It should not be up to the survivors to end violence against women.
It’s time to do something about men who rape, batter, and abuse.
There are boat loads of them out there. I bet you can name at least five of the more famous ones. To the women reading this, how many gropers, predators, rapists, batterers have you met in your lifetime? I wager it is at least a handful. The plethora of the use of the hashtag #MeToo on Twitter and Facebook confirms the magnitude of the problem of violence against women.
On October 5, the New York Times printed an article detailing nearly 30 years of sexual harassment by movie producer Harvey Weinstein. This is not the first time a man with considerable power has had his past “indiscretions” uncovered. The media reports, the women come forward to tell their stories and nothing changes. In a month or a week or a year another horror story surfaces.
I am not surprised when I hear that men use their power to take advantage of women, not even in the arts where everyone is supposedly so liberal and inclusive. My shock is the lack of change, the cavalier disregard and the way the narratives of women like Samantha Geimer, Dylan Farrow, and Nicole Brown Simpson seem to dissolve and fade out as quickly as they surface. When I hear women’s stories of abuse isolated by the media and often presented as possible fictions (give the men a chance to explain for crying out loud) my head blows off.
In drama school my acting teacher promised to make me a star on a Monday and by Friday was pushing my head down to his unzipped fly. In the late 70s I lived with a young movie star who worked on films by day and bashed my head in by night. That was followed by a short lived career as a young actress, where more than once I was asked to lick, kiss, fondle, and/or simulate sex with a male actor during an audition “scene” for a line up of men sitting behind the casting table. I moved from acting to production where, as one of a handful of women among a predominately male film crew, I was singled out and screamed at for stepping over a dolly track.
We live in a patriarchal world that continues to devalue and objectify women. Hollywood should be given an Oscar for doing it better than anyone.
I acknowledge that there are men who are victims of sexual assault, rape, and battery as well. I admire all survivors who come out with their stories and those who, for whatever reason, have decided to keep their stories inside.
But violence against both men, women, and other genders is, for the most part, committed by men. So I think we have to separate out the abuse of women by men because it is different. The way men think, act, and treat women is embedded in our culture and our implicit inequality is, perhaps, the major reason women are abused more often than any other gender. Sexual assault happens more frequently to women because misogyny condones it.
What can be done to stop this epidemic? Teach boys and girls about equality and power. Break down the stereotypes of being masculine and feminine. Let everyone know that feminism is not a dirty word. Those are a few ideas.
Here’s another one. It should not be up to the survivors to end violence against women. I had a dream of reconciliation that when I came out with my story of surviving domestic violence, my batterer would own up to his past and join the movement to end violence against women.
If all the men who have assaulted women wrote “I Did” on their status feed we could line up the “Me Too’s” alongside of them and then maybe we could begin to do something about it.
One out of every four women will be raped or physically assaulted in their lifetime.
To stop violence against women I call on any man who has harassed, raped, or beaten a woman to stand up and admit your complicity in the silence that perpetuates violence.
Donna Kaz is a multigenre writer and a feminist activist based in New York City and the author of UN/MASKED, Memoirs of a Guerrilla Girl On Tour.