilligan, Ph.D. describes in her book The Birth of Pleasure a culture-wide dissociation of masculine from feminine. From an early age boys are taught to split off their vulnerability, anything traditionally deemed “feminine” and most emotions (other than anger). This leaves them unable to connect well with women, or even their true selves.
The media plays a powerful role in transmitting our cultural values about gender. Images of masculinity being equated with violence abound. Jackson Katz, an anti-sexism activist, explores the relationship between pop-cultural imagery and the social construction of masculine identities in the video Tough Guise. The “Tough Guise” refers to the masculine facade boys are taught to wear. Like Gilligan, Katz believes that the ways this facade limits self-expression causes psychological harm to men. We are already keenly aware of the damage it does to women and gender non-conforming people.
If you have not already seen Tough Guise it is well worth watching! Keep in mind that these issues may be triggering, so exercise good self-care.