The Ray Rice domestic violence incident has given the usual loons cover to show their true colors. ESPN analyst Kate Fagan says that society needs to reprogram men by spending a ton of money to train boys to respect women. CBS sports anchor James Brown used the Rice incident to boldly—and bizarrely—proclaim that when men say, “You throw the ball like a girl,” it leads to domestic violence against women.
It’s all so tiresome. And wrong.
Any time any high-profile, senseless violence is committed by a young man, a certain class of media pundits—H.L. Menken-wannabes who know nothing more about “gender” than the average person on the street (and probably a lot less)—deems it a moral imperative to use their platforms to churn out de rigueur commentaries tying the atrocity du jour to maleness. Their hand-wringing pronouncements happily reduce young men to caricature and pass off outlier attributes as “cultural norms.” They are smugly content to do to young men the very thing most of them vehemently object to whenever a conservative pundit ties a terrorist act committed by a Muslim to Muslims in general. Young men are the favorite piñatas of the enlightened know-it-all set, the source of all ills of society.
We see it over and over and over. They are ready to pounce any time a troubled young man goes berserk and shoots up a movie theater or a school. His act, they declare, is a manifestation of masculinity that needs to be reprogrammed.
Of course, for every young man who commits such acts, there are always a lot more heroes who risk their lives to keep people they don’t even know from harm. And, yes, these heroes are almost always male too, but the know-it-all pundits never bother to tie their actions to their “maleness.” Funny how that works.
And therein lies the problem. Ray Rice is not a stand-in for “males.” His actions do not fit cultural norms for masculinity. Just the opposite, his actions are widely deplored and condemned. Rice committed a criminal act. But for every Ray Rice, there are countless young men ready to do selfless things, noble things, and often incredibly heroic things. Why aren’t these also seen as “cultural norms” that define masculinity? Because that doesn’t fit the stereotype.
Let’s be clear: Boys need to be taught to control their aggression. Every sane person understands that boys are not little girls with penises. Every sane person also knows that young Black males are more likely to commit violent crimes than young White males. The latter social pathology is not caused by “too much” masculinity, it’s caused by the absence of proper male role models—a product of, among other things, the mid-1960s “man-out-of-the-house” government policy that paid poor women to rid the household of adult males.
Yes, men and boys face innumerable problems that are unique to males and that are largely—and outrageously—ignored. But the drive-by media pundits who are ever-ready to toss “maleness” onto the scrap heap of history aren’t helping matters. We need to insist that the idiotic stereotyping be stopped.
You know who doesn’t stereotype? You know who understands that the issues aren’t so black and white? People well versed in the issues. Earlier this year, RAINN, the nation’s leading anti-rape organization, debunked the “rape culture” trope: “Rape is caused not by cultural factors but by the conscious decisions, of a small percentage of the community, to commit a violent crime.” This is what we’ve been preaching here for years. RAINN decried the “inclination to focus on particular . . . traits that are common in many millions of law-abiding Americans (e.g., ‘masculinity’), rather than on the subpopulation at fault: those who choose to commit rape.” The usual pundits had a conniption, of course.