I am privileged to welcome my friend Erica to Accepting Responsibility for a guest blog post. The Isla Vista mass murders resulted in a vigorous discussion about femicide, misogyny, and the persistent disrespect that–according to the #YesAllWomen tweets–men show to just about every woman on the planet. Erica is a devoted follower of Christ and a student at a college known nationwide for its traditional conservative values. Her words are courageous, perceptive and show a wisdom beyond her years.
You might remember the blog entry I wrote, telling women they are not responsible for how men think of them and reminding men that they cannot hide behind the excuse of “boys will be boys.” I find myself going back to those thoughts now, in the wake of the Isla Vista shooting and the number of articles, tumblr posts, and #yesallwomen tweets I’ve read recently.
So, Christian men, listen up. I am addressing you, not all men ever, because you have a responsibility here that I would like very much for you to think about.
As a Christian man (and, honestly, as a decent human being), you have a responsibility to call out any maltreatment of women around you. When you are out, you have a responsibility to watch out for the women around you. I don’t know where you spend your days, but I can tell you it’s not only at bars and parties that women are made uncomfortable by men. I was riding my bike to the library a summer or two ago and at least one man whistled at me, possibly because I was wearing shorts. That is not a compliment. If you try to tell me I should take the jeering of men as a compliment, we are going to quarrel. Because I was not complimented. I was scared. I was scared, and this was in the middle of the day, in the middle of town. It was unlikely that the man who whistled at me would have done anything else, and perhaps he truly thought he was complimenting me.
But here is why he was not: There is a really high chance he was bigger and physically stronger than I am. I was also on a bike, and I was stopped at the train station because there was a train coming. I could not go forward, and he was behind me in a car, so I could not go back. If he had really wanted to, he could have forced me into his car and I would probably have been able to do very little.
Yes, that is an unlikely scenario, especially considering it was the middle of the day. Yes, I understand that not all men are like that. The point, however, is that I was scared, I was uncomfortable, and if you are a Christian man and you ever catcall, whistle, or make any kind of remark about a woman’s body, you are not behaving in a Christ-like manner at all. Furthermore, if you see someone doing that and you do nothing, you are validating and normalizing that behavior. (As a side note, here is an excellent article called What Men Can Do to Stop Street Harassment, which, as stated, tells you four things men can do to help stop street harassment. There’s a comic included that has some language, so watch out for that.)
The other thing I need to point out is that you have the responsibility to look after women because you, as a man, are much less like to get raped or killed or physically/verbally abused for standing up for a woman than a woman is for standing up for herself, and the man doing the harassing is much more likely to respect you, a fellow man. (I can’t find any research for that, though I’ve looked extensively, but… it’s the truth. Saying “I’m not interested” somehow translates to “Please try harder,” while “I have a boyfriend/I’m married” translates to an actual “no.” Here is an article that further explains this phenomenon.)
Also, if you need another reason, Jesus’s ministry was startling positive towards women, especially considering the times. You’ll note, I hope, from His treatment of women that He thinks them worthy of protecting even when society says they are not (John 8:1-11).
And before anyone says it, it is not my fault for getting whistled at. Do not ask me how short my shorts were. In the first place, I was biking four miles from my house in June or July; was I supposed to wear pants? But the greater point is, of course, that while yes, less is more and all that, no woman gets dressed with the hope that they will be made uncomfortable by a man/men in any way, shape, or form. I was wearing the clothing I was wearing because it was the most practical, and not for any other reason.
Women are not to blame for the bad behavior of men. Men are responsible for their own behavior. Yes, I understand it is harder for you, men, to maintain purity of thought when women show off their bodies. I don’t think that, as a girl, I can understand exactly how difficult it is for you, and I’m sorry for the times I’ve made it more difficult than it already is. But I have not caused you to sin. Your sin is on your own head, just as mine is (James 4:17). We will all stand alone on Judgement Day, and God will hold us accountable for our thoughts and our actions (Romans 14:12). God will not allow you to place blame on another person for your conduct.
Obviously, you are also not responsible for the conduct of other men. But I am asking you, as a sister in Christ, as a female, and as a person who is so tired of being afraid of men until they prove me wrong, to point out to other men their hurtful and harmful behavior, to listen when women say no and have compassion for their fears, and to show me and every other women with your actions that it is, in fact, not all men.
I should add that men also face street harassment, abuse, rape, etc., and I do not intend to belittle their pain in order to bring attention to the pain of women. Perhaps I should say as a close, then, that where we can safely do so, we should call out harassment and abuse for what it is and help the victim. Where we cannot safely do so, we should notify the proper authorities. We should always, always, always provide support to the victim, because it is never their fault. We should also teach our children, especially, (but also as many others as we can) to respect other people and other people’s bodies: “Just because I move through a public space does not mean my body is a public space.” Which is to say, please be a decent human being and encourage others to do the same.
Click here to see Erica’s original blog post
For a related Accepting Responsibility post, see a piece I wrote a couple of years ago called My Lust, My Fault.