Stereotyping Fraternity Men As Jerks Is Toxic
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Politics and Activism

Ladies, Stereotyping Fraternity Men As Jerks Is Toxic, Too

Even the best of us come from dark places.

Ladies, Stereotyping Fraternity Men As Jerks Is Toxic, Too

"Frat boy" — for most people, these words conjure up negative feelings.

Most likely it's a white male, complete with the blonde hair, blue eyes, muscles and jawline crafted by the gods. Or maybe he's a green-eyed brunette. Perhaps a touch of facial hair on this one.

The point is that no matter who you pictured, there's a good chance his looks are overshadowed by feelings of annoyance, condemnation or even disgust.

Frat boys tend to have a demeaning stereotype where they're seen as little more than dumb, sex-oriented, manipulative beings with poor emotional intelligence skills.

But the root of fraternity stereotypes goes deeper than physical looks.

American culture thrives on gender roles. Society has coerced our boys and girls into abiding by arbitrary rules that dictate what is acceptable and what is not. Feminism has long stood against this social paradigm where men are superior, and the plight of women is not easily forgotten.

Still, for every man that cat-calls a woman, there is an innocent person underneath who was never taught the right way to treat someone. Don't get me wrong, this is in no way condoning the behavior of men. They are functioning adults who should be held accountable for their actions.

It's crucial, however, to really dig deep into the why's and the how's that made men this way in the first place. We have to see things from their perspective, too.

Because of Hollywood, boys grow up in a world where men making lewd comments about women is the norm. They see them in positions of power and importance, oftentimes accompanied by beautiful women on each side. Mostly, though, young and adolescent boys are constantly exposed to a slew of sexist commentary on popular TV shows.

For example, the CBS sitcom "The Big Bang Theory" relies heavily on Howard Wolowitz's inappropriate comments about women, particularly the hot next-door-neighbor, Penny, for comedic effect. Or think of just about any mainstream movie where the woman strips down for the camera, even in non-sexual situations, and men get to ogle her body.

The hypersexualization of women in media has become a norm, and boys have inadvertently associated women with sex, which is a major factor leading to cat-calling and street harassment. They were raised on these beliefs.

But here's the kicker: girls do it too.

Gushing over how cute a guy's butt is or how hot his back muscles are is sexualizing another person, just like men are notorious for doing to women.

True, women have far fewer instances of harassing people on the street for their good looks, but the premise is the same. Girls stare and talk about guys' junk the same way boys look at a girl's cleavage.

"But breasts are different from back muscles and forearms!"

Well, one of the biggest counterarguments to street harassment is that men have sexualized a perfectly normal part of female anatomy — breasts. If you consider ogling breasts is disgusting and inappropriate but staring at men's back muscles and abs isn't, then you, on some level, actually agree that breasts have a sexual component.

The easiest thing to do is to stop staring at people's body parts altogether because it's awkward for everyone.

Still, toxic masculinity reaches other aspects of life.

Men are held to rigid gender stereotypes the same way women are. Like how females are exasperated by the pressure to look fit and sexy, men are subjected to a perfect physical image as well.

They are pressured to have a six-pack, to be stronger, taller, more muscular. This sort of thinking is incredibly damaging to a young boy who may not fit these standards.

Girls look in the mirror and are despaired if their body isn't sexy enough for male attention, but don't girls do the same thing to guys? There are plenty of unspoken physical must-haves for boys to be conventionally attractive, and they all look like frat boys.

The six-pack abs are perhaps one of the most damaging pressures that are placed on boys. Who can bench the most weight? Who can log the most hours? Who can “make the most gains?" If you're a male with a naturally slim frame, you're the target of ridicule and humiliation.

The struggles of men really aren't all that different than that of women. Boys get eating disorders and depression, too, but their problems are far less talked about in mainstream society.

This largely has to do with the forced masculinity that has been placed on them since birth. These illnesses make them look weak, and being weak is the ultimate social downfall for an adolescent male. In a sense, it is more acceptable for girls to be depressed and show emotion.

When they cry, it's okay because society has said so. But when boys struggle, they're silent. Boys don't cry, remember?

The years of abiding by the rules of masculinity are why I earnestly believe frat boys behave in that cocky way they do — it's what they're taught to do.

Generally speaking, these sort of ideas are ingrained in to who they are, and it's going to take a lot more than a couple of social media rants on feminism to fix it.

Gender equality is largely dependent on improving toxic masculinity and femininity within society.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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