A video went viral recently, featuring a number of young boys who meet a girl for the first time. Upon meeting her, each one of them is asked what they like about her, then to caress her, then to make silly faces at her, then finally to slap her.
All the boys refused to slap her with a decisive "No" or rigorous shakes of the head.
On the surface, the video is a sweet portrayal of seemingly gentlemanly boys. However, you only have to look a little closer to realise that what they're saying and how the video is made only reflects the twisted, deep-rooted gender ideals still present in our modern day society.
Despite having awkwardly caressed her moments before on various parts of her body (which made quite an uncomfortable viewing, considering they're complete strangers, she's presented as pretty much just an object for the boys' pleasure, and it is a disembodied voice of an older man instructing them to do these things), the idea of slapping her is completely out of the question for the boys.
Whilst some of the boys were completely against violence, a number of them also explicitly cite their gender difference as the reason for not wanting to hit her:
"'Cause she's a girl, I can't do it"
"Because you're not supposed to hit girls"
"First of all, I can't hit her because she's pretty, and she's a girl"
"As the saying goes: 'girls shouldn't be hit, not even with a flower'"
"Why? 'Cause I'm a man!"
These answers leave a gaping hole for a multitude of questions to arise. Is it a sign of respect to not want to hit someone because of their gender? Does not wanting to hit someone because she is a girl imply that girls are of the inferior gender? If hitting a girl is so frowned upon, what about hitting boys?
This pops up towards the end of the video. What about men?
Finally, the interviewer says bluntly: "Kiss her!"
Without showing the girl at all, a boy asks: "Can I kiss her on the mouth or on the cheek?"
This video clearly has good intentions to strive to alleviate violence. However, the focus on violence only against women perpetuates the perpetrator-victim continuum, where men are the perpetrators and women are the victims.
Statistics gathered in England and Wales in the years 2012-13 found that 38% of domestic abuse victims are male. More married men (1.5%) and cohabitating men (4.0%) suffered from partner abuse than married women (1.3%) and cohabitating women (3.4%). Male victims (29%) were nearly twice as likely than women (17%) to not tell anyone about partner abuse.
The video is innately sexist due to its embodiment of old-fashioned gender stereotypes along the lines of boys being the courageous knights in shining armour and girls being passive objects unable to withstand hardship. By neglecting the possibility of male-victims, the video only tells a one-sided story of violence that is problematic for all sexes in our generation's attempt to achieve gender quality.
*** Important note: I'm not arguing in the slightest that the boys themselves are innately sexist, simply the video. ***