Jessica Valenti has a great article in The Nation, written as a letter to male relatives on Facebook who “like” things like haha-funny videos of men running up to women to grab their bums. Haha funny, right? Great joke?
Here’s the thing: those guys running up to women just to grab their ass? Stuff like that happens to women all the time. It’s happened to me. When I was your age, guys—from boys in school to men on the subway—used to grope and touch me against my will too. I don’t know if any of them videotaped it or if they did it as a “joke”—all I know was that it was really scary.
Well yes but that’s your problem. If women don’t like it, that’s their problem. It’s fun for the guys who do it – that’s the important thing. Obviously.
I know that a quick click on the “like” button may not seem like a big deal to you—but it scares me to think about the larger implications. I think about the high school kid in Steubenville, Ohio, joking and laughing about the unconscious teen girl in the next room who had just been raped by two of his classmates. That may seem a million miles away from “liking” a video—but it’s all part of the same world, the same culture that devalues women. Even laughing at a joke about rape supports the idea that women are less than and makes rapists think that you are like them. And the more you laugh at this stuff, the easier it becomes to take the ideas you’re laughing at more and more seriously.
But it’s funny and you’re not the boss of me and nobody get to tell me what I can laugh at or what I can call a bitch cunt woman who is talking when I want her to shut the fuck up!
Listen, I don’t think you’re an asshole who thinks it’s funny to do something that women find scary. You’ve been raised to think that this sort of stuff is all in good fun. Not by your parents necessarily, but by culture. You’ve grown up in a country where a Super Bowl commercial for Audi suggests that girls your age actually like it when a guy they don’t really know grabs and forces a kiss on them. (Seriously—they won’t like this.) You’ve been raised in a culture that positions women as existing just for sex, for humiliation, for objectification.
Well, yes, but also, one hopes, by people who know better and teach their sons better. Some have. I know lots of men who have! Or who at least learned better at some point, because they for sure know better now. But alas, there are lots of the other kind out there too.
So please understand that I don’t blame you for partaking in the only kind of culture you’ve ever known. At least, I don’t blame you yet. Because here’s the thing—if you didn’t realize before that this kind of stuff is harmful and hurtful to women, now you do. So think of this as a chance to make a decision about what kind of man you’re going to be.
As you continue to grow up, you’re going to have plenty of opportunities (too many) to laugh at women’s pain, embarrassment or the sexual harassment and assault we face. These moments will define you. Will you laugh along? Share a video, like a status, laugh at a joke? Or will you say “no,” tell a friend that’s a fucked-up thing to say, and walk away?
Choose door number two!!
Seriously: I can’t stress this enough: choose the second option. Don’t grow up to laugh at women’s pain, embarrassment, humiliation, or sexual harassment and assault. It’s not a good way to be.