Although there may only be one Feminist Ryan Gosling, there are other men out there offering their support for women’s issues. Any movement fighting against oppression needs to accept allies to maximize the potential to succeed; however, there is often a disconnect in dialogue that prohibits such collaboration from happening.
Last Friday at BU’s weekly Coffee and Conversation, there was a discussion on rape culture stemming from the recent events surrounding the men’s hockey team. We had real talk about slut shaming, survivors, and educating ourselves. The conversation ended with the men feeling as if they were not being given a right to contribute. In my opinion, possession of a penis is not a crime deemed punishable by exclusion. Still, men need to understand a few points before engaging in these conversations.
To all the men who see the obstacles women face and want to take action:
You will never fully understand,
You may say that you feel fear when walking down a dark alley at night or when being pressured sexually, but the truth is that the situations are different. We may not all know the exact probability of being sexually assaulted, but we know that it is much higher for women. We also know there is a potential to be impregnated by a rapist. And while anyone can contract STDs, differences in our anatomy make it more likely for us to suffer from long-term consequences.
but you can try.
Everyone appreciates it when others make a genuine attempt to understand them, so make your goal known. Do not say “I know how you feel because, I too, feel fear when walking down a dark alley. Say “If I feel fear when walking down a dark alley, I can only imagine how you feel.”
Sometimes it needs to be about women,
When we hear about the horrors of men sexually assaulting women, it is usually in the form of a quiet whisper from a close friend with whom we’ve spent years building up a level of trust. Or we hear about rape warfare in a far away country that, while horrifying, is easy to ignore.
Or we hear about a young girl crying wolf to extract money from a wealthy celebrity. While the actual percentage of false accusations vastly varies depending on the source, focusing on them contributes to underreporting – which accounts for an estimated 15 of 16 rapists walking away as free people.
So when the media and Boston University bring attention to an issue that is immediately relevant to our community and what we go through, we cannot help but focus on it. We get that men are also subjected to sexual assault, but the current issue is about men assaulting women. Understand that women who are not given an opportunity to speak about such issues as often as they would like needed to finally speak up.
Many of the men felt they were not allowed to speak at Coffee and Conversation, but that does not mean that they did not contribute. Listening is the most important contribution to a conversation. Presence alone makes a difference.
but let’s make it about us.
Since sexual assault is not gender specific, the conversation should not be either. Let’s talk about requiring every BU student to take a class on gender to bring diverse viewpoints to those discussions. Let’s talk about teaching our children to respect each other in order to eliminate the problem. Let’s stop talking about talking and start working towards solutions.