Why Degrade Women? It’s Insecurity

frat rape culture 3I’ve written a lot about frat boys degrading women. A quick sampler:

  • Dartmouth frat names and demeans women the brothers had sex with
  • Duke’s Alpha Delta Phi and Sigma Nu issue Halloween invitation to sorority “sluts, bitches, witches” — sprinkling the overture with supplementary disparagements
  • Yale’s Delta Kappa Epsilon chanted, “No means yes! Yes means anal!” around the women’s dorms
  • San Diego State frat boys screamed obscenities, threw eggs, and waved dildos at “Take Back the Night” marchers

Smells like insecurity

People with high self-esteem already know they’re pretty great, or at least just fine, and needn’t put others down to feel bigger by comparison.

Oh, but these guys are at the top of the food chain, you say. College men. Ivy Leaguers.

Fraternity rape culture 4But really, they’re insecure boys on the cusp of manhood. And desperate to prove that they are “men” to their older, higher status, brothers.

Since we rank men and masculinity above women and femininity, men are under constant pressure to “prove manhood.” To prove that they deserve that higher status.

To feel superior, many try to make women feel inferior. (Even as these guys demonstrate how dehumanized they are.)

It seems to be working. Dartmouth senior, Deanna Portero, says, “It’s depressing coming of age here.”

Here we have boys intimidating women in order to create a sense of male superiority that doesn’t exist in nature. If it did, they wouldn’t need to try so hard.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on June 15, 2016, in feminism, men, psychology, rape and sexual assault, sexism, violence against women, women and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 48 Comments.

  1. Obviously and some still feel insecure.

    • And hierarchal cultures like we mostly fine today – as compared with partnership cultures of our past – creates these sorts of problems. When we constantly rank some people as better than other people, a lot of people become insecure and think they have to put others down in order to lift themselves up. Even if they actually demonstrate how low they are.

  2. Is this true of men in their 30s? These sound like stupid little boys (in grown up bodies) in college. Makes me wonder if they have sisters.

    • It seems that the older men get the more secure they feel and the less they behave this way. Many even begin embracing there more feminine side as they get up in age, because they become secure enough to do that.

      And a lot of these guys don’t even want to behave this way, they feel pressured to. I’ll have to write more later about what works to change the behavior/culture.

      • That’s interesting. I’m in my 50’s now and have been know to say “i’m turning into a chick” because I care less and less about what anyone thinks and like some things that i might have eschewed in my 20s.

      • My mom says that her dad was so macho that he really interacted with her when she was a child. But by the time I was born he was very much a doting grandpa.

  3. It’s really kind of the same approach that Donald Trump takes to presidential politics.

  4. I think you are being to easy with these kinds of men when you say they are being insecure. It is more than that. What is really at the core of this kind of behavior is a superiority complex. Plain and simple.

    • You are right that these kinds of people usually belong to, Or are trying to join, high status groups. And yet superiority complexes are tied to insecurity. If people really thought they were that great they wouldn’t have to work so hard to prove it to themselves and others. These bullies seem to be people who are very status conscious yet perceive a gap between how they’re seen and how they think they should be seen.

      It’s like the difference between confidence and bravado. With bravado people are trying to convince themselves and everyone else that they’re really great. True confidence doesn’t need the bravado.

      And some of them are insecurely bowing down to peer pressure.

  5. Such degrading phrases and words about women are often appearing in college context. It also reminds me that woman used to be looked down by others as they were supposed to be at home and take care children, and do not have the ability to obtain higher education or work outside of home. Although this had changed starting in recent centuries. Women’s capabilities had long been underestimated by others as they appear weak and vulnerable in many social media. For instance, many perfume advertisements degrading women by picturing a shirtless woman who’s laying and posing sexually, specifically, the famous brand, Calvin Klein. The word “Obsession for men”. These kind of images indirectly conveying the meanings that women shall be submissive and controlled by men. These kind of degrading images and phrases not only make women feel uncomfortable about their identity, it also builds an unhealthy community where the genders aren’t treated equally. As the title clearly stated, “Why Degrade Women? It’s Insecurity.” Indeed, men feel insecure because they want to prove their manhood, as it already become a culture in the society, according the that blog author. It is important to treat both men and women equally so that no one is under depression of being downgraded. I believe that both men and women were created for a purpose, each gender play an important role in a society, thus, people need to respect each other’s identity.

    • Yes, if we didn’t rank men above women then men wouldn’t feel like they have to work so hard to deserve their high status, constantly having to prove their manhood or even doing horrible things like I described in this post.

  6. Insecurity and inferiority complex are the main reasons. Since they are under constant pressure to prove themselves, as you’ve said, they sometimes go beyond the limit. Unfortunately, the number of such type of men is increasing with misogyny becoming a fad these days….. 😦

    • Misogyny tends to rear its head as a backlash against women’s equality. And as I recall you live in India where women are quickly gaining equality and at the same time facing a big backlash. If India keeps up the equality, This phase should pass. It has an other cultures. In the United States it’s not so pervasive in everyday life, But you sure do find it in spades in fraternities and locker rooms.

  7. Hmm…interesting post. I’ve never seen specific statistics on the perpetrators of campus assaults, it’s almost always been presented, in the media mostly, as simply athletes or top students with little or maybe a passing mention of their affiliation with a fraternity. Thinking about it, it makes a lot of sense to downplay their fraternity affiliation as one could never emphasize with a frat boy and his blatant immaturity and willful buffoonery. Nevertheless, I don’t know how much of degrading young women has to do with just insecurity. Yes, males and masculinity are consistently prized ,revered and pronounced as “the best thing ever that women will never have” especially in a fraternity where “bros before hoes” is the mantra, so why the need to consistently and repeatedly degrade and put women in their place? Why not just focus exclusively on other “lesser men”. I think it’s a feeling of anxiety, especially when you factor in being at an ivy college mixed with institutional/ingrained sexism and latent misogyny. As boys mature into young men, feelings of anxiousness occur, “will I be as good as my father?” which necessitates the need to do something to reassure themselves that they will not only be as good but better. Combine this with the belief that women are not only inferior but almost unworthy of any sort of humanity, it becomes easy to target them as tools to use for reassurance and the propagation of their burgeoning manhood. Boys have been taught that women hold the key to their manhood i.e you’re not a man till you’ve been with a woman. Thus, they need to degrade them to take away not only the potential power that comes with holding this key but the anxiety that they won’t achieve it. Anxiety breeds, in the end, a sexual power struggle that is solely perpetrated by young men anxious over the status of their masculinity both internally and externally with women ,unfortunately being the casualties of that anxiety.

    Also, I would hesitate to say that these men probably have an extremely high sense of self-esteem as high self-esteem can lead one to feel superior to others and “be prone to self-satisfied boasting” , sounds like a frat boy to me.

  8. They are just boys, and coming of age in a terrible culture of misogyny and privilege. Not a good combination. I don’t think we have the same problem in Australia, because we don’t have the same tradition of living on campus.

  9. There’s no doubt about it that men are completely wrong in degrading women and their actions should be reprimanded. However, before we start pointing fingers at males and egos, we need to take into account the underlying issue of what drives them to feel the need to make derogatory remarks. To me, society and they way men are expected to behave is the cause behind the insults. Since birth, parents teach males to reinforce their dominance in several aspects, such as the colors they wear and the toys they play with. We teach our boys to not show emotion and tell them that crying is bad. By not allowing them to express their emotions the way a female is allowed to, the double standards create a vicious cycle that males are now caught in. We need to show them that vulnerability and showing of emotions is not weakness, but a strength of its own. Maybe then frats will begin to respect women universally and end their comments.

    • Well as I said it’s a mix of two things: a society that ranks men above women + egos that are desperate to prove they deserve that higher status.

      And if these guys get that putting women down makes them look like insecure weaklings (the opposite of how they want to be seen) that could actually help to decrease misogyny.

  10. Another major issue with the correlation of disrespect of women and insecurity in males is the approach to Greek life culture. Going to a school with a huge fraction of students being involved in fraternities and sororities, I’ve seen the benefits and drawbacks of having such a culture. I feel as if my school is more unique in its approach to safety and reform in Greek life. As a whole though, Greek culture seems to reinforce the idea of women being superior to men and contributes to the degrading of the females. Party names/themes such as “Colonial Bros and Nava-hoes” exemplify the disrespect that is encouraged by frats. If we turn the core values of these frats around and incorporate a sense of mutual respect amongst all genders, only then the derogatory remarks will cease and real change will result. But the motivation and drive has to be intrinsic in order for change to occur. By continuing and encouraging such disrespect, men will remain insecure.

  11. I agree. These sorts of actions are definitely root in insecurities. At my school last year there was going to be¬ a party put on by a fraternity titled “Colonial Bros and Nava-Hoes.” Thankfully the school heard about it before it happened and it was canceled. It still made me ashamed to attend the same school as those guys. They felt so insecure about themselves that they felt the need to tell women that they are worth less than them. The worst part about it is that I bet that 50 girls just as insecure would have shown up to that party in skimpy little Indian outfits and then would have proceeded to talk crap on the other girls there that “don’t look as hot as them.” I think that an important thing to take note of is that this behavior is not limited to men ranking higher than women. Women use similar tactics to try to calm their insecurities by establishing their dominance over other women. The main difference between men and women is that they have different methods. Women can be just as vicious and catty as men. So yes, I ask men and women alike, why degrade women? Insecurity.

    • The only reason to put someone else down is to lift yourself up. So whenever you see someone doing that, Male or female, you know that’s behind it.

      In addition we live in a society that ranks men and masculinity over women and femininity. That creates a social pattern where men constantly have to prove they deserve a high status — that they don’t actually deserve. That creates another level of insecurity and makes it easier to act and misogynist ways, When we live in a misogynist society.

      It’s a social pattern. In contrast to sororities constantly demeaning men.

  12. It seems like these young guy are trying hard to prove that they are “men” and therefore, feel the need to degrade women it such a horrible way. I believe that society as well as there upbringing plays a big part in their behavior. It’s sad how society has portrayed women for so long. You see it through media, television, music, commercials etc. Women are seen as nothing more than sex objects, but I can’t totally place the blame on society or the media, because if we as women wouldn’t allow this type of treatment or allow ourselves to this type of exposure it would be non existent. When it’s all said and done, real man who are not insecure about themselves do not act or treat women with such disrespect. It’s only obvious these boys are insecure and trying to prove a point about there manhood, otherwise they wouldn’t act in such a way.

  13. Araceli Toscano-Hernandez

    In a twisted way these frat boys are the ones who feel inferior because of their constant need to be “Alpha” and outrank females and their own gender as well.The way they show their insecurities, say a lot about the male mind. In an Ivy league where many already feel the pressure to be the best of the best, they could’ve been the smartest in high school or college but are now surrounded by other students who meet their level. Making them in the same level as everything else. As this sets in, their manhood is deteriorating by other “men,” surpassing their previous level and the worst part is that the “easy” targets are the women that are close quarters. Young ladies are turning into women at this stage in their life and this can be very discouraging for them. It reminds me of the movie, Neighbors 1 and the following sequel, Neighbors 2. Frats are allowed to throw parties, but sororities are not. The only way to go to a lavish party is through the frats house. These parties want women with tight clothes, pretty girls, and just as Georgia Platts mentions that Yale Delta Kappa Epsilon chanted, “No means yes! Yes means anal!,” in the movie frat boys also had posters up that said, “no means yes.” There is a drastic change where Neighbors 1 had the wolf pack mentality where everything goes and women are just sex toys, to then to Neighbors 2 where one frat graduate man stays behind and sees what really is wrong with these messages, since he no longer needs to put up a show for the other boys in the frat. Regardless, this is too late since college girls learn that their self worth is on how they dress and look because nothing says more than showing some cleavage and getting raped because she was asking for it since no means yes.

  14. I was just thinking about this theme the other day actually. I’ve noticed as a rule of thumb anytime people invent enemies instead of dealing with conflict in a direct manner as it comes up they are doing so out of insecurity. When you invent an enemy, it brings insecure people a tangible face to all of their issues — it makes them feel empowered (even if it is a false sense of empowerment) to exercise their aggression and hatred. We see this exercised a lot with the privileged who feel they are losing power when equality begins to rise with the less privileged — Hitler… neo-Nazism in America… Trump (though Trump seems to be exploiting this theme in order to rise to power)…

    After Mohammad Ali passed away I did a lot of research on him and in one interview they were addressing his refusal to join the army. In that interview, the reason he provided is that no Vietcong had ever done him wrong, so why would he fly overseas to go kill them? This is the reasoning of a very secure, grounded person who’s not afraid of dealing with conflict as it arises instead of attempting to force conflict in order to prove their worth to others — he knows his worth.

    It is a very scary thing in this world… displaced aggression… because that suggests it can happen to anyone at anytime — all it takes is a very insecure person who somehow deduced in their minds that you, an innocent person, deserve their aggression. In a juxtaposition of true power to the illusion of power, there are many lessons to be learned.. that can benefit a lot of people.

  15. I have a difficult time even fathoming the desire to “come of age” in this disgusting way. However, in college I have seen first hand the inability of a male at college age to read social cues, and to behave in an adult environment.
    Personally, I think college is an incredibly unique time because students have this mental capacity for greatness, but a behavioral capacity to do whatever they want, or what the society expects of them at this time, without parental, or school regulation. It is the first time that young adults have apartments that they can have sex in, without sneaking, or interruption. Combine this with the societal pressure that being a virgin is not cool, and having sex, specifically with girls, is praised. The young males in this new form of societal pressure search for their peers to encourage and validate a job well done, therefore the means by which it occurs becomes unimportant. Several slang terms and high fives are exchanged after intercourse with a woman, regardless of the way it occurred. So, in this way, it is almost inevitable that a certain percentage of men are unable to separate a “No.” from their carnal desire to fit in.
    Women tend to become a merit badge on a man’s shoulder in college, especially in a socially abrasive group such as a frat house. Hazing degrades the newcomers, and women become the stepping stones to earn respect in that society. So, in part, I think it is a piece of insecurity that is exploited in a fraternity environment, making it grow until there is an overwhelming urge to release that insecurity on someone deemed lesser than they. It’s equivalent to bullying, people bully one another because of a personal flaw, expecting tearing someone else down will make them superior, and better. Bullying, and rape, and the degradation of women are not the answers to any of life’s insecurities.

  16. Being in college and around a lot of young men that fit into this profile, I can say that it is not only accurate but so ingrained into the rite of passage for men in American society. Most of these men have been raised to believe these things from their childhood and had their harmful actions reinforced through positive responses from those around them. This problem needs to be addressed not only through the intervention of harmful behavior but in the way that we raise boys from the start.

  17. Yes i would have to agree these men feel the need to prove themselves, that they are the best and who ever can get the most girls and sleep with them are praised, to me i feel they do this to earn respect from their friends or the other guys. Since this society is ranked with men above women what would happen it was the other way around? I wonder if these “boys” would act the same and keep degrading us women. I kind of have to agree when they say they have sex with a lot of girls because they feel insecure because i had a friend in high school who would sleep around with different guys and she told me it made her feel “wanted” someone wanted to spend time with her she enjoyed it every time, but little did she know it was killing her image in high school but she simply did not care and none of these guys were going to respect her.

    • A number of women in my classes have written about having that exact experience: sleeping with men in hopes of feeling better about themselves. Meanwhile, the guys described here are in competition to see who can sleep with the most women — which creates insecurity.

  18. An important ingredient to masculinity is a hierarchy. Essentially masculinity is a task that needs to be proven, and so as a society, we give “reason” for a hierarchy to exist. Now, the impossible is to actually keep up with society’s definition of “manhood;” many men turn to degrading women in many different ways to ultimately do that. For example, batterers often try to create a sense of power by “beating down their wife to lift themselves up.” There is always this sense of beating someone in a competitive nature that the system of masculinity encourages — and sadly women have too often become victims of these insecurities.

  19. Tuyet Jasmine

    This is why I’m a bit scared to go to a University.. finding out how it’s really like in the fraternity and sorority. I feel as that name calling women and degrading them using terms such as “sluts, bitches, whore’s, hoe’s and witches” is really low and males who degrade women are insecure. Just because you want to feel superior and like a “man” doesn’t mean you have to degrade women. College boys need to check their behavior.

  20. Yes, I also do think that frat boys tend to speak on woman with such a negative language because they are insecure and even by doing that there are still some that still feel insecure. It seems as if they are trying to prove that they are “men” and by using this language is what makes them men, machos, stronger, superior to women. This means that they feel less themselves to begin with, they know that a woman can bring so much to a table and that a woman is worth so much, yet they lack on accepting that. I think this has to do with how males are raised, a male should be able to feel the same way a woman does, show emotions, cry, be silly and not have any barriers as to what they can and cant do. In order for men to stop degrading woman, males need to start being raised in such a macho environment. Let them be free as to what they feel.

    • When we stop ranking men above women men won’t feel and need to create an artificial sense of their superiority by putting women down. We are making gains but we haven’t arrived at equality yet.

  21. Being a college student myself currently, I have definitely noticed college men would degrade women in this way. I have actually heard of my guy friends say that since they have had sexual relations with a female they would write them on a list and degrade them when they saw them on campus. Reading this article only affirmed my reactions to what my friend told me in the past. I agree that men do this so that they can seem more masculine or have a higher social status compared to women or even compared to other men in their club or fraternity. I think our society today just is so competitive and we are constantly trying to be better than our peers. This makes us want to degrade others in this whole process. We see the need to make fun of others or act superior to others in order to be “better” then the other person. I also agree that yes this issue has to do with insecurity issues with these men but it also has to do with the superiority complex.

  22. It is so sad that they feel the need to prove themselves by oppressing women. It is not right that they are degrading women and it is not right that they think it is okay because it is just them coming to terms with their manhood. Men need to be taught that being a man is not about disrespecting women or anyone in the matter. Some justify their actions by saying they are traditions and that it is just all fun and games, but those are not good enough reasons to dehumanize any group of people. Because at the end of the day that is what women are they are people like everyone else and they too deserve to be treated with respect regardless of the traditions that the frats already have; they need to understand that some traditions need to be broken. They also need to learn that they do not have to prove their manhood to anyone especially to people who think it is okay to disrespect other people.

  23. I truly believe the reason why men would have any reason to degrade women is the fact that they are insecure. It’s similar to the syndrome of men who are small, that need to act tough to prove that their size doesn’t match who they are. It was said that “more than ¼ of victims say their assailant was a fraternity member.” I believe this to be true because of the nature of men who are part of that age group. Most of them are coming into early or mid stages of manhood, and feel the need to prove to their peers that they are at the top of the food chain. Something about calling women derogatory names and insulting them gives them a sense of pleasure, and confidence. I don’t believe this is necessary for these men to be doing so. They made it into good colleges, they are already at a place in their lives where respect is automatically given to them, and there is little evidence as to why it would be necessary to commit these acts. It is because of this way of thinking though that more and worse situations are beginning to happen. Especially under the influence of drugs and alcohol, when proving your worth to your peers, it is possible to take that extra step and get yourself locked up because of insecurity.

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