“I’m very grateful she’s a woman
And very easy to forget…”
~ Professor Henry Higgins, My Fair Lady
On the cover of New York Magazine is this striking photo of 35 women who have accused Cosby of drugging and raping them. Read the full article here. But, I don’t want to talk about Cosby. I really don’t. Not his issues, motives, what he did or didn’t do for America in terms of race, his moralistic judgements or even the Jello commercials. If I didn’t have to mention his name, I wouldn’t.
But let’s talk about the women that don’t have dozens of others backing their story up for a minute. Why, why, why do we not listen to women?
Sexual assault statistics, are astounding, yet we still live with the myth that women are calling “rape” the way that Peter cried “Wolf”.
What I can say is that women live in a culture were when it comes to sex, we are not to be believed.
Women are not to be believed because we are all whores and sluts- It is believed that women say we are waiting for our knight in shining armor to save us when really we desire the dark knight who will “ravage us”. The more handsome, popular, famous, successful you are, the more entitled you are to release a woman’s inner whore. The more quiet and conservative she may be, the more repressed she is. Some women really like sex, I would dare to say most, just like men, still not a reason to assault. Women can proudly claim their love of sex and still be believed when assaulted. Even if she was raped by a “such a nice boy.”
Women are not to be believed because they were asking for it- Yes, this one again… “Did you see how she was dressed? She was asking for it.” Sometimes women dress up to go out, sometimes women wear low cut shirts or they wear short skirts, or stiletto heals because they like the way their legs look. OR sometimes they wear yoga pants and sweatshirts. You know what? We are not sexual objects. We are not just boobs and butts and vaginas. We have eyes in our heads that you should look at when you talk to us, even if there is a little cleavage showing.
Women are not to be believed because they are too emotional- Women are emotional creatures (as are men, by the way…Which begs the question of which a man is using when he sexually assaults?) But as we *all* know feelings are not as important as thoughts. We may have a mouth but it’s not connected to our brains. We easily write women off because they are being “too sensitive.” They should develop “thicker skin” and “not take it so personally.” When a man tells a woman he’d like to bend her over the board room table and hold her down moments before she is to give a presentation. “It was just a joke. Don’t be so sensitive.” We are irrational and therefore not to be trusted. We’re ambitious and will say anything to get ahead.
Women are not to be believed because we less than people– It is believed that women were created for companionship to the man (Genesis 2). I am not agreeing with this interpretation necessarily, but this has been the common cultural assumption. Men don’t understand women’s bodies- smaller muscles, hormones, menstruation, just to name a few differences. My ex-husband used to say, “I don’t trust anything that bleeds for 5 days and doesn’t die.” That one caused a big laugh. We are to serve at the pleasure of men, we are to “receive” their will and “give” of ourselves. Feminism has taken us a long way, but the cultural assumption is still there. Women’s bodies do not belong to themselves, they are compared to voluptuous mountains, delicate flowers, and the curves of fruit. Things to gaze upon, to be desired, plucked and devoured.
I’m so proud of these 35 women on the cover of the New Yorker, I honor them and their stories. I also honor the thousands of women who go without anyone to believe them, not one. I honor the women who continue to believe these assumptions about themselves. I honor the women who should be protected and won’t be in the future. I honor them all, and mourn. Oh, and if someone tells you they have been sexually assaulted? Have compassion, and sympathy, and above all, believe her.
(a note: not all sexual assault is male to female or heterosexual, I am not assuming that, I am however talking about that dynamic specifically in this post.)