I ran across this post on thefbomb.org earlier this week and have not been able to quit thinking about it.
If you don’t have time to read to original, here’s a summary: The author, Annie A, was talking with the grandfather of a friend after a basketball game when the pair spotted a young woman in a skimpy cheerleading uniform. The old man commented on the woman’s attire, saying: “Seems to me that if a girl wears basically nothing, like that one is, She’s just asking for some boy to knock her down and rape her. Wouldn’t even be his fault, walking around dressed like that.”
Annie said she just walked away, mumbling “that’s kind of harsh” under her breath. She explains how she felt ashamed, embarrassed and angry for not voicing her opinion, and was frustrated with herself for not knowing what to say.
Most women have probably found themselves in a similar position at some point; some ignorant ass makes a sexist (or racist, or otherwise repugnant) comment or joke and, despite strong personal opinions to the contrary, the woman (or intelligent, sensitive, enlightened man) stays silent.
Why do we do this?!
Part of me thinks it’s somewhat a product of shock. We are literally stunned into silence by the ignorance, sexism and misogyny of others. We simply don’t know how to respond to such shallow, hateful, and boorish comments on the spot.
I also think perhaps many times we just don’t want to make waves. This has sadly been true in my case more than once. Even though I am disgusted, angry and appalled, I just keep quiet because I don’t want to start an argument in public or come off looking like some crazy feminist psycho-bitch, which I’m quite sure is exactly how I would be perceived if I reacted the way I wanted to.
Besides, how do you even begin to explain to someone how fundamentally WRONG they are? If someone feels that way in the first place, or finds humor in rape, violence and hatred toward women, how effective will it be to tell them that every two minutes in the United States a woman is sexually assaulted? How much impact will it have to explain that 1 in 4 college-aged women will be sexually assaulted before they turn 25? Will it matter if you explain that victims of sexual assault have increased rates of PTSD and depression, and are more likely to suffer from eating disorders, substance abuse, and STDs? Will they change their beliefs if you tell them sexual assault victims also have higher rates of suicide?
It would also probably not be very effective to scream (as I have wanted to many times) “ARE YOU F***ING SERIOUS?! You think RAPE is funny?! You think just because a woman is wearing (insert description of outfit here) she is ASKING to be sexually assaulted?! F*** you, you ignorant, immoral, disgusting, misogynistic, piece of s**t.”
So if you can’t effectively educate, and you can’t scream and rant, but you also can’t in good conscious stay silent, then what in the hell are you supposed to do? Is there an appropriate way to address these types of comments? What about when the person making them is in a position of authority or someone who would typically garner respect (like Annie A’s friend’s grandfather)?
I wish I knew the answer.
What I do know, however, is that I will from this point forward never swallow my voice in a situation like that again. I will make a conscious effort to say SOMETHING in response; to hold my head high and have the courage to use my words and my knowledge to not do nothing.