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M is for misogyny: From frat boy chants to society

From the Atlantic: "SMU boys, we like them young. Y is for your sister. O is for oh so tight. U is for underage. N is for no consent. G is for grab that ass."

To the Pacific: "Y-O-U-N-G at UBC we like em young Y is for yourrr sister O is for ohh so tight U is for under age N is for noo consent G is for goo to jail."

We have all heard about the Canadian university rape chants by now. Many of us may remember hearing or are hearing similar chants or sentiments at our university "Frosh Weeks" and beyond.

Student unions attempted to excuse or hide it (before apologizing), administrators have been quick, rightfully, to condemn it, but it is what it is. A profoundly disturbing realization that young men, and sadly some women, will participate in collective chants glorifying raping underage girls as a mechanism to belong and to fit in. That this culture of abusive, violent male behaviour is seen by many men as a way to draw men together. That it is seen as a way of telling the other young men they are wishing to bond with that they too have no problem with being a "man", that they too are a man who wants young women, whether or not the young women want them, and that they are not some "sissy". That feeling this way about women is expected and anticipated if you wish to be a part of or bond with the male group.

As with all collective chants, from the bleating of the sheep in Animal Farm to the chants of drunken sports fans, it reflects a desire to be a part of a collective. It turns out that this collective regards making a joke of rape a rite of passage.

And this collective is very large; far larger than the university frat boy idiotic reflections of it.

In fact, like other ideologically hegemonic ideas and oppressions, manifestations of this kind of mass misogyny should come as no surprise. But it does. It does because, despite all the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, we chose to see misogyny as a secondary issue and to label its manifestations as anomalies or "jokes". We say that it is "natural", it is "boys being boys" and that there is "nothing you can do about it". We celebrate pathetic male singers and entertainers whose whole motif is to degrade, belittle, objectify and dismiss women. Men in positions of power regularly protect other men and young men, such as high school football stars, when they are accused of rape. Why would we expect reflections of this in broader society or in university to be any different?

Given the inherent violence and degrading nature of the depictions of women in the porn/video game/ music video culture, and given the extraordinary violence against women manifested in the vast bulk of Hollywood horror or thriller films, it is not hard to understand why young men reflect it as they try to fit in and conform in what for most of them is their first time "outside the nest".

In reality why would we expect any different from the boys of a society that has made a pop song about anal rape a runaway hit, that has a music video "culture" in which it is actually surprising to see a video by a male pop artist in which women are not objectified, that has ingrained pornography so much into the very fabric of the day-to-day that it is becoming increasingly inseparable from "mainstream" entertainment and advertising, that exploits and sexually objectifies primarily its youngest citizens, both male and female, for male gratification and that holds up the desires of men, no matter how destructive or exploitative, as some kind of litmus test of  "freedom"?

Worse it occurs in a context where the backlash against the equality gains of women and the women's movement grows daily. From the rapid, alarming and profoundly reactionary growth on Canadian university campuses of the Men's Rights Movement and of its absurd notions of "reverse sexism" and the need for "men's equality", to the political expressions of forms of these same ideas in mainstream politics, to the increasing and farcical idea that men and boys are "falling behind" or that education and civil society have been "feminized", these chants and examples of collective male misogynist outbursts were and are a basic and integral facet of a society dominated by men in which part of "being a man" and relating to men consists of telling other men that you are the same kind of disgraceful example of a man that they are.

The point is that they are not the exception. They are simply an uncomfortable expression of the norm.

Acknowledging how deeply ingrained and how common such male "chat" and thinking is, as well as how obviously wrong it is,  would mean putting our safely constructed, male worldviews at risk. To acknowledge one's own complicity in oppression is simply a ne plus ultra, a Rubicon we as men are seemingly mentally incapable of crossing almost entirely out of our own self-interest.

This is reflected in the overwhelming male consensus around issues like pornography and prostitution and our basic sense of entitlement to them. It is reflected by our so often expressed desire to claim that "men" are being just as "victimized" as women or that women`s issues are secondary or no longer relevant. But we do so by talking about issues related to class, race and even the expectations that Patriarchy sets for men, none of which are centred around the oppression of men as men, an oppression which simply does not exist outside of an LGBT context.

It is reflected in examples like Hugo Schwyzer, a man who basically demanded to be acknowledged as a feminist, who taught "Women's Studies" courses that included supposed "analysis" of porn, and who has now admitted, among other things, that he slept with his students and even a much younger porn star at the time. He essentially used "feminism" as a way to get entirely inappropriate sexual gratification. There is little more predictably male than that.

It easier to think that it is the fault of women that we as men fail or suffer injustice than to accept that we do so in a society whose power institutions and relations were created by other men. Better even to deny that men have power or are primarily responsible for Capitalism or Patriarchy at all.

This is how rape culture, Patriarchy and misogyny are an ideological hegemony. They are not only accepted and excused, they are a fundamental and day-to-day part of a society's power relations. They define and are therefore expressed as a part of our basic cultural conformism and discourse.

Be it at water coolers, in gym change rooms,  football team meetings, strip clubs or wherever men congregate or relate as men to each other, the type of discourse and misogyny seen at these campuses  always rears its ugly head eventually.

The terrible and horrific reflection of these "antics" in real terms is the persistence of daily male violence and harassment against women in our society on a mass scale, from rape to spousal or partner abuse.

While they were done in a public forum and in a way that has brought deserved punishment and critical attention, the Frosh chants are really no different from countless other expressions of these kinds of misogynist backslapping "jokes" and thinking that men engage in together all the time.

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