Please accept my apologies in advance if you find anything in this post offensive. It is written carefully because it addresses a tender subject. However, the so-called art project at the end of the post won’t be to everyone’s taste because it’s motivated by anger. It’s the type of anger I hope a lot of people share, too. You don’t need experience being sexually harassed or assaulted to feel the rage. You don’t need to be a woman, either. Dammit!
I empathize with the women who have been humiliated by Donald Trump, and know how it feels because I’ve had similar experiences with people who ignore boundaries. Those women and I probably didn’t have identical reactions because we’re separate individuals. However, most of us have something in common after we’ve been harmed that way. It’s a degraded, violated, filthy emotion we don’t deserve. We may or may not be able to work up much anger at first because of the mental shock.
Whenever something like this becomes a big news story, a few of us must be reminded of a women’s safety/self-empowerment campaign in San Francisco from many years ago. It was a disaster because the posters installed in bus shelters contained the words “Don’t take rape lying down.”
Anyone who had the experience of being raped by someone he/she couldn’t fight off was going to feel hurt — or just plain enraged — by the campaign’s motto. It implied that the responsibility for preventing sexual assault involved an innocent person’s own strength or judgment.
Gender neutral language is essential when we talk about sexual assault, for reasons that need no explanation.
Yes, some of us can avoid being assaulted if we behave confidently, stay home after dark, don’t go into bars, limit our social lives to reading romance novels, etc (these aren’t surefire precautions because there is no surefire way to prevent misfortunes caused by others). If we succeed in protecting ourselves, the people who commit those crimes will find other victims because the root problem is with the assailants, not the individuals they hurt.
The argument that women could eliminate sexual assault altogether if we all just behaved a certain way has been proven wrong. Think of the parents who had good reason to trust a neighbor (who belonged to the same church congregation!) to walk their polite, conservatively dressed daughter home after she babysat his children. Neither the girl nor her parents had any clue that the neighbor would hurt the girl during the walk home at 11 p.m (this is presented as a hypothetical situation, but we know it happens to some teenagers).
We should choose our words carefully when expressing anger over sexual assault. Too much of the anger is vented on the injured party, who is already overwhelmed and needs support.
Trump’s “hot mic” incident did nothing more than highlight what we already knew about his character. Now I’m fighting back with something a tad more delicate, but it’s still pretty bad. Again, apologies if you think it goes too far.