To be very clear, this post is not political. The fact that the most recent misogynistic remarks between a certain presidential candidate and an entertainment talk show host prompted the writing of this post, has nothing to do with my political leanings. This isn’t about conservative or liberal ideaologies. This is about human decency and ethical behavior.
As a therapist, I work with countless ludicrously intelligent women who have hidden their intelligence for fear of intimidating others. I work with brilliant women who have spent more time cultivating their physical appearance than their cognitive ability. I work with women riddled with self-doubt and genuine lack of awareness of their own superior intelligence.
I work with women, teenagers, young adults, children who suffer from eating disorders. Females who feel so disconnected from their bodies that they intentionally starve, over-exercise, binge, purge, in some false attempt to gain control, confidence, and security. Females who hear a constant internal voice beating them up, dictating how much they should eat or not eat, imagining judgment from everyone around them, pointing out flaws (whether actual or simply perceived), imagining that worth is connected with how fat or thin they are.
I work with parents of middle school girls who have been told by middle school boys that they should be raped. I work with middle school girls who feel they need to perform sexual acts or reveal parts of their bodies in order to be liked by boys.
I work with teens, young adults, and women who feel that the only way they can receive love, acceptance, intimacy with a male is to “give it up.” They have sex with their husbands or boyfriends because they feel it’s their duty, whether they want to or not. They are coerced into sexual acts as though their bodies do not belong to themselves.
I work with women who are in abusive relationships, but cannot define it as such. I’ll ask if arguments have ever become physical and will be told, “No, not really. Every once in a while he’ll push me, but he’s not abusive or anything.”
I work with young women who have been more traumatized by their family’s, friend’s, society’s response to their sexual assault than they were by the assault itself. Being told they deserved it. Being told they shouldn’t have dressed a certain way. Being told they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Being told they shouldn’t talk to anyone about it. They should feel ashamed.
And I am helpless.
Yes, I can provide support to these amazing women. I can help them find their strength and peace. But, I cannot change the dynamics of our society which allows these things to continue. I cannot guarantee my daughter will grow up in a world which values her for all of her and not just her body.
Yes, Mr. Trump’s comments were disgusting. But I’ve heard enough from him over the past 2 years that I expect nothing more or less from him. I wasn’t shocked and so I wasn’t really all that upset with him.
My real anger? My real disgust? That belongs to the men who were listening, laughing, and egging him on. Men who, perhaps, treat women with more respect, but allowed such degradation in their presence. Men who didn’t stand up for the fact that objectifying women is what allows rape and domestic violence to continue.
Here’s the real conundrum: I am female.
I cannot make much of a difference in this culture of misogyny.
I am powerless.
Why? Because the people who perpetuate this culture do not respect me. They do not respect my voice. And, therefore, it doesn’t matter how convincing of an argument I make, I am dismissed.
I need men to be my voice. My daughter needs men to stand up and tell other men that women are not to be objectified. We need men and boys to change the dynamics of “locker room talk.” We need good, honest, decent men to stand up to the few men who are assaultive, degrading, dismissive. Women needed the men in that bus to put a stop to it.
And so, on behalf of myself, my daughter, and all the other women and girls, I ask that men grow intolerant to this type of “humor” and perversion. I ask men to change the way women are viewed, respected, treated. I ask men to change this culture. Because we can’t.