August 13th, 2013

Environmental factors explain rape and workplace abuse and bullying


An informative New York Times column by Frank Bruni is built on Bruni’s interview with psychologist Christopher Kilmartin. Kilmartin wrote The Masculine Self and teaches at the Air Force Academy to help the U.S. military reduce its sexual assault problems.

Kilmartin shared these observations with Bruni:

“We start boys off at a very early age,” Kilmartin told me during a recent phone conversation. “When the worst thing we say to a boy in sports is that he throws ‘like a girl,’ we teach boys to disrespect the feminine and disrespect women. That’s the cultural undercurrent of rape.”

… discussions of domestic violence more often included the question of why a battered woman stayed than the question of why a battering man struck, as if the striking was to be expected. Men will be brute men, just as boys will be lusty boys.

… the bizarre use of the term “sex scandals” for such incidents as Tailhook decades ago and the recent accusations that Bob Filner, the mayor of San Diego, groped women around him, among other offenses. “They’re violence scandals,” he said. “If I hit you over the head with a frying pan, I don’t call that cooking.”

The Bruni interview with Kilmartin is good to see. It attempts the nearly impossible in American media — explaining a social problem with a societal/environmental explanation. Rape apologists, like bully apologists, prefer personality as the reason for everything. “That’s just how he is.” “That’s how boys/men are.”

Kilmartin gets it. In our violent culture, we can take the sweetest, caring, tender young boy and shape him into a violent offender in a matter of years. The U.S. has a rape culture. Rape is not inevitable. Violence against women is not normal; it has to be taught.

Workplace bullying is not a requisite expression of managerial prerogative. We choose to teach it, reward it and tolerate it.

Oscar Hammerstein, one of American theater’s best lyricists, wrote the following for the musical South Pacific in 1949. It was true then that racism has to be taught. Still true today for any “_ism.”

You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a different shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught!

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 13th, 2013 at 11:44 am and is filed under Bullying-Related Research, Commentary by G. Namie, Social/Mgmt/Epid Sciences, The New America, Tutorials About Bullying, WBI Education. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.



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  1. kachina2 says:

    That certainly leaves those of us who were taught to respect others and to believe in human equality and dignity in a culture we fundamentally do not understand. The harsh reality we face when bullied at work precipitates an identity crisis, because there is evidence that “everything you know is wrong”.

  2. yeskia says:

    “boy’s will be boy’s!” , is one of the responses I got when I first expressed my being bullied…

    That comment should have told me everything I needed to know.

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