Recently, there have been two events in the news that, while happening in two quite different parts of the United States, bear telling similarities. One concerns the vicious attacks by young and presumably heterosexual men against gay men in the Bronx; another is the obnoxious and, in its own way, rather scary demonstration by male Yale undergrads who, under the guise of innocuous comedy, urged the rape of women.
Notwithstanding the social and economic differences that probably separate the two groups, they seem so similar, don’t they? In both, the boys seem at once appallingly clueless about what it means to be a man, and, at the same time, utterly desperate to prove that they are men.
In the Bronx story, young men pummel and torment others who are vulnerable. It is paradoxical, isn’t it? Doesn’t being a man involve confronting incredible danger, rather than indulging the easy rewards of tormenting the helpless?
As for the Yale frat-brothers-in-training, the image is no less paradoxical, right? I mean the image of Yale undergraduate boys, leading each other by the shoulder while blindfolded (the blind literally leading the blind!) as they embark on a ritual that will magically transform them at the end of the blindfolded chain from little privileged minnows into strong young men ready to lead the world. Aren’t men—real men—supposed to think for themselves? Rather than deferring to others who want them, literally, to follow blindly?