Surely at some point in your life you must have wondered what that “society” everyone is always talking about actually means. Is it everyone? Perhaps, but that might be a bit too simple. Then is it the media? Could be, except it would be a bit pathetic if society was made up only of the media, seeing as the media isn’t always equally good at what they do. You know, to state it mildly… But then what is society, and why are we always blaming everything on it?
This weekend I had an incredibly interesting discussion on Facebook about a certain YouTube video. The video starts with a rather sarcastic summary of what guys look for in a girl, and ends with a very uplifting message for all those (teenage) girls who fall victim to what they believe guys want them to be like. It is the first part that might be rather interesting, because when you think about it… is that society that tells us what guys (should) like in a girl not exactly made up of videos such as this one?
The creator of the video gives a long list of things that guys supposedly like in girls, most of them completely impossible due to the fact that they often contradict (smart but opinionated, good at sex but still a virgin, etc). Now, of course, the message of the video is that girls should ignore this (and even that guys like very different things and that everything she mentioned is actually fictional, which is 100% true), but the question remains how this image of what a guy looks for in a girl was created in the first place. After all, if all guys have different tastes, then why is this myth that they all like the same impossible thing still so well known?
And that’s where society comes in: the myth is perpetuated by the myth itself, because people talk about it, and because of that, it actually becomes reality. Guys will believe that they are supposed to like that girl with the tiny stomach and the giant breasts, because all their friends are talking about it, so it would be weird if they were any different. After all, if they were different, they might even be gay, and nobody wants that! That would be awful!
This might sound rather odd, but after about 15 years of playing football and spending at least 6 hours of my week with a group of 15 guys, this seems to be exactly what is happening. These guys, often not all equally well educated, say the most ridiculous, sexist, racist and homophobic things imaginable, all because that is what they are supposed to do. I have seen team-mates who I had lots of things in common with, who had been raised in a proper way, turn into those typical guys who have this one stereotypical image of what a girl should be like, and it changed them completely.
These stereotypes are created and shared by “society”, and that society is for a decent part made up of people who make videos on the internet. Well-meant videos, sometimes, that have wonderful, positive effects, but that at the same time also affect the wrong guys in the wrong way. Society is not just “the media” as some kind of distant and evil organisation that we don’t have control over and it isn’t just “the people” in such a way that everything we say becomes “society”. “Society” is made up of selected stereotypes that get shared around the world, whether it is to ridicule the stereotype or to support it, and while that is sometimes the society we love, it is also the society we hate.
So how do we solve that? As much as I always hate criticism that doesn’t have a solution, I’m afraid I don’t know. All I would suggest is to watch out for it, to try and avoid perpetuating those stereotypes while trying to get rid of them. But does that mean that videos such as the one above shouldn’t be made? Definitely not. Helping girls get rid of those stereotypes and making them realise that guys do have different tastes is important, even if it has some negative side-effects. If we ever truly want to get rid of sexism, these football jocks will need to be convinced as well, but for now, all we can do is to keep these things in mind, and to do the best we can to limit the damage. Because we can’t change society in a single day.
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