What gender were most of the scary costumes this last Halloween night? One guess—male. From your classic Phantom to your Vampire to your Werewolf, Frankenstein to your ghoul du noir, the scary hairy, bloody and mummified guys are the ones that scare the bejeesus out of us.
On the other days of the year men are often made out to be the ogres (with the exception of one Hollywood ogre) that do more damage and cause more grief-- emotional, physical and social than not. In other words, it’s been a successful Hollywood gambit to vilify most men while making a handful of protagonists the knights in shining armor. These are well-documented tropes.
Yes, off screen the statistics on family violence and rape document much higher perpetration of real violence by men.
And men get the credit for heading up many an institution that has and still does enslave, exploit, disempower and kill.
All of that can make a pretty bad rap for men. Add the Hollywood tropes and its no wonder I sometimes feel the need to walk on the other side of the street to put a single woman pedestrian more at ease.
What is really scary is what happens to boys and men. From day one males are separated from females and spoken to and treated differently, sometimes while they’re still in the womb!
They are often handled more roughly and regarded as tougher even in the vulnerable neonate form. They are not. They are little babies totally dependent on adults.
What happens to boys is that they are sexually abused at a rate of one out of six, now thought to be a conservative estimate. The recent release of records by the Boy Scouts of America is just the tip of the iceberg.
Teachers treat boys differently in the class room and on the playground, treatment that can directly or indirectly amplify aggressive behaviors.
Males are 4 to 1 more likely to be murdered than females.
Since l980 when mores changed to allow more females into combat, men still die at a ratio of 10-1 while in active military duty.
There are more statistics, but here’s my point. Men begin life as innocents, they are hurt by both individuals and institutions, they either recover and go on to lead wonderful and productive lives or they don’t recover and some go on to become the petty thief, the drug lord, gangbanger, white collar criminal and corporate raider.
Men are not scary. What happens to them is. As long as we regard men as scary or expendable, whether on screen, on the real battlefield or in the corporate hustle, we will keep creating a world where we each walk different sides of the street and different streets altogether.