“Secrecy is the handmaiden of evil”: speaking out against misogyny

There’s been a lot of commentary in the wake of CBS reporter Lara Logan’s brutal rape at the height of the Egyptian protests; I feel compelled to share this perspective, from Ta-Nehisi Coates. Coates compares the struggle against rape to the civil rights movement, in which he sees the call for nonviolence as a voluntary relinquishing of a basic right, that of self-defense, in the hopes of securing even more fundamental human rights. (And in fact the Egyptian people have just done the very same thing.) Similarly, he sees women who bravely speak out about rape as giving up their right to privacy, in order to address a greater evil:

Even when it happens close to us, we often do not know because the victims do not speak. They have every reason in the world not to speak, beginning with the fact that much of the world stands ready to punish them for it. Surely in Egypt, right now, women are suffering from the same evil which Lara Logan suffered. They can expect no sympathetic public outcry upon naming of the crime and executors. Likely quite the opposite.

I would not argue for a compulsive airing of suffering, but I would argue that secrecy is the handmaiden of evil. And while we all can understand why a victim would never speak on such a horror, moreover we can understand the great injustice in even requiring the victim to part with their natural rights, it’s worth supporting that speech when it happens.

There are many wise and powerfully personal statements in the comments section as well. Emily Hauser links to her post on the matter, which I also strongly recommend. And in a comment further down that personally strikes a chord with me, she writes:

The role of men is absolutely key in this struggle.

When we teach girls to own their bodies and to say no and to take self-defense classes and to speak up when all that doesn’t work — while that’s important, all we’re doing is managing the problem. We’re not solving it.

If we want to actually solve the problem, if we want to make rape a terrible rarity, rather than a terrible common-place, men need to be an active part of the solution. They need to educate themselves, educate each other, educate their boys, name and shame, and be absolutely unequivocal in their support for women in the fight. Only when it becomes unthinkable for men will we begin to remove it from our midst.

Absolutely right. It will take more than women speaking out about misogyny, whether it manifests in rape or other forms of degradation and marginalization; it will take men who listen, and who tell other men to listen. It means all of us fiercely calling out rape culture wherever and whenever we see it. It means all of us calling down shame and rage and scorn — and the full force of the law — on individuals who rape (whether the victims are women, men, or children), and on the institutions that enable them. It means the long hard work of building a society in which women and men are simply accorded the respect and dignity that is their due as human beings; and for that we need all hands on deck. Men have to step up. *I* have to step up.

For the sake of my wife and daughter — and for my own sake, for the privilege of looking at myself in the mirror with a clean conscience — I’ll do everything I can.

(Image by slytherin-prince)


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