After the absurd and heinous misogynist violence perpetrated by Elliot Rodger, social media has been a twitter with an outpouring of real, every day examples of objectification, dehumanization and all the other indignities that are synonymous with being a woman in America via #YesAllWomen. This ground swell of community and sharing that focused a bright light on a small segment of our population (violent, male criminals who target women) was met by the unfortunate and exhausting defensive bravado of the male majority whose first instinct was to bitterly declare that they are innocent! #NotAllMen.
For those men, I offer this:
1. Do you use words or phrases like “douche-bag”, “pussy”, “throws like a girl”, “women’s work” as insults?
2. When you see a woman you find attractive, do you take a good look at particular body parts and think or tell your friends in how many ways you would like to hit that?
3. If a woman rejects your offer (a drink, dance, date, ride, anything) do you think she’s a bitch?
4. Do you like to compliment women you don’t know by whistling or telling them how hot they are?
If you answered “yes” to the first four questions, whether or not you intend to, your actions are contributing to a culture of dehumanization that reduces women to objects of conquest or targets for violence. Most men are taught that this is just “typical man” behavior, but the reality is that it quickly erodes the terra firma upon which women are respected as valuable contributors to family, businesses and society, while simultaneously laying the ground work to make harassment and rape not only excusable, but acceptable. You have many reasons to feel justified: television and film portrayals, music, sports, pornography, etc. which feed the flame of objectification. At some point, men learn see the relationship and it usually happens when they have daughters.
But daughters aren’t where the focus belongs, it’s our sons. These behaviors are either learned from or reinforced by their male role models. If we teach our sons to respect women, we wouldn’t need self-defense classes. What if we taught our sons to actually help women be safe by telling poorly behaved men to knock it off?
In a healthy, functional society, everyone looks out for one another. If you only look out for number one, you may have a rude awakening. You don’t think these issues will effect you until they do–your son gets kicked out of college and goes to jail for drugging and raping a woman at a fraternity party or it’s your daughter who was drugged and assaulted.
So what can you do to help turn the culture in a direction where girls and women feel free to live, love, work and play without fear of violence? The list is too long for a blog, but start with a very basic idea:
5. When you’re walking down the sidewalk behind a woman, do you slow down or cross the street to send the message that you are not a threat?