Among many other things, this election cycle has called attention to a very old gender dynamic in the United States. Whether it was commentary on the way the candidates were dressed, their physical posture during each of the debates, or the discussion of a very disturbing leaked audio tape. The way that men treat women is now at an appropriately elevated level of national attention.
And this attention has had an impact far beyond the election.
Recently, Harvard University announced that they had cancelled their men’s soccer season after the team published a lewd report on the attractiveness of several members of the women’s team. The women who were featured in the report wrote an inspiring joint response to the report, and as if the implication wasn’t already clear, the women titled their response “Stronger Together”.
All of this has really made me think very critically about the topic of gender relations. It’s also made me think very carefully about my own behavior. Since high school I’ve identified with being a feminist (that is – believing that men and women should have equal rights) but have I really lived up to that ideal?
Twelve years ago when I was on a college athletics team, if I had heard that male athletes were rating female athletes based on their appearance, I may have shrugged it off as no big deal. My moral compass would have pointed south, but it really wouldn’t have popped as something that needed attention. It would just slip by.
I’ve been in lots of locker rooms throughout high school and college and heard lots of inappropriate things said about women (although, none quite as offensive as the words of our president-elect). I think I always would have found Donald’s comments to be inappropriate and unwelcome. Although, shamefully, I can’t honestly guarantee that I would have had the strength to call him on his comments if I was in Billy Bush’s shoes.
However, after this recent election I think something inside of me has changed. Today I feel differently.
Whether it’s a report on the attractiveness of women athletes or very inappropriate comments about women – I no longer let it slide by. I now think about what it would be like to be one those women in the report. Feeling victimized and watched. Maybe even feeling afraid to leave their home. It’s not fair – no one should have to feel like that.
Behavior of this type really is really not acceptable and I’m happy that Harvard chose to set an example.
As responsible citizens we should not condone any activity that victimizes and exploits one group of people for the enjoyment of another. It’s not ok.
Reflecting on my own change of heart – I had an epiphany: this is how the world changes.
The world cannot be changed by a presidential candidate saying disgusting things. Nor can it really be changed by Harvard University suspending a sports season. But rather, the world changes when people (like me and you) see the world in a different light and move the boundary of decency and acceptable behavior a few inches in the right direction.
From now on, I will see the world with this new perspective and I hope that you will too.
Regardless of the election result, I think the world is changing for the better. And no president, no matter how ignorant or bombastic, can stop the positive tide of social change.