I started the day with my head aching. Steroid injections to the head elicit this type of reaction in the neurologist’s procedure room: “Holy mother of F*CK! I hate you!!” Yes, I’m still being treated for the head injury I sustained 16 months ago, and hopefully by the end of this year we can close this chapter.
Then I came home to see a friend had posted about George Will’s op-ed piece about rape, and so my day ended with my heart aching. Because I see now this is a chapter that can never truly be closed in my life. Because when he’s accusing rape victims of lying, he’s calling me a liar and I’ll have none of that. Because when he’s accusing me of asking for it, thems are fightin’ words and he does not want to tangle with me.
You’ve likely read all about the backlash, the Twitter hashtags, the social commentary. I won’t reiterate those points that others have been more eloquent about. I honestly view George Will like I do Ann Coulter, and I need not say more. People are calling for his job. But you know what? I’m OK with him keeping his job. I value the freedom of speech. And I value opportunities for people to rally together for an idea.
I must say I agree with the all the points made in Salon and Jezebel and other mainstream articles and commentaries. But here’s the thing: This has become a battle between fundamentalist sides–conservative versus liberals. This is about how people think he’s an idiot. We’ve lost sight of the other real issue: He wrote what he thinks and believes. He’s not the only man in this country that thinks this way.
He’s not the only man who dismisses a woman’s right to not be touched in ways she does not want. He’s not the only man to believe that if you’ve had sex with a man in the past, he’s allowed to again in the future regardless of what she says. He’s not the only man who believes certain woman asked for it by drinking alcohol or dressing in certain ways. He’s not the only man who believes women lie about being assaulted.
It’s precisely that he’s not the only man who believes these things that have created this rape culture that we live in that allows for people to be assaulted. And then not believed. We cannot shift this issue to a conservative/liberal or man/feminist issue. We cannot lose sight of the faces of the mothers and sisters and daughters and friends who have been assaulted. We cannot lose sight of the faces of the fathers and brothers and sons and friends who have assaulted women.
The man who assaulted me does not believe he did anything wrong. My friend who believes he can have sex with his girlfriend even if she says no because they’re in a relationship does not believe he does anything wrong (side note: we are no longer friends). We can only change this rape culture and their behaviors when we can acknowledge that safety is a human right. We can only change behaviors when we believe women are equals who deserve to not be viewed as property to have things done to, equals whose accusations are believed, equals whose boundaries are respected. We must focus our efforts in changing these belief systems if we are to change anything. We cannot continue to blame conservative pundits or angry feminists.
Though I appreciate the opportunity to get angry at people who voice opinions I do not agree with, we cannot stay in that anger and just call them names and call for their heads. We need to understand what they think, and why they think these things. We need to have the hard conversations with our sons and daughters and friends and neighbors. We need to teach them that everyone’s boundaries need to be respected. We need to teach them that everyone’s voice has a right to be heard. Otherwise, all our hearts will continue to break.