You would have to be living under some sort of social media rock to not know how we are finally starting an open online discussion about rape, and rape culture at large. It’s an uncomfortable conversation to have, but one that is long overdue! I was a bit nervous to touch on this sensitive topic because: A) I know this is a very personal and sensitive topic for those that have been effected by rape culture personally, and B) As a mom who is raising a boy I know that we need to have these delicate conversations, as a means of making an intentional change from how we perceive rape culture, to how we can change it and empower our children to make better choices as they grow up.
MY FIRST ENCOUNTER OF RAPE CULTURE
When I was in high school, I remember very clearly walking through the overcrowded corridors trying to make it through the crowds to the next class, when all of a sudden I felt a hand stroke my butt. I turned around feeling completely shocked, embarrassed, and flustered, and asked who it was. The response from the young hormonal teenager boys: “Well, can you blame us? You have a cute butt!” They walked off laughing, and I walked away still feeling flushed, embarrassed and utterly shocked.
I couldn’t help but think to myself: “Was it really my fault that someone grabbed my butt in public, and made a joke of it? AND, Why did it leave me leaving embarrassed, and so powerless?”
RAPE CULTURE JUSTIFIES POOR BEHAVIOUR BY LAUGHING IT OFF
Throughout high school there were moments where hormonal boys would: grab us girls as we walked past, lift up our skirts, or look under it as we sat at our desks, they would verbally comment on how we looked, cat called for us like we were animals, and if we did not respond we were seen as snobbish, or stuck up.
I remember in my senior years of high school hearing about a group of guys that were rating all of the girls in our grade on a scale as to who was “the hottest.” It circulated, and was made more public. You can only imagine how some girls felt upon seeing this list. Some of them felt either: insecure, ashamed, embarrassed, proud, or like they were not worthy, or not pretty enough to make this list. Boys were ranking girls upon looks, then making it publicly known, as if it was some sort of game and gift to us women.
Shocking and disgusting.
I was on this short list, and I was so appalled by it, and I felt ashamed to be apart of their little social experiment. Because who were THEY to rank us according to our looks?
Because I wasn’t happy about making “their list” all together, they told me that I was being “ungrateful”, and that I should see it as a compliment.
AGAIN, who were THEY to rank any of us according to our looks! Why should their opinions matter to us?!
You see rape culture starts when men objectify women as objects, they act on primal instinct, then use and dispose of women as they see fit. They then downplay it, and turn it into a joke of sorts, probably as a means of justifying poor behavior. Then if a woman dares to confront, or challenge rape culture ways of thinking and behavior – women are told off, ridiculed as being overly sensitive, and told otherwise.
Yet, men (and sometimes women) forget that THEY all have a choice when it comes to their behavior.
THE LIE : IT’S MY FAULT FOR BEING A WOMAN
I remember dating someone, who saw me as a trophy of sorts – no one was allowed to interact with me, and I was expected to behave in a way they he felt comfortable with. Therefore, if anyone looked at me, spoke to me, it was always seen as my fault – because I must have encouraged the unwelcomd attention. Or if I shared my opinions or fought back, I was told that he only behaved that way because: “He loved me, and he didn’t want to share me with anyone, that is why he was so protective, and possessive over me.”
I started to believe those lies of: “it’s my fault, it’s my fault that men behave a certain way around me.” After awhile, this abusive mindset damaged my perception of myself as a woman, and it made me despise all men. Because I had felt like a mere object and toy for so many years, I made it my mission to make all men feel like they were objects too. If any man spoke to me, I always assumed that they were out for one thing, and I therefore, always had my defense and walls up.
My mission : No man would ever hurt me ever again, therefore, they will hurt first before getting through to me.
HURTING WOMEN | HURTING MEN
Now, this was and is something that I am still not proud of. I was damaged due to my past experience of a man who was unhealthy, therefore, as the saying goes: “hurt people, hurt others.” In my heart I knew this wasn’t right, but somehow I couldn’t stop. I was out for revenge, and I wanted all men to suffer and pay. Yet, this never really brought me any solace, or emotional healing of any sort – in some ways it made me feel worse, especially when it came to hurting really beautiful men.
Years later, I had to go on a journey that involved a bit of counseling, and walking a journey of faith whereby, I had to let God heal the brokenness that consumed my heart for so long. It wasn’t easy, as I had to choose to forgive my offenders, and I had to choose to forgive myself and all the pain that I had caused. I had to keep choosing to see men the way God saw them – flawed, fractured, yet beautiful.
When I met my husband, who was a very close friend to me at the time knew my full story. Yet, despite my brokenness he still chose to be close to me as a friend. He showed me nothing but kindness, grace, and was so gentle with me. Every now and then, I would find myself trying to fight with him for no reason, when one night he responded with: “Stop fighting me, I am not those men, Cass.” (Eak, I tear up just thinking about it, and remembering how broken I was.)
Something broke in me that night as I began to weep in front of him. I realized that I was trying to fight my past, my offenders, by trying to hurt him. I knew in that moment, that I had to learn to trust in this man (now husband), and I had to: give him a fair chance, to see his heart, and to be intentional about not boxing him, or generalizing him in the “all men are pigs” box. Not easy, no not at all, especially when I was so broken by past experiences with men. BUT, so worth it to be renewed in faith, and to be renewed in thought , and restored in heart.
RAISING OUR CHILDREN IN A RAPE CULTURE WORLD
Now that I am a mom to a gorgeous boy, my mission has always been to raise him to know his worth and value as a young man. I want him to know that women are to be treated with love, kindness, respect and that as men – they need to (just like my husband did with me) encourage and empower women to feel safe, valued, beautiful, and to know their worth. I want my son to know that he has a choice when it comes to interacting with women, and that he can always choose kindness and respect when it comes to women.
If I ever have a daughter one day, I would want her to know from an early age that her worth and value is not found in men, and it most certainly is not found in her appearances. I would want her to know that her body is hers, and should not be poked, or prodded by anyone.
CHOOSE EMPATHY | CHOOSE TO STAND UP FOR OTHERS
I don’t know about you, but I want rape culture to be confronted right in the face. I want women (and men) to say “enough, is enough!” I want our children to grow up feeling empowered and respected by the opposite sex. I don’t want our children to grow up feeling inferior, like they have no rights, or sense of self worth. I want our children to grow up knowing that it is their right to call out, and stand up to rape culture. Having these conversations are never easy, as it can very easily rub people the wrong way, but choosing to ignore it and to be ignorant towards to it – is just foolish. We can never change or make a positive influence in our world, if we constantly choose to not see it.
Choose empathy, and choose to see the brokenness, let it mess with your heart. We have become so desensitized to inhumane treating of others – that we have forgotten to empathize with others. Choose empathy, every.single.day. Let the brokenness of this world compel you to be a voice for those who don’t have the confidence to speak out. Let empathy toward others propel you to stand up for what is right and just, and for what should be. Do not let ignorance and the lies of : “it’s our fault as women, that men behave poorly.”
NO, no-one deserves to be raped. No-one deserves to feel inferior because they are female. No-one deserves to be seen and treated like a mere puppet that has no opinions or feelings.
You are a woman worthy of praise.
You are a woman worthy of love.
You are a woman worthy of respect.
You are a woman created with purpose and intent.
You are a woman worthy of pursuing her dreams.
You are a woman, and that in itself is beautiful!