There has been a lot of talk recently on the issue of women and sexual assault, and my thoughts range from anger to confusion. Anger because we’ve been trying to address this topic for years, and sadly, it took a woman dying for it to finally break through. I was confused at how quickly the attention turned from the issue at hand to the men who were so quick to say that they were not a part of the problem.
“Not all men” became a trending hashtag, and suddenly, the death of a woman was trivialized and invalidated. Invalidation—something which I’m sure a lot of women have been feeling recently. It took me back to the conversations I would have with my mother, conversations that my brother never had to go through. I was told to keep to well-lit streets and public areas. I was told to never follow or respond to strange men, to let people know my location and to always text or call when I arrived home. It was a common occurrence, and unknowingly, it instilled a fear in me that as long as I was a woman, I would never be fully safe. A lot of women have had the same upbringing.
It has become an unconscious instilling of fear in women from a young age, and there needs to be change. We have been so focused on teaching women how to be safe while forgetting to also teach men what not to do. The real issue that needs to be faced is the fact that 97% of women in the UK between the ages of 18-24 have been sexually harassed, and that number is harrowing. It’s personal to me because I am one of those 97%.
There needs to be change in behavior, especially those behaviors that have been normalized. I have heard too many excuses and I have seen too many statistics, and while it is not all men, it’s enough for it to be a very real problem. I remember a time when the snapping of a bra was a game and the pinching of a bum was considered funny. Such acts were downplayed, and as women, we had and have been taught to see such things as a sign of attraction. It is no longer about respecting our bodies but having them objectified.
We are now in a day and age when women are no longer being silenced. We call out disgusting behavior and speak out against our abusers, and the first reaction towards a woman being angry at being objectified is to be called a “bitch”. The problem for a lot of men is that women are suddenly realizing their power, and we are saying no. We are holding our abusers accountable for their actions and their language. We are realizing we don’t need the attention of a man to feel validated and successful. It’s the power of realization that scares them, the realization that we are goddesses in our own right. If we so choose, we can bring this world to its knees.
“Not all men,” yes, but it’s too many women. Too many of our friends, sisters, mothers, and daughters. It’s on every one of us to call out problematic behavior and language. It will take a lot more than saying you’re a “nice guy.” What are you doing to prove that? It doesn’t make you any less of a man to call out problematic language and toxic mentality.
We need to allow women to reclaim their bodies, to reclaim their womanhood. It’s not about being a feminist and woman, it’s about being willing to stand up for what’s right and being willing to change the narrative, change the statistics, change mentality, and make a real change in this world.