Like so many people, I have been upset by the stream of recent news stories on sexual assault: Bill Cosby, Jian Ghomeshi (a popular and seemingly pro-feminist radio host here in Canada), the University of Virginia story from Rolling Stone, several stories relating to violence against aboriginal women in Canada, and stories about the US military, to name just a few. Throughout this string of stories, I have felt admiration and support for the women who have come forward, but I have also wondered why not everyone comes forward, and why so many women waited so long to do so.
In the ensuing debate, many people (mostly women) have decried a culture that permits sexual assault, and a few people (almost exclusively misogynistic men) have defended the status quo and denigrated women, often through trolling and other unsavoury means. But there is a perspective that has been largely missing: that of the average man. Most men are not misogynists, and I would venture to say that most are actively against misogyny and do generally respect women. But the misogynists are loud, obnoxious, and everywhere on the internet. Most men shut up when the subject shifts to sexual assault, partly because it’s seen as a women’s issue, and partly because they are scared of saying the wrong thing and coming off as misogynists themselves, even when they are not.
But sexual assault is not a women’s issue, it’s a human issue. White people can see the injustice in how blacks are treated by the police, and adults can be against pedophilia. When something unjust happens to one person in our society, we should all be concerned. It is time for the large majority of men to speak out, and to support women. My hope in writing this piece is that it will be read by men, forwarded and posted by men, and discussed by men.