I teach sociology, and today we discussed everyday sexism. My students viewed Laura Bates’s TED Talk, in which she chronicles her efforts to share women’s stories of the daily harassment and abuse they endure. We then watched Halsey’s spoken word performance from the New York Women’s March in January 2018. It was interesting to watch the differences between my students’ responses. The females looked quite nonchalant, as if the many examples provided in the two clips were no surprise. Of course, they’re not. That’s the point. The males looked shocked and appalled. While it is good they were affected, their responses illustrated that many young men have never grappled with the degree to which women endure microaggressions.
Statistics have long shown the scope of these problems. Studies have found that some one-third of American women experience sexual harassment in the workplace. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly one-third of the world’s women has endured physical or sexual intimate partner violence. Domestic violence kills more women worldwide than civil wars. Far more people in America, largely women, have been killed by their partners than were U.S forces in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. American women are twice as likely to suffer domestic violence as breast cancer. More American women are injured from domestic violence than from car accidents, rapes, and muggings—combined. A woman in the U.S. is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds, according to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN). Women and young girls are sold into sexual slavery not just overseas but on American soil. They are often recruited from websites like Backpage and Craigslist with promises of lucrative modeling or acting jobs. Since 2007, more than 45,300 cases of sex trafficking cases were reported to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, a figure that far underestimates the scope of the problem given that most instances are not reported and a girl can be trafficked multiple times per day.
Males in powerful positions are even more able to exploit and demean women and those they see as powerless, as these people fear they will lose their jobs, their reputation, and even their lives if they resist or tell anyone. This is tremendously clear with the spate of sexual harassment, misconduct, and assault allegations being levied against politicians, media moguls, and celebrities including but, sadly, not limited to Bill Cosby, Bill O’Reilly, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Matt Lauer, Garrison Keillor, Roy Moore, Al Franken and, of course, Donald Trump.
What are we to do? The good news is there is a lot that is already happening. New laws are criminalizing revenge pornography, helping to stop males from sharing provocative photos and videos as a means of controlling women. Women are speaking out about the harassment, abuse, and assault and refusing to be silenced. Legal settlements like the recent one in Seattle that was awarded to three women who were sold into sexual slavery on Backpage when they were between 13 and 15 are encouraging. Activists are continuing to strategize and build on the energy and momentum from the Women’s marches. A record number of females now serve in Congress.
In South Florida, I am fortunate to be able to work with a nonprofit organization, No More Tears, which helps victims of many of these forms of gender-based violence. This unique organization is entirely volunteer-run and provides comprehensive services that allow victims to heal and to build happy and healthy lives. Additional information about No More Tears is available at www.nomoretearsusa.org. I am also co-organizer of the College Brides Walk, a dating and domestic violence awareness campaign that reaches several thousand high school and college youth. More information can be found at www.collegebrideswalk.com.
We know more such organizations are needed nationwide. It is my hope that the increased conversation about these issues is indeed a cultural tipping point. Enough is enough.
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