Boys who prey together -- become men
The Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria had me moderate a morning plenary Tuesday on how focusing global health efforts on women and girls could yield the best results in the fight against HIV/AIDS. But we weren't more than 10 minutes into the program before I asked, "What is the role of men in all this?"
Women outnumber men, but in many parts of the planet it's a man's world. Oppressive regimes in the Middle East sheath women in burqas and veils. Warring factions in Africa have used rape as a weapon in war. And in some parts of Asia, the tradition is that a girl's life is valued less than a boy's or an animal's. Get a load of this Chinese proverb:
We keep a dog to watch the house
A pig is useful, too
We keep a cat to catch a mouse,
But what can we do
With a girl like you?
If women and girls are to be empowered to make decisions about their health that also benefit the overall health of their families and their communities, then changing regressive, repressive and inhumane views of them held by men is paramount.
It's so easy to think that we in the west, and especially in the United States, are much more enlightened in the treatment of women and girls. Then you read something like Maureen Dowd's column yesterday, and you're reminded how our enlightenment must be vigilantly guarded.
"Their Dangerous Swagger" exposes a fantasy football league-type draft at an elite private grade and high school in a Washington suburb. Only the boys' draft picks were girls starting their freshman year.
One team was called 'The Southside Slampigs,' and one boy dubbed his team with crude street slang for drug-addicted prostitutes.
The young woman who was the 'top pick' was described by one of the boys in a team profile he put up online as 'sweet, outgoing, friendly, willing to get down and dirty and [expletive] party. Coming in at 90 pounds, 5’2 and a bra size 34d.' She would be a special asset to the team, he noted, because her mother 'is quite the cougar herself.'
Before they got caught last summer, the boys had planned an 'opening day party,' complete with T-shirts, where the mission was to invite the drafted girls and, unbeknownst to them, score points by trying to rack up as many sexual encounters with the young women as possible.
Don't be tempted to write this off as "boys will be boys." Imagine being the father of the "top pick." I'm glad Dowd wrote about this, because it provides yet another opportunity to teach adolescent boys and young men that the behavior revealed is reprehensible and unacceptable. Without such lessons, those boys could grow up to be men who devalue the lives and dignity of women (see George Huguely V or Joran van der Sloot) which would make them no better than the oppressive men to whom they are supposed to be morally superior.
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