Disclaimer: I have never been a “SURVIVOR” (survivor is the appropriate term not VICTIM) of sexual assault. All of my understanding of the topic comes from the work I’ve done studying the history of women and the accounts of women who have experienced it. Although I have not experienced sexual assault, I have experienced violence and sexual harassment like over 60% of women do. This goes from catcalling on the street to being commented on about your breasts or “behind” at the workplace. Before you begin this. It’s important you know the difference between sexual assault and sexual harassment.
The past Sunday evening celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Issa Rae, Angelina Jolie, Meryl Streep, and Justin Timberlake wore black to protest sexual harassment. Beginning with the Harvey Weinstein accusations, women have begun to come forward and address their abusers. This coming out in the entertainment business caused a movement called “#MeToo” where women all over the world share their experiences with sexual violence.
Now I could go into the history of sexual violence particularly in the workplace but there are BOOKS on this. Books I have read and encourage you to. But the point is these stories are NOT new. Women were considered PROPERTY to men. Do you know Black men were able to vote before women? Women were one of the last oppressed groups to receive simple civil rights. And still today, women still fight to even get paid equally. In 1975 Feminist Laura Mulvey coined the term “male gaze” which means females are in the passive role of the observed and the OBJECTS of the male perspective. Ever saw a beer commercial with half-naked women all over cars to appeal to men? That is male gaze. The overall use for women to be looked at by men as objects. You see this now in society when a women post a “sexy” picture and automatically it’s assumed to be FOR men to enjoy when it simply could have been a picture you felt beautiful in. Check this, the woman who posted the picture may not even be into men! But somehow the picture of two lesbians kissing is seen as something to “turn men on.”
On Sunday Oprah Winfrey gave a speech after winning the Cecil B. de Mille award. She used this platform to discuss the larger issue and elephant in the room. Oprah gracefully eased into the conversation stating “ what I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have. And I’m especially proud and inspired by all the women who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up and share their personal stories.” Truth. Now TRUTH. Is a complicated subject but what is one’s truth is not another person’s truth. And it is not up to YOU to decipher someone’s truth. It is this very action that prevents victims from coming forward. Who wants to tell THEIR TRUTH and hear comments telling you they aren’t true? This isn’t to say every accuser is guilty either. It’s to say, DO NOT DENY ANOTHER INDIVIDUAL’S TRUTH. For many women, they go through the decision of speaking their truth or facing retaliation that may end them up with no career or food to feed their family. In every accusation, a common theme is power dynamics. Many of these women were silenced simply through being powerless. It is thoroughly inhumane for us to condone actions simply due to “who they are” as if an abuser isn’t also apart of who they are. IN 2018 these women are coming out and IMMEDIATELY SLUT SHAMED AND DOUBTED… imagine 20-40 years ago. OH and the justice system makes mistakes! A non-guilty verdict does not mean the accuser was guilty. It means there was enough reasonable doubt. Many of that doubt comes from rape culture. How in sexual assault cases is justice always served when women’s accusers are dismissed of chargers BUT when your homeboy who ACTUALLY shot and killed 5 people and gets LIFE… the justice system is all of a sudden corrupt?
A different lens
This is why we have a man like this in office. BECAUSE PEOPLE IGNORE THINGS THAT ARE WRONG IF IT DOESN’T AFFECT THEM. Community, let’s look at this through another lens. We all are outraged that we have in office a man who WE see as a blatant racist. We don’t understand how a man like this could be in office. We look at his supporters as some type of evil. But let’s look at it from the side of those who aren’t affected by this election. Those who actually BENEFIT from Trump being in office. To them, we just are trying to bring down THEIR idols. To them, we may just simply be complaining or playing “VICTIM.” In their eyes, we need to LET THE PAST GO just how you tell these victims who probably have faced decades of psychological issues due to their abuse. How “they” are treating “us” is just how you are treating women when before you know the truth are calling them liars. Or WORST, even when you know the truth ignore it because, well it simply doesn’t affect you. We have to stop picking which battles we fight. The oppressed should not oppress others. You cannot expect progression unless you are fully progressed yourself. If you have not experienced sexual violence, you are in a position of PRIVILEGE. Yes! PRIVILEGE. Before you try to ignore someone else’s experience please check your privilege and remember how it feels when people disregard your own battles….
One of the greatest Feminist/Activist/Writer Audre Lorde wrote: “The master’s tools cannot dismantle the master’s house.” This means “We cannot disrupt our oppression using the logic that justifies our oppression.” If you want to dismantle the “masters house” you can NOT use or think using the same tools that built it. You cannot want paradise for your own movement without embracing all experiences. Rape culture is real. Rape culture is scary. Rape culture is something I never want my children to experience. You don’t hear a person get shot and the world questions if that person really got shot… think that through. And that’s your beginning to understanding.