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Viral video a good first step

Fanpage.it, an Italian website, created a video, commonly linked as “Young Boys Asked to Slap Girl,” which has gone viral since the site originally posted it on their Facebook page on Jan. 3.

Perhaps you’ve seen it.

The video shows young boys, all younger than 13 years old, meeting a pretty girl, Martina, who is approximately their age. The narrator asks each boy what he likes about Martina (answers: eyes, shoes, hair, etc.). Then, he asks them to “caress” her. They each touch her hair, her arm or her face. Finally, he asks them to make a funny face before his requests take a turn. The last request is to slap her, and they all refuse for various reasons.

Here is the caption for the original Facebook post: “What happens when you put a boy in front of a girl and ask him to slap her? Here is how children react to the subject of violence against women.”

Apparently, there is no specific intended message or purpose for this video except to experiment. Clearly, the music and the general lightheartedness of the video convey that the boys give the “right” answers all the way through.

But, I wonder what message viewers receive. Is it that it is wrong for a boy to hit a girl? That is the reason that most of the boys give for refusing.

Is it that violence is wrong? One boy gives that as his reason for not hitting Martina.

Is it that Martina does not deserve to be hit because she is pretty? I could easily get that message, and just as a side note, the word “caress” made me slightly uncomfortable. Though, that could have been an issue with the English translation of the original Italian.

Generally, I think the video is cute and funny. I also think that it conveys a superficially positive message whether or not the producers intended to send one.

However, I think it also raises many questions.

What happens when the boys get to know the girl, and she does something they do not like? Will they convince themselves it is okay to hit her then?

How many times have you heard a woman say that her abusive boyfriend or husband started out so loving and gentle?

I also wonder what we as viewers are supposed to think about Martina. After I watch, I know a good amount about the boys: their age, what they want to do when they grow up and why. All we know about the girl is her name and that she has pretty eyes and hair and dresses nice.

I wonder if the boys think she has more worth than that, and I wonder if she knows she has more worth than that.

Again, I am not trying to say the video is harmful. Just like a whole host of viral videos and memes, it is a simplification of a concept. It is also a positive first step in conveying that violence against women is wrong. I just wonder how many people look past the humor and cuteness for the substance and ask the right questions.

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