Last week, my Twitter timeline was flooded with the trending topic #YesAllWomen. At first, I was kind of thrown off by it because I didn’t understand the need (not saying it wasn’t true, but I didn’t see the beneficial need) to divide genders by essentially stating that all women encounter something but not all men encounter it. I’ve always felt that messages like that alienate people instead of encourage a mutual understanding. Upon further review, I saw that the real purpose of the trending topic was solidarity. That women used the hashtag message to show overwhelming support for one another and show that issues of harassment are affecting women everywhere. Still, I don’t think enough has been done.
See, while in school I spent a considerable amount of time working with the Rape Center at my college. I wanted to take a stand because I’ve always felt a certain type of way about the way adolescent and college young men act when it comes to issues of sex and violence. My stance has been and always will be we need to find ways to have meaningful, candid conversations without pointing the finger. That’s the only way to flesh out ignorance. We need to stop thinking that we’re going to teach men not to rape, that’s not going to happen. Rapists don’t go to a class to learn how not to rape women. Rapists are sex offenders who have a disease.
What we need to do is begin enabling everyone as a steward for change as it pertains to sex assault. Realistically speaking, a conversation that raises awareness about sexual assault and harassment is most likely going to be shared with someone who is probably never going to commit the assault. But what we need to do is find a way to make sure that although he or she may never do it, they feel enabled to stop someone else from doing when they witness an offense either happening or about to happen.
And so, for most of the #YesAllWomen trending topic and conversation, I stayed quiet. Wasn’t my show, wasn’t my time, I support anything that women want to do for solidarity but I didn’t know what I could add other than my ear. That’s when the hashtag #AllMenCan became a popular trending topic and motivated me to engage because I felt just as much a part of the conversation as women at this point. I thought that this took the issue of rape from a woman versus man crusade and turned it into a unified anti-rape movement with both genders engaging in something powerful as opposed to a competition.
That’s my goal and hope for us all. I don’t want to push either gender away. Neither do I want men to feel muted and never speak up. When people feel they have no voice they fester ignorant thoughts that end up revealing themselves in a bad way. I don’t want men feeling marginalized despite the fact that women have been marginalized throughout history. Again, it’s not a competition, it’s a movement.
The destination that we hope to reach is still far away; there’s much work to be done but I like where we’re headed. I get so tired of men saying things like, “You can’t say that to women though…” As if it’s an excuse to harbor ill feelings about issues that affect women that men don’t quite understand. #YesAllWomen and #AllMenCan seeks to bridge that gap and bring both to the table. It enables us all to see the wrongdoing of our society and enact change.