"When men stand up to end violence against women, the world is going to change" - Eve Ensler
I know a fair number of really great men. Among those are men who deeply care about violence against women, and who would never consider engaging in any kind of sexual activity without clear consent. I’ve met many men who actively work to stop sexual violence. And . . . even some of those men have a hard time accepting that men may have more responsibility than women to stop violence against women. “Whoa . . .”, they’ll say, “I didn’t rape anyone! I never even considered it! Why do I have any responsibility for what other guys do?”
Well, they don’t have responsibility for what other guys do, in that way. But they do hold the privilege of being the less victimized gender. Which means that they are in a better position to fight that victimization. Because, for the most part, the basic problem of sexual violence is the attitudes that our culture promotes in men, about women and sex.
People tend to be more open to suggestions from people who are like them. So, men are more open to input from other men. And we can take it even further. Frat boys are probably more open to input from other frat boys. Tough guys are probably more open to input from other tough guys, etc.
I, for one, am willing to then make the leap from there to responsibility. If you see something that’s wrong, and you’re in a better position to fix it, you have some responsibility to work on fixing it. It’s similar to the logic that tells us that if we see child abuse, we have some responsibility to intervene. Maybe not always a legal responsibility, but a moral one. Because an abused kid doesn’t have nearly as much power as we grown adults do to stop the abuser.
So, sure, the great guys I know aren’t responsible for the behavior of the rapists of the world. But if they stood up, and spoke out against misogynistic statements and behaviors, those rapists would be more likely to listen to them, than to us women. Who are so easily dismissed as humorless feminazis or oversensitive whiners.
And, yes, it does follow that as a white person, I carry some responsibility to speak out against racism. Etc. Easy as it is to hide my head in the sand and pretend that the civil rights movement is over, and took care of “all that”. It doesn't take much investigation of that assumption to become aware that racism is alive and well. And I can, and should, stand up against the racism I see.
Do you agree that the privileged class has a responsibility to fight oppression of the unprivileged class? If you think I’m off base, leave a comment to let me know!
Peg Shippert is a psychotherapist in private practice in Boulder, Colorado. She has a deep passion for helping survivors of sexual violence.