Millennial Misogyny (September 16, 2009)

I was going to create a lark of a post today. Yesterday afternoon while walking down Lincoln Avenue near Belmont, a man stopped in his car at a red light gave me a smile. He was unselfconsciously listening to great 80s movie theme song “St Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion)” For all the people under 27 who have no idea what I am talking about, this ditty was sung by one-hit wonder John Parr, to go along with a most excellent, cheesy Brat Pack film by the same name – minus the “Man in Motion” part.

Sigh. Ok, the Brat Pack consists of people like Rumer Willis’s mom and the guy who played Victory’s boyfriend on “Lipstick Jungle.” Kids today.

Anyway, the idea I was working on is that everyone has their own “pump it up” jam, that song that uniquely seems to get you going when you need an internal shot of adrenaline. This dude, as Paula Abdul might have said before she left AI, showed those of us on Lincoln his “heart” when he belted out “And I’m coming alive!” toward the end of the song’s bridge – windows open, warbly, offkey voice booming. Marvelous. For my own part, my “pump it up” jams vary from Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger,” to Kevin Rudolph’s “Let it Rock.” There are others, but we’ll save that for another time.

I was just sitting on my couch catching a few minutes of CNN before I sat down to write this. I was quite pleased with myself on having located a relatable slice of life piece to share, rather than the usual details of my personal muck, or my lefty political rants. I was about to put out my stick of burning incense and retreat to the office, when the following story rolled across the screen:

Cops: Woman gang raped in Hofstra U. dorm
18-year-old student allegedly forced into room, assaulted by five men

And this is right on the heels of:

Yale student murder: police investigate lab technician
Investigators of Annie Le murder focus on wounded lab technician who failed polygraph test

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, more than 52 % of all rape/sexual assault victims are females younger than 25. Maybe the recent spate of high profile and gruesome stories makes the situation seem more like a dire epidemic than day to day reality reflects, but clearly we have a problem on our hands. And why? How did this happen?

Haven’t some of us complacently lulled ourselves into believing we are more progressive as a nation? Isn’t the Millennial Generation supposed to bring us hope in terms of thoughtful open mindedness toward the treatment of ethnic, sexual and religious groups? I know I have been guilty of seeing only what I want to see at times. And I believe a growing number of our nation’s youth ARE learning to coexist peacefully, though you need look no further than the disappointing displays of racism disguised as “disagreement” with our President, to know we have a long way to go.

But a scary number of our young people show a callous, sinister disregard for any human lives but their own. It is time to address it in a serious way. Some will blame indulgent, lax parenting as the problem, and it may certainly be a catalyst toward the criminal irresponsibility of these young men. But we’re talking about more than simply morals and values here. Something is broken within our social code, and I have watched it degenerate palpably in my own relatively young lifetime. Women may have more power in the workplace, marketplace and at the ballot box than they ever have. Unfortunately, one of the dire consequences of that growth is an intensifying, seething anger on the part of a fringe segment of our young men. Now I am no psychologist, but it would seem this fringe feels somehow emasculated, even at the “privileged” levels of the social hierarchy. They are dealing with those feelings of powerlessness by attacking and mutilating, reasserting their own physical authority.

I don’t know where to start. Violence against women is unfortunately an issue as old as humanity itself. But I hope that America’s institutions of higher learning get together and start coming up with some ideas. I want to hear them. I do not want anymore promising young women cut down, scarred and abused when they should be studying hard and finding their own youthful “pump it up” jams.


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