Dear Friends, Family, and Strangers,
This is a word on transforming rape culture, and what everyone can do to help. This is not about who you're voting for, or about politics at all. The next president isn't going to transform rape culture.
For any type of cultural norm to persist, we have to engage in it. For "locker room talk" to be accepted as a normal part of masculinity, we have to accept that it's normal, encourage it, and close our ears to reports of the assault that is a natural product of blatant objectification. That has been the way. Some people still believe "boys will be boys," but many of us stopped buying into that aging lie long ago.
In fact, many of us find the phrase "boys will be boys" outrageously insulting to the good men we associate with.
Accepting or encouraging psychosis and misogyny as the normal traits of men deprecates men and boys and is dangerous for women and girls. Men can and do exhibit kindness, self-control, respect, healthy attachment, constructive power, and consideration regularly--as a lifestyle.
If you are a man (or woman) who learned that disrespecting women (or men) earned you points in the locker room, if you learned the pattern of assault and domination as the path to self-respect and connection, please know that any connection or self-regard that comes from a place of fear is not real and will never be sustainably satisfying. Fear and domination is nothing but an unending downward spiral of anger and hopelessness, demanding escalating expressions of assault and domination to get your "hit" of power and connection. There is a better, more fulfilling way. There is great honor in getting help to find a way to love others and take care of yourself healthfully.
Women, we've been playing along with this game, too. Accepting that powerful men get to speak about us this way, or touch us when and how they want to. Feeling, even behaving like the objects culture teaches us we are without knowing why. Claiming our worth from who we're connected to, instead of our innate uniqueness. This is not all conscious, so maybe we've made a stream of choices we don't understand and don't like to think about.
Why did we say yes when we wanted to say no? Why were we silent when we wanted to scream? Why did we laugh at the joke that wasn't funny? Why did we minimize the experience of our friend when she told us that she's not sure what happened, but when she woke up her pants were down and her legs were wet? Why have we ever said, "This is no big deal?"
Because we were taught to through both blatant and subtle messages from birth onward.
It's been over ten years since I got conscious about how abuse, misogyny, and rape culture were guiding my choices. And yet, when rape, assault, and abuse are hot topics in the media and people are minimizing the seriousness of these issues, I have to fight to stay in my right mind.
It matters. It matters. It matters.
Finally, this morning, after days of staying with the discomfort and disease over the latest rape culture media parade, and the piercing ache that rises in response, I realized what the feeling of panic in me is about. It's about my kids. It's about my nieces and nephews. It's about the cherished children of my friends and friends of my children. It's about the messages, both blatant and subtle that they are receiving.
Over the past few days I've been nearly sick, not over the media's response to the Trump video, but over the response of the people and clergymen. Please know, this is not judgement of your vote. It's not about your vote at all. This is a request to understand what minimizing the effects and seriousness of this language is saying to our kids and teens who are acclimating to their national culture right now. They are soaking up our culture like sponges. Even if they have moral or religious guidance that tells them otherwise, the boys are finding out: This is what is allowed. This is what is expected of men. While the girls find out: This is the way it is. This is what I have to tolerate.
There are so many layers to why we accept abuse and engage either actively or silently in rape culture. On the external layer we may believe it could never be us. We might believe our daughter is so confident and feisty that it could never be her, or that our son knows better than to disrespect women. But what we learn from the many layers of culture in our lives is strong. If you are not careful about how you talk about this in front of your children (grandchildren, students, friends) you could easily reinforce rape culture ideology into their brains without ever intending to do so.
Boys will be boys.
That's just the way men are.
She should get a longer dress.
Power means getting to do whatever you want.
Men just need sex.
They can't control themselves.
These things happen.
It's just locker room talk.
Men are dogs.
She was asking for it.
He was just being a guy.
And on and on and on. . .
We have to be intentional about unraveling these lies. These lies and the ideas they promote form the bedrock of abuse and inequality. They really are that important. Words matter.
So does action.
We have to be intentional about teaching our children how to respect each other, love each other, and care for themselves. We have to be intentional about how we explain our vote to our children. We have to be intentional about saying, "That behavior and language is wrong." No buts. No excuses. No minimizing poor behavior by pointing at someone else and saying, "Well, they are worse." No hierarchy of worth based on other people's shame. If we do not teach our children to be intentional about gender relations, culture will teach them to play along -- to follow the rules of dominance and subservience. Kids everywhere are getting a crash course in the way things are right now.
I will not accept things the way they are. I will work to consciously change things for myself and my children.
My vote is not going to make that difference this year. No vote ever could. But, my words, actions, and ongoing commitment to my core beliefs will.
We are all equal. We are all worth the effort it takes to treat each other as such.
There is no caveat in the Golden Rule that makes exceptions for gender differences, or any other differences for that matter.
Let's rise together.
Anna Turner is the woman behind Little Hearth. She's an ordained interfaith minister, a writer, a believer in purposeful living and healing, a perpetual student, and a full time feminist mother.