“What happens when you put a boy in front of a girl and ask him to slap her?”
Fanpage.it sought to find the answer and filmed the Italian PSA video “‘Slap her’: children’s reactions,” a production that ultimately failed to get to the root of the issue of violence against women.
In the video that garnered over 43 million Facebook views in five days, boys aged seven to 11 are asked a series of routine questions like their names, what they want to be when they grow up and why. Then, a girl named Martina (who can’t be more than 14 years old) is abruptly brought on screen.
“What do you like about her?” the narrator of the film asks, causing the boys to ogle over the young girl. They like her eyes, they like her hair, her shoes, her hands — everything about her. One boy tells her she’s a pretty girl. Another tells her, “I’d like to be your boyfriend.” Keep in mind, he’s seen Martina for less than a minute and has already decided to date her. He knows nothing about her personality or her interests. Also keep in mind that throughout this entire interaction, Martina doesn’t utter a word. It seems that her role in the video is to be seen and not heard. The boys only focus on physical attributes of Martina. Viewers do not get to learn Martina’s age, what she wants to be when she grows up or why. She is simply an item to examine and objectify.
“Now, caress her,” the narrator demands. And without asking permission from Martina, without even the slightest consideration to obtain consent from her, the boys one by one brush their fingers across Martina’s face. They stroke her arm while she stands there like a mannequin.
“Now… slap her.” The narrator’s demand is met by perplexed faces from the boys. Even after he repeats the question and eggs the boys on, they refuse to hit Martina. Cue the inspirational music.
It’s a nice sentiment, especially in a world where almost 32 percent of women between the ages of 16 and 70 experience some form of physical or sexual violence in their lifetimes. But the video has some flaws that are severe enough to take away from the message.
Take their explanations as to why they won’t hit her, for example. “Cause she’s a girl. I can’t do it.”
“Because you’re not supposed to hit girls.”
“First of all, I can’t hit her because she’s pretty, and she’s a girl.” That one was shocking. Is it okay to hit an ugly girl? Had Martina been chubby and the boys didn’t like her hair or her eyes or her shoes or her hands, would it have been okay to hit her then? It’s worth pointing out that Martina is taller and older than every boy in the video. Pairing that with the fact that they all found her to be so beautiful, she was probably intimidating to them. Of course they aren’t going to slap a beautiful intimidating girl they were just introduced to moments ago.
The video ends with the 11 year-old boy’s answer: “Why? ‘Cause I’m a man.” Comments on the video celebrate the boy’s statement. Many even wrote that it brought tears to their eyes.
The only acceptable answer, though, was Pedro’s: “Because I’m against violence”
An individual’s gender should not dictate whether it is okay to slap them or not. Boys should not hit girls. Boys should not hit boys. In fact, nobody should hit anybody. And if “you’re not supposed to hit girls,” then certainly you’re not supposed to intimately touch their faces and bodies without their consent.
So while the video was sweet, the fact that young Italian boys won’t slap a beautiful stranger on the street doesn’t offer much hope for the future of humanity.