“Cute” YouTube clips might have good intentions, but when the “Slap Her” clip appeared in Brandon Biddle’s Facebook feed, he wasn’t impressed – here’s why.

 

As social media continues to be an effective platform for sharing viral videos, our feeds become almost choked up with messages competing for our attention and empathy.

The social experiment video is a particular genre that has found increasing popularity in recent times. Perhaps it is the way these clips can be so touching at times, reaffirming our own beliefs and understandings or, conversely, moving us to feel total disgust over certain behaviour.

However, a recent project that surfaced on January 4, 2015 titled Slap Her carried about by Italian journalist Luca Lavarone presents a serious issue to the audience. In under four minutes we are introduced to a sample group of young boys between the ages of seven and eleven. In Slap Her the boys are asked a series of questions, perhaps in an attempt to identify them as “regular” people with “regular” interests. One aspires to be a fire fighter, another a pizza maker. Then, suddenly, they are introduced to Martina, a young girl. Fluttering music and particular framing are used to suggest a sense of surprise, excitement and a slight awkwardness as they meet.

Each boy is asked to identify what they like about her. Common responses surround the young girl’s appearance, complimenting her eyes and hair. Next, each boy is asked to caress the girl. One brushes her upper arm, another her cheek. It is obvious that these children feel strange about the situation, giggling as they obey with slight hesitation. Then, without warning each is asked to “Slap her!”

As we have come to expect in the modern world, each responds with a “no.” The final edit of Slap Her shows no instances of boys complying with the instruction.

Some might consider this to be evidence of something, but it is nothing more than a gesture. Slap Her doesn’t summarise the larger issue of violence in general, or towards women specifically. Domestic violence is something that develops over time. A child that is taught not to hurt others isn’t going to hit someone just because they are asked to. This, in itself, is an issue, but what doesn’t seem to sit right is the direction it goes from here.

Each boy, having denied the request, is asked why exactly they decided such. Their responses upon close inspection are somewhat alarming.

“Why? Cause she’s a girl, I can’t do it.”

“…I can’t hit her because she’s pretty and she’s a girl.”

“Because I’m a man!”

It should be mentioned that other boys in Slap Her did respond with answers more along the lines of the fact that violence is bad and, in one case, that Jesus doesn’t like it when we hurt others. However, these initial replies are what leave me scratching my head. Do we still base our actions and treatment of others based on what is between their legs?

Slap Her seems to suggest that after all this time we can’t just see that violence is wrong, end of story. Parents continue to fill the future moral landscapes of their children with messages like boys don’t hit girls because girls aren’t as strong as boys, or because boys are bigger than girls or because that isn’t what “real” men do. These teachings are damaging, not just to boys in their journey to becoming fair and just members of society but also to girls who, through the same lessons, are being depicted as not equally capable or able bodied, and simply not on the same plane or spectrum as men.That they need protecting.

This is not to justify violence against women inflicted by men. It is not to say that hitting women should be okay. But the act of saying violence is not okay because of any other base reason then violence is simply not okay is misleading, especially for children who are looking to adults for guidance.

The main argument against this is something totally out of our hands. Sexual dimorphism — the physical differences between men and women — is no doubt where these teachings are based, mixed in with concepts such as what it is to be a real man or woman; chivalry and “lady-likeness.”

Genetically, men are designed to have a more muscular build, a link to our beginnings where the man was the prime protector and needed to be able to fight for and defend females and offspring. In the same vein, women developed more towards being able to support and give birth to life. However, gender roles have since taken leaps and bounds away from these origins, although admittedly there is still a way to go for there to be true gender equality. Women no longer need this constant protection as we step further and further away from a primal world where physical fighting was how we acquired power and control. The environment has changed. In the world we live in, we gain power and control with our minds and our money, not with violence, at least on a civilian level. Now, women are just as capable of providing for their families and/or themselves just as men are taking on new roles that step away from traditional understandings of what it is to be “a man.”

As we step away from this, we need to take a stride from the idea that “boys don’t hit girls because they are girls,” and replace it with “boys don’t hit girls because violence towards anyone isn’t okay!”

The equality of the future begins in the minds of children today.

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