I hate to admit it, but when I found out I was having a boy, I was relieved. Not just because I was giving my husband the namesake he and his father so desperately wanted, but because the world just seems safer for boys. Of course, no matter the gender, there are certain dangers every child faces -- kidnapping, pedophiles, random violence. But there are certain perils that are specific to girls. I am talking about the kind of misogyny that leads to violence, which was recently exemplified by the bizarre rants of Santa Barbara shooter Elliot Rodger.
In his journal and in a video uploaded to YouTube before the rampage, he vowed to slaughter the beautiful blonde women who rejected him. He was angry because his advances were always spurned, and at 22, he had never been kissed. That, in his twisted mind, was not by any fault of his, but because of girls he approached. And while this young man was clearly disturbed, his anger and aggression toward women are far from an anomaly.
You see, the world just revolves differently for girls. I doubt my son will ever worry about being date raped, sexual harassment in the workplace, or making himself an easy mark for a predator if he walks home late at night alone. For that, I am grateful. But also deeply saddened that this is still the basic reality for girls and women. The world is an especially violent place for us because we can be in danger doing the most innocuous, normal things.
So it's no surprise Rodger's comments have sparked more than just a gun control debate. Since the crime, the hashtag #YesAllWomen has been used more than one million times to highlight incidences of verbal, emotional, and physical abuse women endure day in and day out and the attitudes they face. Take a look at a few.
Because I'm scared to put my drink down at a party because I don't know what someone may put in it. #YesAllWomen— #YesAllWomen (@yesaIIwomen) May 26, 2014
#YesAllWomen deserve to walk down the street without being catcalled, hollered at or made to feel unsafe in their own neighborhood.— stevie nelson (@iamstevienelson) May 27, 2014
#YesAllWomen because when a director rapes and drugs a 13 year old, Hollywood petitions to give him clemency and an Oscar— Amanda Sledz (@transporbation) May 27, 2014
So how do we fix this? How do we evolve into a place where women feel safe, where women are not blamed for things they shouldn't be blamed for? If there were an easy answer, we wouldn't be having this conversation. However, I think we can start with teaching boys and young men to respect women, to view them as equals. And this isn't something they can just read about and understand, they need to see it. They need role models who live their lives that way. Perhaps then misogyny will become a relic of the past.
Do you think we live in a misogynistic society?
Image via © Frederic Cirou/PhotoAlto/Corbis