Rape culture is all around us. My co-investigator, Jacob Beaudrow, and I are conducting interviews with men who ascribe to feminism and have something to say about reducing rape culture in society.
I am also doing research on fear. More than an emotion, what individuals and groups fear is socially, politically, and culturally constructed. The sources of our fear shift and change, part of which is the choices we make to deal with our fear. It can get the better of us. We can cause great emotional and physical harm to others based on our fear, and even feel quite justified in killing someone else whom we deem inferior. We can only come to such a conclusion if we fear what that person or people represent to us. Fear can also lead us to lock our doors and hide behind them. Physical doors. Figurative doors.
And yet, like other feelings, fear is just an emotion. We have choices we can make towards the sources of our fear. We can choose to try to “get over” our fear and pretend that we don’t feel it. Boys and young men are especially prone to pretending that they don’t fear anything. Such bravado is a ruse, a mask to pretend they’re real men and to show the world that they’re tough. But it’s harder to work with fear and use it as a motivating force to move towards what we fear than it is to simply deny fear altogether. I am fascinated by how some people channel the energy of fear to rise to challenges and achieve in their lives in ways that surprise them. It is with these people that I want to have conversations to ask them how.
Related to fear is the social scourge of bullying. Bullying is a symptom of fear. We bully those who we perceive are different from us. Racial difference. Religion. Sexuality. Ability. Gender. Class. Unless we fit in and are considered “normal,” we are attacked. Kids know this very well and yet researchers and other so-called experts on bullying seem to miss the obvious over and over again. Policies and programs in schools designed to curb bullying focus on managing behaviour. No wonder anti-bullying initiatives continue to be utter failures.