Not even with a flower.
January 7, 2015 5:41 PM   Subscribe

We meet a gaggle of adorable little Italian kids, ranging from 7 to 12 years old. The children are asked by the filmmaker what they want to be when they grow up. And why they want to be those things. Then the boys are introduced to Martina, who captures all of their hearts. She charms the boys — they all exclaim how much they love her hair and her smile. One even wants to know if he can be her boyfriend. The filmmaker encourages the boys to make funny faces at Martina to try to make her laugh. Then he tells them to caress her. And then he tells them to slap her...
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon (55 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
I assumed this was going to be a pickpocting story!
posted by bq at 5:49 PM on January 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


The social experiment was created to show that both violence and pacifism could be taught at a young age.

Sigh, but also sexism, given that their cited reasons have to do with Martina's gender. It would be great if they said you weren't supposed to hit anyone.
posted by capricorn at 5:52 PM on January 7, 2015 [16 favorites]


It's horrible. They objectify the girl and then treat her life a delicate flower...can't hit a girl etc. It's not a feel good thing at all. It totally enforces the othering of girls/women and it's all done without her consent.

I wish more people would object to it before it gets greater promotion. It's a troubling and simplistic and wrong video.

Sorry, but I'm not a fan and I wouldn't show it to anyone to support feminism. It does the exact opposite.
posted by taff at 5:54 PM on January 7, 2015 [46 favorites]


It would be great if they said you weren't supposed to hit anyone.

Well, one of them did say he was against violence. Just violence. But I hear you, and agree.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:56 PM on January 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't see how this is an experiment.. They have no reason to hit her, and fear of harm or punishment if they do. If they were offered financial incentive, or if she angered/offended them I think the results would have been less predictable.
posted by FallowKing at 5:59 PM on January 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


Caress her??? Without consent? I wonder if anyone involved in the production objected to this.
posted by Sophont at 5:59 PM on January 7, 2015 [8 favorites]


This just came across my Facebook feed. Came here to find out if it was already getting discussion. It is, and the discussion I'd expect (hoped for). Blech. Moving on.
posted by meinvt at 6:03 PM on January 7, 2015


Yeah this squicked me right the hell out. Children's media expert Rebecca Hains explains why here more articulately than I can.
posted by Wretch729 at 6:18 PM on January 7, 2015 [22 favorites]


As a social scientist who performs actual social/behavioral experiments in the field, THIS IS NOT A SOCIAL EXPERIMENT. Just a disturbing and problematic stunt performed without thinking about actual social issues being played out.

* the same goes for all the other stunt videos out there that claim to be "social experiments"
posted by insert.witticism.here at 6:22 PM on January 7, 2015 [17 favorites]


That article by Rebecca Hains really nails it on the head. Thanks for sharing, I'll have to pass it on.
posted by insert.witticism.here at 6:25 PM on January 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


There is so much wrong with this it is impossible to know where to start. In fact, this link is a new litmus test: if someone shares it without irony, we know they aren't paying attention.
posted by clvrmnky at 6:41 PM on January 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


What a great way to teach boys how profoundly they will be betrayed by the culture they are expected to aspire to belong to!
posted by Miko at 7:11 PM on January 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


This is horrible. I was hoping one of the kids would slap the filmmaker.
posted by BentFranklin at 7:29 PM on January 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


Gross.

Is the Italian word at least less creepy than "caress"?
posted by mr_roboto at 7:55 PM on January 7, 2015


I gotta say, I think my mother's "If you ever hit a girl, I will track you down and fucking kill you" was more effective.
posted by klangklangston at 8:00 PM on January 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


but also sexism, given that their cited reasons have to do with Martina's gender.

You know what? There are a lot of problems with sexism, but "boys shouldn't hit girls/men shouldn't hit women" is not one of them.
posted by corb at 10:29 PM on January 7, 2015


You know what? There are a lot of problems with sexism, but "boys shouldn't hit girls/men shouldn't hit women" is not one of them.

I disagree: no one should hit anyone. The message you outline normalises /minimises male on male violence and female violence. Another great example of how the patriarchy hurts everyone.
posted by smoke at 2:19 AM on January 8, 2015 [10 favorites]


There are a lot of problems with sexism, but "boys shouldn't hit girls/men shouldn't hit women" is not one of them.

I feel it is. Why not girls and women? Because they are weaker and boys/men are physically stronger? Because in our society "good" men are the protectors and girls/women are the protected? Because a big strong man might hurt a delicate lady flower more than he meant to? Is it ok to hit other boys/men because they can fight back, and if they can't they'd better man up? All roads lead to the Patriarchy. Better surely to teach "People shouldn't hit other people".
posted by billiebee at 2:20 AM on January 8, 2015 [18 favorites]


It also carries an implication that males are naturally more violent and this also normalises male violence and the abrogation of responsibility for it.
posted by smoke at 2:21 AM on January 8, 2015 [8 favorites]


There was a lot about this video that gave me the creeps. But a couple of people here are saying the girl didn't consent to this, and I don't understand that. I mean, she's standing right there, and seems completely aware of what's happening. I'm assuming the filmmaker wasn't holding a gun. She's in the video by choice. (That still does not make this video OK. But if we're gonna hate this video, I think we should hate it for what it actually does.)

I also don't know if there's much point in coming down on the boys for othering or objectifying or whatever, because they are children being put in this absolutely baffling, yucky situation by an adult. When they told her she was pretty and started touching her, they were just doing what an adult told them to do. Their whole lives, they've been told to do that. When they were told to slap her, they were presented with the choice of disobeying an adult or doing something they thought was truly wrong. I think they all handled themselves very well, considering.

Ugh. I wish I could rewind the last 5 minutes of my life and do something else instead. I could've spent that time unloading the dishwasher, man.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:44 AM on January 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


I feel it is. Why not girls and women?

Because we have a problem with men beating up on women. And to a greater or lesser degree, a society that condones or even encourages this. Women beating up on men? It happens, but not nearly so much.

Because they are weaker and boys/men are physically stronger? Well, they usually are, physically.

Because in our society "good" men are the protectors and girls/women are the protected?

This is the case in most societies, and is how our species evolved. That's where the 'physically stronger' deal comes from. Now we have to grow beyond that, and understand what true strength is.

Better surely to teach "People shouldn't hit other people".

Well, of course. And there does seem to be an increase in the amount of violence between, and initiated by, women. But who said we shouldn't teach all our children not to hit?
posted by tommyD at 4:13 AM on January 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


And by the way, call me a sexist, but I believe women are generally stronger, in most senses other than the physical.
posted by tommyD at 4:15 AM on January 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


I believe women are generally stronger, in most senses other than the physical

I believe it's better not to make generalisations about literally billions of people across the planet.
posted by billiebee at 4:24 AM on January 8, 2015 [12 favorites]


Because we have a problem with men beating up on women. And to a greater or lesser degree, a society that condones or even encourages this.

I don't know what society you're living in, but I was born in 1986 and my entire life I've heard nothing but the fiercest condemnation of men hurting women. Now, domestic abuse is often hidden, and people often turn a blind eye to evidence of it, in that way that people refuse to believe horrible things happen generally. But I've never heard anyone say it's okay for a man to hit a woman.


Women beating up on men? It happens, but not nearly so much.

Not as much, no, but men beating up on women also doesn't happen nearly as much as men beating up on other men. Male-on-male violence is what's normalized, condoned, and even encouraged in our society. When you tell a boy he shouldn't hit a girl specifically, but say nothing about boys, you send a powerful message.
posted by Anyamatopoeia at 4:26 AM on January 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


But a couple of people here are saying the girl didn't consent to this, and I don't understand that. I mean, she's standing right there, and seems completely aware of what's happening.

The boys weren't shown getting consent from her and she wasn't shown giving consent to the boys. A third party can't give consent for you. "Standing right there, and seems completely aware of what's happening" isn't consent - think of all the actual sexual violence situations in which the assaulter could say the same thing about the victim. Also, the situations in which the assaulter is also the one behind the camera, and we really don't know what the agreement was between them and the person on screen.
posted by Miko at 5:40 AM on January 8, 2015 [8 favorites]


Is the Italian word at least less creepy than "caress"?

Yes. Carezza has no sexual connotations in Italian.

That said, this is vile and sexist and I can't even handle all the people who are praising this shitty stunt. Obviously teaching kids not to hit anyone is too difficult a concept, let's keep on othering women since that's worked out so well thus far.
posted by lydhre at 5:53 AM on January 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


The boys weren't shown getting consent from her and she wasn't shown giving consent to the boys.

This is a professionally produced clip. Releases were signed. She took part in the scenario multiple times, knowing what was coming. Again, I am not saying this clip is OK, but I don't see any evidence that she was coerced. I think suggesting that she was is kind of a red herring, and distracts from the awfulness that does happen in the clip.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 6:17 AM on January 8, 2015


Ursula Hitler, the concern is not whether she was coerced in the video, it's the use of her as a prop for the boys. There is no consent expressed directly during the filming - just instructions from the producer - which just feeds into the narrative that women have no agency.
posted by lydhre at 6:52 AM on January 8, 2015 [10 favorites]


Though I could be wrong, I do not think people are saying that the actual actress in the clip was not consenting to her role in it. Rather that the situation as filmed does not portray her consent. It presents a situation in which her consent is neither sought nor provided. It is treated as unimportant. This is not a good message.
posted by Nothing at 6:53 AM on January 8, 2015 [10 favorites]


It presents a situation in which her consent is neither sought nor provided. It is treated as unimportant. This is not a good message.

I agree that the whole issue of consent is relevant here. I can't watch this until I get out of work, but I'm assuming that following the instruction to "caress" her, there was no "Do not touch girls/women (preferably all human beings) until they personally tell you it's ok" message. I'm happy to be corrected if I'm wrong. Touch women you like if you're so inclined, no problem, but don't hit them - really, this is the best we can do?
posted by billiebee at 7:04 AM on January 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


"But I've never heard anyone say it's okay for a man to hit a woman."

The (no pun intended) punchline of a joke normalizing domestic violence is, "Nothing. You already told her twice."
posted by klangklangston at 9:00 AM on January 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


In the linked article by Rebecca Hains, she writes This sequence is unsettling because boys should be taught that girls’ bodily autonomy is of paramount importance. Given the problems with sexual assault and other forms of violence against women that pervade our world, one of our top priorities should be teaching boys to only touch girls who wish to be touched by them.

I thought that was a valuable point, and I wonder if the commenters here who were upset with the message "boys shouldn't hit girls" are similarly discomfited by Hains' critique, which also relies on gender-based analysis that reflects current social norms.

You can agree that it's a good idea to teach boys "You shouldn't hit anyone" and still believe there's a reason for a specific lesson about boys hitting girls.
posted by layceepee at 9:11 AM on January 8, 2015


Can anyone explain businessinsider.com to me? The name sounds like it should contain market info, but all I ever see on it are mawkish context-free grandma forwards. It's pretty much on my list of sites to automatically ignore.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:30 AM on January 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


The (no pun intended) punchline of a joke normalizing domestic violence is, "Nothing. You already told her twice."

I've never heard that joke. Are jokes about domestic violence common? Or are they in the same category as "dead baby jokes" - the sorts of jokes you tell purely to shock people because everyone agrees that they're in awful taste? Am I ridiculously sheltered? Is it because I'm a woman, so men are telling these jokes between themselves when I'm not present? I honestly want to know.
posted by Anyamatopoeia at 9:31 AM on January 8, 2015


I don't know what society you're living in, but I was born in 1986 and my entire life I've heard nothing but the fiercest condemnation of men hurting women.

Where were you born? Where have you lived? What town? Because seriously if there were a mythical place where everyone knew it was wrong to hurt women I would move there right the fuck now.

Most men - not even all, but most - know it's not okay to punch women in the face or bash their head with a rock. But when you get down to "what about a slap? What about shoving her against the wall? What about physically moving her out of the way? What about grabbing her wrists and holding on? What if she's done something terrible?" then I think the consensus is not nearly the starry-eyed "everyone knows its' wrong" you think it is.

I am okay with gendered instruction telling men it's not okay to hit women, or boys that it's not okay to hit girls, because our world has not solved these problems yet. When a Surgeon General says domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 to 44, that means that there's an enormous fucking problem and a major crisis.

When men stop killing us, maybe I will feel differently about gendered strictures like this. But as it is, anything that even kind of stems the flood I feel is a net good.
posted by corb at 11:36 AM on January 8, 2015 [7 favorites]


"What do you tell a woman with two black eyes?" is the question answered by the punchline above. Yeah, jokes about domestic violence are about as common as mother-in-law jokes.

That was a manipulative piece of malarky in that video. The children were all very badly served by it.

At a slight tangent, I think one of the children observed "Because I'm a man." I do think this sort of pride in your gendered being, whether for male or female people, is a very positive thing - I wish it were easier to disentangle this pride from our present conceptions of sexism. I've often thought "Things I like about men" would be a theme I'd really like to explore as an artist.
posted by glasseyes at 11:36 AM on January 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Are jokes about domestic violence common? Or are they in the same category as "dead baby jokes" - the sorts of jokes you tell purely to shock people because everyone agrees that they're in awful taste? Am I ridiculously sheltered?

Yes. Yes, they are really common throughout much of the United States. I have noticed no noticeable decrease in these jokes over the course of my lifetime, though there is an uptick in people also saying them ironically in addition to the people saying them seriously.
posted by corb at 11:38 AM on January 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Considering most victims and perpetrators of homicide in the US are men, emphasizing that men hitting men is also not okay would be good.

We could even say hitting to solve problems is bad. Perhaps somewhere in preschool.
posted by squinty at 12:15 PM on January 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Where were you born? Where have you lived? What town? Because seriously if there were a mythical place where everyone knew it was wrong to hurt women I would move there right the fuck now.

Grew up in Poughkeepsie, NY, moved to Pittsburgh, PA at eighteen, have lived there ever since. I'll grant you Poughkeepsie is pretty mythical; for one thing, the name is patently ridiculous. And the Poughkeepsie Journal proudly records every "Poughkeepsie mention" in TV, movies, books and music. There's definitely something odd about a city that obsessed with proving that it exists. But anyway, I'll take your word for it that domestic violence jokes are common.


We could even say hitting to solve problems is bad. Perhaps somewhere in preschool.

The thing is, we tell them in preschool that hitting to solve problems is bad, but then they get to elementary school and we start telling them shit like "boys will be boys" or "you have to learn to fight back against bullies" or "maybe you wouldn't be bullied if you weren't such a pansy."
posted by Anyamatopoeia at 12:44 PM on January 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


When men stop killing us, maybe I will feel differently about gendered strictures like this.

Not just yes but hell yes, a thousand times. I'm a die-hard, lifelong radical feminist who wants absolutely nothing more than for any/all gendered instruction everywhere to be eliminated altogether, but we're going to need to keep treating this issue in exactly that way until, as corb wisely notes, men stop killing us.

In case anyone doesn't believe women when we say that interpersonal violence and homicide are very often explicitly gendered issues, here are some statistics to consider:
• Intimate partner violence is both the leading cause of injury to American women and the leading cause of injury and death for European women ages 16-44 [HTML].
• Intimate partner violence is the second leading cause of death for women in the workplace [HTML].
• Intimate partner violence is the leading cause of death for pregnant women [HTML].
• Women are more likely to be assaulted, raped, or killed by an intimate partner than by any other type of assailant [HTML].
• Between 1,200 and 1,800 American women are killed by a male intimate partner each year [PDF]; more than three American women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends every day [HTML].
• 17% of all murder victims were killed by an intimate partner; 62% of the victims of these murders were women killed by male intimate partners [HTML].
• 74% of all murder-suicides involve an intimate partner; 96% of the victims of these murder-suicides were women killed by male intimate partners [PDF].
• American women are killed by their intimate partners at twice the rate of men [PDF].
• 75% of victims of intimate partner homicide and 85% of women who had experienced severe but nonfatal domestic violence had left or tried to leave their abusive relationship in the past year [PDF].
• 99% of intimate partner violence against women is committed by men [PDF].
So even if you've never heard anyone say out loud that it's OK for a man to hit a woman, these numbers make it seem pretty obvious that somewhere on the magnitude of thousands to millions of men have managed to internalize the message that violence against women is effectively their birthright.
posted by divined by radio at 1:45 PM on January 8, 2015 [7 favorites]


Two people in the thread ahead of me said it was done without her consent. In hindsight, that's not really enough for me to have made an issue of it. Carry on hating the video, folks.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:04 PM on January 8, 2015


I did wonder if the "men should not hit women" idea was reflected in comparative homicide rates. That is, if we compare victims of homicide where the perpetrator is male with ones where the perpetrator is female, is the percentage of female victims less when the perpetrator is male?

I used the crime stats here, so this is just based on 2011 in the USA.

In 2011, male perpetrators killed 1590 female victims of 5413 total victims, so 29% of victims were female.
Female perpetrators killed 140 female victims of 593 total, so 24% of victims were female.

That's the reverse of what I would expect based on the taboo that men, specifically, should not kill women.

It's also possible I'm reading the chart wrong.
posted by squinty at 2:59 PM on January 8, 2015


Two people in the thread ahead of me said it was done without her consent.

That's not accurate and I'll ask you not to characterize my comment that way. I said that consent was not shown. My argument is not that the girl was coerced (like you, I am willing assume she was a willing participant in making the video) but that when she and the boys interact, the boys are never shown asking for or getting her consent to be touched. If this is supposed to be a video about how boys should treat girls and men should treat women, then it fails on this simple point.
posted by Miko at 3:13 PM on January 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


Taff said, "and it's all done without her consent," and Sophont said, "Caress her??? Without consent?" Those were the comments I was referring to, the comments which I specifically said were posted before mine. I've also said that jumping on those two comments was probably a bit excessive on my part. It's not like I want to play devil's advocate and defend the video.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:21 PM on January 8, 2015


Okay, thanks for clarifying.
posted by Miko at 6:57 PM on January 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


As a parent of a kid this age, I gotta say we encourage kids to explicitly ask for permission to touch. If they're playing tag or families or other familiar games that inherently involve touching, they don't ask specifically. If it's a new game or a new person or a social touch, they're expected to ask for permission in acutal,"Can I hold your hand/hug you/sit on you and tickle you till you squeal?" type language. It's a child protection thing. We're telling kids to say it to each other and saying it to other kids so that nobody ever gets the impression that touching without permission is ok. At this age...you have to be more overt. Adults always don't read non-verbal cues about consent very well... we can hardly expect kids to.

As far as an educational video (partly) about consent, this didn't work. The girl is essentially an actor and her part was disempowered and passive. A child watching that will not understand the difference in a casual/Facebook sharing moment.

So yeah, as a mum of daughters (but more importantly as a fellow member of the human race that wants respect and equality for all of course), I find it really, really ugly, unhelpful, and problematic. But bless them for trying. They just failed spectacularly well.
posted by taff at 7:26 PM on January 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


(Oh poop, possums!...Above should read that "adults don't always read non-verbal cues very well". Sorry. I really did preview and actually did edit. I'm a very bad, hungover mummy. What can I say?)
posted by taff at 7:51 PM on January 8, 2015


Here's something I just read in the NYT, about the Charlie Hebdo massacre, which made me think about this video and this thread:

Sigolène Vinson, a freelance journalist who had come in that morning to take part in the meeting, said that when the shooting started, she thought she would be killed. Ms. Vinson said in an interview that she dropped to the floor and crawled down the hall to hide behind a partition, but one of the gunmen spotted her and grabbed her by the arm, pointing his gun at her head. Instead of pulling the trigger, though, he told her she would not be killed because she was a woman.

She disputed a quotation attributed to her and carried on the website of the French radio service RFI stating that the gunman had told her she should convert to Islam, read the Quran and cover herself. Instead, she told The New York Times in an interview, the gunman told her: “Don’t be afraid, calm down, I won’t kill you.” He spoke in a steady voice, she said, with a calm look in his eyes, saying: “ ‘You are a woman. But think about what you’re doing. It’s not right.’ ” Then she said he turned to his partner, who was still shooting, and shouted: “We don’t shoot women! We don’t shoot women! We don’t shoot women!”
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:11 AM on January 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


flapjax, I'm not understanding your point. Islamist terrorists are less likely to commit domestic violence?
posted by desjardins at 9:44 AM on January 9, 2015


"Boys shouldn't hit girls"/"Men shouldn't hit women" is stated over and over and over again when children are growing up. (Did anyone here not here some form of that as a child?) Just because someone is told that during their formative years doesn't mean that they won't do it in the future, as evidenced by divined by radio's comment above.

This video is just a bunch of kids saying it and isn't going to do anything to actually stop domestic violence.
posted by LizBoBiz at 1:22 PM on January 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


“We don’t shoot women!
He failed to pass the message along to his friend who shot the female police officer Clarissa Jean-Phillippe.

It's strange to me that a few opinions suggest teaching children "Never hit girls" is actually preferable to teaching "never hit people" and that support for this opinion is the fact that so much violence is perpetrated against females. When just about all children learn this lesson, it doesn't seem to help much, at least once they become adults.

Growing up, and watching children grow up today, the lesson to "never hit girls" was/is ubiquitous, and it was always strange because of the implication that it was okay to hit boys that others noted above. Children, especially preadolescents/early adolescents, naturally engage in all kinds of antisocial behavior anyway, and to hear adults say never hit girls it sounded as if they were endorsing all the male-on-male violence I saw around me, as if to say "that's okay, that's normal, keep that up guys". As if giving free reign to anger in that way is justifiable in some circumstances. I subconsciously feed into it myself, disciplining male-on-male violence differently than male-on-female or female-on-male.

It's not okay, and it feeds into adolescent male insecurities and impulses towards proving themselves through violence. It teaches them it's okay to try to resolve problems with violence, and they do. Domestic violence is mostly about adult men trying to resolve what they perceive as their problems using violence, with the injunction against conditionally refraining from doing so based on the target's gender at least temporarily forgotten in the heat of the moment. It would be better for everyone if we didn't implicitly normalize violence as a potential solution in the first place.
posted by callistus at 7:41 PM on January 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


it feeds into adolescent male insecurities and impulses towards proving themselves through violence. It teaches them it's okay to try to resolve problems with violence

It also communicates to girls that they require special exemptions from the general social norms for their own protection - rather than communicating that an expectation of freedom from violent attack is the norm.
posted by Miko at 7:54 PM on January 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


It's strange to me that a few opinions suggest teaching children "Never hit girls" is actually preferable to teaching "never hit people" and that support for this opinion is the fact that so much violence is perpetrated against females.

It doesn't seem like anyone is saying "never hit girls" is preferable to "never hit people," just that it's separate, and that it's separate because of the way gendered violence is born out in the world. Based on my own experiences with DV and the fact that we live in a world where an incalculable amount of brutality is inflicted on the basis of gender alone, it seems to me that "don't hit girls" does apparently still need to be highlighted somehow.

When the day comes that violence against women is no longer set apart from violence against people, statistically and socially, then as far as I'm concerned, "don't hit girls" can be swept into the dustbin of history along with every other outdated gender-stereotypical notion. But we're not there yet, and my conviction to that end isn't due to the fact that so much violence is perpetrated against women at all, it's due to the fact that so much violence is perpetrated against women because we're women.

Growing up, and watching children grow up today, the lesson to "never hit girls" was/is ubiquitous, and it was always strange because of the implication that it was okay to hit boys that others noted above. Children, especially preadolescents/early adolescents, naturally engage in all kinds of antisocial behavior anyway, and to hear adults say never hit girls it sounded as if they were endorsing all the male-on-male violence I saw around me, as if to say "that's okay, that's normal, keep that up guys".

As a girl, the message I heard in those instructions was much different. I was intimately and personally familiar with the infliction of gendered violence before I finished kindergarten, so hearing other people say "don't hit girls" on top of "don't hit anyone" never made me feel weak or othered; it never gave me the impression that adults were endorsing the notion that it was OK to hit boys or that girls were delicate flowers in need of special handling.

What it did give me was the (correct, imo) impression that since boys and men tend to inflict violence upon girls and women at a disproportionate rate and for different reasons than they inflict violence upon other boys and men, "don't hit girls" still has to be underscored, not instead of but in addition to the general lesson that it is never OK to inflict violence on anyone.

It also communicates to girls that they require special exemptions from the general social norms for their own protection - rather than communicating that an expectation of freedom from violent attack is the norm.

I think girls do require special exemptions from the general social norms for their own protection, and that such exemptions will need to be communicated at least until VAW is no longer inflicted at the epidemic rates that earned it its own kicky acronym. I guess I just don't feel like an expectation of freedom from violent attack can have even a chance of becoming the norm for girls and women until that happens, until womanhood itself is no longer regularly presented as the public, "natural" face of weakness, submissiveness, and subjugation.

To that end, there are well-trod swaths of 'comedy' devoted to making light of and poking fun at the tropes of male-on-female sexual assault (i.e. rape 'jokes') and intimate partner violence (i.e. domestic abuse 'jokes'). You rarely hear a chorus of "well, dressed like that, he was asking for it" or "serves him right, he didn't know his place" when a man gets beaten up or assaulted by another man, but men assaulting women qua women is such a common refrain that the gender-flipped versions of those phrases are regularly uttered without an ounce of irony whenever another instance of rape or domestic abuse makes it onto the news. That's why I believe "don't hit girls" is worth saying, and that it will continue to be worth saying until violence against women is no longer normalized to the point of parody.
posted by divined by radio at 11:31 AM on January 10, 2015


I'm going to have to just differ with you on that. I did feel that way even when I heard this as a kid - I got the message I was [supposed to be] weaker and in need of special protection. To me, this was part and parcel of communicating to boys that "womanhood itself is ...the public, "natural" face of weakness, submissiveness, and subjugation." I join you in wholehearted opposition to violence against women, but I believe that women should not be disproportionately the victims of violence not because they are women, but because they have universal human rights.
posted by Miko at 2:23 PM on January 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


DBR: I can see your point. Violence against women, particularly rape and domestic violence, is different than other types of violence, and needs to be addressed on its own in a different way than we approach the larger goal of reducing all violence. But I don’t know how you can simply say “never hit girls” without implying that other types of violence are okay, or less bad.

The FPP was the first time I’ve seen the proscription against hitting women used to combat domestic violence. I believe this lesson clearly predates current awareness of the problem of domestic violence, and is more wedded to traditionalist notions of being an honorable man, a protector of women, and of girls being weak and in need of the protection of honorable men. As the boys in the video say when asked why they won’t just slap a perfectly innocent stranger across the face, “because she’s pretty”, “because she’s a girl” and “because I’m a man!” It’s the kind of rule that can allow a terrorist to believe he has the moral high ground because none of the innocent people he slaughtered were female.

As someone else said, I think the ad had its heart in the right place, and despite any misgivings about the implications, that relying on traditionalist notions of masculinity and femininity to reduce domestic violence is for the greater good if it actually works. I just think it’s been fairly ineffective.

I agree that domestic violence against women is in a separate category than other types of violence, though as squinty notes the primary victims of violence in general are men. The reason women and children are so often hurt and killed by men is not simply because they are being targeted for their gender, but because they live intimately with, depend on, and are emotionally bound to men who use violence. I don’t think the millions of perpetrators of domestic violence somehow missed the memo that you’re not supposed to hit girls. I don't think those of us who don't love them or live with them are at serious risk, regardless of our gender. I do think many of them, say NFL players, adhere very closely to traditionalist views of masculinity, which seem to have a cavalier attitude towards VAW at the same time that they condemn it. The old notion that a man beating his wife or kids is nobody else's business. That needs to be rectified.

Why are male police officers significantly more likely to abuse their domestic partners? Why are male combat veterans? I don’t mean to posit a simplistic “violence begets violence” theory, but these are disproportionately men who have been exposed to and used violence in non-domestic settings. Are these traditionally honorable members of our society less likely to know of or adhere to the belief that violence against women is especially verboten? The National Council on Family Violence/Yale Study link suggests a link between PTSD and domestic violence. I don't have data to back it up, but I'd imagine boys who grew up victims of violence are more likely to later inflict it on girls/women than boys who were spared that experience.

Reducing violence in general, increasing awareness of and responsiveness to domestic violence in particular and protecting women and children from violent men is a better message than don’t hit “because she’s a girl” or certainly “because she’s pretty”.
posted by callistus at 3:39 PM on January 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


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