Yes, it’s true. I look behind me more than once when I walk/run by any man older than 14. No matter his clothes, his race, whether he too is walking, running, biking. I always check behind me. I have chosen to dress more uncomfortably during my runs in the heat to prevent cat-calls and honks and comments. I have held my keys in between my fingers walking to my car. I have held my thumb on the trigger of my pepper spray. I carry pepper spray. I have pretended to walk up to a house that is not my own in order to avoid being followed. I have been followed. I have had my butt grabbed during a photo. I have thought all too often about escape plans in rooms, elevators, trails, etc. when I find myself alone with a man. When my face was spread across the nation on Dr Pepper cans, several men exploited my picture for their creepy pleasures.
Yes, me too.
This is not okay. And I think we all know that. And I think we all want it to change. But we have to recognize that a reactive response does little to affect this change. My sharing, her sharing, your sharing is powerful and important and necessary, but we have to start sooner. And I don’t mean we have to speak up sooner; I’m talking about starting to affect a heart change in our boys before they become men, overwhelming our media with more wholesome words and images, and being willing to work together. A preventative response could make the difference between another account of assault or equality and harmony between the sexes.
As I scroll, simultaneously annoyed and empowered by the both haste opinions and brave testimonies of victims of assault and harassment, I feel my heart hardening toward “men.” The whole half of our population that they comprise. My husband. My dad. My brother. My son. Better than myself and better than most women I’ve known. My men get lumped into a list of things I know them not to be. I know #notallmen is missing the point, and I am not saying this as a dismissal of #yesallwomen, but we need to check our hearts. Is your heart, like mine was becoming, hardened toward men? You may have good reason, but hate is never justified. Anger is fair. Justice-seeking is good. But hate? Never. And from us women, that is what I see. If men are the enemy, love them. “But they…!” Love them. It’s senseless. It’s radical. It goes against everything you’re feeling. I know. Love them.
The issue of women’s rights and the sexual assault and abuse of women goes beyond US politics and our country’s leaders, remember. Tragically, it is age-old, systemic, and reaches to every corner of this earth. Women have been dominated, underrepresented, exploited, and abused since the beginning of time (except by Jesus, but that’s for another day). Even in the garden of Eden, the enemy preyed upon the woman. Why hasn’t anything changed? I can’t say. And I’m not about to go all #himtoo on you because just like with #blacklivesmatter, there is a minority population that needs to be heard. But perhaps, we need to consider our men when looking for a solution. They are the problem, after all. I have three ideas. 1) Society and mainstream media are no friend to man. 2) Boys will be
boys the boys we raise them to be. 3) We need to do this thing hand in hand.
Society and mainstream media are no friend to man. Men are set up for failure from the minute they enter this world. Yes, sin. Of course. But also – society. As soon as young boys become teens and are understanding the body they own, they are thrown temptation after temptation. Scantily clad teenage girls, pornography, movies, video games, and music that delivers sex and power on a silver platter. Yes, it is the man’s choice to act on these things, but we (not as women but as a society) don’t exactly make this easy. Boys will be boys, they say. Bruno Mars once said, “Open up your gates cause I can’t wait to see the light, and right there is where I wanna stay. Cause your sex takes me to paradise.” Pitbull states, “face down, booty up. That’s the way we like to- what?- timber. I’m slicker than an oil spill. She say she won’t, but I bet she will.” Katy Perry sings, “Don’t be a shy kinda guy. I’ll bet it’s beautiful. Come on baby, let me see what you’re hidin’ underneath. I wanna see your peacock…” Sam Hunt belts out, “the way she fit in them blue jeans, she don’t need no belt. But I can turn them inside out, I don’t need no help.” Robin Thicke, Ariana Grande, Ed Sheeran, Beyonce, Justin Bieber. And I’m not even going to write out the lyrics from Kanye West’s song, “I Love It,” because it is terrible. And it’s in the top 10 songs on iTunes for this week… so. Herein lies the problem. The biggest male AND female names in music are STILL writing and singing songs that glamorize sex and glorify women’s bodies. And in some, encouraging male dominance and violence against women. Perpetuating the idea that women exist for a man’s pleasure. We expect men to be sexually-driven, and then we’re surprised when they are.
I am excusing nothing. It is never a women’s fault. She was never asking for it. But dare I say, our men aren’t always asking for it either. Once they begin to enter “manhood,” they are spoon fed sex and power. Men aren’t men unless or until they have sex, and women, too, are prone to expecting this of men. Look at our next Bachelor (referencing the show). It is the biggest deal EVER that he is a virgin. When he was given the role as the next Bachelor, people took to the comments. And I, naturally, read them. Both men AND women are weirded out by the fact that he “doesn’t have experience.” What kind of man waits? He must be gay. Dude doesn’t know what he’s missing out on. COME ON, PEOPLE. And you just know his whole season is going to revolve around the fact that he hasn’t had sex. First of all, it’s none of your dang business. Secondly, we have learned to expect a certain level of sexuality from men and are seemingly disappointed when they don’t live up to it. That is pressure.
Boys will be boys, they say. But what I would argue is that boys will be the boys they are raised to be. That’s not to say our parenting is the end game for what our sons will do or may become, but it is a substantial piece. We may not notice it because parenting is a JOB, but our kids are seeing the objectification and mistreatment of women everywhere they turn. It’s in the screens they are glued to, it’s in the media they eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and maybe it’s in the relationships they see around them. Let’s talk about porn for a quick sec. Cue Friends. One of my all time favorite shows, but omg the porn references are outrageous. Where is our issue with it? In pornography, women are literal objects; images to lust over. Is it all that surprising to find out that porn in a man’s hands can lead to ASSAULT, HARASSMENT, RAPE, TRAFFICKING? Our boys are seeing this! And it’s acceptable. It’s normal. It’s good for them to get their fix in a harmless way. No, no, no. Absolutely not. You give what you get. When you’re eating unhealthy, you’re going to act like junk, too.
Watch your boys. Explicitly teach them how to treat girls when they are little, so it is in their very nature to show love and respect to women when they are grown. Show them what consent is and what it is not. Model the power and independence that women possess, so they know that they know that they know that women are able, strong, and so much more worthy than what they see or hear of women in the media. Protect them from the lust for dominance they are thrown from every angle. Assuming they will figure it out on their own is ignorance. Raise decent boys. They will turn into decent men. And the more decent men, the closer we get to 0 in 5.
I know – stop making this about men. THIS IS NOT ABOUT MEN. But here’s the thing: if we want to see change, then guess who needs to change? Men. And how ever will they accomplish this? With our help. Hand in hand. We are bruised and beaten and scared to move on, BUT we are SO very brave.
Nothing changes unless we go to the root. The root is the heart. And the heart is most malleable when it’s soft. With women’s bravery, comes men on the defensive. A defensive heart is not soft, and therefore, it is less likely to admit defeat, to admit to wrong, to listen, and to change. Recognize: we aren’t the problem, but maybe we are part of the solution. Maybe sharing our stories and rallying against men isn’t enough. Maybe we need to lay the ground work for men to be successful in their efforts to respect women. And that starts with… our boys. Our youth. And when men aren’t shaping up on their own, should we help them? Right now, we are acting like no. Nope. No way. No how. And in a perfect world, you’re right: they should see our worth simply because we are. But, they don’t. Obviously. And so, yes – help is needed if we want things to be better.
We aren’t better than men, remember. But we are better than the way we get treated by the patriarchy. So much better. Let’s act like it, and let’s get this ball rolling in the direction of change and equality.
Women, you are believed. You are heard. You are worthy.
If I’m ever so blessed to have a daughter someday, here is what I write to her: my future daughter, you aren’t less because you are a woman. You may not always get to choose how you dress, or where you go, or be allowed certain privileges because of your gender, but your safety matters more to me than all of your freedom or sticking-it-to-the-man. We, as women, shouldn’t sacrifice so much in an attempt to control a man’s urges, but we might just have to. And I am sorry. And I wish it weren’t the case. But you will be raised to know your worth, and trusted to be careful and discerning, and prayed for daily – that no man lays a finger on you that you didn’t ask him to put there or he’ll have your daddy to deal with. You are kind and strong and beautiful, and one day in the future, you will still be all of these things, and I pray you’ll be seen for exactly who you are.
And, my son: you aren’t bad because you are a man. You do not get to choose the way the women in your life behave or dress, but that is never an excuse to do anything more than be the decent man we raised you to be. You are not entitled to anything or anyone, and you alone are responsible for your actions. You may get lumped in with the men who have come before you who have failed. And I am sorry. And I wish it weren’t the case. But you will be raised to know your worth, and trusted with your privilege, and prayed for daily – that you would be an advocate, a justice seeker, a difference maker, and a man who serves humbly. You are good and honorable and handsome, and one day in the future, you will still be all of these things, and I pray you’ll be seen for exactly who you are.