I have feelings about this topic I’m about to discuss. Lot’s and lot’s of feelings. The topic of discussion today is “why the hell is the onus on women and girls for men to act like decent human beings?!” Be happy I’m too in the zone for caps lock or I would have yell/typed that. This particular post is brought on by the twitter ramblings of Ms. Erykah Badu. Ma’am! But it is not exclusive to her. She’s always been on the Hotep-ish side, but you know, I was letting her slide because I like her music and her social media presence made me chuckle. But oh today! She most certainly packed light on decency and common sense for her travels into “All your faves are problematic. Deal with it” land. You can read some of her tweets here.
The topic of discussion that brought this all about was a school in New Zealand that implemented a dress code of longer skirts for girls to safeguard them against both boys and male teachers. Let me make this a little clearer here. A school is making girls wear longer skirts because they want to stop both boys and MALE TEACHERS from being distracted and “getting ideas.” Now here is where some folks are missing the point. The deputy principal is, in essence, saying that his male teachers have the same expectations of behavior as teenage boys. Something in the water ain’t clean here. There are two ideas/ beliefs here that are prevalent worldwide. Those beliefs are that 1. Boys and men of any age can not/ should not be held accountable for their own behavior in relation to the opposite sex. 2. Girls and women of any age are responsible for the behavior and actions of men and boys who they happen to come into contact with.
This is a long upheld belief that crosses race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, religions, etc. Supposedly, women’s and girl’s bodies have some sort of hypnotic effect on men and boys, to the point that they no longer can control themselves. The most disturbing aspect of this widely held belief is that young girls have this power over grown men. But society, at large, just glosses over that. Also, merely covering the knees, or any other random part of the female body will break this spell. Now if this was somehow true and we were all witches, then sexual assaults of women and girls in areas where they are required by law or religion to be completely covered would be nonexistent. But as we should all know, this isn’t the case.
With just the same ferocity we beat into men these notions of toxic masculinity, we also coddle them in terms of their interactions with women. It starts early. From the time where they are hitting little girls on the playground and we shrug it off as “boys will be boys” and telling the little girls “it’s just because he likes you.” Don’t even get me started on the relationship dynamics this shapes later in life. To the time they grow into men and we explain away cheating, sexual assault, street harassment, and the like to “men are dogs”, “it’s just how men are,” or “how do you expect men to react when you wear xyz?”
Perhaps my early use of the word coddle was too nice. We dehumanize men into nothing but animals, interacting with the world on nothing but brute instincts with no self-control or free will. We absolve men of responsibility only when it comes to their interactions with women. And as you can see from Ms. Badu’s tweets, it’s not just men absolving men of responsibility, it is women too. Many of us have been indoctrinated into a sort of learned helplessness. We see no hope of men actually behaving better, to the point that we put the blame on ourselves for their actions. This is why some of the biggest proponents of “dress how you want to be addressed”, “those fast tailed girls”, and “if she was doing xyz at home he wouldn’t have stepped out on her” are women. Living in a world where we have no real control over how other people behave causes many to make “Stretch Armstrong” style reaches to give ourselves the illusion of control. Even if that illusion means that we blame ourselves when others hurt us.
Now back to the area of this conversation that most disturbs me. The principal of that school used the excuse that teenage boys AND male teachers would be distracted. A girl could come to class in a burlap sack and a teenage boy will be distracted. Distraction is normal. Teenagers have newly emerging sexual feelings towards each other and no amount of dress code will change that. What we can and should do is teach teenagers both how to be respectful, how to demand respect, and that this isn’t “just the way things are.”
The fact that he cited his male teachers as needing to be free from the distraction of teenage girls bodies is where we should all hit him with the screw face. You mean to tell us, that instead of firing GROWN ASS MEN that are attracted to teen girls, you tell the teen girls to cover up? These same GROWN ASS MEN that had the self-control to get degrees in teaching, which is no easy task. The self-control to get out of bed and come to work every day. The self-control that classifies you as a goddamn adult. All of a sudden can’t control themselves because they are seeing the knees of teenage girls? If that isn’t the biggest load of horse shit, that just opens the doors to a defense of statutory rape.
Let’s return again to Ms. Badu’s tweets again shall we? She has a perfectly “rational” reasoning behind this. In her eyes, it is normal and human nature for men of all ages to be attracted to “women” of childbearing age. No. No. It’s not. Not to mention, childbearing age begins when a girl starts menstruating. I’ve seen girls as young as 9 start their periods. Does this mean it’s normal for men to start lusting after them? Hell no.
Now let’s say that the science behind attraction is all about pheromones, released during certain phases of the menstrual cycle. Let’s say that it is, in fact, natural for men to feel attraction to whoever is emitting those pheromones. Just because it’s natural doesn’t mean you have to act upon it. It’s perfectly natural for us to piss and shit on ourselves, but you know what? We figured out that this wasn’t an optimal situation and created toilets and other waste receptacles of the like. Wanting instant gratification is natural, but we learned to regulate ourselves as adults in order to mitigate the risks of being impulsive. All these natural urges and actions, that we have learned to regulate, but a grown man’s lust for a child is still an “Oh well. What can you do about it?” We are better than this.
And please miss me with the, “What about these young girls? They act so grown. They mature faster than boys. They lie about their age. Blah blah blah.” The key words here are young and girls. Teenagers, despite their sex, have poor risk management and reasoning skills. They could be brilliant, but still not understand why the power dynamic between a 16-year-old girl and 24-year-old man is dangerous. And vice versa, because I know a lot of us don’t see the grooming and sexual assault by older women on young boys in the same light. Adults that seek out children, because teens are still children, understand the power they wield in these “relationships” and choose them for this very reason.
Why must we continue to try and protect predators? By doing this we are stealing the innocence of youth from our kids. We should not be holding children accountable for the actions of adults. This is not okay. This cycle continues to create children that grow into emotionally ill adults. Blaming themselves for being a victim. Let’s let kids be kids, and stop cultivating environments that give predators room to flourish.