Old men are creeps. This is a thought that's crossed my mind too many times throughout my educational career, one that reappeared each time my high school male teachers appeared to favor particular girls in class, grazed their hands by my hip, exchanged numbers with a female classmate, and called me "doll." One told me the only thing I needed to do to better succeed in math class (a subject I struggled with) was to come see him privately, a thought that haunted me more than a failing grade. I would often come home telling my parents how creepy Mr. X was today, receiving a mixture of furrowed brows and laughs. "Oh, stop." I was exaggerating. After all, Mr. X has been there for years; if he had really done anything predatory, he would've been kicked out by now. Mr. Y may seem creepy, but that's just his odd demeanor. Mr. Z - well, he's just old-fashioned.
They even insisted I kiss up to one of my teachers after he clearly had been giving better grades to certain (more blonde) girls in my class. Even if I wanted to, I couldn't force myself to act like I wasn't disgusted by him; I could barely get myself to flirt with boys my own age that I liked. But I managed cordial relations with him - hugs and plastered smiles at graduation - and got by with an A minus. It was bullshit, but I figured there was no changing it. And sometimes, my parents said, you just have to play the game.
Countless cases of sexual assault have resurfaced in the last few years, with public awareness leading women to open up about experiences they had stayed silent about for too long. From Bill Cosby to Woody Allen to Roger Ailes to, now, Nate Parker, our society is learning just how many skeletons are buried in the closets of our beloved golden boys.
With Birth of a Nation, the up-and-coming buzz-worthy film about a slave rebellion, Parker is supposed to be a figure of social justice. Now, he, along with Jean Celestin - the film's co-writer - are tainted with a story of one of the worst injustices known to man. The incidence may be "painful" to Parker now, but Jennifer, the woman who was raped, is dead after swallowing close to 200 pills at 30 years old. (You can read the whole tragic story here.)
Parker claims he just found out of Jennifer's death, which happened in 2012. Right. But it's women who are still being denied, in both big ways and small.
On top of the Nate Parker case, a scandal erupted last week when Kurt Metzger, a former writer for Inside Amy Schumer, posted a stream of vile Facebook posts in response to rape allegations against comedian and fellow Upright Citizens' Brigade member Aaron Glaser. The posts mocked victims with graphic language, claiming that being wrongly accused of rape is worse than actual rape.
While we don't exactly know the percentage of rape accusations that are false - studies show the commonly cited two percent figure is iffy - it's about time we start taking the word of women seriously. You'd be hard pressed to find many men who have been threatened by women filing rape claims, but the amount of women who have been infringed upon, taken advantage of, lied to, and shrugged off are a dime a dozen. In fact, as young girls, we learn to accept that boys who tease us are the ones that like us; that we can't wear skirts higher than three fingers above our knees because it would be "distracting;" that speaking up too much in class will make us look bossy; that we need to shave our legs and wax our eyebrows as soon as puberty arrives on our doorsteps. Learning to hide is an inherent part of the female experience.
Parker was supposed to be the paramount of social justice. Cosby was supposed to be the quintessential family man. Brock Turner was an all-star athlete at an elite college. Creeps come in all shapes and sizes.
Several teachers I had were supposed to be spearheading a new generation of scholars, but still treated their female students like eye candy. Liberal arts students who tout coveted internships and "feminist" labels are also the ones offering to buy women another drink in the hopes of something in return, to ask them if they're sure they don't want to have sex and to shame them when they do.
As a society, it's time to stop telling girls they're whining, to listen to them and teach them they can do well without being the subjects of male desire. As women, it's time to start taking ourselves seriously, to challenge ourselves to shut up the internalized voice in our heads that says we're overreacting and that "he really is a nice guy." Let's start setting the bar higher than nice. How about 'treats us like equals'?