by Lillian Holman, 3Generations intern
In 3Generation’s documentary Tricked about human trafficking within the United States, possibly one of the most disturbing moments is not in fact one of the horrifying accounts provided by the victims, but instead when the pimp Robert Money calmly tells the camera that “All women is either a prostitute or a whore. The definition of a prostitute is a woman that sells her pussy for money. A whore f***s for free.” In three sentences, he defines half the human population by their sexuality. There are no exceptions in his perverse logic and he says all women, not all people. Men can feel free to live on not being “whores,” but sexually active women are stuck with that label.
This quote had me thinking about issues that seem to be everywhere I turn recently, whether it be my Facebook newsfeed, the conversations on my college campus, or that slightly nervous feeling I get walking the streets by myself. Because people like Money exist, my identity as a woman has become a hindrance rather than something wonderful to be celebrated. It means that I can show too much at a party. It means that a person can look at me on the street and assume I cannot fight back. It means that my sexuality can define me rather than be relegated to the privacy of my bedroom. Frankly, these are all things I would rather not be thinking about. I would rather go to a party and feel like I look fabulous regardless of what I’m wearing, whether it be “too much” or “too little” in the eyes of someone else. I want to be able to go on adventures in my city and not feel like I need the buddy system in order to survive. I want the conversation about sex to begin and end with my partner and only my partner. I want to live my life as a grown woman and not constantly think about the fact that I’m a woman. Sadly this is not the world we live in, but it should be.
After the tragic shooting at UCSB last month, the two hashtags “#NOTALLMEN” and “#YESALLWOMEN” started making the rounds. One was defensive. One called for solidarity. They spurred lots of opinion pieces and discussion. What made me sad however, were the responses surrounding “#NOTALLMEN.” There was anger that men would dare to defend themselves against what they saw as attacks against their gender and suddenly it was one giant battle of the sexes rather than a united front against a crime of hate. These men were angry with women blaming them rather than angry with Elliot Rodger. The women were blaming all men rather than Elliot Rodger. What should have happened was that all people should have been angry at Elliot Rodger and his antiquated ideas. This is why I loved the men who used the hashtag “#YESALLWOMEN.” They almost uniformly wanted to understand more what it means to be a woman in a still sexist world and wanted to stand with women. They made this issue an “#ALLPEOPLE” issue as it should be.
This brings me to the issues that permeate college campuses right now. Sexual assault has come to the forefront as lawsuits come out left and right against colleges and college fraternities. A list of 55 colleges are being investigated by the federal government under Title IX because of their mishandling of sexual assault cases. At Stanford, a movement is underway called “#STANDWITHLEAH” because Leah’s rapist is being allowed to graduate even after being charged with raping her. At Wesleyan University, two all male fraternities are being sued for rapes that allegedly occurred on their premises. This has become an issue of gender because the victims that have come out in the lawsuits are predominately female and the perpetrators are predominately male. It is important to remember however, that anybody can be assaulted, regardless of gender, and anybody can be a perpetrator, regardless of gender. It is a point that has been sadly forgotten in the big debates and one that would help these lawsuits rather than harm them. Once again, this should be about people committing crimes against people, rather than about men committing crimes against women. At Wesleyan University one of the proposed solutions is forcing the all male fraternities to go coed with the logic being that women having a voice and a presence in these spaces would make other women feel safer. I like this solution because it supports the idea that everyone’s voice should be heard. Rather than living off of assumptions, experiences can be shared. Just like the men who scanned the “#YESALLWOMEN” tweets, the men in these organizations can learn about a different life experiences, women can experience firsthand that not all men are like these monsters, and this ridiculous divide can disappear. Perhaps then if one of their siblings gets raped, the anger can be directed exclusively at the perpetrator and justice can actually be served along the lines of a crime rather than a political issue.
It has taken tragedies to get these issues to be so prominent, but amazing people of all genders, many of whom I’m lucky enough to be peers with, have taken this as an opportunity to talk and stand up for what they believe in. Hopefully what will result from all of these people standing up is a culture that views and condemns these “#FEWPEOPLE” as the monsters they are.
“Yes, All Men”
by Charles Blow for The Slate
“Violence against women-it’s a men’s issue”
by Jackson Katz for TEDxFiDiWomen
“Stanford sexual assault victim demands tougher sanctions for offenders”
by Katy Murphy for The Washington Post
“Wesleyan Considers Coed Fraternities”
by Kathleen Megan for The Courant