Sexual violence has been an issue for a long time. Bring in technology and social media, and the problem escalates. This is evident through sexually explicit hate messages that many people experience far too often (and by far too often, I mean no one should ever experience this type of harassment). As so very truthfully put by actress Ashley Judd; people take anything, no matter what it is or if it is even remotely related to anything sexual, and run with it as a way to sexually harass and promote sexual violence.
Typically, it is women who experience this type of hatred, but that is not to say that men do not experience it as well. However, a misogynistic attitude tends to be a driving force behind these acts of hate and sexual violence. Gender and race are often used as a basis for hate and discrimination- women are generally considered inferior to men, and white people are considered superior to all other races- meaning women of colour are discriminated against on both fronts. These power structures are what drive hatred in Western societies and those who are at an advantage use this to assert power and control over others through malicious or violent means.
Why is it that men seem to have the freedom to say what they want, how they want and where they want with little or no consequence but when a women says something that isn’t necessarily harmful or offensive, for example, Judd’s tweet that is discussed in the article, they are subjected to so much hatred? The concepts of emphasized femininity and hegemonic masculinity are often so far exaggerated to the point that women do not feel safe to express themselves in whatever way they see fit due to not wanting to experience the consequences of not being seen as acting how a woman should. The same goes for males in the sense that so many feel as though they have to live up to expectations and follow the idea that men have to be overly manly, tending to lead to aggressive and misogynistic attitudes.
Ashley Judd put it in perspective by stating that any little thing can be used as an excuse to deliver rage through any means possible towards women- rage that is always there, oftentimes hidden, waiting for one small slip up so it can come out. But even still, despite Judd having her own experiences and story to tell, she is using her status as a powerful white woman, potentially a white savior in a sense, to address an issue that affects women around the world, and even more greatly affects women of colour and of minorities.
Social constructions tell us that men are strong and women are weak. We’re told that men have power over women, and that women are supposed to surrender themselves to that control that men have. When women stand up for themselves in situations such as the disturbing one that Judd was put in, we’re told to suck it up, to deal with it, that “boys will be boys”. This mentality is teaching women that despite all the feminist movements throughout history and all of the fights we’ve had to fight in order to obtain the basic human rights that we deserve to have, we will never be seen as equal to men. There is no “women will be women” mentality; a saying that could be used in a positive sense to reiterate the fact that women should be able to stand up and defend themselves and express their thoughts and feelings without being attacked.
When women are made subject to sexual violence and hatred and discrimination against their gender, we are being told that we should be ashamed of who we were. We are being told that women have no power and that we have no position to have an opinion. On the other hand, men have the freedom to express their opinion and gender binaries have us believing that men can deliver sexual hate towards women because they are the more “aggressive” sex, but while women are meant to be fragile and dainty, we are supposed to also be strong enough to deal with this hatred.
Although the concept of white saviours is not beneficial to the big picture of discrimination, is it not better to have white women standing up to defend women around the world than no women at all?
Reference: Alter, Charlotte. “Ashley Judd Speaks Out About Twitter Abuse and Rape.” Time. Time, 19 Mar. 2015. Web. 2 Apr. 2015. <http://time.com/3750788/ashley-judd-speaks-out-about-twitter-abuse-and-rape/>.