Anyone tuned into the media this past week has been subject to a relentless rehashing of one woman’s childhood experience with sexual assault, causing male and female survivors of similar experiences to relive their trauma; for all women everywhere, it’s a largely unnecessary reminder of our second-class status.

Sen. Mazie Hirono has taken the gloves off, calling on all men to “shut up and step up.” If her rallying cry rings illogical, it’s a sign of exasperation with the better members of the male sex who have done too little to further the progress of #MeToo and #TimesUp.

Like Mazie, I am exhausted from hearing these stories day after day, hour after hour. As a mother, I find it almost laughably perverse that I am not only to raise two boys who will exist with a kind of entitlement unavailable to me, but that it’s also my job to prevent them from inflicting harm on the women of the world.

US Senator Mazie Hirono outside her headquarters Saturday night August 11, 2018. (Civilbeat photo by Ronen Zilberman)

U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono outside her campaign headquarters Aug. 11. Hirono has been among the most outspoken critics of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.

Ronen Zilberman/Civil Beat

What good men need to grasp is that the despicable behavior of their brothers doesn’t make them more honorable in comparison; it tarnishes the reputation of their entire sex. There is a responsibility that comes with being born into a population that perpetrates violence at a wildly disproportionate rate. Like secondhand smoke, its noxious fumes seep past those immediately involved. It pollutes and degrades all relations between men and women, creating a climate in which women must be fearful and wary of men’s intentions at all times, and in which romance and friendship are ever at risk of degrading into hostile environments.

Boys learn that sex is a pleasurable activity and a badge of success; on rare occasions, girls see sex in a positive light, but it is far more often represented — through both fact and fiction — as currency, as violence, as a very real threat to their safety, their freedom, their lives. Every woman comes of age knowing that when it comes to sex, they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

This is the state of things in a place and time where women are probably more protected and outspoken than ever. Still, at this very moment in our world there are honor killings, there is female genital mutilation, there are the missing and murdered women of border towns and reservations. You most likely know a woman who was raped. You most likely don’t know a single woman who has never been sexually harassed.

The World We Live In

The last time I wrote publicly about male violence, to suggest that young men would benefit from broader access to social-emotional learning curricula, one man took it upon himself to contact me anonymously, insisting that women were at fault for enabling violent men.

His letter included several personal details about me and my family — the intention being, I can only assume, to affect a menacing tone. This is also the world we live in.

Every woman comes of age knowing that when it comes to sex, they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

Many men who would never think to identify themselves with the badly behaving members of their sex will freely extrapolate the crimes of individual members of other groups to the character of the whole — think of how Muslims and Mexicans are portrayed by our president and his supporters, and punished in the millions for the sins of a handful.

And so I’m mad. Mad like Mazie, like Kamala Harris, like Christine Blasey Ford if she had the luxury of feeling angry instead of traumatized and terrified.

Men of the world, you have a branding crisis on your hands. You need to reform your culture from the inside out. The best among you are not off the hook — this is your moment to step up.

Thoughts on this or any other story? Write a Letter to the Editor. Send to news@civilbeat.org and put Letter in the subject line. 200 words max. You need to use your name and city and include a contact phone for verification purposes.

You can also comment directly on this story by scrolling down a little further. Comments are subject to approval and we may not publish every one.

Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Column lengths should be no more than 800 words and we need a photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to news@civilbeat.org. The opinions and information expressed in Community Voices are solely those of the authors and not Civil Beat.

About the Author