Shock, sadness, anger over sexist language | Guest View
Interestingly enough, I have been recently contemplating a subject to discuss recognizing October as Domestic Violence Awareness month when my topic for this Op-Ed was handed to me via an audio recording last week.
Frankly, it is not my place to discuss politics and I choose not to do so, however, it is my place as a woman, mother, grandmother and director of an agency whose focus is based on anti-violence work, to discuss openly disturbing, degrading, sexist language used as a weapon directed toward women.
As I listened to the now infamous tape, I was honestly a bit shocked. Not because the words were new to my ears, but because of the deeper meaning behind using them in the first place.
My initial shock was followed by sadness, then it simply dissolved into anger.
I was saddened that two men who snickered, snorted and giggled like schoolboys held a bawdy, belittling conversation de-valuing women to nothing more than objects of their lurid illusions of sexuality.
Then I was angry with the arrogance and audacity of anyone announcing that because they are a “star” they can grab a woman’s genitalia as they wish.
This was not just “locker room talk.” Let’s call it what is was – filthy purposeful language used intentionally to exhibit power and control over women by attempting to denigrate their existence to a mere sex object.
We see this every day as we work with victims of domestic abuse. When we look closely at the overall patterns of power and control, we see the continued use of intimidation, emotional abuse, isolation, minimizing, denying and blaming others, as well as privilege as the means for abuse in a relationship.
Over and over again, abusers’ “behavior” is minimized not only by the perpetrator but by family members, neighbors, co-workers and, yes, sometimes even the victim.
How ironic is it that this year, during National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, this disturbing example of power and control is making headlines.
While disgusted by the content of the recording and its language, I will say I have been strengthened with the number of men and women who have spoken out about this issue.
They assured us that they were outraged by the language and intent of the message itself. They were angered not for only the women and girls in their lives, but how it degraded all men in the process.
I am hearing loud and clear from many men that this is not standard talk between most men – and certainly never acceptable behavior.
So how do we process this information and apply it to our recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month?
Start by talking to your kids, your neighbors and your community. Speak out against power and control tactics wherever and whenever you can. Educate yourself and your children on what abusive power looks like and how to react to it.
Let others know that all men, women and children are valuable in their own right and that sexism, just like racism, will simply not be tolerated, ever.
This month and this year, make it a point to volunteer or donate to a domestic violence agency, wear purple periodically in honor of survivors and victims of domestic violence, and read books that help raise awareness to issues surrounding domestic violence.
With knowledge and a willingness to face issues, we can stop violence and work toward peace in every home.
Vicci Hilty is the executive director of Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County. Call her at 425-259-2827 ext. 1021 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit www.dvs-snoco.org.