Sometimes it is accidental, sometimes it is on purpose, but either way you look at it we are constantly overhearing other people’s conversations. Most of the time it is just benign conversations they are going to be eating, what they drunkenly did that weekend, or complaining about their classes. Mostly they are harmless conversations, but sometimes the things that you hear leave a sick feeling in your stomach. I know people have heard, “I don’t think she was raped, I mean she wore a skirt to his house.” I know someone who said, “The best sex I’ve had has been less than consensual.” And how many times have you overheard people talking about women as “sluts” or “bitches.”
Every time I overhear these sorts of conversations I get queasy, I know that if the women who these conversations were about were to overhear them they would feel as if it was a second assault. At the same time I know that if people were talking about me that way I would be heartbroken. So, what do you do? It’s not like you know these people who say these things and even if you did there is no guarantee that they would actually listen if you said something to them.
Well, I’ve found that sometimes a dirty look is enough to make them feel guilty about what they are saying, at least that’s what their expressions read. Yet, I always wish that I had enough courage to actually say something of significance, reprimand them for speaking so degradingly about women. To tell them that their actions and attitudes help establish the rape culture that our society has become embedded in. However, I usually keep silent afraid of the possible consequences and the fact that if I did say something it would just be met with ridicule and ignored.
Now though I realize that by me letting these comments slip by I too am contributing to the rape culture. If a person like me who is confident in their feminism and their sense of violence against women is too afraid to speak up how is anybody else supposed to do it? I have been learning about violence against women for years and know the culture that it produces and yet, even with that knowledge I have been too afraid to stand up for my beliefs. And now I am asking myself the question, if not me then who?
So, I’m making a pledge to myself and all those who have ever suffered from violence. I promise to no longer be a bystander to speak up for what I believe in and to denounce instances of misogyny. I will no longer let my fear of ridicule prevent me from being a champion for those who are unable to do it themselves because what I fear in that one moment is no comparison to what victims have actually had to go through.
So, loyal readers will you make this pledge with me? Can we promise each other that we won’t stand idly by as those around us spew hatred and ignorance? Because I know that the more that people refuse to accept such instances the more that it will become unacceptable and the closer we are to elimination.