Our Boys

Cassie Walter

            The story that interested me most in this weeks readings was that of the Glen Ridge, New Jersey boys whose story was described in Our Boys. They were average, upper-middle class white teenagers who lured a mentally challenged girl into a basement and sexually assaulted her. And because they were athletes in a town that celebrated sports, they got off with nothing but a slap on the wrist. The reason why I find this to be so particularly interesting is because I am from Montclair, New Jersey, a town one over from Glen Ridge. While Montclair is significantly larger, and therefore much more socially, racially, and economically diverse, the two towns still share a border. The boys in Glen Ridge who did that could have been boys from my town who went to my high school. It reminds me of a term we learned in intro, the self-serving bias, which was defined as “the idea that you are better than others, that you would act differently than the way the majority acted” when in reality, you wouldn’t. We read stories of how seemingly normal people commit heinous acts and we think to ourselves “no one I know would ever do that” but they do. I guess the most upsetting thing in the whole Glen Ridge scenario is the fact that the town rallied around the attackers instead of the victim. I don’t really understand how the sports culture could be so pervasive that people including parents and teachers would throw their support behind boys who not only attacked an innocent girl, but a girl who did not have the mental capacity to protect and defend herself.

            The other studies mentioned in the Gentleman or Beast article by Susan Bardo were equally surprising. The theories proposed by Pinker and Gray both sounded like they were out of the 1950s with sayings such as “men are from Mars and women are from Venus.” I don’t actually know when either of those theories were published, but Bardo made it seem like it had happened quite recently because she was similarly shocked at the proclamations these men were making. Gray made such extreme generalizations of all women, such as when he suggested that in order for all women to become sexually aroused, they must talk out their feelings ahead of time. I’m not really sure how someone with scientific credit could make that kind of incredibly generalized comment and believe it to be true.

            When I was little I used to watch a fair amount of Disney movies so it always interests me to relook at aspects of them now that I’m older. I haven’t watched any of the Disney princess movies in a long time so I’m not sure what I would pick up on now in those movies, but I’ve watched movies like Monster’s Inc recently and it is incredible the kind of adult humor they include in movies that are targeted to children. Especially because these are G-rated films so they shouldn’t have anything inappropriate in them. The message that the Disney princess movies seem to promote is the importance of finding a husband. I wonder what my mom thought about me watching movies that focused more on romance than empowering themes such as friendship. It was interesting to read how even The Lion King, a movie you wouldn’t think would include a love story as part of its main plot, would include a storyline where Simba immediately discarded his friends in order to have a romantic relationship with Nala. If these movies are such a big part of little kids’ childhoods, why do the filmmakers constantly make love the main plotline? It is sort of bizarre that movies intended for little kids feature such adult content and that most parents don’t take issue with it.  

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5 thoughts on “Our Boys

  1. Brittany Juliano

    I agree, the “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” phrase is stunningly ignorant. It amazes me that scholars could talk about men and women as if they were completely different species. I also dislike the phrase, because it backs up the ‘boys will be boys’ excuse discussed in Guyland and other articles. Pinker and Gray’s theory excuses gendered behavior as if it were entirely biological, that women and men naturally act different. Bardo’s article was useful by bringing in arguments from both sides, but I also felt like she walked the fence too much, saying that some of gendered behavior is certainly socialized, but one cannot ignore the biological aspects as well. I didn’t like this approach to her writing, probably because I am more Sociologist than Scientist, but also because I did not feel that she took a clear stance on the causes of ‘beast’ behavior.

  2. Gina Pol

    Similarly, I was also struck that the Glen Ridge boys were able to get off so easily for sexual assault. Not only that, but they were easily and eagerly accepted right back into their schools while the female victim was being marginalized. Although the Glen Ridge social scene was predominantly athletes and jock, this did not justify any of the actions that occurred. In relation to Martin and Kazyak’s article, women lack control over how they are viewed by men through men’s heterosexual gaze. Specifically in Mulan, there were men who were ogling over her as she thought she was bathing safely in the river. These are the messages that are being sent to young boys as they watch these films and it makes them feel they have the right to gaze at women in that way.

  3. Olivia Rabbitt

    As much as I agree that comments like “men are from Mars and women are from Venus” are disgustingly ignorant, I think we also need to remember the context the statements are made in and who the intended audience is. Pinker and Gray are marketing their theory, which melds hard and false science quite seamlessly, to the very stereotypical heterosexual white middle class couple. And while I think they have done a great disservice in perpetuating gender stereotypes, I think it says more about the needs and wants of their audience. There is an audience base that is currently filing highly conservative sex and gender roles, and the easiest way to maintain those roles in modern society is to have some entertainment (I can’t call their theory scientific) writing which expresses the biological basis of such relationships. If anything, Pinker and Gray are merely voicing a societal truth.

  4. The point you bring up that nearly all Disney films have a romantic major plot line is really interesting. Why is that movies marketed at young children are all about love? When you are a child that really should be the very LAST thing on your mind. Marriage for most kids watching Disney is at least 15 to 20 years away from being a reality. Why then is it being instilled in children so young? This concept reminds me of age compression that we discussed in Intro to Sociology when discussing advertising. Ad agencies will market products to a younger age in order to sell a product not originally marketed to them. The same is true for Disney movies. Heterosexual marriage is marketed to children at an extremely young age. Note: I started watching these movies in diapers and my first trip to Disney world was before I spoke my first word.

  5. Sophie Sharps

    I really resonated with all three of your points in this post. First and foremost, it amazes me how easy it is to excuse certain people performing certain acts as the outliers and the exceptions to the rule. As a society, we are so hesitant to acknowledge that maybe these issues go beyond the individual and are actually deeply embedded in culture and structure. Kimmel discusses similar ideas in Guyland, when he refers to the culture of protection and how quickly parents are to justify the fact that their sons would never commit such an act. We need to stop protecting the perpetrators and stand behind the victims of these events, no matter how difficult this may be. Otherwise, the more parents, teachers, coaches and community members support these violent boys, the more acceptable these acts become in our society.

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