What I’d rather see than sad stories of abuse that someone swoops in to try to half-assedly address, is an absolute refusal to tolerate these crimes in the first place. Rather than TV shows trying to mete out justice in one-hour segments, I’d rather see men on TV becoming empowered to stop each other in the moment. High school boys resisting peer pressure, not succumbing to it. Father figures who even though they’re in a half-hour comedy, defend their women, rather than being cowed by them.
I’d also rather see law enforcement becoming accountable for stopping these crimes before they happen, not just cleaning up the mess. Part of the horror I feel watching these crime dramas is that by the time they start investigating it’s already too fucking late. It’s over. She’s dead. Or raped. Or brutalized.
And this passivity is not just on TV. At 25, while living alone in Hollywood, a drug-addict neighbor started leaving notes in my mailbox and waiting for me on my porch when I came home at night. He would bang on the door when I wouldn’t answer. He would yell at me through the windows. I went to the cops. “Has he hurt you?” they asked. When I told them “not yet,” they said, “You live in Hollywood. What do you want me to do?” And in response to my shocked silence? “Don’t be that woman.” “What woman?” I asked. “The woman who whines that we won’t help her until something bad happens.”
Yes. God forbid we act BEFORE something bad happens. God forbid we fight systematic oppression with a little proactivity. If we want these crimes to end, then it’s clearly not enough to just document these stories and sigh and look away or to tell your daughters not to walk down alleys alone at night like it’s her responsibility to keep herself from being raped by someone. We have to try to right this terrible wrong that keeps being perpetrated again and again, not just mop it up afterwards. What the fuck are we doing? Why is this still happening? And why are we watching it happen while we eat popcorn on our couches? Would we all tune it to see a series about lynching? Torture? Racial profiling? Then why we do tune in to see women being cut into pieces? Publicly humiliated? Raped? It is not entertaining. It is horrifying. And it’s closer to home than anyone would care to admit.
I’ve always known that being a woman was complicated. That it comes with a price. That the joy I find in being desirable, is also a liability – I’ve been taught that. My life has taught me that. But even I was shocked, as I sat in a group therapy session just a few months ago, to hear a friend, an incredibly beautiful 23-year-old girl, a girl I was jealous of, to be totally transparent, tell us with horrifying casualness about a recent sexual assault and wrap up by saying “I know this isn’t my fault. I know that when I look this way, these things will happen to me. It’s just the way it is.” She understood the price of her body. She understood that over and over again, no one fucking helped her. Not even her mother believed her when she came clean, because it’s too painful to open your eyes to a world in which this happens, epidemically.
You guys. It just doesn’t have to be this way.
Talk to your sons. Talk to your friends. Write about your experiences. Defend your daughters. Stop laughing at misogyny. Go pick something you can do and go to work. It’s not just women who have to fix this. It’s all of us. So get outraged. Start with your own community, and do something. I know I fucking have. And make better TV, people. Give us men who give a shit, and cops who get there in time. I am done feeling this helpless.