It’s On Us: What it Truly Means

To Mutual Friends of Survivors and Assailants:

Have you taken the It’s On Us pledge? If you haven’t, let me reiterate:

To RECOGNIZE that non-consensual sex is sexual assault.

To IDENTIFY situations in which sexual assault may occur.

To INTERVENE in situations where consent has not or cannot be given.

To CREATE an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported.

 

If your friend has been assaulted by another person you’re friendly with, chances are your situation is not uncommon. One out of five women will be assaulted in college. But so much of the survivor’s emotional and spiritual wellbeing is dependent on your response.

From here, there are two routes: stand with the assailant or stand with the survivor. There is no middle ground, and I mean that quite literally. Withdrawing yourself from the situation altogether enables the assailant. Acting as if it didn’t happen enables the assailant. Indifference and inaction both enable the assailant.

How so? A lack of intervention allows the impact of the assailant to continue without resistance.  When it comes to physical and emotional violation, there is no neutral. Assailants turn friend groups against the survivor. They instill survivors with long-term fear. The list of emotional and physical consequences resulting from sexual assault is endless and varies on the individual.

So how do you support the survivor?

Believe them. DO NOT blame them in any capacity. No “what ifs” or “you should have done ____”.  Stand up. Stand up for the survivor (and sometimes this means standing against your friends). Offer to help them, regardless of their decision. Do not pressure them to report. Support needs to be unconditional, not based on what you would do in the situation.

We can take as many pledges as we’d like, but what does it matter if we don’t follow through? How can we stop sexual assault if we can’t stand up to the people who perpetuate it?

If you want to support the assailant, then own up. The rape culture you perpetuated, the betrayal of the survivor, the damage you’ve committed, that is on you. And you need to accept responsibility for that, which most people in such situations cannot.

Our presidential-elect has committed sexual assault and bragged about it. For the next four years, we might be contesting our institutions. So rather than choosing the road more travelled, let’s remember the pledges we made all right?

Two Questions for the World

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If you live in a cave, then you still would have heard the scandal that shook the Internet today. Long story short, Donald Trump supports sexual-assault (surprise of the century!).  Twitter is currently a storm. Questions are being tossed around: will this break the election? Will the GOP stand by Trump? Why did it take so long for this to get leaked in the first place?

I have two questions for the world:

1. Was this what it took to break Trump?

Trump has said he would date his daughter, he talked about his daughter’s breasts when she was an infant, he has called women “pigs”. He called Mexicans “rapists”, he has expressed that women who have an abortion should be punished—this list could go on for another 1000 words, but not the point.  Why is it so shocking that a man, who has been accused of rape and cheated on his wives, is able to rationalize groping women?

But I have a follow-up:

2. Why are we so surprised?

This has been branded a “locker room conversation”, and the sad part? I agree.

To clarify: no, I do not think this type of dialogue is acceptable. But is this something we could hear in a guys locker room randomly?

Yes. And that is where this problem is.

How many times have women heard guys “rating” girls based on appearance?  How many women are assaulted on college campuses again? How many men have rationalized rape under the pretense that women were “asking for it”? How many men, when confronted with these statistics, insist that #NotAllMen are the problem?

Laci Green answered the last question quite well:

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If we took a national survey as to how many women know of some man who acted like the way Trump did in that 2005 clip, the numbers might surprise a few. Two years ago, I wrote a similar piece regarding the Isla Vista killings, a hate crime motivated by pure sexism. The hashtag #YesAllWomen arose, and narratives ranging from microaggressions to rapes proved that in terms of gender equality, the world has a long way to go.

The boy who hit me was “just fooling around”. The teenager who rated me a three out of ten was only “having fun”.  And my former friend was just “taking rejection badly”.

Is it so surprising that one of the presidential nominees is that person?

Isla Vista: Do Something Edition


This isn’t my usual thing–I save my political rants for Facebook. Unfortunately, having seen too many ignorant comments about this today, I figured this ramble deserved (and needed) a much larger audience. Many of these arguments are floating all over the Internet, and I had reservations about repeating them; that being said, I felt it was necessary given that this issue is often avoided.  Expect many images in this post–usually when confronted about issues regarding gender inequality, people expect evidence. Well, here’s as much evidence I could find.


QUICK RECAP: Seven individuals, including three UCSB students, were killed on Friday, May 23 near a sorority house in Isla Vista (near UC Santa Barbara) and thirteen were injured.  Police suspect the gunman who opened fire was 22-year old Elliot Rodger, a student at Santa Barbara City College.  Rodger’s body was found in his BMW; whether it was a suicide or not is still unclear.


Okay, so everyone’s caught up. Rodger explained his motivations behind this in a six-minute video posted on Youtube titled “Elliot Rodger’s retribution”.  He also elaborates on some of the points made during the video in a 141-page document titled “My Twisted World” available on Scribd.


Let’s break this down one at a time.


THE VIDEO:

Transcript available here:


The video is essentially Rodger stating that he never had sexual experience, and the blame for that falls upon women because they “weren’t attracted to [him]”.  He describes himself as the “perfect guy” and vows to “punish all of [them] for it”. Rodger proceeds to explain his murder plans targeting “popular kids” and “girls who rejected [him]”, specifically “every single spoiled, stuck-up, blonde slut”, saying they “forced me to suffer all my life.”


Before breaking this apart, let’s hear from the comments on the video shall we?








All of these comments reflect the source of the problem in the first place: hyper-masculinity and resulting misogyny.


Sex would not have stopped Rodger from killing a girl for saying no. Sex would not have saved lives last night. But teaching men about consent? Teaching men about respecting women and not objectifying them? Probably.


While laws regarding women’s rights might have shifted in the past century, ideas regarding masculinity certainly haven’t. Men are often credited based on hyper-masculine standards, i.e. that a man can’t be weak and display emotion “like a girl”, that he should display strength by “getting a girl”, having sex with her, and controlling her. When rejection occurs, terms like “friend-zoned” are tossed around with the woman blamed.

Rodger also expressed similar emotions in his document “My Twisted World”.  In addition to hyper-masculine ideals, he described his longing for sex, specifically with a girl who was “blonde” and “skinny”.

Yet never did he describe approaching a girl and getting rejected. Nor did he describe being denied happiness because of something a girl did.  Rather he felt he was entitled to love and sex because he was “white”; he recalls feeling angry that a black man was able to “get” a blonde girl, whereas he was not (also presents the issue of racism).

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Additionally, many of the qualities he described in a girl he wanted were purely physical, not personality-based:
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Throughout the narration, he was driven by the idea that he was undeserving of rejection.
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(Rodger, “My Twisted World”)

When witnessing another couple or feeling alone, Rodger often reacted with violence, once even pouring coffee down on a man’s head because he had a blonde girlfriend and later to girls who didn’t “deign to smile back [at him]”.      


Here are some of the terms mentioned and implied by Rodger’s videos & manifesto and why they’re toxic–even without malicious intent.

HARMFUL TERMS:


FRIENDZONE:

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Definition: ”What you attain after you fail to impress a woman you’re attracted to. Usually initiated by the woman saying, ‘You’re such a good friend.’”

Why it’s harmful: Yes, rejection sucks. It feels awful, it can ruin friendships, it can make situations ten-times more awkward.  But what this essentially does is blames the female for rejecting a guy’s advances. Even more interesting, why can guys reject girls under the basis that “she’s a crazy b!tch” but why can’t girls reject guys with “he’s just a friend” reasoning? Why does a girl have to be gentle when rejecting a guy–and still get criticism for it?

SLUT-SHAMING:

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Definition:  “An unfortunate phenomenon in which people degrade or mock a woman because she enjoys having sex, has sex a lot, or may even just be rumored to participate in sexual activity… However, since most people would rather women be MORE sexually active than less, slut shaming is counterproductive to the aims of most men and quite a few ladies.”


Why it’s harmful: Labelling a woman as a slut and drawing the conclusion that she “wants it” based on what she’s wearing essentially rationalizes harming her and having sex with her (even against her will), because it’s no big deal…she’s a slut after all?! 

And THAT is how rape happens. The worst part is, this form of hate occurs within girls as well (for a tangible example of this see Jenna Marbles Things I Don’t Understand About Girls Part 2: Slut Edition and Laci Green’s response)
 
NICE GUY SYNDROME:
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Definition: “A annoying mental condition in which a heterosexual man concocts oversimplified ideas why women aren’t flocking to him in droves. Typically this male will whine and complain about how women never want to date them because he is “too nice” or that he is average in appearance. “


Why it’s harmful: Similar to “friendzoning”, the idea that when rejection occurs, the girl is to blame. Furthermore, this perpetuates an ideal of hypermasculinity—that a guy must be controlling and a “bad boy” in order to get a girl.  Being in a relationship is in no way, a merit system.


All right. So this guy might’ve did some awful things and had some sexist thoughts before he went on a killing spree. Surely he was messed up in his head!!!


Well…

MENTAL ILLNESS: 


With every mass shooting, mental illness is a topic of discussion.  



And to some extent, in the case of violence, it is inevitable–why else would humans want to kill each other so badly?  But from all the evidence presented so far, this isn’t another Columbine, Virginia Tech, or Sandy Hook. This isn’t a case of a student suffering from depression. This is a hate crime. This is an act of violence targeted at women. All of Rodger’s quotations and videos echo Nice Guy Syndrome and resemble the rationalization behind harming women for rejecting men.


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(Rodger, “My Twisted World”)


No shooting is black and white–and I don’t pretend to a psychiatrist. However, to dismiss Isla Vista as purely the result of a mental illness a) belittles mental health discussion and b) alleviates much of the blame from the perpetrator. A violent act does not equate to a mental illness; According to the Institute of Medicine (2006):


Although studies suggest a link between mental illnesses and violence, the contribution of people with mental illnesses to overall rates of violence is small, and further, the magnitude of the relationship is greatly exaggerated in the minds of the general population.”


The myth of mental illness and violence as a package deal only heightens the myth that mentally ill people are violent–thus stigmatizing mental health. There are individuals with Asperger’s and depression who did not kill six people.  Regardless of whether Rodger suffered from a mental illness, based on his video and manifesto one thing is clear; the Isla Vista shooting was a result of internalized misogyny and an attitude regarding entitlement.


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(Rodger, “My Twisted World”)
It’s also interesting why individuals are doubting Rodger’s state of mind when one in four women report experiencing physical violence from a male partner during her life.  The idea of male dominance and punishing women is commonly accepted, among individuals and social systems–why else do 97% of rapists never spend a day in jail?


But the worst part is, it took a shooting at a public university for a discussion regarding misogyny to be taken seriously. It took one shooting and not 230,000+ sexual assaults that occur annually for sexism to be called out—and not even by mainstream media. CNN included opinions that Rodger was “mentally disturbed” while NBC included comments from law enforcement stating that the shooting was the work of a “madman”.  Even though major news outlets haven’t framed the shooting as a misogynistic-fueled incident, social media networks have been active in calling out violence against women, with the hashtag #YesAllWomen trending for hours in the United States. Yet, even with that, sexist tweets still resulted:


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For those who consider this post “anti-men”, think of this:


Every 90 seconds a girl in the USA is sexually assaulted, one out of five girls have been sexually assaulted in their lifetime, eighty-three percent of TEENAGE GIRLS experience sexual harassment in public schools, and one-third of female murder victims (ages 12 and above) are killed by an intimate partner.


Defending women is not hating on men, the same way fighting for food stamps is not hating on the rich.


But Rodger’s viewpoint is in no way unique. We see this attitude everywhere. This is why eighty-percent of girls face street harassment.  This is why the first question a rape victim is asked is “what were you wearing?”.  This is why two-thirds of rape survivors KNOW their rapist–and why the widely-held idea of acquaintance rape being a leading cause is so misleading.


But what can you do? As a man, as a woman, as any gender, you can speak out. Point out sexist comments when you hear them (as Emma Stone so tactfully did). Call out your friend who rates a girl as she walks by. Tell your female friends to stop calling a girl a slut because of her Halloween costume.  Remind a stranger who’s harassing a woman on the street that what he’s doing is not okay.


And keep on pushing for change. Because despite what anyone says–whether it be mainstream media or figures of authority–we’re not there yet.