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YOUNG BLOOD

Boys will be boys

12:07 AM November 15, 2016

We’re all familiar with that phrase. And if you are like me and like to lurk on Twitter, probably you will have seen the thread of four college boys harassing a young girl—a minor, I might add—in a group chat making its rounds. Screen shots from the chat found their way to Twitter after the four added the girl to the vile group chat full of lewd, sexually loaded comments about her body and how they would like to use it. She and her cousin compiled screen shots of the chat to publicly shame the harassers.

Here were college-age boys making lustful comments about a child’s body, and then adding that very same child to a chat dedicated to objectifying and sexualizing her. The girl was obviously the victim, right? Surely that warranted public humiliation; after all, they brought this on themselves—adding the victim to the chat and re-adding her even after she’d left several times.

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Apparently not.

People were quick to defend the boys’ behavior; even women were justifying their predatory, pedophiliac comments, saying, “Boys will be boys,” and hurling insults and threats to the point that both the girl and her cousin had to deactivate their Twitter accounts. The victims were called attention whores for calling the boys out publicly.

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Boys will be boys, they say—but where does that leave girls?

As I write this, on Nov. 8, the US presidential election is about to take place: In a few hours, the global superpower will have elected either its first woman president, or a businessman who says, “Grab ’em by the p****,” who degrades his opponent not by her policies but by her appearance, who has assaulted over a dozen women and even sexualized his own daughter—and who still has the support of thousands of Americans, including women. And as I write this, a man occupies the highest seat in this country—a man who is a blatant misogynist, who has publicly and proudly stated that he has assaulted women, who made a rape joke in response to a tragedy that befell a missionary, and whose sexist comments are brushed off by his supporters.

As I write this, I know that as long as we, society, continue to absolve men of any responsibility, we are perpetuating a culture that blames victims and celebrates sexism. Boys will be boys, they will say, as though boyhood is about power and violence. This culture of victim-blaming is subtle; we don’t notice the threat behind seemingly benevolent warnings until we are faced with the violent result—those boys who will be boys.

When I was a child my well-meaning but somewhat conservative family would tell me to cover up; I would be told to put on a bra even while at home. Why? I would ask, and they would answer, “May bisita.”

The man came first, even in my own house.

My high school did this, too, by telling me that I had to be “chaste” in my manner and in my dress, because that was apparently the only way I would ever be respectable. At that time I took those to heart; a girl wearing “slutty” clothing was obviously asking for it. Now I’m aware that modesty does not mean respectability; it only means you’re comfortable showing less skin, and that’s just how you like it. If I myself were braver and cared less, I’d wear what I want—shorts, skirts, anything and everything under the sun—and let the men avert their eyes if they feel it’s inappropriate, let the men be uncomfortable if their sensibilities are offended by a body, it’s not my concern. But the fear is there—the fear that maybe some pervert will stare at me too long or that someone might assault me if I show too much skin. It’s only this year that I’ve managed to wear shorts in public—and even then, only if I know that I’ll be going home early, or if I’m not taking public transport. But the stares are the same.

And again and again and again, I have to reinforce in my head that, no, it’s not the skin, it’s the men—and it’s not just the men, it’s society that enables them. It’s disturbing that I still fall into this way of thinking, but that just goes to show that victim-blaming has become so normalized. Girls are seen as bodies before we are people, and these bodies are commodities, receptacles of the male gaze, of catcalls and of whistles in the street. It’s not the skin and it’s not the prettiness of the girl—it’s the lack of accountability that breeds violence. People will tell women it’s their fault—somehow, in some way, even though it’s the impunity that enables and creates these boys, who are only ever being boys.

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And again and again and again, I have to remind myself that it’s not the clothes and it’s not the skin. Leering faces in the streets do not discriminate between a girl in pants and a girl in shorts and skirts. Catcalls will ring out no matter if you’re wearing a hoodie or a uniform or a tank top.

As I write this, I know that “boys will be boys” will forever be a weapon against my existence. As I write this, I know that “boys being boys” will mean that girls cannot be girls unless we change how society treats sexual harassment, assault and abuse.

As I write this, I know I’ll probably (though I hope I don’t) get protests of “not all men.” Yes, I know, men are not a monolith. They are not all sexist predators. Nor am I trying to pit men against women. The problem is that there are too many men and women who participate in victim-blaming, because that’s what they’ve been taught; maybe that’s all they know.

There are too many people who say “Boys will be boys” instead of saying “Boys are responsible for their actions,” and too few people saying “Girls, it is not your fault; girls, your skin is not an invitation or a temptation to sin; your skin is only skin and it houses a person who deserves respect no matter how covered up you are.” Too few, far too few, people say that. As I write this, I know that the phrase “boys will be boys” will breed only monsters until we teach those boys to be human.

Girls will be—need to be—girls, too.

Daniela Magdiwang S. Castillo, 18, is a first year psychology student at the University of the Philippines Diliman.

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TAGS: Donald Trump, manners, opinion, respect, slut shaming, Young Blood
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