Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Why Trump's Words are Not a Distraction from Real Issues

Growing up I wished I was a boy. They seemed to have it so much easier. Their advantages were simple when I was young. They could pee without completely exposing themselves, they could walk around in their underwear without shame and sit with their legs comfortably open. Boys were not only allowed, but expected, to take off their shirts when they were hot, whereas I couldn't wear tank tops with straps too thin and I had to raise my arms before leaving the house to ensure I wouldn't expose my stomach by accident while moving about. I had to search with great effort to find shorts that reached my finger tips and jeans that didn't hug my butt and thighs too tight but would still fit my waist (not an easy feat!). It's not that my parents and schools were being intentionally evil and restricting, they made these rules to protect us girls. Because girls don't grow up just being girls. We grow up as targets. 

From a very young age it became clear that my body was a defining feature of my value. Anyone and everyone could have an opinion about it that was more valued than my own. Boys teased me for being flat chested, not being allowed to shave my legs, and for getting red-faced when I was hot. When my body developed I had to constantly battle fashion to find something between "frumpy" and "slutty". When I walked in public I was always aware of every part of my body. Why? Because it had all been commented on at one point or another, not just by men I knew, but by acquaintances and strangers. 

I didn't know that I had experienced sexual harassment until I took a Human Sexuality course in college and realized that's what that was called when men made crude comments and touched me inappropriately. I mean, I knew it was wrong, I knew it didn't feel right, but I was also unintentionally taught that it was my fault. I was in the wrong place, I was around the wrong people, I was wearing the wrong thing. I was a girl in a man's world. 

When a man followed a friend and me around a store with his hand down his pants, I was asked what I was wearing to cause him to do that. When a loved one was sexually assaulted, she was reprimanded for putting herself in that situation by some and slut-shamed by others, while the guy responsible was left unquestioned. If I voiced disapproval for unwanted advances or comments I was told I should feel complimented. That or labeled a "bitch." I was angry, but because I was either laughed at or shrugged off when I spoke out, I felt helpless. 

I know so many wholesome guys who sit back silently while they listen to other men spew degrading, crude, and misogynistic garbage. I've asked why they don't say anything to try to stop it. Why not say out loud, This is disgusting and I'm not going to listen to it anymore. The answer is always the same, "It's not going to change anything." 

I refuse to believe that. 

Women are taking a stand. We aren't politely ignoring things anymore. Men, I challenge you to do the same. This is not just a woman's fight. This is a human fight. Remaining silent is a big part of the problem. That's why Trump's words (that were not just words, but also confessions of sexual assault), especially as a potential leader of our country, should not be shrugged off as "locker room banter" or forgotten with a half-assed apology. If the savage rape by Brock Turner that resulted in an embarrassing excuse for justice has taught us anything, it's that we can't afford to continue to set an example of apathy toward the value of women. Our daughters deserve more. Our sons deserve more. We deserve more. Don't sell yourself short.

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