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Not Blacking Out

I received a few requests by Facebook messenger last night to “black out” my profile. The last one I received was just a few weeks prior, and before that maybe a year. The thinking is that women, in solidarity, will simply black out their profile picture to show “men” what a world without women is like. 

I paused considering – first – where did this come from? Second, how many men on my friends list actually scroll through their friends’ list on any given day, and would they notice all the little black squares? I am not convinced… (Another thought on blackout days.)

So, what I chose to do instead was post an address to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford that another friend posted. I figured a few of my like-minded women friends would appreciate the suggestion to act in a positive way. 

What I got was a triggering post, escalated by two family members staunch in beliefs friends and I have moved beyond, in conjunction with our own healing. And, those friends called out the staunch beliefs in polite and impolite ways – expressing anger, rage, frustration, and general fed-upness. 

So, why would any of this be triggering? Because we live in a rape culture. Triggering, maybe? Maybe. Consider this. A rape culture is defined as “a society or environment whose prevailing social attitudes have the effect of normalizing or trivializing sexual assault and abuse.” Consider this, when men come forward, 30 years after sexual abuse by a priest has been committed, they are considered brave. (*Caveat, more than 20 years ago, I recognize this wasn’t the case.) When women come forward that they were raped, abused, or any other sexual act done onto them without consent, they are called liars.

Do you see the double standard? 

Here are more examples. These came from Southern Connecticut State University.

  • Blaming the victim (“She asked for it!”)
  • Trivializing sexual assault (“Boys will be boys!”)
  • Sexually explicit jokes
  • Tolerance of sexual harassment
  • Inflating false rape report statistics
  • Publicly scrutinizing a victim’s dress, mental state, motives, and history
  • Gratuitous gendered violence in movies and television (see Molly Ringwald’s take on Sixteen Candles)
  • Defining “manhood” as dominant and sexually aggressive
  • Defining “womanhood” as submissive and sexually passive
  • Pressure on men to “score”
  • Pressure on women to not appear “cold”
  • Assuming only promiscuous women get raped
  • Assuming that men don’t get raped or that only “weak” men get raped
  • Refusing to take rape accusations seriously
  • Teaching women to avoid getting raped

How can we move beyond a Rape Culture then? Let’s try two simple steps.

  1. Believe victims – I know we selectively honor “guilty until proven innocent”, and yes, the proof is important, AND we need to stop making the perpetrator the victim. Believe the women and men, and find corroborating evidence. 
  2. Teach and honor consent – stop making our kids hug and kiss relatives, honor how people want to be touched, and respect it. (Teach Consent breaks it down as: ask, listen, respect. They have a lot of great tools on their website.)

So, I’m not blacking out today. Today, I am going to say to you, “Stand up. Speak your truth. And, don’t back down.” Now, pardon me, I have to write my thank you note to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford for doing the same.