September 28, 2018

Why Are Men Screaming?

I find public screaming the ugliest part of fraternity culture in Oxford. This form of pollution is worse than the plastic- and aluminum-littered lawns, the puke on the sidewalks and even the stench of the Brick Street dumpsters in summer.

I hear college men screaming practically everywhere I go around here. In the parking lot at Kroger, in the Rec Center and the Goggin, certainly on the neighborhood streets.

Fortunately for me, campus has a lot of sidewalks. I often shunt myself into an alternate route to avoid walking past groups of men after dark—a habit I picked up out of annoyance, not fear.

Boys will be boys, right? They will roughhouse and holler and if you’re within earshot, tough luck.

My complaint is probably just my nutty female sensitivity to what sometimes seems like an emboldened public masculinity with juvenile overtones and violent undertones.

But then, into my email inbox, come the seasonal drift of sexual assault bulletins.

And then, onto my television, comes the spitting, screaming, florid Judge Kavanaugh. Confronted by a powerful woman’s question about his excessive drinking, he challenges her about her own.

And I begin to think that the screaming means something more.

I think that maybe it is a sign of stubbornly fighting against new social imperatives that ask men to quiet down and women to speak up.

I think that maybe it is a fearful and tribal reassertion of inherited privileges that cannot much longer stand.  

I think that definitely it is boring, loud and repetitive, just like all of Kavanaugh’s talking points.

The more I think about the ongoing problem of campus sexual assault, the more grating I find the screaming of men. What is to be done?

Tamping down drinking does not appear to be working, and anyway, excessive moralizing about alcohol disables victims. Women unequivocally should be able to drink what they please and remain safe from attack by their so-called friends.

Could Miami and Oxford make it easier for women to press charges against those who engage in sexual violence and harrassment?

Counseling services and medical care are good things. Institutional support for criminal prosecutions would be quite another.

To me there is little indication here or anywhere that the diseased culture of male entitlement often stamped with Greek letters should be granted more time to right itself.

Believe me, screamers. Women across the country are listening to your loudest voices. And they are starting to really despise what they hear.

—Sarah Siff is a historian of social and criminal justice. You can write to her at webmaster@oxfordobserver.org.