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Robert Lipsyte Takes on Jock Culture

Journalist Robert Lipsyte recently wrote an article for The Guardian, trying to understand the ever-growing list of accused sexually predatory men and examine what they say about our society.

Looking back at moments in his life, he now sees what others have similarly discovered if it takes a village to raise a kid, it takes a village to ignore the acts of a sexual predator.

Lipsyte lays out his own experiences with a bully he witnessed harassing girls at his elementary school about 70 years ago.

“At recess,” he said, “Crazy Ronnie pinned girls against the chain-link fence and cackled as he felt them up. We boys, maybe nine, 10, 11 years old, were afraid of Ronnie. No one of us could ‘take’ him, so we just watched. Of course, three or four of us could have pulled him off and stopped it all. Even at that age, what were we thinking? Didn’t we read books and see movies about heroic male saviors of women and children? Could we have been getting our own secondhand thrills from his acts?”

It doesn’t end there. “Eventually,” he writes, “a teacher would notice and drag him away, ending the show. Nothing would be said and life would go on, except that the young girl probably wouldn’t forget the assault (and, as it turns out, neither would I).”

This wasn’t the only bully Lipsyte encountered along his way. He blames “jock culture” for enabling men to act in these ways without consequences all throughout their lives.

“The same jock-culture codes that we bumped against in school – the ones that insisted that real men are tough, aggressive, take risks, and trust no one who isn’t on their team, especially women (by definition on the other team) – were waiting for us in the military, business, medicine, the law, and beyond.”

“Jock culture” wasn’t created by a single person, and Hollywood isn’t the only industry to blame for the way it treats women. Many of us have had a part either actively participating in jock culture or perpetuating its norms (as long a list as that may be). Lipsyte takes it upon himself, as a journalist, to change this trend.

Instead of kids falling prey to jock culture because they don’t know about it, why don’t we have a system that makes the opposite possible?

“Journalism,” he writes, “which expends a great deal of energy examining and carping about all forms of popular culture, rarely criticizes jock culture in any fundamental way. It may finally be ready to kick any celebrity caught with his pants down, but not even now does it expose the system that made him feel entitled to do whatever he wanted to do to whomever he could reach and abuse.”

Women are doing their job, Lipsyte writes, and it’s men’s turn now, too.

Men don’t need to save women, as women have been doing a very good job of doing that themselves. The task at hand is more simple than that, he says.

“Someday soon – or so I dream – we’ll march, blow whistles, kick butt, but at least for today we’ll start small. We’ll just say something if we see something.”

Lipsyte brings up an important point that it is also time for men to stand up and change their actions to make the world a safer place. The best way to do this is to raise awareness about jock culture and toxic masculinity. If we know where the root of these actions lies, we can hopefully change them for the future generations.

It is time for men and women to reject the cultures and ideologies that allow predatory behavior to happen in the first place. To prevent sexual harassment in the workplace, and to keep men from thinking this behavior is okay, we must get to the root of the problem and make changes there as well.

Featured Image by Keith Allen on Flickr

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