As a guy, I wasn’t sure I ever really “Got It.” I was never told to watch out for where the next attack was coming from. I was never told that certain clothing or certain drinks were “off limits.” I was never told I needed to go to a personal defense class before I could begin classes.
I never had to worry about the kind of things that this woman talks about in her blog.
But I did have a very similar experience where I found myself as That Stranger. I was walking out of a meeting at the Old Capital Mall. As I rounded one corner, singing along to my iPod, a woman left the rest room ahead of me and turned left towards the parking lot. By pure coincidence, our steps turned in lockstep with me about ten feet behind her. Though I did not say hello, her reaction was as immediate and instinctual as my surprise was to find us in this classic workplace awkward situation.
She immediately glanced over her shoulder, clutched her purse closer to her self, and started walking faster.
Her response was not at all surprising in hindsight. When society tells women to not wear skirts, avoid drinking alcohol, or talk about sex and does not talk to men about how to prevent sexual assault, we have a problem.
I have a problem. Selfishly, I don’t want to be considered a perpetual perpetrator on sight.
But if I, and the other “Nice Guys” of the world want to avoid being labeled perpetrators, then there needs to be a communal response to gender and interpersonal violence that goes beyond not participating in hostile behavior.
We have to speak out against those who do.
That is why I will be at the One Billion Rising dance at the Old Capital Mall this Thursday (February 14) at 5pm. It isn’t a huge action, but I refuse to be silent when over 1 billion women in the world will be raped or beaten in their lifetime, often by my fellow men though not always. Students, faculty, staff, and the greater Iowa City community will come together and dance in solidarity with victims and advocates world wide. It may seem like a small thing, but the the more people stand together and speak out, the greater chance we can to show the small minority of perpetrators (of any gender identity) that their behavior is not acceptable.
Check out the event’s Facebook page here.
One Billion Rising is an organization built in cooperation with Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues production. It brings people of all genders together to show their support in the movement to end gender violence. It is but one of many organizations dedicated to the cause of violence prevention.
Whether or not you are able to make it to this Thursday’s event, I hope that you do SOMETHING in recognition that there is just TOO MUCH violence in our society. What you do, when you it, and with whom is not the issue. The issue is that we can no longer do NOTHING.
Not if we want to consider ourselves Nice Guys at any rate.
Move forward and speak out. Together we can help create a new culture of respect and safety. Together we can make a difference.