Men have done a poor job. This statement in itself can be applied to a multitude of topics, but specifically, men have done a poor job stopping sexual violence. We need to do better.
The recent mass shooting in Atlanta underscores the tolerance and even encouragement of misogynistic ideology. The depraved individual that took the lives of eight people, six of whom were Asian women, March 16 said his motive for the heinous crime was the removal of temptation. He blamed women for his “life of sin” and decided that killing them was a better solution than seeking help for his addiction.
I, like many others, was appalled by his “reasoning,” but when I thought about what he said I realized I shouldn’t have been shocked at all. In society, we have created a culture where women are blamed for the actions of men. Minority women are even more likely to be victims of sexual violence as they are more likely to be objectified.
I have seen firsthand how the education system props this up. I was lucky enough to receive an education that was not abstinence-only, but my health teacher showed us videos used in abstinence-only programs so we could see how horrid it was. I heard speakers who were supposed to be “experts in sex” lecture women on the importance of purity and tell them it’s their responsibility to not tempt the men around them.
I saw how women in tank tops and sports bras in high school were forced to change because they were “distracting” others around them from their education. Meanwhile men, myself included, would wear tank tops and cut-offs with seemingly no repercussions. These dress code violations further perpetuated the idea that “boys will be boys” and my female classmates’ outfits are somehow responsible for the actions of my male classmates.
It’s not just schools, either; it’s religious organizations.
The shooter’s roommate described the shooter as a Christian who was ashamed of himself for his sexual addiction. The shooter had been to a Christian clinic to treat his addiction and had taken measures often recommended by prominent evangelicals to curb his addiction, like getting rid of his smartphone and telling others every time he relapsed.
I myself am a Christian — although I loathe to say it because the small-mindedness that's often associated with that label — and I have heard many of these treatments prescribed to help those “living in sin.” I have just as often heard those who are supposed to be examples of Jesus spout sexism from a pulpit.
I have sat in church on Sunday mornings and listened to a pastor speak about women’s obligation to not lead men to temptation. I have heard men in congregations accuse those who came forward during the #MeToo movement of lying for fame and wealth. I’ve heard “men of God” talk about the need for women to dress modestly and how other women have led them to sin.
Jesus was very clear on who bears the responsibility for being tempted. In the Bible, Jesus’s disciples ask him what they are to do if what a woman is wearing causes them to look on in lust. His response was to “tear out your eye” to prevent yourself from looking.
The responsibility is on men for their own temptation. Women are not objects of sexual desire; they are people with the right to do what they want — and they don’t need me to say that for it to be true.
Men have a responsibility to be on the lookout for other men, not for some idiotic revenge fantasy about killing a rapist, but to help prevent sexual violence. Men need to start noticing patterns in other men’s behavior and calling them on it. Too often do we let little comments, “dark humor” jokes and other misogynistic actions go unchallenged.
A new study conducted in the U.K. found that 97% of women ages 18 to 24 experience sexual harassment. Your friends, your sisters, your girlfriends, your mothers and any other women you encounter have likely experienced sexual harassment. This is happening because for years men have allowed other men to attack women and have done nothing to stop it. That needs to end.
Thousands of memorials were made for the victims in Atlanta, and perhaps one of the most powerful images came from a little white sign surrounded by bouquets of flowers. The sign said in all-black lettering “MALE SILENCE IS VIOLENCE.” Men need to do better.