Women’s bodies are a battleground in politics, religion, economics, and literal war. I think as a woman with a body, it’s important to give space for this body to speak, so I am letting this be that space.
“What he said was terrible/inexcusable/repulsive/horrific, but…”
That “but” is rape culture.
As most everyone knows by now, there is a presidential candidate who has been recorded speaking cavalierly about sexually assaulting women. When the news first broke about this, I was sickened but not surprised. I was not surprised because firstly, this candidate has been spewing disgusting sexist, racist and xenophobic rhetoric for as long as he’s been in the public eye. But in a larger and more terrifying way, I was not surprised because we live in a world and participate in a culture that objectifies women and promotes a man’s entitlement to a woman’s body. As the dust has (prematurely) settled around the words this very public man said, I am left here with my private body, wondering how to live in this place.
Immediately following the release of the recording, there was an overwhelming response by women on social media discussing their sexual assaults. I read through tweets and instagram posts and facebook statuses overflowing with women’s stories, and it broke me and empowered me. It challenged the way I thought about sexual assault. It prompted me to think about all the times and all the ways that boys and men had treated my body like it was something that belonged to them. Who teaches a 3rd grade boy to grab a 3rd grade girl’s butt while walking inside from recess? Who tells a 12 year old girl that if she wears a short skirt that men will automatically picture her naked? Who encourages a high school boy to keep showing up at that girl’s locker again and again and again no matter how many times she says she won’t go out with him? Who teaches a college freshman that the best way to get a girl to go home with him is to get her really drunk so that she can’t say no? Our culture does.
This is rape culture.
And so is the silence.
When we choose not to speak up about injustice in our society, we are creating and fueling injustice. When we refuse to denounce bigotry, racism, and sexism, we are condoning it. As women, we must advocate for and champion other women. We must learn from and care for each other. We must validate the voices of the victimized. And we must hold men to higher standards.
There are good men and there are bad men and then there are the men in between who sit idly by and shrug off the “locker room talk” and don’t intervene and don’t speak up and sometimes just don’t notice. I know a lot of these men. We all do. I want to beg these men. Please speak up. Please ask if I’m ok. Please get me a glass of water. Please make sure I get home safely. Please don’t laugh at that joke. Please be infuriated by that joke. Please yell and scream and rage because of that joke. Please don’t let my body be a joke. Please don’t let my life be a joke.
I’m a woman with a body and a mind and a heart, and I have ears that hear and eyes that see and I will not let myself become a victim of a politician or a victim of a religion or a victim of a culture. But when I listen to the degrading words of a man who could be the next leader of the country I live in, I feel crushed. And when I wait for a collective outcry from the men who I care about and look up to, I feel victimized. I feel small and less than and reduced only to flesh. And I feel so so angry.
In the silence I remember every man who’s ever made me feel like a plastic toy. I remember having my arms, legs, shoulders, butt, breasts, face, hair grabbed by men I did not know and a few that I did. In the silence I think about being stared at. I think about being afraid to take the bus. I think about being scared to say no. In the silence I think about how beautiful it would be if the world was safe, but in the silence I see just how little our government, our country, and our culture cares about women. This is rape culture. I am someone’s daughter and someone’s sister and perhaps someone that you love or like or care about in some small way, but more than that I am a woman. I am human. Is that not enough?
I want to end by sharing some of the words of Emily Doe. She is the woman who was sexually assaulted by Brock Turner and whose statement in court has since circled the globe tens of thousands of times. She was recently named one of Glamour Magazine’s women of the year and her recently released essay deeply moved me. It reminded me that women are so much more than the things that men do to us. We are fierce and wonderful and brilliant and alive. Let us keep telling stories that remind the world that we are here.
“I hope you end up like me strong. I hope you end up like me proud of who I’m becoming. I hope you don’t “end up,” I hope you keep going. And I hope you grow up knowing that the world will no longer stand for this. Victims are not victims, not some fragile, sorrowful aftermath. Victims are survivors, and survivors are going to be doing a hell of a lot more than surviving.” -Emily Doe
Be strong, be brave
**note from Crystal**
Here at RTW we believe that telling stories can bring empathy and freedom. Just like the women who are sharing their sexual assault stories, we encourage you to tell yours. Release yourself from carrying that pain inside. The more you speak in into light, the more freedom you bring. To yourself and those around you. If you want, tell your story in the comment section, or send us an email. We would love to talk with you!