The illustration above showcases some of the recent organizations, writings, studies and statistics that have come to the front page of main stream news. Many previous authors have have written about how the internet has accelerated and in some ways, revived feminist organizations, movements and collaborations. I agree, with the access to knowledge and information we see the global widespread discrimination, violence, misogyny against women, as well as the successes, educational attainment, military inclusion, and role of women in the workplace.
With nearly 70% of women experiencing violence (physical or sexual) in their lifetime – this astounding and overwhelming UN Report demonstrates the need to rewrite our story. A majority of women, girls, mothers, wives, sisters, cousins and friends encountering violence more than likely at the hands of men. This stat makes the violence experience seem inevitable. As a result, our culture incorporates “empowering” choices to help keep women safe. For example, think back, at what age did you receive or have you given the following advice:
- Don’t go into dark alleyways or streets alone at night
- Don’t walk alone at night, anywhere, even in your own neighborhood
- Park under the street light or in the parking ramp closest to the exit
- Take a taxi from a bar instead of public transportation
- Bring friends with you if you use public transportation
- What time are you coming or going?
- Are friends going with you?
- Call me when you arrive.
- How well do you know him?
All of these seemingly helpful hints or advice are simultaneously disadvantageous to the feminist movement – because they target young women. The “advice” tells women that we can make the right choices and bad things will not happen. For some that is true, but for many of us, the choice may not be in our hands.
For many of us, it is men who make conscious, manipulative, unhealthy and violent choices that shape our lives forever.
Where are the efforts and campaigns to change men? Sure, we have heard about them, but unlike these mainstream efforts highlighted in the illustration, we are still “empowering” women. (NOTE: I am not advocating we do not have safe plans or take caution and I agree there are “sensible” things anyone can do.)
So; where are the questions to men about why would you chase a women alone? Why is intimidating her rewarding? How drunk was she — that doesn’t seem cool? Why are women the sole or primary providers in families — is this really evidence of women’s advancement in the workplace or is it because so many men walk out on women and families?
What do these organizations and statistics have in common (referenced in the illustration)? It seems that the effort of modern day feminism – to support equal rights, safety and empowerment for women – is increasingly becoming part of daily news, charitable contribution and donation efforts.
This is an applauded effort but, unfortunately, the men who rape, beat, humiliate, harass women in the world are not the strange scary psychos that we can spot, fear and lockup. They may not be the weirdos, or creepy men, the stereotypical men we avoid. They are less likely to be strangers, and most likely to be our current, former partner, acquaintance or in all simple form – a man we know.
These men are brothers, gay friends, cousins, fathers, husbands, friends, uncles, god fathers. They know us and we know them. They make conscious choices, manipulative choices, choices out of misogyny, privilege and wealth. We as a society have to recognize that with astounding numbers like 1 in 3 military women will be sexually assaulted and 1 in 5 civilian women, that there is an epidemic, a conscious epidemic, that enables men, for centuries to repeatedly abuse, manipulate, hurt and walk out on women.
Until men can identify, understand and change their choices, actions and language that routinely negatively impact women on a daily basis, and therefore, the family, the stats will remain a reality.
What does it mean? It means we have to rewrite the story. We have to think, talk, live, play and work differently with the men in our lives. It means we have to hold men accountable, at every stage – at the small jokes that seem harmless, at the movies they watch and quote, no matter how seemingly funny or “normal.” It means we cannot be embarrassed or protect the ego and the “system.” It means we must have the uncomfortable conversation with the male friends we have known for years, and even those we may admire most, like our fathers and brothers.
To rewrite our story, we need men to engage in choices, decisions and opportunities that empower women.
What are your thoughts? Check out the movements and reports in the illustration by selecting the links below.
Chime for Change
College Enrollment by Gender
Domestic Violence Hotline
2013 US State Department Report on Human Trafficking
An Open Letter to Facebook: Take a Stand on Gender Violence & Hate
The Pixel Project
One Billion Rising
Reproductive Rights for Women
Why Society Still Needs Feminism
Women in Combat: Sexual Violence