Being A Man Doesn’t Mean Looking Down On Women 

Real men respect women.

By Luis Castro 

Middle school boys can be fierce. Not all of them, but most of them are.

That’s when they start getting exposed to the dirty side of life, like gangsta rap and porn, or just bad influences which teach boys to disrespect girls. So they come to think that they are better than girls just because they are masculine.

I know from experience.

On my first day of middle school I was just a shy 11-year-old who didn’t know anybody because my family had just moved to a new neighborhood. A guy named Knox caught my attention because he seemed so cool. So I studied him and caught onto his ways.

He introduced me to all the things that were “in” at the time. He taught me to be rude and sarcastic towards people. He taught me that you don’t take anything from anyone – especially not a girl!

I’m not proud of that today, but at the time I didn’t know any better. I mean, I knew I was doing something wrong, but that knowledge was trapped beneath the surface. It gnawed at me from time to time and when it finally came to light it left me in a double bind: if I chose not to be like Knox I would be a loser. But if I did choose to be like him I would be a follower who was behaving very badly. But I wanted to fit in, which led me to be a complete asshole for pretty much my whole middle school career.

Not all guys realize the wrong they are doing, I think those are the guys who end up being abusive partners.

My big wake up call came when my dad set me straight. Or when I finally stopped blocking his wise advice. He always told me to be respectful toward women. He taught me to see everyone equally. And I could only shield myself from his words for so long before my conscience kicked in.

In my early years of adolescence I made a bad decision to be the complete opposite of what my dad had taught me. But eventually his words sunk in. That is why I think parents are crucial to their sons’ development.

I did finally see that Knox was a bad influence and realized that I did not need to be rude and disrespectful just to feel masculine and dominant.

We can always choose new paths in life. I’m glad I did.

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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 January 21, 2020, in men, sexism and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 38 Comments.

  1. While its never okay to be a mean person, I believe being young complicates things. Middle school is a terrible time for most people in some way, and shouldn’t be a reflection of them once they grow up. I was not a mean person growing up, but I knew several people who were. Almost all of them are much better now and have grown up from that past. If you can look back and grow from those mistakes, I believe it can completely redeem yourself. Many people have a difficult childhood or try to follow in the footsteps of someone. Middle school and high school are great times to learn about yourself and become your own person, overcoming those past actions. I would never hang on the past and only use it as a reference to better yourself.

  2. I agree middle school is the age gap where young boys and girls get introduced to more hardcore things. From the perspective of a female I can agree that boys tend to be more carless about the feelings us girls have during that age, considering the fact that most girls are growing up to be young women at that age getting their menstrual cycle and feeling more insecure about their bodies. It makes it easier to be put down by word or actions of boys. It is also the age where girls start to become curious about boys and relationships making themselves easier targets because they just want to be noticed and therefore take anything from boys. It’s sad to think of the boys that don’t have a parent or guardian to guide them to the correct path because like mention this can be the leading cause to abusive men in relationships. A lot of times men that didn’t have someone to look up to tend to go down a different path then the ones who did.

  3. I can agree with you when you say that middle school is that time of life where you are exposed to many different things, and it all happens so quick. The pressure of fitting in, and feeling like you belong there. Unfortunantely, it is also the time where girls are growing, physically, and mentally. Speaking from experience as well, getting viewed as sexual at such a young age is scary, and so uncomftorable. There is not enough awareness of how much it still happens today. Along with the peer pressure, boys tend to rely on their friends as role models. Some how they feel the need to follow the same exact steps when it comes to disrespect. I have seen kids I went to middle school with do that exact thing, and it’s as if they got brainwashed and could never see themselves NOT be like their friends. Fortunate for you that you had someone, which was your father, to teach you right from wrong. A lot of times males tend to get critized for seeking help, because it is not considered “manly”. Middle school is the age where both boys and girls are learning about themselve and surroundings, they should be able to do safely, and freely.

  4. I do not know what to say about the age of eleven should know some which is wrong and which is right. It means I am not trying to blame at all. I think if I were in your shoes at the age of eleven, I will neither follow the way they taught nor influenced. One reason I believe is all are human beings and no one is above other whether a boy for his masculinity. At the same time, I also consider for the peer pressure as well as appraisal of masculinity because I cannot avoid the gendered division and gendered power given to male. In fact, male has physically and socially constructed power. Although men or boys must not condemn or not behave like the gang Knox do that they are better than girls. At that point, what I realize is the role model and teachings for the perceptions towards gender is very important for the whole life. I have been coming across with many myths that masculinity as a power at all time. Men are taught to seek power for success of his life including financial life, marriage life, family life and so on. Usually, men are characterized of having greater potency, competence, and more manipulative role. But, seeking of power must be in a correct way _ not pressing on girls or women or not taking advantages over the other sex. Humiliation on girls or women is not a practice for boys or men. In hiring for a position, the differentiation of sex is not acceptable.

  5. Growing up I believe that there is a need to teach young ones how they should treat both women and men. Many grow up lost and never had anyone teach them nor did they have anyone to look up to. This then leads into abusive relationships as they get older which then becomes a bigger problem as they continue to grow. Masculinity is indeed a big important factor that plays a huge role in today’s world/ society and for so long it has been. It is a big problem in middle schools because of the fact that boys seem to think that they are way better than girls. This is why they tend to look down on them and think it is fine to treat them the way they do. Many at that age do not know any better and they do it to try to fit in and be perceived as “cool” by their peers.

  6. This post shows us how important it is for men not just to treat women with respect but towards everyone. I am a girl and I remember from my middle school years, boys would be mean, they would say inappropriate things and even do inappropriate things. I never understood why but when I think about it, the only boys who were like this were the “popular” ones. Eventually some of the other boys decided to be the same way just so they won’t feel left out or feel like a loser, it is a desperation of wanting to fit in. Coming from a Hispanic household, we were always told to treat everyone with respect, but when it came to the boys of my family, they were always told to never disrespect a woman and to treat their girlfriend like queens. It is very important for young boys to have role models to teach them values that will help them out in life.

  7. This is very true about having role models to look up to and teach kids how to treat people and how to not treat them. Some people who don’t have good role models sometimes come out on the bad side, but some still become respectful people in spite of their lack of guidance. I think it depends on the character development in a person, but having a respected and knowledgeable role model can have a great impact. Kids don’t know right from wrong and they need guidance to learn how to treat women, as well as men, with respect. If kids are being taught by unwise peers to stand dominant over women, the world will not continue to progress. Some pop culture, like you stated, can influence toxic masculinity and kids need an adult to help them realize what they should avoid and what’s okay to follow. Similar to how this is titled, just because one is a man does not deem them to look down on females. Learning that the opposite of this is true is a step down the wrong path of morals.

  8. Growing up in a household with all men showed me a lot about how a man should treat a woman. I grew up in a house with my dad and my 3 brothers. As I am the youngest of the 4, I always saw how they would treat their girlfriends with love and respect. I knew that this is the way I would want a man to treat me one day and that I wouldn’t settle for anything less. Nevertheless my brothers didn’t always treat women with such respect. When they were all in elementary and middle school they were so mean to girls. For some reason they thought that they were above them. I think that this comes from trying to fit in with the other boys and trying to seem “cool” to one another. After a while as they grew older they seemed to realize that being disrespectful to girls isn’t cool at all. When they were in high school that’s when I started to see a change in each of them for the better. Now they all have a strong admiration for women and what we go through everyday.

  9. I’d be interested in hearing from anyone who had a GOOD time in middle school (what we used to call “Jr. High”). From what I recall, brutality, both verbal and physical, flowed pretty freely in all directions.

    Has any society figured out a way to avoid it?

    • Are used to be puzzled by the desire to escape rebirth and achieve Nirvana by Buddhists and Hindus until someone explained, “would you want to have to relive middle school over and over again?” So I get what you’re saying.

      I did hear of a new middle school that was making a real effort for all of the kids to get to know each other and appreciate each other. I can’t remember exactly how they are doing it but all sorts of activities. I hope it works! (Maybe that sort of thing helps when it’s a new school?) It’s in a community with a particularly high youth suicide rate, though, so I guess that tells you something.

  10. I believe the vast majority of males respect women.

    • I think they do, too.

      But I also think that in some circles, especially among fraternities, or in circles of friends like my student described here, there can be some pressure to disrespect women.

  11. My parents divorced when I was about three years old. From my experience being raised by a single mother, it is undeniable that my love, respect, and appreciation for women came from the love, strength, perseverance, competence, and honesty my mother showed as she raised me. I was always comparing what she did for me to what little my father did for me. I was able to see my father on weekends but then came a time when I stopped seeing him all together. Even when I did see him, no memorable moments were conceived, I just wanted to go back home. I was developing a respect for women through my mother’s actions, and a suspicion to what it means to be a man through my father. I continually developed this respect for women because of what my mother was able to accomplish as an immigrant in this country, only setting her worlds apart from my father, reinforcing what a woman is capable of. Looking back at my early school years of elementary and middle school, I never wanted to do anything to upset my mother. I surely made mistakes as a kid, as we all do, but never did it cross my mind that by being a boy I had to prove to others my masculinity or show dominance. After all, without my father in the picture much, all the masculine examples came from uncles, older cousins, and friends from the neighborhood I grew up in, with none of them having much to say or follow after. I didn’t grow up in the best area so all the older kids did things my mother wanted me to stay away from. I still hung out with the older kids in my neighborhood because they had younger siblings that I would play with. There was a part of me that still wanted to emulate what they were doing but at the end of the day I knew my mother would not want me to go down these paths. There was so much disrespect and ignorance that the males around me displayed towards women that it did not register in my head how they were capable of acting in such ways. A lot of kids in my area lacked supportive father and mother figures so this likely played a significant role. As a man in my early twenties being able to reflect on these things now, I give respect to not just women, but to the people who gets things done through honest hard work and lead with love and respect. It is this notion that leads me through life as a young man, eventually to become a parent, a father of my own.

  12. Unfortunately misogyny is still widely common throughout the globe. I agree with Luis, the elders in young boys lives really do affect the way they look at women. But despite the adults in the kids lives, pop culture plays a huge part in this too. Ever notice how most male rapper songs include calling women the b-word, hoe, slut, etc. And even encourage the act of cheating and lying to them. If kids are listening to this kind of music (which is sadly super catchy and made by some talented people who can’t channel their talent into another direction) then what influences will they carry with them? Males will encourage their friends to treat their girlfriends with less respect, because when they DO give respect, they’re considered “whipped”. Yes, it’s the bare minimum to just respect women and should be easy. But the fact that society makes it hard to reach this bare minimum is something our generation needs to work on.

  13. I think that the upbringing of boys definitely defines who they are as men. I can say that since I was fortunate that my father is very respectful to my mom and the fact that I have an older sister already gave me an idea of how I thought women should be treated. I think that in society that a lot of people try to give men this slap on the wrist or “look the other way” type of treatment for being rude and obnoxious just because they might be bigger and stronger than women. I think also it has a lot to do with the environment too. For instance, if a boy grows up with his parents being in an abusive-marriage he will be more than likely to follow in those footsteps and think that it is normal and okay for him to do the same things. Lastly, I think how this attention or want to be “cool” clouds the judgement of a lot of boys to break those habits early too.

  14. Hello I enjoyed this post very much. It just comes to show that no matter how cool and big and bad one might want to be remember the sensible guidance our parents advice. For they are truly giving advice to better you and not to make you the disrespectful cool guy in the schoolyard. It is true that young men especially those in their early teens need they guidance of a father figure when other miscreants are calling them out. Young girls too need father figures in this time also. The advice from their fathers helps them to not choose the boys that feel treating and speaking to females that particular way is perfectly fine, when its not our young generation needs to be taught that we need to respect one another no matter gender that everyone is equal. All adolescents need to adhere to our parents words of wisdom. For they are truly giving guidance to better us and not to make you the disrespectful cool guy in the schoolyard as “friends”do. Thank you for sharing your post with us.

  15. Middle school in this era is so wild according to my sister. From a 7th grader getting busted for selling drugs, to her own friend telling her that her boyfriend hit her. Times are changing and teens are trying to become adults. Most of kids start of shy in middle school because it’s a step up to getting a bit more of freedom. Of course any kid is gonna want to be considered “cool” therefore it is more easier for them to get into drugs and all that stuff. Teens at that age don’t really know that there are eventually consequences/ repercussions for their actions. Just like Luis, many students are blinded by this fake hierarchy that they created themselves, that they would do mostly anything to become known. That is why it is so important to have a figure who kids respect, for them to have someone to guide them. I just wonder how Luis would’ve turned out if his dad would have been the same as the kid he was trying to impress. Parent influence is so important and definitely shapes the way kids are in the future.

  16. I wonder why Knox was like that in the first place. To clarify, why he was misogynistic at a young age. Possibly bad role models? Possibly the “gangsta rap and porn” as you mention. I have a feeling, if he treats all females like that, he would treat his mother like that, too. But, we do not have the whole picture, so maybe he’s an orphan, and lacks a mother figure and/or motherly love. I feel sorry for Knox that he believes/ed that women should be treated with disrespect to look “cool.” But I also feel irritated that nobody spoke up to him, set him straight, in your words. And, yes, as you say, those are the types of boys who grow up to be abusive.

    Usually, in my experience, kids who are this disrespectful, not only to women, but to anyone, are not taught how to respect. They are not taught the importance and basic human communication and social skill that exists in the value of respect. Not just externally displaying it. And the ways it could externally be shown are more obvious, not raising the voice in verbal altercations, not being rude and mean to others regarding their beliefs, or looks, even if what they say or how they look is not your cup of tea, respect is the basic kindness everyone deserves to have and to show in return. Internally, it is a type of justice, to me; it is an indication of a good moral compass. Thank you for sharing your story.

  17. Your post has a lot of relevance to my life right now, I am a parent of a middle school boy and we have come across the delight of the school change as my son enters the roller coaster of hormonal fun. He is learning from his friends (and i am sure passing his knowledge on too) how easily you can access websites with adult material (be it sexual or excessive violence). He has a new found fun with testing boundaries of language use at home around his younger siblings and feeling the power that language has over other when you use it to demean them. My son is generally thought of as a good kid, his explorations are normal, but require constant policing and intervention. He is not allowed to use words he does not understand the meaning and origin of, we openly discuss these between my husband, my son and myself. We talk about how certain words make us feel or situations where they are or are not appropriate. I am learning a lot about my husband and his language use as much as my own and what urban dictionary has to say!

    Being a fierce middle school male is about learning who you really are amongst all the personalities popping up around you, trying these personalities on and discarding them. As a parent, my job is to help them see how that personality affects those around them, how they treat others can be how they can expect to be treated themselves. Respect for all people and their choices, reminders that we are all human and trying our best and helping them navigate the terrible world of language. It doesn’t help that I am british as even a fanny pack to me is something to snigger at.

  18. Years ago, I worked with kids at a day camp at a zoo. In order to keep all the kids together, we had colored wristbands that would change from day to day. One day, I had a dad approach me shortly after drop off, and ask why his son had been given a pink wristband. “It’s just the color every child has today, it’ll be different tomorrow”. He still demanded that his son have a “manlier color”. I couldn’t change the band, but after I called the color ‘salmon’ he was magically ok with it. His son was 4.

    The huge impact that role models have on young children is often forgotten by parents. The people that our children look up to shape their worldviews and can lead to damaging subconscious bias.
    The author of this post was lucky, he was able to escape his toxic thought pattern and listen to his father. I can only hope that the boy at the zoo is able to do the same one day.

    • Interesting story. Thanks for sharing.

      It shows how symbolic our world is. The same color is OK if you call it salmon. And many years ago part of the United States actually associated pink with boys (because it was thought such a robust color) while the more “delicate“ blue was associated with girls.

  19. I think that this post goes to show just how important father figures are in policing their young sons or other young men. Fathers are just as important as mothers in the process of young adolescents becoming good, respectable adults. Especially for young men they need father figures to look up to, to see how to treat women the right way. Young men, especially around middle school time where they are beginning to go through puberty, look around at others around them to try to be the most “cool” or most manly amongst their peers. Many times they go to the extremes to gain that popularity or notoriety amongst their peers just like the above example with Knox. Although I didn’t go to most of those extremes to gain popularity in my adolescent years, I do remember trying in other ways to gain popularity or trying to impress my friends. I made my middle school football team and I tried to sit with guys older than me to try to seem more “cool”. Fathers are so important in guiding our young men to not only be comfortable with who they are but with treating women with respect and dignity. I had a feud with my next door neighbor, a girl, and we both were pretty nasty to each other at times. My dad ultimately stepped in and had a talk with me to tell me that some of the things I was saying and doing weren’t right and to stop immediately. That girl and I are friends now but without my father stepping in and teaching me that lesson I don’t know what my behavior could have escalated to.

  20. This is interesting because it’s not just boys who need a father figure around but sometimes girls need a father figure or a male role model around. Influences or not, I’ve heard it said over the years that boys who only have their mothers and no appropriate male influences or role models are more likely to go off the rails a bit because of the lack of a father figure but there is also the idea that if our fathers are going to teach us these things they do have to practice what they preach or that’s how I see it anyway or how I feel at any rate. There is the notion also that children who witness abuse in the home are more likely to act out what they observe knowing full well what they are observing or have observed is wrong. In the olden days violence in the home was kept behind closed doors and sometimes we’re too blind to see what damage we are doing ourselves by hanging out with the wrong people but this is not so much gender specific it goes both ways.

    • Children definitely turn out better when they have two parents. There is more emotional and financial support. And different parents have different types of personalities which children can learn from.Of course, children can’t turn out just fine when they have a single parent like I did and most people think the Kennedy children, John and Caroline, turned out exceptionally well. But more support is better.

      The most important thing is to have a parent or parents who are emotionally healthy.

  21. The question I have and never really followed the studies and idk if you know, but whether abusive men can be rehabbed. I’m not talking about pedophiles, I hate how lenient our justice system is on some men or some crimes. But it seems like pedophiles and molesters never rehabilitate. But I’m talking about abusive asshole guys, as in domestic violence. I know men avoid seeing their problems or trying to fix their problems and our culture causes men to avoid getting help. The reason I ask, is while I’d love these assholes to rot in prison. The reality is that, that will not happen many times, so rehab is important. What happens is guys may get restraining orders which really doesn’t do shit, or they may go in jail if charges are pressed by their Spouse. But it’s usually just for a short time and then they are back and more angry and abusive to their partner when out. T

    he fact of the matter is that, unless the man is dead, in prison for a very long time (which would be too late, as that seems like it would only happen if such man kills his spouse/children or rapes a woman), he will be free to continue his rampage. It’s hard to women to leave such situations, but even if a woman manages to get away and he eventually gives up on finding her. What do you think will happen? That woman might be fine, but such abusive men will eventually date or marry another woman and then so goes the cycle again. As much as I like this dudes to just be in prison and stay there, the reality is that it rarely happens. So it seems like preventative stuff where you have guys who have gone through things talk to the trouble male youth and like try to prevent that path. But you also need counseling to be more socially acceptable for such troubled men to work out such issues so this cycle of abuse can stop and get to underlying issues causing it. I don’t know the stats on if it works. There’s stuff for people addicted to drugs or alcohol or they are because of underlying problems, but even these people who manage to be sober for many years. They have to maintain constant focus to not have a drink or smoke and start the downward spiral again that they continued to stay sober for so long.

    • From what I understand men can be rehabilitated from behaving abusively if they are motivated enough, but most aren’t motivated enough.

      It also depends on why the person is behaving that way. This student of mine behaved that way because he was trying to be cool and fit in and he had a sense of manhood when he was younger that was associated with abuse and dominance. A person can make a mental shift and behave differently in that case. Without it being too difficult. But when people act abusively because they have undergone abuse themselves they need more therapeutic work to get over the root problem. That can be done but it usually doesn’t.

  22. When I went to primary school in Scotland boys and girls were equal. There wasn’t the slightest hint of anyone being disrespectful to the opposite sex. That continued through secondary school and beyond.

    • So glad to hear that!

      My experience is that most boys and men are good and decent human beings. But boys are more likely to be socialized to show toughness and dominance, which is not so pleasant for other people (male and female alike).

      • Boys showed their toughness through inter-male aggression, but remained respectful towards girls.

      • Interestingly, that’s how you see it in the animal kingdom as well. There the boys fight over girls.

      • There used to be pubs where women would not enter. There were never any fights in any of these places. Although fights can be attributed to biological reasons such as men becoming more jealous of dominant males when their female partner is near ovulation or for mate preference shift reasons, it seemed to me at the time it was more camaraderie based.

        It was ironic that the safest pubs were the strictly male domains where the tough guys hung out.

      • Hmmm, that is interesting.

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