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The Glen Ridge Rape
Bernard Lefkowitz’s Our Guys raises a lot of issues, all of which have been discussed throughout this semester.
Just a few pages into the book, words had already begun to jump out at me, capturing my attention. “The kids in Newark, black and brown, speaking Spanglish, hoods over their heads, wheeling their stolen cars over to the local chop shop -- they were aliens in America. Strange, forever separate and separated from the American ideal. But these Glen Ridge kids, they were pure gold, every mother’s dream, every father’s pride. They were not only Glen Ridge’s finest, but in their perfection they belonged to all of us. They were Our Guys (page 7).” This is a story about White Privilege, I thought. After reading the next two pages, I changed my mind. “...I wanted to understand how their status as young athlete celebrities in Glen Ridge influenced their treatment of girls and women, particularly those of their age.....I was especially curious about what license they were permitted as a clique of admired athletes and how that magnified the sense of superiority they felt as individuals (pages 8-9).” Oh! This is a story about jock culture, I thought.
I had only touched the surface. Later on, I realized Our Guys was about jock culture and white privilege...as well as rape cultures and patriarchy, male privilege and compulsory heterosexuality, pornography, accountability and “blame the victim.” All of these issues were part of this, a real life story, a real rape.
Reading the story of the Glen Ridge Rape, I was able to make observations and draw conclusions that Ridgers who lived inside their glass bubbles weren’t able to make. They didn\'t realize what type of things they were teaching their children. Morals and values are instilled into a person at a very early age. It can start at birth. Males of Glen Ridge were taught that they had power and were expected to do certain things. “In their youth sons were permitted and even expected to raise a little hell. ‘There was a boys-will-be-boys attitude that went back to the nineteen fifties’....Boys were supposed to be vigorous, assertive, competitive; they were expected to test the boundaries of behavior within clearly established limits” (page 63). This is what boys learned at such an early age. Many of them grew up in male dominant families. Patriarchy was practiced in many homes. Male influence made it difficult for most of them to establish strong relationships with or learn to appreciate members of the opposite sex.
Something else that was taught to the young boys of Glen Ridge was the importance of athletics. “....[E]xclusively male Glen Ridge brotherhood of athletes; the masculine style established at home was reinforced on the town’s playing fields” (page 69). “The Glen Ridge image was something everyone was measured against. The image was that the successful kid was attractive, well groomed, articulate, and doing well in school or in some enterprise, like sports. If you didn’t meet these standards, you could be treated like an outcast” (page 75). These were the idealized standards held by the town for its young males. If you didn’t meet them, you were subject to ridicule and isolation, sometimes even abuse and torture.
It’s one thing to introduce athletics to a child as an extracurricular activity, or because of it’s benefits, but it’s quite another to push them toward it because they’ll never be considered a real man because they don’t play on the field. Not only was jock culture a huge part of Glen Ridge life, but being a jock also had it’s responsibilites. “Jocks got drunk at parties...acted boorishly...were sometimes a little more aggressive with girls than manners permitted. Mainly, though, parents believed that this behavior fit within the boundaries of ‘boys will be boys’ " (page 73).
I can\'t help but wonder what in the world were these people thinking? Where do you draw the line? If you let your son behave a little aggressively on occasion and teach him that this is what "real men" do, what\'s to stop that same boy from pushing up on young women, lashing out at someone or even committing rape? They\'ll think it\'s okay because it\'s part of being a male....a male in Glen Ridge. Not only did parents
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Rape, Gang rape, Glen Ridge rape, Bernard Lefkowitz, Rape culture, Male privilege, Glen Ridge, Glen Ridge, New Jersey
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