The Tool Academy double-standard of partner violence

Men shouldn’t hit women. But women shouldn’t hit men, either.

If you’ve never seen Tool Academy, then you don’t know the premise: girlfriends sign their douchey, self-obsessed boyfriends up for “Tool Academy,” and the boyfriends unsuspecting agree to go on the show because they think it’s some reality show about being the best guy on the planet (e.g. on the first season, they thought they were competing to be “Mr. Awesome”).

Once the secret is revealed, the couples start group-couples therapy and tackle issues like honesty and fidelity. Emotions run high, hidden camera footage often reveals boyfriends flirting or cheating on their girlfriends with actresses who are posing as models. Sometimes, the therapy sessions get ugly.

I was taken aback when — after lots of the girlfriends simply crying or shouting — one of the contestants on Tool Academy’s first season actually slapped her boyfriend after viewing some of this footage. Throughout the three seasons, it’s become more commonplace for the women to hit the men, yet the relationship therapist rarely says anything about it.

Partner violence is wrong, not to mention patently unhealthy for a relationship. It’s socially unacceptable for a man to hit a woman, but society often brushes off when women hit men. This is largely because men are supposed to be strong, masculine beings and should be able to take a hit from a weak, non-threatening woman — in society’s eyes. So even if a man is abused by a woman, he isn’t likely to report it or complain about it.

The double standard really came to me when watching this season, when a few of the “tools” are actually women, one brought on by her girlfriend and the other by her boyfriend. I thought about what would happen if the boyfriend — hurt after watching his girlfriend flirt and grind on another guy — had slapped his girlfriend for being so disrespectful.

Of course, this didn’t happen (the boyfriend just got up, threatened to leave and sobbed), but I think Tool Academy is one of many places in the media that sends the message that it’s perfectly fine for a woman to use violence against a man when they are having an argument — not even in self defense, just to show that she’s upset about something he did.

This is double standard is often portrayed as OK, violence is violence no matter who commits it. The relationships on Tool Academy and elsewhere, the relationships where the immediate reaction to anger, sadness, or disappointment is physical abuse, those relationships have problems that go beyond honesty or humility.

Don’t stay in a relationship that is violent, but especially don’t stay if you think you deserve it or are supposed to be able to take it because you’re a man. The media shouldn’t portray this as the norm or passively accept it.

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One Response to “The Tool Academy double-standard of partner violence”

  1. Pat Aust Says:

    I volunteer at a D.V. shelter weekly–have for 3 years and thoroughly researched domestic and dating violence before I wrote my YA ms. SHELTER which is set in a d.v. shelter. I agree women shouldn’t hit men, but the reality is that 97% of the victims of D.V. are women. The 3% who are seriously abused men can be equally injured and traumatized, but it cannot be denied that men are much better able to hurt women than v.v. I have included dating and work violence in this ms. which my agent is pitching now. Things are getting worse, not better re: domestic violence, as the dating age goes down–it’s now in middle school (kids 12-15), where kids have developed even fewer tools to combat unexpected, unwanted pressure and abuse.
    Kids need to hear the message that love is respect very early and very consistently–at school and at home (if they’re lucky enough to not live in a violent home).

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