Today, I witnessed an interaction between what I believed were either brothers or family friends. In mid-conversation, I tuned into one saying to the other, "You know, women say no all of the time when they really mean yes." The mother of the man who said that was standing right there, and the wife of the man he said it too as well.
My first thought was how could a mother sit quietly when her own son said something like that? How could she not respond with "I didn't raise you to treat women with such disrespect." At the same time, as the pregnant wife of the man's friend, I would have been wondering why on earth my husband hung out with men who had that thought concept, and if he would make sure his children would grow up with a better mentality.
Sure, he could have been talking about something completely unrelated to rape, but just imagine all of the people who have said, "Well people say no all the time when they really mean yes." Imagine all of the sexual assailants who have justified themselves with that exact phrase.
Our grandparents, our parents, our teachers, our politicians, our "protectors." All of the people who were supposed to be teaching us and our peers right and wrong, setting examples, telling us how a decent human being should act and portray themselves...they let us all down.
To all of those before us who said, "Boys will be boys," who allowed the objectification of not only women but young girls, who didn't teach the generations after them that rape culture is wrong and has no place in this world: how dare you leave this world for us.
You've created a world in which women cannot jog the same route repeatedly without fearing sexual assault. You've created a world where doctors sexually assault their patients for years without anyone taking notice or listening to the survivors. You've created a world where rapists get away with it...where they serve little to no legal sentence, if convicted at all.
You've made a world where women are afraid to walk from the store to their cars alone at night. You've made a world where men who have been assaulted don't ever speak up for fear that they will be even more ostracized or labeled weak. You've made a world where people just accept it because changing this world looks overwhelmingly impossible.
You've created a world where I fear to raise children because what happens if someone else doesn't teach their children that rape culture is wrong and must be obliterated?
In this world, we have young girls who can't wear spaghetti straps to school because their shoulders are too distracting to boys because it gives off the wrong message. In this world, children are taught that rape is a part of life, and if it doesn't happen to you, it has to someone you know. In all the chances you had to make a better world and change the mentality that our generations have grown up accepting, you let it continue to get worse.
And now, my generation has to clean up your mess. We have to fight for justice, teach each other and the generations to come after us what is acceptable and what is not. Shame on you for forcing us into this position.
But also, thank you because we are creating strong, loud, and empowered youth. We are creating independent young individuals who fight endlessly for what is right. We are creating a future that is better than the future you made for us. And for that, you're welcome.