Bullying. Street harassment. Female genital mutilation. Rape culture. Slut shaming. Cyber bullying. Sexual harassment. Physical harassment. Abusive marriages. Child abuse.
It’s all connected.
One person, or group of people, seek to control another person, or group of people. They want to exert control or power over these others. They do it to feel in control They do it to feel powerful. They do it to feel big by making others appear small, or worthless. Their worth grows when they make others worth less.
Power. Control. And it’s a cycle.
There are two ways that this cycle is started and perpetrated. Fear and entitlement.
A young boy has a bad experience. Maybe he is shamed or frightened by his religion. Maybe he is hurt or shamed or belittled by a parent or peer. He doesn’t like feeling small and afraid. He hides his fear behind a mask of bravado. He steals lunch money from kids because he likes to see the fear in their eyes. They are afraid of him and that makes him feel good. He teases kids because it makes others laugh. They admire him, and that makes him feel good, even if it’s at the expense of someone else’s feelings. He grows up and gets married to a women who will fear him and admire him. He keeps her in her place – maybe with threats, maybe with insults, maybe with his fists or by using sex as a weapon. They have kids and he can’t show them love because he doesn’t understand it. So he shows them strength and wants only their fear, calling it respect. He belittles them in front of others, shames them for their weaknesses and dreams. Those children see that their father is strong, and to be weak is bad and awful. And so they make a choice: bully or victim? What do you think most of them choose?
You were born white so you’re better than the black kid. You are rich and that makes you better than the poor. You are Catholic and that makes you better than, well, everybody. Instead of trading feeling fear for causing fear, children who bully out of a sense of entitlement were handed a feeling of power at a young age. Skin colour, gender, wealth, sexual orientation, political leaning, religion, social connections, language. These are all things that people hold on to in order to feel entitled. Because you are inherently better than others you can do as you please, the rules don’t apply to you, everyone loves you for being you no matter what you do. And this too is passed on generation to generation.
These make the cycle of school bullying, abusive marriages, and child abuse fairly obvious. But how does this tie into street harassment, female genital mutilation, and rape culture? How can it not?
Power. Control. Fear. Entitlement.
Men trying to kiss and grope women on the street? Power. Control. Fear. Entitlement.
Female genital mutilation? A religious group trying to control the sexuality of women. Control and power.
Rape culture? You got it. Power. Control. Fear. Entitlement.
These focus on the genders and the power play between them. Men continuing to dominate women in a time and place that has declared gender equality. I’m not saying there aren’t double standards, because there are. And I’m not claiming that men are never victims, because they are. And I’m not claiming that women are never perpetrators, because they are. This is about power, and while we focus on men dominating women, there are men who seek to dominate other men, who take bullying to another level. There are women who seek to dominate, probably because they are part of the fear or be feared cycle.
How do we break the cycle?
Stand up. That’s the first step. If you see a bad situation, stand up. Don’t let that teenager steal someone’s lunch money, or call that girl with the thyroid problems “fat”, or that rape victim a “slut”. Don’t let that man say those nasty things to his wife. Don’t let that woman hit her child.
Raise awareness. Share blog posts and articles about any and all of these subjects. Start conversations. Announce loud and clear that you believe these things to be bad and wrong – IN ALL INSTANCES.
Support victims. Teach them that there are other options out there, other ways to be strong. Show them love and compassion and strength of character. Most victims believe they are doomed to remain victims forever. Or that they must become the aggressor to escape. We need to show them that isn’t the case.
End victim blaming and victim shaming. It’s not a woman’s fault she was raped, not even if she wore a skirt, not even if she accepted a drink at the bar, not even if she smiled and had a friendly conversation with the guy. SHE IS NOT TO BLAME. It is not a child’s fault that their parent abuses them. It is not the fault of the abused that they are abused.
Be aware of double standards. It’s okay for a man to sleep with lots of women but not okay for a woman to sleep with lots of men? It’s okay for men to be portrayed half-naked in comics, cartoons, and video games (Conan, Tarzan, He-Man, the Hulk …..) but not women? (Yeah, Gamergate, this is about you too). Female underwear models should reflect the “average” female body instead of the too-skinny, too-busty ideal but male underwear models are all muscle bound hotties? It’s okay for a black person to call someone “white boy” but it’s not okay for a white person to call someone “nigger”?
Educate. Teach children about the pain and trauma their words and actions can and do cause. Do not tell someone “words never killed anyone” because they have. Teach compassion, caring, empathy, and respect. Teach children to own their actions and accept consequence.
Do not promote ANY material that promotes hatred, bullying, or harassment. Do not buy books or movies that portray rape or abuse as acceptable. Do not buy books or movies that romanticize rape, stalking, or abuse. Do not buy books or movies that portray a rapist or bully as a hero UNLESS there is A LOT of character growth and reparation. Do not promote websites that promote hate speech directed at ANY group.
Just as all forms of bullying and harassment are connected, so are all target groups.
Women. Children. Mentally and physically handicapped people. Blacks. Natives. Jews. Muslims. People who are obese. People who smoke. Members of the LGBT community. Christians. Atheists. Immigrants. Refugees.
If it is wrong to torment one group it is wrong to torment ANY of these groups or any others I have missed.
It’s all connected. We’re all connected.