To humiliate a guy, compare him to a girl.
Tell a boy’s friends that he plays with dolls. Announce that he has applied a dab of concealer to a zit. Hassle a co-worker who listens to Lite FM or puts flowers on his desk or gets facials. Make a scene if a guy eats a low-cal yogurt.
Just try painting your young son’s toenails pink, and feel the wrath of the hegemony (or at least Fox News) crash down on your head.
Humiliating men by comparing them to women works because it rests on societal bedrock: misogyny. Maybe I should say MISOGYNY. It’s too powerful a force for lower-case letters.
Being a woman is considered despicable, so comparing a man to a woman throws his superiority into question. It takes him down a rung on the hierarchical ladder where men are on top and the most helpless animals are on the bottom. Men don’t want to go lower on that ladder. Who would?
Some Americans would like to think that we’re less sexist than all that. I’d love to agree, but thinking of those examples of undermining masculinity was way too easy. Try a few yourself. There are so many things that are coded feminine in our society, and therefore are off-limits to men who don’t want to be humiliated as less than “manly” — which often glides right into “gay,” and that is still taboo for quite a few people in this country.
If things are still that unequal here, what’s the status in countries we consider “backwards”?
A recent vignette from Iran answers that question with a decided “hmmmm….”
The bad: a judge in a Kurdish town in Iran punished a man convicted of battery by ordering police to dress him in women’s clothes and drive him around town, which they did on April 15th. Reminiscent of American judges who force convicts to stand on the sidewalk wearing signs declaring their crimes, this punishment was meant to humiliate the criminal — in this case, by dragging him down to the lowly status of a woman.
The good: Kurds called the judge and the police on their sexism. Just one day after the punishment was carried out, 100 men and women joined a protest by a local feminist organization decrying the insult to Kurdish women. Men posted pictures of themselves in women’s clothes, some with signs saying things like “Being a woman is not a way for humiliation or punishment.”
After the protests, the local chief of police ordered cops not to cross-dress convicts as a punishment because it is “unpleasant.” Not sure whether that is a political/sociological judgment or an aesthetic one, but it does show that Iran’s feminists have clout and know how to use it. Like Americans, Iranians have a long way to go, but at least the declaration has been thrown down: being female is not a degradation, and being male is no honor.
Photo credit: Facebook.com