You remember the first time you held a newborn and imagined all the ways she might grow in this world?
Maybe she’ll be an engineer or the next Frida Kahlo. But it all starts with her firsts: First tooth. First step. First word.
Will she say mama? Dada? Or will she say no?
Yeah. I can’t wait for my friend’s baby girl to say no.
A day after holding the two-week-old in my arms, we were discussing how the baby didn’t cooperate for a photo shoot. Of course she didn’t, I said. She’s a feminist. Agency.
I can’t wait to hear her tell someone no for the first time, I told my friend. The new mom agreed.
“I love that parents encourage kids to take ownership over their bodies these days,” she said. “When I was a kid I hated being forced to hug or kiss someone.”
I hate that too. But on #DayoftheGirl I think about all the ways baby girl might say no to a country so systemically sexist that women and girls are burdened with the responsibility of saying no.
I hate that women and girls are expected to take every precaution to protect themselves from boys and men who aren’t being taught to respect their humanity. And I hate that no isn’t always enough to protect us from savages who don’t believe in consent and silence any rejection.
This is patriarchy at play. This is misogyny on the move, targeting female bodies and marginalized bodies. This is how men like Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby get away with decades of degeneracy. Because powerful men run with other people in power and one hostile hand washes the other.
This isn’t just about one or two rapists. This is about rape culture.
When 13 women go on the record with their stories of assault and harassment by Weinstein and some of them are Hollywood heavyweights like Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie, people say they should have spoken up sooner and question their motives and call it a fame grab. Today, Cara Delevingne posted her own experience with Weinstein on Instagram. He targeted her sexuality. He threatened her career. He tried to coerce her into a threesome.
When more than 50 women come forward about Cosby’s rapes, people say but they took the money and they worked with him and he’s a Huxtable.
When a 240-pound man like Terry Crews stands in solidarity with women and shares his own story of a Hollywood exec grabbing his genitals at a party, people attack his manhood and say he should have fought back.
When Ben Affleck condemns Weinstein people applaud. But survivor Rose McGowan says he knew. Also: Ben touched Hilarie Burton’s breasts on “TRL” in 2003 and didn’t apologize until today — after being called out.
We have to change the way we respond to sexual assault if we want to help survivors, says Marie Alcocer, director of advocacy at Metropolitan Organization to Count Sexual Assault (MOCSA).
“Start by believing,” she says. “We have to change our idea of consent. Consent shouldn’t be ‘Did you say no?’ Consent should be ‘Did you say yes?’ or ‘Did you ask for consent?’ For many reasons, survivors don’t say anything. That’s trauma. We know that sexual violence is one of the most underreported crimes, so it’s not unusual for survivors to wait to report until they feel safe and supported.”
Too often, the victim is put on trial.
When politicians sexually harass their interns, we hear about dress codes instead of accountability. When a girl is raped after a party, people will say she shouldn’t have had so much to drink. If she’s raped by a man in power, a charitable man or an athlete, they’ll call her a liar. If the victim is a guy, people will scoff in disbelief. If the victim is LGBTQIA, people will hardly advocate at all.
And if the rapist is someone who never hurt them, they’ll say it is impossible he hurt anyone else. We heard what you said, Lindsay Lohan. But quite honestly, I can’t imagine the horrors she’s survived as a child actor in Hollywood that led to her defending Weinstein.
“You look at everything all over the world today and how women are dressing and what they are asking by just presenting themselves the way they do. What are they asking for? Trouble,” the fashion mogul told a reporter Monday before backlash led her to tell the Daily Mail that her words were taken out of context.
Nah, Donna. You spoke a misogynistic truth: As a society, we uphold the hunters and debase their prey. Look at us. The Department of Education cares more about college rapists than college victims. Rape is about power. And the president, our most powerful official, is a predator who likes to grab women by the vagina.
Think about it. We’ve pledged allegiance to the patriarchy. It’s time to rebel. Stop saying yes to rape culture.
▪ Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault: 816-531-0233 or 913-642-0233, www.mocsa.org
▪ Kansas City Anti-Violence Project: 816-561-0550 (help line for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender), www.kcavp.org
▪ Rose Brooks Center: 816-861-6100, www.rosebrooks.org
▪ Safehome: 913-262-2868, www.safehome-ks.org
▪ Hope House: 816-461-4673, www.hopehouse.net/
▪ RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network): 800-656-4673, www.rainn.org