*Trigger warning: strong language and sexual assault mentioned
Dear Asian Youth,
“I believe that having a daughter does not make a man decent. Having a wife does not make a decent man. Treating people with dignity and respect makes a decent man. And when a decent man messes up, as we’re all bound to do, he tries his best and does apologize.”
New York representative AOC said this as she responded to Ted Yoho, her voice expressed clearly through the microphone, hands in front of her in a powerful stance. Wearing a sharp red blazer accompanied by bright red lipstick, she did not hesitate to speak her mind as she exposed the vast number of examples where men had degraded her as a government representative, a woman, a person of color, a daughter. Dark brown locks of hair cascaded over her back, behind her ears as if overwhelmed by the power Ocasio-Cortez held with her brilliant words. Prior to the speech, Ted Yoho had called her “disgusting, “crazy,” “dangerous.” These were words that a representative, someone who represents our beliefs and ideals, called Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Luckily for us, AOC is not a woman who can be put down by several rash and rude words, and instead, uses her position to help us. Because Ted Yoho didn’t just call her a “fucking bitch”––he was calling each of us women a “fucking bitch.” And for what?
As I listened to her speak, I laid still in my bedroom, staring at my screen, chilled. In many ways, she saw me––she explicitly and clearly explained how I felt about being a woman in the 21st century and the opportunities being a girl now gives me. I am lucky to be able to sit here and write this article without the threat of conservative men––some, not all––breathing down my neck and spitting, with stale breath, that I’m a traitor. But I also realize that we have a much longer path to navigate than we often realize because of how male supremacy has become so deeply ingrained in our culture.
Having a daughter does not make a man decent. Having a wife does not make a decent man. What AOC said on that day comforted me because it made me realize that not everyone believes in the normalities of boys being mean simply because they are boys, boys being rowdy because they are boys, boys being stupid because they are boys. After all, how much longer are we going to allow this behavior to continue?
A couple of days prior, tweets were going around saying “boys will be boys” was an entirely wrong mentality that we, as a society, have created and upheld. “Boys will be boys” commits to a long-lasting culture of misunderstanding, assault, and humiliation.
I think back to last summer when I learned how, a couple of years ago, a Stanford male student was caught on video raping a girl—it seems like the word “rape” has become stamped so permanently in our vocabulary that we throw it around without caution since it happens so often—and, despite the endless amounts of proof, the judge let the kid go. He came from a good family, had the “right” religious values, and was smart. Boys will be boys, right?
A year ago, during an assembly about racial slurs and microaggressions, a couple of boys behind me casually threw around the word “faggot” as a joke. They were older than me, voices deep and low, huddled next to each other, and making fun of the LGBTQ+ community. Immediately, my eyebrows scrunched, not quite sure how to act. The gym felt sticky and hot, and so did I, with a certain discomfort. I shifted in my spot, wishing to be able to say something but too afraid of the consequences. I shut my eyes. Whatever. They’re boys. Boys are stupid that way. Boys will be boys.
One time during dinner, I was upset over something small but nonetheless, upset. I had sat at the dinner table with a less-than-pleasant expression, too grumpy to make gracious efforts to be kind to the rest of my family. “What’s up with you?” my dad had asked. “Are you PMS-ing or something?” Immediately, my gaze shot up, ignoring the food, and focusing my attention on my dad. Even my own father, who has two daughters, had the audacity to dismiss our feelings using the pretense of hormones.
“If a girl is annoyed, are you immediately going to associate that with PMS?” I sighed. “Why can’t we just be frustrated? Why does there have to be an underlying reason to downgrade our emotions?”
The rest of the evening was a blur, but I do remember thinking this: gosh, men just never learn. Men will never learn. Boys will be boys.
A couple of weeks ago, a post on social media was circulating to help protect women from sexual harassment. It was an informative view into the thought process of rapists and sexual assaulters so that women could defend themselves better. 1) Once you get in your car, don’t linger, and lock the doors immediately. 2) Always check the back seat of anyone’s car. 3) Rapists think that women with tied hair are easier to attack. 4) Don’t act weak—the weaker you are, the easier they’ll think it is to assault you. There were over 15 warnings and signals, and it reminded me of the fears I had when taking an Uber or when I was walking home after sunset in New York. I had made sure to walk in the brighter parts of the street because, because at the end (many girls and women understand this), it is better to be safe than sorry. I read the entire post, even reread some parts several times, and was thankful for this message and information. My first instinct was to repost it for the sake of my other fellow females, but as I clicked post, I felt myself attempting to wrap my mind around three emotions: confusion, anger, and fear. How is it that we have come to a point where we women have to learn how to defend ourselves, instead of helping to prevent boys and men from committing such horrifying acts?
Boys will be boys, right?
No. We cannot continue teaching males that this is okay, that this behavior is okay, that we are okay with it. If a man decides to change a diaper once in a while, that doesn’t make him an amazing father. If a man chooses to go out and buy groceries, that doesn’t make him a wonderful husband. If a boy decides against pressuring a girl into sex, that doesn’t make him a model teenager. As AOC said that day, what makes a good man is the respect he has for women.
Everyone—believe it or not, not just women, but men as well—has to put in greater effort to learn how to think and act in a more respectful way. It starts with the smaller (but still important) and subtler things: joking over a woman’s body, calling a girl a b*tch or a wh*re because she rejects someone’s advances, accepting male dominance in the workplace, judging a powerful woman simply because of her success, dismissing a girl’s frustration with “she’s hormonal,” and making fun of transgender women and the lesbian community. If you told me I had to list every instance, it would never end. We need to rebuild the foundation on which males are currently allowed to exploit their power in order to slowly reconstruct how society thinks about men and women. It’s easy to stay silent, to conform, to be afraid, but we must overcome these actions to reach gender equality. Once we alter our mindset, we can better help ourselves and the future generation of girls. Most of all, we can better help boys and men in the world understand that they are better than the lowest actions of their predecessors.
So, no. Boys will not be boys. We will make sure that they rise above that standard instead.