The latest sexual predator to be ousted, Harvey Weinstein, joins the parade of powerful men who’ve used their money and power to victimize women. It didn’t
surprise me that Weinstein had sexually harassed dozens of women. The fact that high profile women kept silent because of shame and fear didn’t surprise me. The list of disgusting acts didn’t surprise me. What surprised me was everyone else’s surprise.
I thought after Trump’s “Access Hollywood” tape everyone would be aware of the onslaught of sexual assault women face on a daily basis. However, it’s easier to say #notallmen than to come to the grips with the fact that we have created a culture that devalues women. It is all men. It is all women. It is our whole society that has turned the female body into an object to possess.
Women are not To Blame
A few years ago, an Atlanta Christian football team made a little girl quit. The little girl was their best player. She got along with the boys. Despite her talent, she was asked to leave the team, because the boys were going into middle school. The coach thought that she would cause the boys to “stumble.” Rather than teach the boys how to control their impulses, the coach thought that it was better to blame this little girls body.
Our culture – especially the church – fears the female body. We constantly try to “protect” our boys from stumbling by creating the lie that a man can’t control his actions. So little girls must protect boys. Little girls are taught not to wear revealing cloths, so that boys don’t stumble. This lie continues to grow as the children grow . The girl becomes a woman who is responsible for a man’s lust, so she can’t wear yoga pants or low-cut shirts. A woman can’t speak in public, because a man might want her. She must miss out on opportunities, because if she is alone with a man, he might assault her. Rather than teach men to be responsible for their own actions, we demonize the female form.
My first year on staff, I came face to face the devastating impact of this lie. At a staff conference, I was hanging out in a hot tub with a colleague discussing ministry strategies. His coach came up and asked me to get out of the hot tub. He whispered, “Can I ask you to leave? I’m not allowed to be alone in hot tub with a single woman. My wife and I agreed I would never put myself in that situation.”
I left the scene ashamed. His words reinforced the lie that my body was the problem. I had to leave a work conversation because he couldn’t control his sexual impulses. Jesus commands, “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” But the church has chosen another tactic, if a woman causes you to stumble, blame her.
Turning into a Crime
This ugly lie encourages men to blame women for their actions. If my body is the cause of your lust, then my body becomes an object. An object that you can control. Today we tell the little girl she can’t play football, tomorrow we blame her for her rape. And this lie snow balls into a culture that allows rapist to serve less than 6 months of jail and accuses woman of wanting sex because she didn’t fight her attacker off.
A few months after that conference, a student at UGA grabbed my butt. People feel the freedom to openly comment on my body when in speak in public. I have been to donor meetings where a donor made me feel uncomfortable with inappropriate jokes. Each experience has caused me to blame myself. Society told me it was my fault, so I looked for the fault in my clothes, words and actions.
This lie allows for women to find fault in themselves, unwilling to tell someone when they are assaulted. The lie continues to evolve turning into a crime, where the victim is to blame. As the victim blames herself, shame silences her voice.
Until one day, a little girl goes to her internship at a magazine. She is asked to model for a photo shoot. The owner of the magazine hands lingers a little too long on parts of her body that aren’t supposed to be touched. When she goes home she tells her mom only part of the story. Even though her parents have always told her that it is never a woman’s fault. She is too ashamed to admit that she allowed someone to touch her.
The lie is twisted into a crime. And the victim has been conditioned to stay silent.
Don’t Be Shocked
I’m not shocked because every day I experience this lie. I see the culture the lie has created. I live in a world where men’s actions are blamed on my body. So please don’t be shocked. Please don’t pity me. Please don’t try to minimize my experience by saying #notallmen. Please don’t try to explain away my experiences.
Instead realize that all of us – men and women – have helped to create a culture where women’s bodies are property. Understand that while you use #notallmen, women are being victimized. While you are shocked, women are being raped. While you stand there justifying your inaction, God’s daughters are being used and thrown aside. Please don’t be shocked, instead listen to us.
Listen to us when we say no. Listen to us when we tell you that something made us uncomfortable. Listen to us when we say we are hurt. Listen when we don’t say anything. Listen because we - all women – are tired of you being shocked at the experiences we have every day.
After you’ve heard us, stop making excuses for our predators. Don’t try to tell us how we misinterpreted the actions. Don’t try to justify an inappropriate touch or glance and then be shocked when those add up to a crime. Don’t label abusive language as locker room talk. Don’t complain about how hard it is for boys to avoid temptation.