Thursday, June 9, 2016

Boys, Girls, and the Root of the Problem

When the prevailing thought is "boys will be boys," girls will be garbage. - Ann Voskamp

You can't be on the internet this week without reading something regarding Brock Turner and the Stanford rape case. And since you're reading this, it means you've been on the internet, which saves me from the task of recapping this disgusting horror show.

There are so many parts about this that simultaneously make me sick, sad, and furious:
  • the sexual assault itself
  • Brock's lack of remorse
  • the joke of a sentence
  • the judge's reason for the "slap on the wrist" sentence
  • the white privilege 
  • the father's defense of his son
to name a few.

It scares me to live in a world where not only can a college-aged guy rape an unconscious woman behind a dumpster, but his father will plead for leniency calling it "20 minutes of action in his 20 plus years of life." Now, I don't know what it's like for fathers to raise sons (obviously), but I do know that kids learn mentalities and perspectives from their parents. When a man tries to make his convicted rapist of a son out to be the victim in a situation that he and only he caused, it's pretty obvious where Brock learned to believe that that girl was his for the taking. Brock still refuses to apologize for the actual assault, saying only that he wishes he hadn't gotten drunk or gone to that party. He and his father both say the problem is alcohol use and sexual promiscuity, but last time I checked, plenty of people in college get drunk at parties - most of them don't rape people.

It scares me to live in a world where a judge can give a 20-year-old convicted by a jury of multiple accounts of sexual assault a sentence of six months in county jail (not state prison), with the high chance that he'll be out in three with good behavior, and three years' probation because he is concerned that a longer sentence would have a "severe impact" on him. The judge showed far more concern for the perpetrator's wellbeing than that of the woman whose life he wrecked. Her life will forever be marked by what Brock decided to do, but Judge Aaron Persky was more concerned on not messing up Brock too badly. Because oh yeah, he just so happened to be a Stanford alum and the former men's lacrosse captain. An African-American 23-year-old just got freed from prison after spending 9 years in for murders he didn't commit. That means he was sent to prison at 14. But Brock, an upper class white guy, gets six months in jail for a rape he actually did commit.

It scares me to live in a world where news sources reporting on a rape think it appropriate/relevant to post the swim times of the rapist because he happened to be a talented athlete. As someone on Twitter said: If someone is a rapist and an athlete, they're not an athlete who made a mistake, they're a criminal who can also swim. There are plenty of articles on this case that have spent time talking about how Brock was a good swimmer hoping to go to the Olympics one day, as if that is some cause for sympathy. It's no one's fault but his own that he is not going to go to the Olympics.

This is the thing, though: the problem isn't just rape. I was going to the deli the other night. A guy was sitting on a stoop about halfway between my apartment and there. He said "what's going on, baby?" and when I ignored him, he proceeded to follow me down the sidewalk until he saw me go in the deli and, I'm assuming, realized he wasn't going to get me alone. (Luckily, I live in a neighborhood where there is lots of activity every night, and I'm also friends with the bouncers at a bar on the block who would come to protect me at the drop of a hat.) The problem is that we live in a culture where a lot of guys think there's nothing wrong with following a girl down the sidewalk, or catcalling, or touching her without being given permission. And we can't seem to make them understand what's wrong with it because we can't make them experience what it's like to be objectified as something less than human, something put on this planet for the entertainment and enjoyment of boys masquerading as men. I know I'm not saying anything here that hasn't been said by countless others, but this is reality that can't be said enough until the culture changes.

Remember Elliot Rodger, the perpetrator of the mass shooting at and around UC Santa Barbara a couple years ago? He posted a series of 20 videos online outlining his plan for revenge on women because they wouldn't date him or pay him the attention he thought he deserved. He literally warned people in advance of his desire to commit violence. His parents called the cops when he was younger because they were worried, and the cops shrugged him off as being a "normal" male with pent-up aggression. Boys will be boys, right? Teenage boys want sex, right? Because authorities didn't see the situation for what it was, the girls in that UCSB sorority house that was his target stopped being college students living their lives and started being subjects who had failed to please this guy who thought he was owed their attention and their bodies because they were females and he was a male. This is toxic masculinity at its peak.

Or how about Chris Plaskon, the 16-year-old in Connecticut who stabbed Maren Sanchez to death in the hallways of their high school because he asked her to be his date to prom and she said no? This is another example of a guy believing that he is owed access to a girl and taking revenge when he doesn't get what he wants. If he couldn't have her, no one would, not even her boyfriend with whom she was already supposed to go to prom.

Teenagers have to learn this mentality from somewhere. And I'm not just blaming parents/fathers. I'm not saying blame parents for the actions of their children who commit murder. Guys also learn this from the world around them. Music that reduces women to bitches and hoes who are there to serve men with sex. TV and movies that create female characters that need boys/men to come in and rescue them and whose main job is to cook for the men and clean and do their laundry and take care of them. Advertisements that have women half naked for no reason other than to get the attention of men. Pornography, the ultimate scenario of women being used to fulfill men's fantasies and desires.

It doesn't have to be this way.

We can live in a world where the lives of women and girls are seen as just as valuable as those of men and boys.
We can live in a world where men honor women and their bodies as they were intended.
We can live in a world where girls don't have to be afraid to walk home alone at night or drink at a party with their friends.
We can live in a world where women are more than bitches, hoes, or objects to be salivated over.

We don't have to have Brock Turners who don't or can't see why taking sexual gratification from women who don't or can't say no is wrong. We don't have to have Elliot Rodgers and Chris Plaskons who think they are owed attention and sex from women.

But we have to do something to change the culture.

We can have people like Carl Arndt and Peter Jonsson, the two Stanford grad students who caught Brock in the act, chased him down, and held him until the cops arrived. One of them reportedly cried as he explained to the cops what he saw. They didn't blow it off as not being their business, and they didn't assume the girl wanted it. They thought something was wrong, and they did something about it. They are proof that it is possible to raise boys who respect women as fellow human beings just as valuable as they are.

We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal. And when I meet Thomas Jefferson, I'ma compel him to include women in the sequel. That's a line from Hamilton that has more necessary truth in it than you would think would come from a Broadway musical. Teaching kids that women were created equal to men is just the first step in changing the culture.

Lastly, I will leave you with this video. I don't know who this young man is, but he hits the nail right on the head. It's only about six minutes, and I implore you to please watch it.

"Stop telling women to watch their back, when we're the ones who stare at their backs as they walk past. Stop telling women that it's their fault, when we are the dogs who make the catcalls. Rather, speak up and teach boys and men these three simple things: Love people. Respect people. And do. not. assault."

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