When in August Brazilian writer and feminist activist Clara Averbuck refused
the advances of an Uber driver, he physically threw her out of his car, leaving
her bruised and with a black eye. He then sexually assaulted her as she lay on the ground.
On computer screens thousands of miles away from one another, some of the world’s leading feminist figures joined in solidarity with women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo at the country’s first-ever women’s summit on September 14.
Two years ago, on New Year’s Eve, a girl was molested on the streets of Delhi in front of a crowd. The video went viral—as did the spectacle of a mob of men falling upon the woman and the police thrashing the rabid mob with lathis (batons) like a pack of dogs.
On October 4, I gave the keynote address at St. John’s University in Queens, New York, for “Take Back the Night,” an international yearly march that began in the 1970s to protest violence against women. This is a version of that address.
“You smell soooo good, I could just eat you up.”
“Here, sit on my lap.” “No, mine!” “I get her first!”
“Putting him alone in a room with a woman is like giving an alcoholic a bottle of booze—he just can’t help himself.”
It’s been an interesting couple of days. Gloria Steinem (our project’s founder) and I wrote an op-ed for The Guardian about what we’re calling the “cult of masculinity” and its role in rape in conflict and gang violence. The reaction to the op-ed, however, wasn’t pretty.
I worked for many years as a reporter in upstate New York, where I covered local news like school board meetings and did features on things like watercolor exhibits at one-room libraries in one-traffic-light villages.
Let’s blame men. Many of us do—many women and even men blame men for the mass rape of women in war. It’s easy to point our fingers and name the perpetrator. But what if we were to step back and ask how men can actually be part of the solution? It requires a couple of basic assumptions.