A new study has highlighted a link between sexist views and violence. The only way to combat sexism in young boys, researchers suggest, is to intervene at a young age.
For years now, women and feminists everywhere have been drawing an inextricable link between violence and patriarchy. Various experiences have shown us that men with stricter views of masculinity - that is, those who imbibe within them a toxic sense of masculinity - are more likely to be perpetrators of violence (and the vice versa is true, as well). However, now there is a scientific study that confirms this hypothesis. A paper published on the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, which surveyed almost 900 boys between the ages of 13 to 19, revealed that teenage boys who have more progressive views of gender are less likely to be violent, ABC News reports.
The study confirmed that boys with 'woke' ideals of gender are half as likely to engage in violent behaviors in comparison to their peers with rigid beliefs of masculinity and gender overall. Furthermore, the study also revealed that boys who were exposed to abusive behaviors were more likely to engage in them themselves; boys who stood witness to their peers partaking in two or more verbally, physically or sexually abusive behaviors, like making disrespectful remarks about a girl's body or makeup, were two to five times more likely to engage in violent behaviors themselves. And that's exactly why 'harmless' locker room talk is so problematic.
Previous studies have already made a connection between sexist views on gender and intimate partner violence, but this study displays how sexist views can have a "trickle-down" effect on a man's engagement in all types of violent behavior. Dr. Elizabeth Miller, the lead author of the study and chief of the division of adolescent and young adult medicine at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, explained in an interview, "We have for too long siloed sexual and partner violence in one place, youth violence and bullying in another. [The new study forms a foundation to begin] focusing on gender equity as a mechanism to use for violence prevention across the board."
The study received responses from 866 teenage boys from the ages of 13 to 19. The participants were from 20 low-income neighborhoods in Pittsburgh between the years 2015 and 2017. As part of the study, the participants were asked how likely they were to agree with statements about gender norms. For example, they were asked how much they agree with statements such as, "A guy never needs to hit another guy to get respect," or, "I would be friends with a guy who is gay." A higher score would, therefore, denote more progressive gender views. One drawback of the study, of course, is that it relies on self-reporting, which could, unfortunately, lead to some underestimation in the prevalence of violence.
One area of the study, however, proved contradictory to the core principle. "You would anticipate that the more progressive your beliefs, the less likely you would be to engage in homophobic teasing," Miller noted. "We did not find that," she added. One reason for this could be that homophobic comments and teasing might be so prevalent that teenage boys simply do not realize that their behavior or statements are problematic in the first place. Furthermore, as for how to change this, there's really nothing to do except intervene at a young age. Miller stated, "We can move the needle more with younger adolescents. Early adolescence may be a really important time to intervene." And while it probably sucks to talk to teen boys, we've probably got to do it for the greater good of all of humanity.