In the fall of 2017, dozens of celebrities and politicians, including people such as Harvey Weinstein, Roy Moore, and Louis C.K. have been accused of sexual harassment and assault. There have been accusations before, but now people are actually starting to believe them. In the past, people asked questions like, “What were you wearing? What were you doing?” Basically implying that women were asking for it. Now, women that were harassed are finally getting their points across. This varies on a big spectrum though. Weinstein allegedly raped women and did other terrible acts. While his actions were still bad, Louis C.K.’s actions were on the lower end of the spectrum. Fortunately, some of the people accused owned up to it, and apologized to the people involved. It shows that while what they did wasn’t right, they take responsibility for their actions and have made efforts to improve themselves as people. This terrible treatment of women doesn’t only happen with famous people. This culture of dehumanizing women spreads through every aspect of society, including my high school. I haven’t been a student at Berkeley High for very long, but in my time there I’ve seen some disrespectful and immature behaviors towards girls. I hear a lot of guys talk about girls in dehumanizing ways, that suggest they consider women to be objects, and that make girls feel uncomfortable. While they don’t touch the girls, this is still harassment; if the girl doesn’t feel comfortable with a guy and what he’s saying, he should stop. I also see guys grabbing girls and I can’t really tell if it’s consensual or not, but it happens a lot in the hallways. People don’t really care at Berkeley high; most people will just ignore this kind of behaviour. While no one has ever explicitly instructed me how to treat women, I learned from example, growing up around my dad and brother. But to change the culture of misogyny, we need to speak up on the subject and teach young men about it; we need to inspire them to be better people.
This isn’t the first time rape culture has been so prominent in our society; in fact it’s always been a big part, just not always publicly. It used to be that people didn’t talk about domestic violence, and the public belief was that, if a man beat his wife, that was their own business. We obviously didn’t handle this problem well 40 years ago, but now many people are seeing the true implications and impact of this problem. At a conference at Santa Cruz in 2000, Angela Davis reminded us that, “...A little more than two decades ago, most people considered domestic violence to be a private concern and thus not a proper subject of public discourse or political intervention. Only one generation separates us from that era of silence.” Because of the #metoo movement and the fact that women are speaking publicly about their personal experiences, people are just now seeing how big this problem is. We’ve come pretty far, but it’s not far enough. One setting in which sexual assault is still prevalent is on college campuses. According to United States Justice Department, one in four female undergraduates will have experienced some form of sexual assault before graduation. Furthermore, the ACLU estimates that 95% of rape on campus goes unreported. These stats highlight the problem of rape and assault, and shows that it isn’t going away anytime soon. Due to the ignorance people have had regarding this problem, we now realize the hole we’ve dug ourselves. But, women opening up and telling the world instead of keeping it to themselves is a good first step in getting out of that hole. Not only are women opening up about it, but people are actually paying attention to them and believing them. Before, when women tried to speak up about it, people brushed it away, thinking they just wanted attention or were trying to get back at someone. Now, people are listening to what women are saying about their experiences with sexual harassment. I think that the next step we have to go through is for men to take responsibility for their actions, and to teach younger men not to rape.
In the past, rather than telling men not to rape, society has always placed the responsibility on women to not get raped. A rape survivor, Zerlina Maxwell, appeared on a Fox News segment in 2013 to talk about this subject. While at the time Fox News was advocating for women to carry around guns to protect themselves from rape, Maxwell advocated for putting more of the responsibility on men, instead of women. She said, “I think that the entire conversation is wrong. I don’t want anybody to be telling women anything. I don’t want men to be telling me what to wear and how to act, not to drink.” She says that instead of teaching women self defense, we should be teaching men to not rape. Women are people too, and have the right to do, wear, or act however they want to. The fact is, rape is inherently wrong, yet we still put it on the women as if they did something wrong, rather than the people who actually rape them. This not only shifts the responsibility away from the offender, but actually puts it on the victim, who may feel guilty or ashamed. It isn’t the victims responsibility to do something; it’s the offender’s. One example of victim-blaming is people telling women to carry a gun on them at all times to prevent the rape. In fact, on the news segment, Sean Hannity suggested that very idea. Maxwell replied, “And I don’t...want you to tell me that I needed a gun in order to prevent my rape...don’t tell me if I’d only had a gun, I wouldn’t have been raped. Don’t put it on me to prevent the rape.” I agree with Maxwell, it shouldn’t have been her responsibility to shoot someone. You can’t just go around shooting everyone who tries to rape you, especially since a majority of women actually know their rapist. For advocating this viewpoint, Maxwell got several death threats and other hurtful comments on social media. This reaction from people watching the news segment only proves Maxwell’s point—that men don’t want to take responsibility for their actions and instead want to keep the responsibility and blame on women. Sending death threats to someone who expresses their opinion is quite extreme, and just shows how misogynist those people’s nature and attitude are regarding the way they think about rape and sexual harassment.
The fact that women are now being believed when they speak up instead of being ignored and scorned, is a big step in the right direction. Comparing 40 years ago to today, the culture of misogyny has shifted a lot. Now that we know and acknowledge the issue, the next step is do take responsibility and do something about it. We need to change the focus of rape and harassment from women and what they need to do to prevent it, to men and what they need to do to stop it. By doing this, we can change this culture of misogyny.