Years ago, I worked for a men’s and fathers’ issue radio show called “His Side with Glenn Sacks“. And make no mistakes – it was the LARGEST men’s and fathers’ issues show in America at that time. Of course, it was one of the few men’s issues shows, largely because of the “boys don’t cry” mentality of America, and the assumption that men simply don’t have issues, and if they do, it’s because they caused them.
In any event, Robert Franklin, Esq. recently put up an article about domestic violence and “intimate terrorism,” which I at first thought was a sexy bedroom game. As Franklin explains, I’m wrong (go figure); intimate terrorism “is psychological or physical abuse that is intended to – and does – control the behavior of the other partner.”
His article is a good read, and it got me thinking about how we teach our daughters, as a society, that it’s okay to hit men.
A quick tangent that I promise will come back around. My wife and I have a guilty pleasure – MTV’s “Teen Mom.” If you haven’t been watching this show, it actually started as “16 and Pregnant” – a series about, you guessed it, 16 year old girls that somehow found themselves with-child. And though the point of the series was to show teenagers that unwed, teen pregnancy is not okay, the participants in the series, by and large, walked out of it looking okay. Cool, even. I suspect there’s been no real positive cultural impact from “16 and Pregnant,” and I believe the same don’t-worry-be-happy attitude passed along to “Teen Mom” – the continued stories of 4 of the featured teenage girls from “16 and Pregnant.” We see what life is like with a child – how their high school educations continued (or didn’t), and how their relationships continued (or didn’t). As you watch, however, you get the sense, again, that teen pregnancy isn’t all that bad. The girls still go out and party, live their lives, and pass their kids off to family and friends while they do anything that fits their fancies. Before this show, I’d never seen so many kids left on counter-and-tabletops.
Here’s where it comes back around. There’s a couple on “Teen Mom,” Amber and Gary. They’re always fighting, and my wife and I have developed a drinking game that involves taking a shot every time they get engaged or break up with each other. We’re trashed constantly. What stood out to me, however, is that Amber has hit Gary at least once. Gary, at least in his own mind, has been just as hurt and angry at Amber, but as much of a douchebag moron he is, has never slapped her on-camera, and we know he hasn’t done it off-camera because MTV would love the guaranteed ratings of showing it, just as they did with the guy that hit “Jersey Shore” spectacle “Snooki”. And MTV’s interesting double-standard, as Starcasm.com points out, is that when Snooki (who is at least mostly a woman) was punched by a man, the original airing was censored (and then re-shown uncensored)…but Amber’s choking and slapping of Gary is shown as it happened. You know, because violence toward a woman in a bar is a terrible act, but choking and slapping your fiance, not matter what it was that he said, is okay. She’s probably just looking out for the baby.
The point is that we don’t view a woman slapping a man as violence. We view it as something that the man “asked for” (and don’t get me wrong, I’m not standing up for Gary’s actions on “Teen Mom”). I still remember seeing at least one episode of my childhood favorite show, “Saved By The Bell,” where Zack Morris was slapped by one of the girls on the show, and all that it earned was a prompted “ooooh” from the audience (and a shrugged-off one-liner that lightened the mood). Life went on. Never did you see AC Slater reel back and slap the crap out of Jessie Spano. I’m sure you can think of other examples from your youth of women slapping men on television like it was nothing, or if not, turn on WEtv’s “Bridezillas,” where men are constantly slapped and abused by their fiances – all under the umbrella of entertaining “bridezilla” behavior. See, this is the problem – if a man hits a woman, he is seen as a violent criminal. When a woman hits a man, she can be passed off as having a fleeting moment of “bridezilla” behavior, or being overcome with some victimized emotion that has no choice but to come out as physical action. What’s funny is that in the big push to make women “equal”, a show like “Bridezillas” sets the movement back a couple of notches – it screams “women can’t handle the stress of planning a wedding and become zoo animals to be watched and laughed at.”
We’ll wrap this up, since now I’m just flipping channels on television looking for more examples. But before the under-reported and under-accepted domestic violence happens, what can we do as fathers? Well, man-up, as people say. Teach your kids – both sons and daughters, that hitting is wrong. I know, that kind of sums things up too nicely – but only because it truly is that simple. Teach your sons and daughter to talk things out – and this solution starts with you; you’ve got to lead by example. Don’t put your finger in your wife’s face when you’re angry at her. Don’t yell in front of your kids. Reward your children for letting you know how something makes them feel.
Okay, I’m done. All this happy-wrap-up crap is making me lose my edge.