The biggest value that boys are taught in our society is power. Power is everything. This is especially true for white boys. They’re taught that their place in society is to make all the decisions, run the show, fight in wars, make the money.
Women are second to them. Perhaps they can do these things, but it is not their responsibility. They don’t require the power, nor is it theirs.
We paint this picture for young boys and it makes them grow up to be men who are very defensive about their power. When someone is challenging them, they don’t easily let it go, especially not when it’s a woman that is challenging them.
I’ve found that when a woman is seemingly threatening, guys will jump on every possible thing to tear her down. Maybe she’s annoying, or not funny, or made a tiny error, or is bitchy. All these things that would be no big deal if it were a guy, become blatant and something to use against her.
This behavior is especially true when a guy likes a woman. If he is intimidated by her, or feels his manhood being threatened in any way, he will pick on her. It seems harmless. It seems like the little boy pulling the girl’s pigtails. But, this behavior is not harmless.
It is a sign of a deeper a problem: that men can’t face women as equals. Men are so scared of women who assert themselves and prove that they are equally intelligent and equally capable. It has become an archetype in story telling. We see, all the time, the overly competitive man in the face of a coy woman. And he may make a fool of himself and it may provide some good comedy, but when it plays out in real life it’s not as funny.
As women face this on a day-to-day basis, it’s hard not to listen to it. Everything tells us we are second to men. What comes specifically to mind when I think about this is that song, “The Farmer in the Dell.” The hierarchy in that song goes farmer, wife, and then child. This is a children’s song and this is what girl’s hear from the time they are very young.
As we get older and men that we respect, or our male peers that we may be friends with, continuously put us down, it’s difficult to see ourselves as equal. We feel presumptuous and overbearing for merely asserting our equality.
We need to teach girls that it’s not overbearing. We need to teach them that asserting ourselves and being called a “bitch” for doing it is not the biggest thing to fear. Instead, the biggest thing to fear is allowing ourselves to be viewed as less than equal.