If you don’t live in the US you might not have heard the story of the Steubenville, Ohio Rape. To offer a brief explanation, last August a 16 year old girl was allegedly raped by two teenaged football players while she was drunk. It has been reported that they carried her drunken, limp body to three different parties. Rather than trying to protect the girl, guests took photos and video, made jokes and posted them using various social media. The rape was reported and the boys have been charged. However, many people feel that the boys were given preferential treatment because they are football players. A “hacktivist” group known as “Anonymous” made the story public by exposing a 12 minute video in which one of the boys jokes and laughs about the rape a few minutes after it occurred. Had the video not been made public this story probably would not be known by many of us.
Unfortunately, there are many, many stories of sexual assaults involving athletes at the high school, university level and also at the professional level. Sadly, there seems to be a sort of “code of silence” where athletes are concerned. The athletes are protected by coaches and staff and a male dominated sports media. The victims are harassed and threatened and in the end many are afraid to report their rapes.
The internet and social media has made the task of sharing information almost effortless. Gender equality and the rape epidemic is a topic that has many advocates and these advocates are using social media very effectively to be heard all over the world. Each day I am excited to find that I have new readers in Bangladesh, Ecuador, The Arab Emirates or Russia. It is an Ego “rush” but the information that we are sharing is only reaching those who are “interested in” or pursuing information on the topics we are presenting. In other words, “we are singing to the choir”.
The demographic that needs to be reached is men of all ages. There are a small percentage of men who are actively advocating for gender equality. They are sharing information, writing blogs and even taking part in demonstrations. My sense is that a large number of men are similar to my husband. He is outraged by sexual violence, he would never tell rape jokes or jokes that degrade women but given the choice between reading an article about gender equality and an article about the NFL draft (the process of choosing new players in National Football League) he would probably choose the article on the draft. I would venture to guess that it is not that he consciously believes that the draft is more important, it’s just that the draft requires less of an emotional commitment from him. When he reads this he will feel slightly embarrassed but will not deny that it is true.
I don’t believe that we can truly begin to fight in the war against sexual violence until men join us in battle. It’s not that women don’t have the power to fight, it’s just that our strongest weapon is education and we can’t educate people who don’t want to listen.
In an earlier entry, http://ingridkeizerwilson.blogspot.com/2013/01/a-challenge-to-men.html, I wrote about Solaiman Shukhon, a Bangladeshi comedian who advocates for gender equality. Solaiman, a former Bangladeshi Naval Officer, has managed to put the “cool” into advocating for gender equality in Bangladesh. He has thousands of followers and in a country with a high rape incidence like Bangladesh his advocacy speaks volumes.
The US needs men like Bangladeshi comedian Solaiman Shukhon, who don’t believe that speaking up against rape emasculates them. We need athletic organizations like the NFL to take a brave stand against the “code of silence” concerning athletes and rape. We need good men like my husband to demonstrate to their son’s and other boys that look up to them that gender equality is a priority. We need the editors of magazines read by men to run regular columns on the epidemic of rape. The US can take the lead in the fight against sexual violence but we need a “few good men” to join us in battle.