By Teresa Roberts
This week Bill Cosby was sentenced, Kavanaugh is facing a second accuser and Jim Knoblach is dropping out of the race due to allegations that he molested his own daughter for more than ten years.
We’ve experienced several years in a row of one man after another being accused for either sexual assault, rape or molestations. This article is not written to determine anyone’s guilt or innocence, but rather to examine this unprecedented phenomenon where women from all walks of life are suddenly coming forward to tell their stories. Some of us who are watching these women are also nodding our heads in agreement because we have our own stories that have never been told. Even our sitting president has been accused of inappropriate comments and behaviors with his own daughter, cheating on his three wives, paying off porn stars and sexually assaulting women just because he can. And, he’s right about one thing, most men could get away with sexual assault for centuries if for no other reason than our culture is based on a patriarchal model that makes men rulers of their own territories. We mustn’t forget the huge and ever-growing list of young children who were sexually assaulted by priests for decades and decades. Another very privileged group of power mongers who control the lives of far too many women and children.
What in the name of everything that’s decent and honorable is going on, you might ask?
And, I would venture the answer that patriarchy is being exposed, rooted out, challenged and maybe eventually stomped out completely if we’re lucky, although that’s going to require a lot more effort. Many men aren’t going to be willing to give up their license to take whatever they want just because they can. A surprising number of women still excuse this behavior because almost everyone knows some man somewhere who was guilty of one or more of the above despicable behaviors. That fact alone can cause a woman to squirm as they become keenly aware that we’re talking about someone they love. But the uncomfortable truth is that until recently, most men in the past who operated in this manner went to their graves never even being confronted. Not by their wives, communities, country or even their gods. They died with their good names intact and their honor preserved even though they were responsible for preventing their own daughters from having better lives. They loved their privilege so much that they found ways of preserving a culture that would ultimately hurt the women they claimed to love.
Frankly, I don’t think most men in the past believed that the accepted behaviors of the day were particularly bad for women because they were always vying with one another for power and actually saw themselves as victims instead.
There was a lot of chest pounding going on between men back in my day. A lot of guy-to-guy threats and posturing taking place in regards to their presumed female spoils. I dare you to look at MY woman, their body language would say to one another, as though their wives and girlfriends were merely some kind of prize in a social competition with one another.
Those were the cultural norms for centuries.
Because cultures all over the world give men the right to be assholes and traditionally punish women if they attempt to claim even a small amount of sexual freedom, we have been and will continue to be dominated and abused by men who feel entitled to get whatever they want. Whether that means the woman at a party, a ten-year-old daughter, an employee or even their wives, some men, lots of men, more men than we care to admit, will mark their territory and claim the prize without thinking twice about it.
Our Judeo-Christian culture wholeheartedly supports this patriarchal model and so does the Quran.
That places a lot of women and children all over the world in really risky situations with no recourse but to comply and then never talk about it. While at the same time, societies have traditionally been quick to label women as bad girls or good girls, sluts or virgins as though they are the ones that are bringing the world down with their behaviors. It’s an ingenious plan to confuse the issues at hand and protect those in power while scapegoating those without any power. This ploy is as old as the proverbial hills.
It’s impossible for me to predict where all of this will end.
If my granddaughter is lucky, it will end in a future where these kinds of crimes will no longer be condoned and overlooked. Perhaps we’ll see the day when men who cavalierly commit these crimes will no longer be admired and emulated, protected and excused. Or it could end with women being pushed back a decade or two or three. We don’t have to go back very far in the past to find socially darker days for women and girls. Conditions have only begun to improve for some women in some parts of the world in the last one hundred years. In other parts of the world, we still have cultures that believe women should be under lock and key, veiled and kept securely under the thumb of a possessive, privileged male who reserves the right to stone her if she gets out of line.
We must never think that the last century of progress in America, however, is a guarantee that things will continue to improve for women.
There are many just chomping at the bit to muzzle us once again. To become complacent is one of the most dangerous attitudes a woman can assume. We have the honor of reaping the benefits handed to us by women who fought on our behalf in the recent past. We also have a duty to make sure that we don’t let our freedoms slip through our fingers. Our daughters and granddaughters are depending on us to progress to the next level.
So, as these powerful men are being judged on the world scene, make sure you understand that patriarchy was institutionalized long ago, in our religions, governments and communities.
These were and continue to be the cultural norms that determined what was acceptable behavior and what wasn’t. To change collective awareness and ultimately replace the patriarchal model with a new and improved inclusive model will not be an easy accomplishment. Carry on, sisters!
Witnessing the breathtaking number of women who are revealing personal accounts of this nature validates the rest of us who were raped, assaulted or even molested as children.
No longer do we need to wrestle with our own dark memories about a friend, father, employer or date that crossed the line, invading our personhood. Any woman who speaks up is telling our stories, too. It’s empowering. There is no way this could have happened in the 1950s. For some reason, the time was now. And that’s how social change takes place, every single time without exception. Progress continues as each new freedom is gained until one day the muzzle is removed and the victim finally finds her voice.
Teresa Roberts is a retired educator turned writer, travel blogger, and professional myth buster. She manages a website called Creative Paths to Freedom and her most recent book is Have We Been Screwed? Trading Freedom for Fairy Tales.
September 29, 2018