If we want men to be less aggressive, we need to stop acting like violence against men is funny. Do you agree?
In viral video news, there’s a clip from the Jimmy Fallon show making the rounds. Fallon, looking like The Big Bang Theory’s Howard, starts dancing and otherwise reveling in the fact that “eveyone’s talkin’ ‘bout my tight pants.” J Lo, also in tight white pants but not at all nerdy, joins him on stage, reprises the dance and verse.
Then they recognize each other as competition. To the delight of the audience, she says “listen up you little bitch. You better hide your wife, you better hide your kids, because I will cut you. I will cut your father, I will cut your mother. I will scratch you. Don’t make me take off my heels.” Subdued—or sub-dude(?)—he leaves to find a new town; JLo is top of the hierarchy.
I don’t understand why this kind of casual violence against men is acceptable. Why do we think it’s okay—let alone funny—for someone to threaten a guy in this way. In response to the Isla Vista shootings two weeks ago, the Internet erupted with #yesallwomen telling personal stories about all the sexual violence, intimidation, and predation that women experience every day.
And here we have a casual threat against a man (by a woman). It’s the same kind of threat that boys and men grow up with. From a very young age, guys learn that any disagreement with another guy could lead to violence. There’s always a chance we’ll need to “step outside and settle it like men.”
I say Fallon and J Lo aren’t funny; the joke certainly wouldn’t work if he’d threatened to cut her and hurt her family. Can you imagine that idea even making it out of the writers’ room? The reaction if they filmed it that way?
What Fallon and J Lo did was to treat violence against men as a joke. That, in turn, hurts male victims. The skit shows us what our culture wants male victims to do: shut up and go somewhere else. But they’re here and there are millions of them. Consider:
A recent study of nearly 300 high school boys and male college students revealed that more than forty percent had been pressured to engage in sexual activity and more than one-fifth of survey respondents ended up having sex when they didn’t want to.
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) estimates that 835,000 men are physically assaulted by an intimate partner every year. Those assaults are committed by straight and gay men, known intimates and strangers.
Christopher Anderson, Executive Director of Male Survivor, says that when all forms of sexual violence are combined, approximately 1 out of every 4.5 (or 2 of 9) males will be victimized.
Men and boys make up 75% of homicide victims, triple the rate of women and girls. That three-to-one ratio has been virtually constant for the last three decades, according the the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
When we make light of violence against men, we’re telling male victims they don’t deserve our support. Perhaps even that they need to learn to defend themselves and respond violently in kind. These messages keep guys in the manbox, disconnected from others, unable to ask for help, and violent.
If we really want to help boys and men lead happier and fuller lives, if we really want them to share their troubles and concerns, and if we really want them to choose non-violent approaches to conflict, then we need to stop making fun of male victims.