These Issues Affect Us Too

March 2015

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Every 30 seconds a person becomes a victim of human trafficking, also known as modern day slavery. According to the US Department of State’s Trafficking Persons Report, between 600,000 and 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year. And, while it may seem that this is a problem that occurs elsewhere, human trafficking, typically for the purpose of forced prostitution, occurs in every country, including in the United States. This is just one of the many cruel inequities that face women every day.

The injustices that women face is a topic that falls outside of most people’s awareness because it is not an issue that seems as relevant as other issues. To most, crimes against women are things that happen “over there” and are insolvable. Living in a fortunate community provides an easy gateway to oblivion and the thought that if the topic does not directly affect oneself and is far away enough from home, then it is not worth the trouble. The injustices that women face are worth the trouble, and the only way that they can end is if society is educated.

What concerns me the most about the lack of comprehension is the inability of people to go to the trouble to try to understand the issues. Maybe it is the word feminism that scares people away, even though it means the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men. Maybe feminism just triggers the idea of man hating?  Maybe it is the idea that these issues do not affect us in the West with the same magnitude that it does in developing countries. Even though these issues are not talked about enough in our society, I refuse this decision to ignore. I refuse this decision because violence against women is not confined to any one country. Borders do not define lack of access to opportunity. Cultural stigmas as to gender roles and stereotypes are not a problem that is limited to some place away from here. While it is true that we have made tremendous strides over the years in the pursuit of equality, the issues relating to women that happen in countries that we have determined to be “third world” and uncivilized happen here in the United States as well. We need to stop classifying women’s rights as a separate, possibly inferior, topic. Women make up half of the population. The success of half of the population plays a crucial role in any society in the realms of politics, peace, economics, and social equality.

One of the most prevalent examples of an issue that crosses all borders is violence against women. Here in the United States, through violent video games, movies, and television shows, popular culture teaches boys a narrow definition of masculinity that involves complete power and control. In the video game Grand Theft Auto a player can purchase a woman, carry out different sexual acts with her, and then decide whether or not to kill her to get the money back from the original purchase. If we educate boys and girls about the wrongs in the harmful media that has become standard, we can demand that these types of harmful portrayals stop being the social norm. Because if we do not, what is the message that we are sending? Why are we allowing such a blatant and normalized display of gender violence influence our population? What is this teaching us as a society, and how is it allowing a persistent rape culture to continue?

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center in America, one in five women will experience some form of sexual violence in her lifetime, compared to one in seventy-one for men. One in five women on college campuses will experience sexual assault. Yet, despite these horrifying statistics, rape is the most under-reported crime with 63% of sexual assaults not reported to the police. This number is so astonishingly high because victims are hesitant to label an experience as rape if they knew the person who attacked them, which is the case in eight out of 10 rapes.  The Justice Department estimates that fewer than 5% of completed and attempted rapes of college women are reported to law enforcement officials, and 97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail.  Our society has allowed a violent rape culture to be ordinary, and has silenced and derided the women who do try to speak out and get justice. I believe that if we teach boys and girls from a young age that violence at all costs against the other gender is unacceptable, I believe that this rape culture can begin to become obsolete.

While most of us have the privilege of viewing these issues from a distance, we have an obligation to help because of the millions of women and girls who cannot remove themselves from these problems. Boys and girls, men and women, should be interested in women’s rights and should be activists for change. Problems that face women affect men too, and if both sides recognize that something has to change things will start to change. Educating people and teaching them how to stand up is one of the most important steps in order to create meaningful progress towards equality. To quote Hillary Clinton, “we cannot get ahead by leaving half of our population behind” because “women’s rights are human rights”.

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