I am angry.
It feels like rage is literally burning my throat, I'm so angry.
I have this beautiful daughter. She just turned 18. Most people look at her and see someone much younger, which is annoying...but she'll love it when she's 40.
She loves to read. She loves to laugh. She's a great actress. An artist. An amazing teacher whose kids think she is the best thing since sliced cheese. She has a brother who loves her even when she annoys the crap out of him. Her puppy sleeps with her every night.
She's been working at her Aunt's shop on the Square. She's having a blast. Since it is so close to our house, she walks to and from work. She listens to music, practices her monologue, enjoys the weather.
Yesterday a man drove by my beautiful daughter and tried to engage her in conversation. He told her she was pretty and asked if she had a boyfriend. She took a deep breath, politely but firmly said "I'm not interested" and kept walking. She tried to remember all the things I told her about walking with purpose, head high...all those things that make you look like you wouldn't be a good victim for a predator. He started following her. Driving past her, coming back...all the way home. She forgot all the things she was supposed to be doing and panicked, called me crying. At one point the call dropped. I was terrified. Trying to call her back, my coworker on standby ready to call 911.
Last night I had to remind my daughter that instead of calling me she should have dialed 911 herself. That if he had done anything, I couldn't have gotten to her fast enough. We had to have a talk about safety. We had to have those conversations Mothers are forced to have with their daughters because we live in a rape culture. A culture where we spend more time teaching our girls how to not get raped than we do teaching our young men not to rape girls.
I want to find this guy. I want to beat him to a pulp. I want to gouge his eyes out so he can't ever leer at a young girl again. At some point I will have to let this go, work through forgiveness, pray for him. But not today. Today I'm in a rage and frustrated. This man took so much from my daughter yesterday. He didn't just mess up her day. He messed with her innocence. With her sense of who she is. He rendered her powerless. And he enjoyed it. It was a game to him. He kept coming back. He had to have seen the panic on her face. Bree is a great actress but utterly fails at hiding her emotions in real life (wonder where she gets that from?!). He got a kick out if it. It made him feel powerful.
Bet you anything he didn't think about her age. Bet you anything he didn't think about how she was going to sleep last night. About how we've had to make arrangements so she's not walking to and from work by herself. Bet if he knew how angry I was, he'd laugh it off.
Men like this. A culture like this. Explains how and why over 300 girls a month are sold for sex in Georgia. It's why studies show that one in six women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. Why-on average-a woman is beaten every nine seconds in the United States.
Enough is enough!
Culture must change. Parenting styles must change. Media that sales sex and portrays women as the playthings or servants of men must change. Songs that reflect misogynistic lyrics or devalue women are not freedom of speech! It should be considered a hate crime! And it's not just hip hop...how many country songs do you know that refer to a woman's body parts as her "money maker"? We shake our heads at fundamentalist Muslim countries that force a woman to wear a burqa but how is the US culture overall any different in the way it treats women?
It's time to take a stand. Men need to hold men accountable. Women need to understand their value and demand to be treated accordingly. I don't expect it to change overnight but I also know how you eat an elephant...
One bite at a time.
I believe this can happen. I believe it because I see it in my son. It's not only the way he was raised but in the decisions that he makes. When we turn off the Superbowl because the commercials make him uncomfortable. When he acknowledges that porn is a temptation and takes steps to fight it. When he treats girls around him with respect (including-most of the time-his sister).
I believe it because I've spent a lot of time recently hanging around college students and talking to guys who want to be leaders in the movement to change a culture and end slavery. Who know that part of that is doing their part to change culture. Who know that doing their part means treating women with respect and caring that other men do the same.
Every time I think about stories like Steubenville, I also have to think of the 40,000 plus college students at Passion 2013 standing in the cold, holding candles, singing worship songs and taking seriously their pledge to End It. The guys I met at Bryan College who are helping in the organization of a book drive for our girls.
I'm frustrated and I'm mad but I'm also hopeful. I hope I can hold on to that...