26 Sep Let’s End Violence Against Women
I live in the central Virginia area. That means I’ve been surrounded by the fears and concerns and hopes for the young woman who disappeared almost 2 weeks ago. It’s a terrible reminder of how vulnerable women, in particular, are in the world today. As a mother, my heart weeps for the parents. As a grandmother, I want to grab my two little girls and protect them from a world that still treats women as objects, victims, targets.
We are all feeling a little skittish right now. The helicopters have been hovering overhead looking for this young woman, Hannah Graham. And last weekend there were almost 2000 volunteers scouring the community, searching for details as to her whereabouts. There is a heightened awareness of the dangers in our world that don’t often surface in our lovely small college town.
The suspect has been found and will be extradited soon. So, we wait and we pray. And, we try to stick to the facts and leave wild conjecture behind. There is a lot of gossip and speculation going on right now. People are making up stories, hypothesizing on what the alleged perpetrator did, and they’re creating stories out of thin air. It’s what happens when we have big dramas–the media are just as guilty.
Reading some of the online comments this morning I was struck by our need for conclusions, for endings. It’s hard to sit in the face of discomfort. We want to wrap it all up neatly in a box–no matter the cost. Because we’re uncomfortable with our ‘not knowing’ we try to create the story as a way of managing our fears. How do we seek the truth, or be still, in the absence of facts when things like this happen? How do we sit with a story and hold back that tendency to place blame?
The victim blaming hasn’t fully sprung forth yet, but it will. We like to blame women for things that aren’t within their control. We ask them to wear more modest dresses so their male teachers won’t be tempted. We tell women they can’t go out at night alone because it’s dangerous. We tell girls they can prevent rape by not drinking or going to parties. We tell women not to talk about their sexual desires because it isn’t proper. We don’t want women in high offices because they are emotional and therefore unsuited for positions of power (only in the United States). We blame women for the demise of the family, and fault them for failing to produce home cooked meals. We tell women it’s not OK to enjoy sex, to want birth control and we tell women they don’t have the right to govern their own bodies. Confident, assertive women are labeled “Bitch”.
We are telling one half of the society to take on the added burden of protecting themselves from the small percentage of predators in the world. Eve caused the big fall. Hester ruined the state of marriage. Marilyn tempted the President. Emma demeaned men by calling for gender equality. Women encourage rapists by daring to drop the veils and live independent lives.
Heavens Forbid that these men try and curb their criminal tendencies.
Yet in spite of all these fears and concerns. In the face of countless sexual assaults, domestic abuse, sexual harassment, public shaming, and death threats where is the call to responsible action–for men to stop their violent behavior? Their criminal actions. Where are the denunciations of these perpetrators? Where is the condemnation and outrage about rape or domestic violence? Why is the other half of society sitting by and watching this happen without acting to bring about necessary change?
I’m tired of this. After a number of years working in the field of violence against women, and more recent years on the sidelines, I’m not seeing a significant change in attitudes or a decline in violent attacks. Yes, there are many more men working side by side with female allies to stop sexual and domestic violence. But there are more men cheering their buddies along and more men producing violent movies, sexist ads, and standing on the sidelines catcalling and harassing and telling demeaning jokes and supporting the ‘boys will be boys’ crap.
It’s unfair to pit the men against the women-but it reflects what our society does. There are female predators and there are a significant number of good men working to change this culture. I applaud them and happen to call some of them friends, colleagues and allies. Just this weekend I met a man who is involved in a national movement, One in Four, to educate about sexual assault. But those who perpetrate evil or in lesser cases, abuse their male privilege have more power than the rest of us—or so it would seem.
What will it take to end violence against women? What can we do? As mothers, parents, grandparents, concerned citizens, educators, elected officials and workers in the field?
What will it take? What will you do today?