Every day I have to wake up to a world in which a rapist holds the highest political office in the country. “This is how much America hates women,” I told my dad over the phone the day after the election. Despite the numerous allegations against him, and despite recorded audio of him literally espousing rape culture, he was elected president. His misogyny was in no way a deal breaker for folks (including 52% of white women). Quite the opposite, in fact. His campaign victory validated the thousands of misogynists who see how sexist behavior is more often rewarded than condemned.
Last weekend the country watched as Casey Affleck, alleged sexual harasser, was handed the Best Actor Oscar by Brie Larson, who is an advocate for sexual assault survivors. It was an insult to women everywhere and a very shameful display of our inability to hold abusive men accountable. While this is especially true of men with money, fame, and/or power, as a culture we rarely hold abusers of any kind accountable. Instead, we blame victims for the violence they experience (especially if they are women), we cast doubt on their stories and we protect their abusers.
Which brings me to you. You believe you are a “nice guy.” You have sisters, daughters, aunts, and a mother who you love. You don’t want to see them hurt. You probably voted for Hillary. You would never take advantage of a woman. You would never hit a woman, or threaten a woman. You might make a rape joke occasionally, but you don’t really mean it. Because you are a nice guy. (How important is it for you to make those jokes?)
I’ll get straight to the point: it’s not enough. What you are doing – behaving with basic human decency – is the bare minimum. It’s the baseline. As a culture, we have failed you by setting the bar so low. We have not asked enough of you because our culture has normalized the abusive behavior of men to a disturbing degree. We have celebrated you not because you are exceptionally good, but because you haven’t done anything exceptionally “bad.” Is this really worth celebrating?
According to the National Sexual Violence Research Center, one in five women will be raped at some point in their lives, and 91% of the victims of rape and sexual assault are female. The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control reports that women experience about 4.8 million intimate partner-related physical assaults and rapes every year. In 2005, 1,181 women were murdered by an intimate partner. That’s an average of three women every day (NOW).
Maybe you have heard these statistics already, but they do not move you because they do not affect you. Maybe you do care, but not enough to do something about it. It’s not enough. Men are overwhelmingly the perpetrators of gendered violence. It’s not enough to simply not be one of these men. Your silence and your inaction contribute to a culture in which women are consistently devalued, objectified, and physically and psychologically harmed.
How often do you voice your support for the women in your life? For the women who are strangers to you? Do you talk to your son about consent? When a famous athlete is accused of abuse, is your first instinct to defend him, to assume that the victim is lying? When you hear your male friend say something sexist, do you speak up or let it slide? Or when he jokes about rape or domestic violence? Do you educate yourself about gender inequality?
It’s time for you to step up. It’s time for you to make an active effort to combat the deeply embedded sexism in our society. Women have been doing the heavy lifting for decades. We need you to be our allies. We need you to march beside us for gender equality. We need you to speak out against abusive men and hold them accountable. We need you to educate yourselves and embrace the feminist label. We need you to be vocal in your support, no longer just someone on the sidelines. It’s time.