The modern women’s movement is over forty years old. We’ve had twenty plus years of “no means no.” We’ve had a few years now of affirmative consent and “yes means yes.” We are coming up on the second anniversary of the first Slut Walk and still some attitudes don’t scrub out of our collective psyche. They are stains that refuse to be washed away and I am not sure they ever can be, though I will always fight to do so. Sometimes though, I get mighty tired trying.
A young woman is raped in an unusually grotesque fashion (and it is very bad when we can actually qualify an already horrible act such.) She is humiliated. She has to endure the very real possibility that her rapists may get away with it. They so often do to begin with but this is a “football town” and the young men that violated her are on the football team. It may very well have been swept under the rug had the case not gained national attention. She lives through a trial in which she is reminded of that night. She is treated to the usual gauntlet of victim blaming our culture hurls at rape victims. In the very end she finally acquires some small measure of justice and what do we do? We weep for the lost future of her attackers.
Don’t misunderstand me, it is a waste. They wasted their lives by committing a heinous act and who knows what bright future they had. It is a shame but their future is one of their own making. You know what, though? This isn’t even about them. It is not about the victim blaming, the slut shaming, or the rape culture that is built up around a cult of machismo in our society so enamored of young men proving themselves in modern-day gladiatorial arenas. At least not directly. No, others writers, more experienced writers, have written about all those little symptoms. I have yet to read anyone write plainly or speak out loud the root of it all.
Women are, subjectively speaking and in every major culture on this planet, worth less than men. Sure it is a shame that this girl will always have to live with having control of her own body stolen from her. Gee we all feel bad that she will probably suffer post-traumatic stress disorder from all this. It is kind of sad, we guess, that she had to go through all that but, really, not that big a deal because, well, she’s a girl. Those two boys, though, they were men in the making, and boy do we all miss out by two of those not reaching their potential. I hope the bitter sarcasm bleeds out of these words, out of your monitor, and into your brain.
It never ends, does it, this treating all women as though they are less? Women’s health issues are treated less seriously than men, only gaining attention if it relates to how a man enjoys their health. Women get less than a third the speaking roles on television and in movies. Violence against women is only addressed when one party can stick it to the other. A woman’s sexuality in most cultures, including our own, is treated as the property of the men in her life or of the culture as a whole. Finally, the worst insult you can hurl at most men is that they are “being a woman.” That, more than anything else, should tell you just where women stand in our culture.
Not long ago I wrote about Michael Vick and how, pasty, white “activists” are more outraged over his mistreatment of dogs than they are about the injustices against fellow human beings. Well here is case in point. The number of professional athletes that have had sexual assault or harassment charges leveled at them over the years have been legion. They beat their wives, rape young fans, or send creepy sext messages out and yet we can forgive them, because in the eyes of our media, in the eyes of our culture, women are even worth less than a dog.
So yes, we have a rape culture problem. We have a victim blaming and slut shaming problem. Yes we need to teach young men not to rape rather than teach young women not to get raped. No really does mean no and yes really does mean yes. All of these things need to be addressed but we won’t be able to do any of that until we can admit the real problem. We can’t just say we believe women are equal we actually have to believe it, and it is too apparent this is not the case. It is going to be a hard fight, the idea is so ingrained in our cultures that even men who have dedicated themselves to championing the cause of all oppressed people, including women, catch themselves giving in. Heck, even many, if not most women, have internalized this outdated and vicious cultural lesson. Until we truly do value women as men, there will be no equality, and we will never be able to say we have a just society.