Wednesday, September 01, 2010

At Least They're Not Grown Up Yet

An idyllic scene on Franklin: waning light, waning summer, one of the last days before school starts, and three boys, no more than ten or eleven at the oldest, are scampering up the Avenue with skateboards, bikes, and other effluvia of youth in tow. One is black, one is white, and one is hispanic, and they appear gloriously heedless of the social geography in Crown Heights shifting beneath their feet. I haven't enjoyed watching children at play this much since the Franklin Avenue Kids Day (pictured above). Less than a block ahead of me, they shout, saunter, and swing playfully at one another, until a young woman strolls by in the opposite direction, and at that point, I realize:

a) They are passing the lady, who I'm walking to meet.
b) They're yelling all manner of unspeakable catcalls, the most G-rated of which one kid repeats in a singsong voice, intoning "I like your ass, I like your ass."

Well, shit, at least they're a portrait of youthful racial harmony. Now if only we could teach them to treat women with a modicum of respect. What does this mean, anyway - have we established that gender trumps race and class in the hierarchy of oppression? Unlikely. Have we established that boys will be boys? Sure, but must they be misogynists, too? Might this suggest that these kids pick their catcalling up from the adults who do it? Seems reasonable. So, uh, adults, please stop teaching neighborhood kids to sexually harass women. Thank you.


  1. So, we should have elected Hilary Clinton?

  2. I'm not sure electing Hilary would have made much of a difference - it's not as though these kids never see women in positions of power, as almost all their teachers are female. Somehow that doesn't alleviate harassment, as even my teacher friends report having all manner of nasty things said to them or worse yet, being grabbed by students.

    Laurel, your reply is almost verbatim what I shouted at these kids. They were not impressed, but at least I surprised them a little. Even had I scared them, though, it wouldn't really make the impact I'm looking for: I don't want these boys to stop harassing women because they're afraid of their boyfriends, I want them to stop harassing women because it's degrading and dehumanizing.