Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Portrait of Society: A Personal Perspective

I generally do not comment on political goings-on in the country. I read what others post, I consider, I form opinions, and I discuss them with those who are open to listening. On this blog, I rarely share lots of personal thoughts and feelings that are not directly related to books. However, something has been on my mind for a while, and I feel the need to put it in words and send it into the universe.

More and more in the media, and now in the election campaign, it has become acceptable to objectify women’s bodies. Men have all the rights they want, and women have no right to make up their own minds about who or what they give consent to. “Consent” has lost all of its meaning, because being a woman implies that we want attention from a man in any form they want to give it. If you are an attractive woman, or dress a certain way, you must want attention even more. That is flawless logic, right?

After the Trump comments were leaked, so many women started tweeting or sharing their stories of assault. It’s shocking, it’s demoralizing, and it is ridiculous that we as a society are actually regressing in our treatment of women.

The statistics show that 1 in 6 women has been a victim of rape or attempted rape, and 1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted in college. Only 3% of child molesters are ever convicted and punished. Three. Percent. Children, male and female, suffer every day from sexual predators. When you average everything, an American is sexually assaulted every two minutes.

It’s heartbreaking. And it is atrocious.

I am thankful that I have never been in this situation. I’m one of the lucky ones. My heart goes out to all who have suffered this kind of abuse. I cannot imagine it, but I know that it is wrong and it needs to stop.

But objectifying women as sexual objects is not the only thing that happens in this country.

On the other side of the spectrum are the women who rather than being desired for their bodies are villainized because of them. Yes, I am talking about fat-shaming.

Before you click away thinking that I’m going to equate these two things, please keep reading. I know that these are different types of problems, but both are very real and very prevalent.

Women who are overweight fight their own battle—the battle to be seen as humans. Obesity is a problem in our country. Over 2/3 of Americans are overweight or obese. If you are overweight, you are asking for “help” from others. You are seeking out the judging, condescending looks and the pointed, snide comments regarding food and lifestyle choices. On the other hand, perhaps you are asking to be invisible, undateable, unloveable, simply because you are choosing to be unattractive. More flawless logic.

Thin privilege is real.

I know because I do fit into this category. I can benefit from diet and exercise I know, because I have been told that for much of my life. I also know that I am still a person who deserves dignity and respect despite not being “thin.” I have been bullied, I have been the brunt of jokes, I have watched men’s eyes slide right past me because my size makes me less than human and therefore not worthy of a simple “Hello, nice to meet you,” in group introductions. I am sure I am not alone.

I understand that what I’ve discussed are very different types of attacks. One is physical, one is verbal. One is illegal, one is generally accepted. One can elicit endless sympathy and outrage, one can elicit thoughts (if not comments) of, “Well, they kind of had a point…” It’s clear which one is worse. But in other ways they are similar attacks. What they have in common is that the victim—the VICTIM—is almost always blamed. The victim is left to suffer alone with the physical and/or emotional ramifications—the fear, the anger, the shame, the self-loathing, the sorrow. Far, far too often, it is the victim’s fault.

When will we as a society finally stand up and place fault where it belongs—with the attacker?

The evidence continually shows that the answer is never. Because we as a society have two fundamental problems.

A inflated sense of entitlement, and a shrinking sense of empathy.

Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, so the saying goes. And it’s true. But when did this become, “Everyone is entitled to treat everyone else however they want, with no regard for the feelings of others?” I am not that old, but I grew up learning the Golden Rule:

“Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”

When did this fly out the window? When did it become okay to attack, to assault, to blame, to dehumanize, to destroy, and NOT to feel any remorse about it?

This problem is everywhere. We see it clearly in the election campaign. We see it in our justice system, in how a white rapist is sentenced to a mere three months but an African-American found in possession of marijuana is sentenced to years in prison. We see it in education, where teachers are blamed for test scores and students are not held accountable for their actions. We see it in religion, where only one group can be right and others should be condemned to hell in this life and the next. We see it in movies, TV shows, and on our daily news, when natural or man-made disasters happen but only nations and people who are “good enough” receive airtime and Facebook photo filters and an outpouring of aid. We see it in mass shootings, in hate crimes, in the lack of support and eagerness to judge that occurs repeatedly in daily human interaction.

“We” are good. “They” are other. “We” deserve the best. “They” deserve whatever “we” choose to give them, because “they” are other.

This is how society operates.

This is not okay.

I certainly don’t have answers. I know there is not a magical cure-all for how the world has become.

But I hope, pray, and believe that we as a society can do better.


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