Echoes of “me, too”rang in my head long after I closed my eyes to go to sleep last night.
Every “me, too” I saw brought back the many instances of sexual harassment and assault in my own life and the stories I’ve heard. And I’ve heard more stories than most.
For a time, I worked as a child and family therapist. I got to hear one story after another of children who were assaulted by the adults in their lives. It was heartbreaking work, and I was haunted by their grief and their guilt.
For having been a victim of a predator. For not knowing how to avoid it or stop it or tell someone. For how many times it happened. For what they saw as their own complicity and participation in it, not recognizing that coercion is never consent.
Their pain was with me across my days—days when I had to pull out their stories and restrain myself from reaching over to give them the hug that might bring me solace but might make them uncomfortable. I watched, and I listened, and I tried to be a helper.
I no longer work as a counselor. A rescue complex is never a good thing to have in the helping profession, and I made a personal decision to move in a different direction. But the stories didn’t stop. I’ve spent my life hearing “me, too” from friends, family members, and strangers relieved to divest themselves of the stories that have weighed so heavily on their hearts. And the thing is, I’ve never once been surprised by a story. Nor have I ever once doubted a victim.
Because I also remember being that girl who had more male friends than females. I remember the jokes, the “locker room talk” that’s so prevalent in rape culture. There I was, being the “cool girl” by being silent in the face of misogyny and rape culture. Rolling my eyes and laughing off jokes that should never have been made. Jokes that weren’t jokes to me or to any of the men or women who have been the target of sexual harassment or assault. And I’ve watched men on social media. The videos they post. The jokes they tell. The people they believe, and don’t. The people they defend, and don’t.
Violence against women gets viewed as a female problem. A women’s issue. But it’s not. How did violence against women get turned into an issue that we, as women, are seen as responsible for addressing? And why don’t men feel equally, or even more, responsible for addressing it? This TED Talk breaks it down nicely:
If we’re going to put an end to rape culture and misogyny, here are 45 things we need to stop doing right now:
- We need to keep our hands to ourselves. There’s no reason, ever, to reach out and touch another human being without their consent. I cannot count the number of times my ass has been grabbed by someone who thought they had a right to touch my body simply because they felt like it.
- Stop normalizing rape culture and sexual violence. I was once assaulted on a public street, and yet the friends I was with immediately normalized it (it’s happened to me so many times!) and dismissed it (it’s not a big deal). It’s not normal. Not ever. Stop trying to say it’s okay.
- Stop endorsing rape culture with laughter. When a friend makes an inappropriate joke about rape, assault, or harassment, don’t f*cking laugh. Call that sh*t out.
- Stop endorsing rape culture with silence. We need to stop pretending that we don’t see the things we don’t want to see.
- Stop catcalling. It’s not flattering. It’s not a compliment. It’s insulting and intrusive.
- F*cking stop telling women to smile. We are not here for your approval. Stop telling us we’d look better if we smiled.
- Stop plying people with alcohol in order to initiate a sexual relationship. An inebriated person cannot give consent—so stop asking.
- Stop pressuring people to have sex. Coercion is not consent. Asking until we get a yes isn’t consent. Manipulating other people to engage in sexual acts is not consent.
- Stop blaming victims. It doesn’t matter what she was wearing or how late it was or what she was drinking. It doesn’t matter if she’s ever had sexual relations with anyone else in the past. It doesn’t matter if she’s slept with no one, one person, or 100 people. It doesn’t matter if, at some previous point in time, she did consent.
- Stop excusing predators. He’s not just an ass. It’s not just locker room talk. Make zero excuses for people who participate in rape culture, misogyny, or sexual violence.
- Stop casting doubt on victims’ stories. It doesn’t matter if that person was always perfectly polite and respectful to us. That doesn’t mean he (or she) isn’t a predator. Coming forward is incredibly hard. Believe them.
- Stop sexualizing young girls. Many school dress codes sexualize young women. No spaghetti straps (because shoulders are oh so tempting). No short skirts. Stop calling women’s clothes “distracting,” and start teaching boys to be respectful of other students and not treat them inappropriately.
- Stop beauty pageants. I believe 110 percent that beauty pageants need to become a thing of the past. They promote rape culture and misogyny by teaching young women that how they look (something they have little control over) is more important than how they behave or who they are. It sets them up to compete against one another rather than learning to see other girls or women in a cooperative light. It is 100 percent wrong, and it needs to stop. Stop entering children in these contests. Don’t participate. Don’t support them. Call it a “scholarship contest” all day long, but it’s misogyny and rape culture wrapped up in a pretty bow with a big shiny crown.
- Stop sexualizing young children. If a little girl and a little boy are playing together, stop joking about boyfriends and girlfriends. Stop saying that a little boy is going to be a ladies’ man or that daddy is going to need to load up the shotgun to protect the pretty little girl from all the boys who are going to be lining up at her door.
- Stop putting makeup on kids. Like beauty pageants, this isn’t okay. It’s one thing to let them play in a makeup bag. It’s another to try to make them look older than they are. Even the SnapChat filters that make children look older are a bit disturbing.
- Stop teaching girls and women that it’s their responsibility to protect against being assaulted.
- Stop teaching girls and women that virginity is some kind of prize. Her sexual choices are just that—her own.
- Stop “giving away” brides. We belong to ourselves. Nix that sh*t from ceremonies. While we’re at it, let’s take “obey” out of wedding vows. There’s no reason this should ever be included. Women do not, in fact, have to obey their husbands.
- Stop slut shaming.
- Never, ever use the words “asking for it” again.
- Stop fat shaming. This is also misogyny. Our bodies aren’t here for anyone else’s approval.
- Stop the following dating trends, which play into rape culture and misogyny: ghosting, hoovering, benching, stealthing, negging, and love bombing. All of these are manipulative and need to go.
- Stop sexualizing breastfeeding.
- Stop teaching little girls that other girls are competition.
- Stop telling little girls that boys who hurt them are actually showing that they like them. I got this lesson in kindergarten. F*ck that.
- Stop perpetuating double standards. Rules for young men and women should be the same.
- Stop telling girls that boys only want one thing. And stop telling boys that they are motivated purely by sex and that it’s okay.
- Stop telling women that we need to wear makeup or that we don’t.
- Stop asking women who we dressed up for. We look good for our own damn selves, not for men.
- Stop asking women when they are going to get married or if they have a boyfriend. We are not defined by our relationship status.
- Stop asking women to dumb themselves down or pretend to be less accomplished to get a man.
- Let’s quit with the whole “man of the house” and “breadwinner” bullsh*t.
- Stop asking women about children. When they’ll have them, how many they’ll have, if they’ll continue to stay home or go back to work. Stop judging any of it.
- Stop sexualizing women’s fitness. Don’t ask for gym photos. Don’t sexualize yoga. Stop making women’s health about sex.
- Stop blaming women for pregnancy. They didn’t get that way alone, but they sure are expected to go it alone.
- Stop making household chores the province of women. No grown man should be ignorant about balancing a checkbook, cooking a meal, or operating household appliances.
- For God’s sake, stop sending dick pics. Do not send unsolicited naked pictures, ever.
- Men, stop being mean because a woman said no. There’s no need to attack her appearance or anything else because she’s not interested.
- Stop cheating. Lying and cheating behaviors are not, in fact, in men’s “nature.” These are personal choices, and they are hurtful. They also perpetuate misogyny.
- Stop shaming women who do not report assault immediately after it happens.
- Stop trying to limit Plan B or birth control access.
- Stop supporting artists and other public figures who are known, or even suspected, predators.
- Stop witnessing harassment or assault and not speaking up.
- & 45. Stop supporting a president who has openly admitted to participating in rape culture, who has bragged about sexual violence, and who stands accused of sexual harassment and assault. Want justice? We need to see “President 45” held accountable for the women he’s harmed. His presidency needs to stop, and those who voted for him (who victim blamed and victim doubted and dismissed it all as locker room talk) need to take a firm stand against his behavior. We need justice for these victims, too.
If we’re serious about ending sexual violence, we need to start dismantling the misogyny that allows it to continue. We don’t need to do it tomorrow. We need to start right away.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Editor: Travis May
Copy Editor: Nicole Cameron
Social Editor: Waylon Lewis