In the unfortunate case that you remain party to unfounded and lingering doubts about the reality and validity of sexism, I have a deal-breaker for you. Ready? Sexism is real. What’s more, it is STILL globally rampant. Case in point, sexual predation is a mark of institutional inequality against women of all identification. Covert, overt, verbal, physical, one-time, consistent, multiple offenses per offender, one offense per offender–all of it remains legally and inherently unwarranted–or at least, we thought everyone thought it was inherently unwarranted. Recent national news details public outcry against countless sexual assault cases, both current and others now surfacing after years of secrecy. Brock Turner’s legal advisor, John Tompkins, has filed to appeal the offender’s conviction. His exact words: “What we are saying that what happened is not a crime. It happened, but it was not anywhere close to a crime.” Unprecedented numbers of Congressmen, accused of all sorts of sexual harassment against staffers and interns, have denied the claims or publicly apologized, dropped out of reelection races, and/or resigned due to public denouncement. The Weinstein Company sacked Harvey Weinstein following sweeping allegations of sexual harassment.
In the wake of these and other cases, many have wondered what sparked the recent surge in this conversation. But while sexual assault has gained massive media attention in recent weeks, rates of sexual harassment have not just magically increased overnight. Sexual predation is ingrained into our patriarchal culture. According to UN Women, less than 40 percent of women worldwide who experience any form of sexual assault seek help of any sort. Further, less than 10 percent of those women seeking help did so by appealing to the police. When survivors of sexual violence don’t feel they can even report it to the police force, something is undeniably, repugnantly wrong with our global culture–and that something is an entire system which unremittingly and unrighteously devalues women.
In case there’s any remaining confusion, rape is a crime. Rape and all non-consensual sexual acts are illegal under national law under Chapter 109a of the United States Code. Likewise, rape and all other non-consensual sexual acts are illegal under international law under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, The Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions, The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, the European Court of Human Rights, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, various military legal bodies, and innumerable cases using other international legislation. How can it even be proposed in court that Turner’s rape was not a crime? It shouldn’t be allowed to. But hey, post-truth-U.S. is a thing now. #thanksTrump
Furthermore, according to UN Women, at least 119 countries have passed laws on domestic violence, 125 have laws on sexual harassment and 52 have laws on marital rape. However, even when laws exist, this does not mean they are always compliant with international standards and recommendations, let alone implemented. And get this: 19 countries have legislation which states that women are legally obliged to obey their husbands. Last I checked, we’re living in 2017, not the 1950s, but it appears time isn’t the true drive behind change. We must keep this in mind as we decide how to push for lasting change–because all social change seems radical in the moment, not in retrospect.
While increased public outcry and firings about sexual harassment do send and cement a message of disapproval, the effects of these measures remain at just that unless capitalized on. Public disapproval always marks a genesis point for the creation of substantive meta-measures, such as legislation and systematic sociocultural change, against the issues under attack. It is beyond time to eradicate this issue. Three critical steps toward change, according to Valerie Hudson in her Sex and World Peace, are as follows:
- Prevent violence against women through the use of external controls that ensure consequences, such as legislation;
- Provide new patterns of thinking and acting that are more likely to keep gender conflicts from arising and to resolve those that do occur;
- Help peoples and nations to internalize gender equity principles, which constitute the basis of peaceful interactions between sexes.
As Hillary Clinton said in 2010, “Women’s equality is not just a moral, humanitarian, or fairness issue. It’s a security, prosperity, and peace issue.” So why the heck aren’t we as a nation, as a world, as a global human community treating it as much? Why don’t we try telling the innumerable survivors of sexual assault worldwide why we can’t get it together? Oh wait–we don’t have to. They live every day with the extensive effects of these atrocities. Both individually and collectively as nations, we all suffer from gender inequality, whether or not some choose to realize its vast ramifications. Accordingly, we must attack its roots now to ever hope to eradicate this institutional inequity.