Guyland and the culture of street harassment

Michael Kimmel’s 2008 book Guyland is a great manual for male allies. It explores what he refers to as “Guyland,” an aggressive and toxic environment that young men of my generation are growing up in. It’s an environment influenced by fraternities that have misogynistic practices, sports, and conservative talk radio that broadcast constantly this message: the women’s movement, immigrants, and rich liberals are undermining long held white male privilege. It simply follows by logic that in such an atmosphere women are perceived as obstacles to be “won over” and, in turn, degraded. Kimmel offers a powerful study that sheds light on the possible attitudes that create the problems of street harassment. Stop Street Harassment offers numerous resources for men to counteract these cultural forces and bring an end to degradation in our lifetime.

Kimmel explains that in a society where the women’s movement has made significant inroads, the traditional ways of “proving” masculinity have been discredited. They are devolving into infantile acts such as encouraging their friends to “score” and employing politically incorrect speech. Stop Street Harassment offers a powerful charge to male allies to fight against such displays of masculinity and how we can work to counterbalance this disturbing cultural trend.

The cultural norms under which “Guyland” operates are becoming so ubiquitous that they can be difficult to fight. Kimmel explains that many men are afraid to question the actions of fellow guys because it may lead to their exclusion. This fear of social isolation among men is one of the reasons street harassment and other acts of violence go unchallenged. Stop Street Harassment provides techniques for men to intervene in these situations and to not be afraid due to peer pressure.

Another important issue that Kimmel addresses is the gray area that men feel in their relationships with women. What men consider to be a friendly gesture may be interpreted as predatory and the line is often vague. The Stop Street Harassment website offers men guidelines on how to interact with women to make them feel safe and unthreatened.

Kimmel’s book also hits home for me in a more personal way. As I participated in the Anti-Street Harassment Day on March 20, I kept thinking about these issues as I realized there was something wrong. Of all the members of my group I was the only male. The lack of male participation in challenging those attitudes that create street harassment is something that our generation is going to have to address. We have the opportunity to be the first generation with widespread male involvement in these issues. Kimmel’s book should be our warning shot.

– Sean Crosbie
Male Ally

This post is part of the weekly blog series by male allies. We need men involved in the work to end the social acceptability of street harassment and to stop the practice, period. If you’d like to contribute to this weekly series, please contact me.

2 Responses to Guyland and the culture of street harassment

  1. beckieweinheimer says:

    Wow, this book sounds great, I think all my teenage nephews are going to get it for a birthday gift! Thanks for your insights!

  2. […] International Anti-Street Harassment Day, devised in part by my friend and colleague Holly Kearl, my partner and I took part in the Washington, DC Community Safety Audit. The Community Safety Audit was one of […]

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