So, this morning, I decided to go for a run. I donned my shoes, picked my music, and started to run. Up ahead, I saw a Lao man and a foreign woman talking. She walked away. He leaped from the stairs on which he sat and started full on sprinting after her. I rounded the bend and saw the woman on the ground, scraped up yelling, "Are you crazy?"
I asked, "Did you just push that woman? Why did you do that?"
He then turned to the men sitting and watching this episode and said something with utter contempt.
I asked again,"What did you do?"
He waved me off and walked back to the hotel where he works (Mountain View Riverside Boutique Hotel).
The woman got up and we walked towards the town center and stopped at a restaurant I frequented so she could wash her hands. She told me, "Yesterday, I went to his hotel to find a room. He said it was 100,000 kip [13.50 USD] per night. I said that was a little too expensive for me, and I asked him if there was somewhere cheaper. He freaked out on me and just started yelling. Me and my friend were scared, so we said we will write a bad review on trip advisor. He called us bitches, and we left. Then, just now, he called to me and said, 'I remember you, bitch.' I said, 'I remember you, too. I can still write a review, and walked away. And, then I was on the ground."
I asked her if she wanted to go to the police, and she said that she didn't because they weren't going to do anything about it.
And, that, that is the bullshit for which I refuse to stand. This boys will be boys and men will be men mentality. Violence is not, should not, cannot be gendered. Boys will be what we teach them. If we teach them misogyny, then they will be misogynists. If we teach them kindness, care, compassion, they will be kind, caring, and compassionate. I refuse to allow the boys will be boys rhetoric in my life. Even in children, if boys will be boys by pulling little girls' hair, teach them to not pull hair. If boys will be boys means young men coming in from sports covered head to toe in mud, well, I guess I didn't earn the nickname 'Mudbucket' by having a penis. Children will be children. Kids will be kids. Boys do not have to be what boys were. They do not have to adhere to the ideas that violence is the only acceptable way for men to show emotion. And, lesbiehonest, masculinity is not a singularly male trait. It is a frame of mind. It is a way of expressing oneself regardless of gender, gender identity, or even biology.
I have known too many men (and humans along the spectrum) who would be appalled by this crass generalization of what it means to be a man. My friend Sean is one of the most gentle people I know and is unapologetically a feminist. Ben has come into every conversation about gender with strong opinions but the most open mind possible. Boot has the most patience I have ever experienced in a human being ever. These, these men are the standards by which I judge what it means to be a man. These men and so many others in my life show me that there is a way to be 'both comma and' to be both a man, and be a feminist/humanist/womanist. If we expect our young men to be respectful of others, if we expect our young men to see young women as equals, then, then our boys will be boys who value the humans in their lives. Our boys will be boys who are conscious of the world around them. Our boys will be boys who recognize their privilege and use it to balance the playing field. Our boys will be the boys we want them to be.
At breakfast, even now as I write this, a foreign man is playing peek-a-boo with a little Lao girl, patiently, gently, whole heartedly enjoying this moment he's sharing cross cultural, cross age, cross gender boundaries. And, it is a very beautiful thing.