This past Tuesday was one of those days. By the afternoon, if I was a drinker, I would have started early and gone late. However, since I don’t drink, I processed through my thoughts and decided this was a blog-worthy day. A day when three seemingly separate things came together and connected as one, hitting me like a three-ton brick. These pieces of my day were interconnected and interwoven; the lines between them blurred, so to speak.
I was at my martial arts school preparing to teach a women’s self-defense class to some preschool teachers. Checking my email, I saw a request to teach a mother/daughter self-defense class at a local middle school. My heart dropped. One of the 8th grade girls at the school was raped. That means she is THIRTEEN years old. My own kids are in middle school and high school, so of course I thought about them, and of all of their buddies and classmates whom I’ve grown so fond of through the years. I thought about each of the kids who train with me at my martial arts school and their wonderful families.
Rape is devastating. Having to deal with the brutal assault of rape at 13 is forever life changing with far reaching consequences. Imagine what this does to her family. Consider how upsetting this is for the community. What does this say about the world we live in? What does this tell us about the safety of our girls? Simple question: Why is this still happening?
Earlier in the day, my sister-in-law forwarded me some images of campaign buttons criticizing a prominent female politician. The buttons, didn’t comment about her ideology. They weren’t even wise cracks about her policies. Instead, the buttons passed judgment on this woman’s body parts, specifically commenting on her thighs and breasts. This is a smart, well-educated and successful politician whose ideas and politics are being attacked by condemning her body. I felt as if I’d entered a time machine that sent me back to 1973 and Archie Bunker’s “All in the Family”.
When my kids got home from school that same day, my daughter told me about a song that was played in her dance class warm ups. The lyrics to the song, “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke, offended her, and she wanted to talk through how she would speak up to her teacher about it. She, my son and I discussed this and together, we decided to take the plunge and watch the music video on YouTube. Neither of them had seen it, but heard that it was pretty offensive. Sure enough, the lyrics are degrading to women and the images are disturbing and misogynistic. Watching/listening to something like this with your kids quickly brings the experience to a very personal level. What kind of a man do I want my son to grow up to be? What kind of body image do I want my daughter to have? What types of relationships do I hope my children are able to have? How do I want them to view their place in the world? What kind of world do I want them to grow up in?
The year is 2013, yet women still face hatred and discrimination, much like we always have. We are objectified in pop culture, our bodies are belittled in an attempt to shame us into silence, and we are assaulted, battered and raped.
I can teach women, boys and girls self-defense classes until the cows come home. This makes individual women and kids safer. I will even argue that the zillions of classes I teach help increase safety in our community. This view society has of girls and women, however, is a problem that won’t be eradicated by working at it from only this one side.
Many schools have adopted a “No Tolerance” policy on bullying. I’ve seen that work very effectively. It’s time to adopt a similar stance with regards to the continuum of negative attitudes towards girls and women. This continuum runs the gamut from sexist jokes, condescension and put downs to sexual slavery, torture, rape and murder.
Women and the men who love and respect us have been speaking up for years and we will continue to do so. But now it’s time to raise the bar and institute a “No Tolerance” policy and relentlessly hold men accountable for each demeaning joke, look, and act.
We can continue to insist that there are no more stupid music videos and sexist political buttons. But as long as any girl has to live in fear of rape, our work is not done. So, men, it can’t be just us women and girls who stop watching the videos and laughing at the jokes. Hold your friends, co-workers, brothers and sons accountable. Take the next step and don’t tolerate any of it. Your daughters, wives and mothers are counting on it. Time’s wasting. Women and girls are getting hurt. Let’s get this done.