As the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have unfolded, Gay's writings about her own experiences have aided in the national conversation. Rape culture in the United States is a topic that urgently needs to be addressed. Avoiding the topic and remaining silent only makes the issue that much more difficult to overcome. While attitudes have been changing with the evolving accusations from past decades of sexual assault and sexual harassment, there's still a long way to go, but attitudes, behaviors, and language around topics of sexual violence are changing.
Yet her latest anthology, Not That Bad, Dispatches From Rape Culture, took me by complete surprise. She collected pieces from numerous writers across the country to address one of the nation's biggest social dilemmas: rape culture, and create a haunting reality for many people, women and men alike, across the country.
Not That Bad, Dispatches From Rape Culture, is a collection of first-person essays covering topics from the rape of refugees displaced by global crises to first-person accounts of child molestation.
To EW.com, Gay explains that "This idea came to me years before the Harvey Weinstein news, simply because the way that women minimize their experiences has always been interesting to me." In the case of many of the writers who have been included in this collection, the minimization of their experiences and haunting trauma that lives with them comes from the idea that it is "not that bad."
Gay notes that [she] was really stunned by the level of testimony and by how many women — and men — had such challenging and traumatic experiences with sexual violence. She states that "[she] knew that it was widespread, but when you see submission after submission of people writing about these topics, it really starts to bring home just how problematic this culture is — and how far reaching the effects could be."
Gay's collection includes pieces that address the harassment, aggression, and violence that women face in today's world, where they are routinely blown off, discredited, and patronized for speaking out. Not That Bad, Dispatches From Rape Culture, is a compilation of 29 essays from writers all across the gender spectrum who, in almost every single piece, struggle to come to terms with the fact that what happened to them was indeed, that bad.
To me, it seems logical that the person who committed the crime should be the one held responsible and reasonably punished. Despite having to live through the ordeal of being sexually assaulted once, the legal system forces victims to relive the entire ordeal over again in court. However, being found guilty on three counts of sexual assault is not enough for even a year of jail time.
The stories are peppered with personal thoughts and terrified aftermaths of the sexual assaults that have occurred to the writers. Some writers were in relationships, others assaulted by strangers. Yet the one thing that all of them have in common, is the PTSD, no matter how slight, that each and every one of them suffered following their trauma.
As a female college student, the fear of sexual assault is overwhelming. Yet, college is supposed to be some of the best years of my life. How am I supposed to be able to go to parties without questioning if someone drugged my drink? Or walk home from the library at two am without having to carry pepper spray?
Although attitudes are changing towards women's silence on the subject of sexual assault, the end-result has not yet changed in the way it should. I can't say I know what it feels like because I do not. And I hope to never find out. But I know that some of my fellow students will not have the same luxury. I cannot imagine what it would feel like to wake up, hungover, and find myself half, or completely, naked like many college victims. But I know for sure that it would be the end of the energetic, fearless person that my friends and family know.
This is the reality of living as not only a female college student but for all women. We live in a man's world, and that means we are never safe.