Tag Archives: rape culture

Imagine A World Where Women Matter

*This piece is written from the perspective of a white woman who attended a heavily privileged Southern institution of higher learning.  It in no way captures the plight of women involved in other conversations about male privilege such as the #RapedAtSpelman advocacy work being done.

When I was in college, I was afraid of boys who looked like Brock Turner, the rapist. I was afraid because in the confines of my southern gentility drenched college campus, I knew that boys like Brock Turner could do what they wanted to me if they got the chance. I knew that even if it happened off campus, that would not make my rights safer. Even if they were reported to city police, those city police would bring them to our campus police. And I knew the mantra on campus: we don’t want to ruin a promising young man’s life.

It reverberated: we don’t want to ruin a promising young man’s life. Yet, there was a silent word in the sentence, like the silent *k* in know. The silent word was *white*: we don’t want to ruin a promising young *white* man’s life. The word was there, we just did not say it.

In my context, I had never heard the phrase, “We don’t want to ruin a promising young man’s life” used to describe anyone but a privilege drenched white man. Privilege becomes equivalent to promise. Having much becomes equivalent to deserving much. Having an affluent past becomes equivalent to having an affluent future. It is the fall we fear. He may not have gotten to the height he is at on his own, but we do not want to see him fall. If he falls, then we all might fall. So we have to protect him. If we do not protect those with the most privilege than it puts all of our privilege at risk.

prom·is·ing (ˈpräməsiNG/) adjective: showing signs of future success. Traditionally seen in the United States to be an attribute belonging to white men raised in affluent contexts.

Imagine, if you can, a campus where the mantra about every woman raped on their campus was: “We don’t want to ruin a promising young woman’s life.” Imagine, if you can, that that conviction drove campus personnel to pursue justice for their women, or persons of any gender who were raped, with the same level of passion they now use to protect the men. Imagine if it was the women that mattered.

Imagine if it was the women that mattered.

Imagine if it was the women that mattered.

Imagine if it was the women that mattered.

I want it so badly to be true.

Imagine if we feared nothing more than ruining a promising young woman’s life by permitting her to be raped without real consequence.

I did not know what would happen in the conversations in closed offices. What I did know was that I saw white frat boys go into closed rooms after women had come out having told their stories. What I did know is I would see them walk past each other the next day in the hall. What I did know was that I never heard about a white boy being expelled for raping a woman. What I did know is that the women I knew who had reported said they had been told it was their own fault.

Imagine if it was the women that mattered.

We don’t want to ruin a promising young *white* man’s life.

Syllogism of the day:

If you know that some women are reporting being raped by white boys.

And you never see any public consequences for those white boys.

Then, you conclude that white boys are allowed to rape women.

I came to that conclusion fairly easily, and it had consequences for me. I became a very careful person around white frat boys, wary, knowing what they could do to me.

If I could come to the conclusion that easily, merely by watching from the outside of the situation, I couldn’t help but wonder what conclusion the white frat boys came to. If I realized that they were allowed to rape me, did they realize it too? Maybe not consciously, but in some part of their psyche? The part that was supposed to tell them when to stop?

True, my high school/college sweetheart was a white frat boy in a Christian fraternity. And true, I moved into a house full of white boys when the Mere Christianity Forum asked me to integrate their Vista House. Yet, all of that felt different. While all men are capable of rape, not all men are exposed to it as a game rather than a crime, taught they can get away with it on a weekly basis, and confident that their privilege supersedes the law.

That same spring that I agreed to move in with the MCF boys, I was chosen to lead Orientation for the freshmen the next year. My campus was a dry campus, and parents sent their freshmen there with the confidence that they would not be handed a beer their first week, at least not during any official Orientation activities.

They sent their daughters there assuming that it was the women that mattered. The sent their daughters there assuming that we would protect them. They assumed too much.

As Orientation leader, I found myself called into a meeting one day in the corner of the PalaDen, with the representatives of the Fraternity Council. They were worried about declining recruitment and the school had opened the door for them to have an exception to the dry campus policy if I would approve it. Their proposal was for the fraternity council to sponsor a party on campus as part of Orientation Week with an open bar.

Imagine if it was the women that mattered.

I was having trouble following the logic of why it would be a good idea to have a party with an open bar on a dry campus for eighteen year olds who were away from home for the first time. It was, to put it bluntly, part of my role to educate in order to prevent not facilitate those kinds of situations.

Imagine if it was the women that mattered.

As I resisted, alone with a table full of men, they became increasingly furious that they could not force their will on me. Finally one of the fraternity representatives flew into a red-faced white man rage: “We’ll tell all the freshmen you aren’t cool!” burst from him mouth as his final impotent threat.

Imagine if it was the women that mattered.

When he was finished, when they were all finished, I thought of a better world, a world where the women mattered. For once, I was the one who had the power to live as if that was true. I pushed my chair back from the table, and lived into that truth. I took my first step out of that world and into another.

I live now in a world where the women matter: black women, and white women, and trans women, and Latina women, and Asian women, and Native women, and older women, and younger women, and celibate women, and sexually active women, and…

We have a responsibility to show those who do not know it yet that the world they are living in is the lie. We do live in a world where women matter. They just don’t know it yet. We will have to make them know it.

 

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