Let me start this out by saying that I am not one to shy away from controversial issues. But I am also not one to unnecessarily bring up controversial issues unless I think it would be beneficial to my audience. This is an issue I have considered writing about for a very long time. But never felt the time was right. With recent events I have realized that this needs to be shared. And this is not to start a political debate. Please do not comment with anything political related. We aren't talking about that here today. This post is written for all the amazing I work with and will work with in the future. I want them to know that if they have experienced anything less than respect from men and even other women in our culture that they are not alone, they are not at fault, they are not broken, and they are loved and valued for who they are. That's the point of today's message. I also ask that if you comment you read the entire post first. It is lengthy. But a lot of vulnerable information will be shared (much of this I am sharing publicly for the first time) and I ask that you are respectful of that in your comments. I am always open to people disagreeing or having other opinions. Feel free to share those! I am just asking that you be respectful in your disagreements.
Recently it has come to my attention that many people feel that certain talk, "locker room talk" is seen as normal behavior. I have heard people say that it's typical and expected out of many males. Thankfully I have seen a huge amount of men stand up and claim this is wrong. And I love that! Oh that makes me so happy! But for the few that are arguing that it's harmless, let's talk.
Most women are not hurt by these words. Cat calling isn't actually at the top of our "most hated" list. It just isn't. We're tough. We've heard it all. We've been called names and had strangers make comments about our bodies or tell us to smile. While annoying, it is rarely something that will ruin our days. What outrages so many of us is that these men who say these things portray a sense of normalcy about treating women's bodies like objects. When you yell "nice tits" at a woman walking down the street you are not just "complimenting" her body, you are saying it's okay to just view her as a combination of human parts and not a human being with feelings, personality, and intellect. It strips a woman's identity down to just physical attributes. And that is not okay. But again, these are just words, right? Then there are rape jokes. Jokes about grasping a woman against her will. I completely understand that a majority of men who make these jokes or make lewd remarks at women would never act upon them. That they are seeing them as just jokes. I do understand that not every bad joke comes from a bad person. But let's stop for a second and think about the people that are going to hear them.
Boys and young men who have yet to understand the complexities of adult society and are unable to separate your words and what they see so often in aggressive pornographic videos online from what is okay in reality.
Men who have actually raped or sexually assaulted women are likely to hear your jokes as well, and all they will hear is encouragement for their actions. According to RAINN every 2 minutes an American is sexually assaulted. That means it's fairly reasonable to assume that someone who has committed such a horrendous crime has listened to one of your jokes. And used it in his mind to validate and affirm his behavior as normal.
Women or men who have been victims of sexual assault. Once they hear your words they automatically start to question their safety. You may be the most kind hearted person in the world and would never act upon the jokes you make. But to a woman or man who has been hurt before, there is pain in your words. Trust is being broken down and past pains are being brought to the present.
Girls and young women who have yet to grasp that the rough pornographic scenes and images they see online and your jokes are not the same as what's acceptable in reality. THIS ARTICLE shows us that girls are believing that it's normal for sexual relationships to be all about whatever the man wants. This doesn't happen overnight. Many of these girls experienced cat calling at very young ages, many before puberty. And more and more objectifying their body turns teenage girls who think sex is for men to do as they wish with their bodies.
It wasn't long ago that a young teenage girl I know was expressing her shock at the stories she had recently heard about sexual assault. I warned her that there will likely (but hopefully not!) come a time when more of her friends have similar stories horrific than not. I am merely 21 years old myself and more of my friends have shared stories of sexual assault than those who haven't. And that's just those who choose to share. Some who haven't said anything may still have stories.
I remember my first horrific encounter. I was maybe 9 or 10. At one of my little sisters friends birthday parties. A neighborhood teenage boy was helping out with the party. He took a liking to me and I loved the attention. I felt so cool being talked to by a teenage boy! He complimented my body, telling me I looked much older than I was. Pinched my chest. Asked me questions like "Have you ever french kissed before?" and eventually led me around a corner, where he held my throat against the wall, kissed me, and stuck his hand down my pants. He told me that's what teenagers do and that I couldn't tell anyone because he loved me and people would think he was too old for me. I believed it and didn't say a word. He was a teenage boy. His thought process to do such a thing did not come out of no where. I am in no way excusing his behavior on societal issues. What he did was wrong and has caused a great amount of issues in my life. But I am saying that his seeing a young girl and deciding it was acceptable okay for him to act in such a way did not come out of nowhere. Society's acceptance of speaking of women as objects inevitably lead to his decision to see me as a target to use for his own pleasure. It wasn't until I was 17 that I one day realized what happened that day was so wrong. I too had heard many jokes over the years about my body and about assault. Hearing those things likely prolonged my understanding of what happened to me.
I have friends that have more violent stories at even younger ages. Many friends that were violently taken advantage of at an older age. Or manipulated into horrific experiences. I am not sharing my story so you feel bad for me. I am sharing my story because it is so common. I am not the first to experience such a thing and will not be the last. I am sharing it so you can see the effects of the words people use and jokes people make. They have real life consequences for oh so many people.
If you are reading this, and you have also experienced a situation of sexual abuse, I am ending big hugs your way! Know you are not alone. What happened was not your fault. You are not less than because of how people have treated you. You are amazing. You are a survivor. And you are loved!
If you have experienced such situations I urge you to seek counseling. Tell someone you trust. It's not a normal thing for a brain to process. It takes time. It takes healing. Seek help.
And for those that previously considered the jokes and cat calling okay, I hope you think twice before making another joke or unsolicited comment about a woman's body. I hope you stop your friends and co-workers when you see or hear them making such remarks. I hope you stop people when you hear them making up excuses for those who do make those comments and jokes. It is never okay to treat a human being as an object, weather verbally or physically. It's not okay. There is no justifying it. Because there is a cause and effect. And things will not change until people start standing up and speaking out and stopping people who make those jokes and comments. Often times women are seen as "feminist bitches" when they try and stand up against this. And maybe some people will call me that for writing this post. We need men to stand with us. We need men to say it's not okay for women to be talked to or about like that. So please, stand with us, or at least don't call us bitches when we stand for ourselves.
It's 2016. We can make this change happen. Let's do.