The ugly side of masculinity

One week ago in New York  City two men approached Jack Price, an openly-gay man, on College Point Blvd while Price was walking home from a deli. The men allegedly called Price anti-gay slurs and beat him. Price escaped, called 911, and is still in the hospital recovering from a fractured jaw and ribs, the collapse of both of his lungs and a lacerated spleen. What the hell!  As of two days ago, both suspected men have been arrested.

At a press conference a few days ago, Council speaker Christine Quinn said,

“news of the attack ‘smacked particularly sharply’ after returning from the National Equality March on Washington the day before, energized and optimistic about equality for the LGBT community.

‘You grow tired of having to do these press conferences, of having to stand up and decry a hate crime against someone because they are perceived to be gay or because of their race or their religion,’ Quinn said.

She continued, this ‘violent, outrageous and unacceptable hate crime’ and others like it ‘rip at the fabric of our decent society’ and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

There have been a string of violent hate crimes and murders  against gay men and transgender women in New York, and the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs reports that hate crimes in the U.S. are at the highest point in a decade.

If you’re in New York, tomorrow, come out for an event organized in response to the Price beating and to rally against hate crimes in general. Saturday, October 17, at 2 p.m. there will be a march on College Park Blvd, starting at 20th Ave, and a rally in the park on 14th Ave, organized by a coalition of LGBQ groups.

Hate crimes against members of the LGBQTI community are often related to gender-based street harassment (and overlap when female members of the LGBQTI community are targeted for both their sex and sexual orientation). In particular, some of the underlying reasons both forms of harassment occur are the same.

For example, men (I can’t recall the last time I heard about a violent hate crime committed by a woman) who commit the crimes may be doing so to try to prove their masculinity (when it’s read as aggression and violence) or to perform masculinity for other men. The latter is especially true when men harass and assault in pairs or groups, as was the case when the two men beat Price.

Another example why men may engage in hate crimes is to punish members of the LGBQTI community for not acting according to the gender the perpetrator thinks they should and therefore for threatening the perpetrator’s narrow definitions of masculinity and femininity.

Similarly, perpetrators of some forms of gender-based street harassment engage in their actions to punish women for not acting the way the men think they should act given narrow definitions of masculinity/femininity (read: superior/inferior). Maybe the woman is alone in public instead of at home (so the men think it’s okay to comment and touch her; “if she didn’t want that to happen she should stay at home”), or maybe she doesn’t meet the idealized beauty standards (making it a-okay to call someone a fat cow for not being skinny – not), or maybe she dared to wear flattering clothing (so the men think, “I’ll show that slut who’s in charge”).

So to cut down on both hate crimes and gender-based street harassment and assault, we need to work on changing the definition of masculinity and pass laws and engage in activism that deters and punishes men who hurt others in an attempt to prove their own masculinity or in an attempt to punish the victim/s for not adhering to strict “traditional” gender norms. Thoughts?


One Response to The ugly side of masculinity

  1. Soren says:

    Women don’t tend to commit violent hate crimes, but they do encourage and condone them. Every woman who uses homophobic insults and insinuations in order to manipulate a man (‘what are, you some kind of fag?’ ‘if you were a real man…’) is helping to create a defensive atmosphere in which straight men have to ‘prove’ their heterosexuality if they conflict with a social expectation. And one of the ways they do that is by going out and doing violence.

    Women also lead hate movements. Anita Bryant. Phyllis Schafly. Ann Coulter. These women encourage and enable gay bashing. They enable rapists and domestic abusers of every stripe. They help men to silence women who have been attacked or raped. Women who brought picnic baskets and children to lynchings were just as culpable as the men who carried out those lynchings.

    Now, not being a heterosexual man, I have a fairly limited perspective on this, but I’d really appreciate it if we could get beyond the idea that masculinity is the problem. The problem is violence, and people male and female both who manipulate insecurity to incite violence. We tend to forget that patriarchy is not just about oppressing women and minorities, but about harnessing poor and disadvantaged members of majority groups to defend the interests of more powerful members of that group.

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