Letter to the editor: Femininity and fear

Tegan Beechey

In the last week, I have watched a fascinating and rather perplexing exchange unfold between Amanda Anastasia Paniagua and Dr. Julio Cesar Pino. While Pino’s response to Paniagua’s letter is my focus, I would like to begin by reinforcing the very rational and meaningful insights provided by Paniagua.

Consider film and literature: When a male character’s physically aggressive behavior is invariably glorified as bold and heroic, we teach our young people that aggression is laudable. When we fail to differentiate appropriate self defense from inappropriate violence, we teach our young people that discretion is either unnecessary or foolish. Even worse, when we portray the rejection of male interest as humiliating and shattering rather than a normal part of the dating process, we teach young people that refusal is a form of insult. The portrait of “normal” masculinity and male behavior forms the way boys learn to be men. It shapes how society views male behavior, and it significantly influences our tendency to diminish the significance of acts of violence or sexual aggression by men.

Pino’s article did not offer any insight into how our culture’s changing definition of femininity influences male behavior. While Paniagua highlighted the problem of violence among American males (a problem that actually victimizes a startling number of males), Pino seemed far more interested in providing a defense of male violence. His claim that men have been robbed of the jobs, educational opportunities and families that form the foundation of a stable life certainly does sound superficially reasonable.

Yet these are problems that are not unique to men and in many cases are a significant threat to women, particularly poorer, younger female minorities. Highlighting these challenges touches upon the problem, but treating them as a unique burden faced by men in the last half century is a subtle (and admittedly clever) condemnation of Title IX, female entry into the workforce, affirmative action, social support programs and other efforts toward the egalitarianism so maligned in Pino’s piece.

While I find it troubling that Pino views competition with females in the labor market, improved access to education and social support programs as an injustice visited upon American men, I am far more disturbed by the manner in which he uses this argument to legitimize violent behavior.

In spite of no realistic link between male violence and femininity, Pino brazenly argues there is an intrinsic connection. As a female, I find this regrettably unsurprising. I would ask Pino this: Which do you believe is more heroic? Someone who tries to justify their behavior by blaming others, or someone who has the courage to face their flaws without fear? That is the question men should ask themselves when struggling with the epidemic of male violence.