If you listen to the radio and/or watch prime time television, it can be hard sometimes to be a feminist. Popular culture is chock full o’ references that can make you squirm. But there’s also a lot of interesting commentary out there, and shows and songs that make you think. Or sometimes there’s just a song that makes you dance. Or a show that makes you laugh. And, as I’ve documented before, sometimes it’s just easier to set my inner feminist aside for a bit so that I can enjoy a show/song/sketch without the constant need to deconstruct.
But this only works sometimes. Sometimes the content you are presented with is so glaringly awful and striking that it would be a crime to let it pass without comment.
This morning I encountered content like this.
On a good day, when I drive to work, my drive is less than 5 minutes. I barely have time to digest anything on the radio, and I often ride in silence, soaking up my coffee and letting the caffeine kick in while I transition my mind to work. But today was different. Today I got stopped by a train, so I decided to turn on the radio. Hooked by a catchy song, I found myself dialed in to a nationally syndicated radio program, “Kid Kraddick in the Morning,” which continues on even though its namesake host passed away earlier this year.
After the catchy song that hooked my interest ended, the DJ’s came on with their usual morning schtick. Making jokes about being tired, avoiding work, etc. But then one DJ launched into a story about his two-year-old son. Apparently, he and this son were shopping at the mall, when they encountered some super cute teenage girls dressed in their school uniforms, complete with short plaid skirts (an everyman fantasy, apparently. Yes, Britney Spears, etc., we see you). Yes, the DJ was careful to note these details. While the DJ was browsing some of the goods at a kiosk in the mall, his two-year-old son wandered over to these young women, reached up under one of their skirts, squeezed this girl’s bum, and let out a resounding “honk.”
Now two-year-old’s do come up with some crazy things. They repeat inappropriate things that they hear. They mimic actions they see. And sometimes you really can’t predict what in the world a kid will do! But I must say, questions were already percolating in my head like, “Where did this kid see something like this?”, “Where did he learn that this was something boys do?”, etc. But I was willing to give this dad the benefit of the doubt: maybe he was just as surprised as we all were by his kid’s actions. Maybe he would rush over to these young women and apologize.
But the story went on.
Instead of being embarrassed about what his son had done, this DJ was laughing it up and celebrating his two-year-old son’s masculinity. He recounted that, when the young woman turned around, shocked that her bum had just been grabbed in public, his son just grinned and said, “Bye” and walked away. After which the rest of the DJ’s on the morning show proceeded to make copious amounts of jokes about how this two-year-old was a “playa” and liked to “hit it and quit it” and “knew how to treat the ladies.”
As if this wasn’t bad enough, the DJ then went on to describe, albeit jokingly, how he approached the young women, took off his wedding ring and pretended to be the single, older brother of this two-year-old, in order to “smooth things over.” Although these young women were intially offended, he talked with them until they were able to just laugh it off.
There’s so much wrong with this story that I hardly know where to begin.
Two-year-olds are impressionable. From developmental theory, we know that they are taking in information so, so rapidly. They are learning to sort out right from wrong. They surprise us with how much they observe and learn. And here this young boy is, having an act of violation towards a female — however unwitting it might be — celebrated. Instead of a reprimand, he received a wink and a nod.
This boy might grow up and learn how to treat women respectfully. Or he may also think it’s funny to make women uncomfortable. He may also learn that he has a right to use women’s bodies as the butt of a joke, and that when these women don’t get the punchline of the joke, it’s really their fault. They’ve got a bad sense of humor.
Do we want to raise a generation of “playas” or boys who think they’ve accomplished something great when they “hit it and quit it” instead of building meaningful relationships? Who think they get free and clear access to a woman’s body without her say? In short, do we want to start normalizing rape culture for our two-year-olds?
I’m confused. We often act horrified when we hear stories of sexual molestation and rape, but then we can turn around and laugh at stories like this one. We can suggest that this is what expressing masculinity looks like. Do we not see the correlation?
You might say it was too early and I just didn’t get the joke this morning.
But I’d beg to differ. Rape culture is not — and will never be — a punchline worth laughing at.