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June 13, 2011

What Wiener, Schwarzenegger and Strauss-Kahn Can Teach Women…If We Have the Courage to Listen

IStock_00gropingall Too many women are wooed by money, fame and power.  Add a man to any of these ingredients and they serve as an almost irresistible aphrodisiac to countless women.  What is going on with so many women when it comes to men?  It seems that men, money, fame and power leave far too many women blinded.  In some cases, women are blinded by men...period.  What is up?

It’s time for women to take the blinders off and have the courage to see what’s right in front of them.  None of these men’s behaviors were shocking to those around them.  In every one of these cases there were signs, red flags and blaring horns going off.  These men -- and many more like them – sent up glaring red flags regarding their treatment of women.  Several women came forward over the years stating that Arnold sexually assaulted, groped or sexually harassed them.  Dominique Strauss-Kahn was known for his “womanizing,” which is the least of his offenses.  Weiner reports, "My wife has known about some of these online relationships since before we were married.”  These men have a history of treating women as though they are a piece of dessert for their taking.  And other women (and men) excused them, laughed at them and enabled them.

Women, if we have any hope of reducing the number of sex crimes against women, stopping sexual harassment or raising sons who respect -- rather than assault -- women, we had better start stepping up.

The first reaction of many French people upon Dominique Straus-Khan’s arrest was to blame the victim.  Does that not ring a bell with what happens in the U.S. countless times?  Courts blame the victims, mothers defend their sons when they know they are guilty, students blame the girls who are raped and report it for hurting the rapist’s reputation and wives defend their husbands rather than holding them accountable for the ongoing violence and degradation of women. 

Until women unite and stand behind one another, we will continue to be abused, not only by men, but by fellow women.  That is a travesty.  Each and every woman deserves to be treated with respect by men and women alike.  If the men in your world are groping women, making sexist jokes, “playing” women or sexually assaulting women, do NOT turn the other cheek.  Don’t laugh at their behavior, excuse their behavior or chalk it up to boys-being-boys or men-being-men.  Regardless of whether the man is your husband, son, co-worker or friend, speak up.  Stop colluding with the mistreatment of women by men.  Every time you silence to this mistreatment, you cause it to grow.

We, as women, must have our own backs and stop protecting the men who are victimizing women.  It’s not debonair, sexy or macho to grab a woman’s breast without her consent—it’s sexual assault.  Your son is not a ladies’ man because he has six girlfriends—he’s a player who has little respect for women. 

Women need to dare to see what’s right in front of us.  These powerful men are great examples of the idiom, “If it looks like a duck, acts like a duck and walks like a duck…it’s a duck.”  More often than not there are red flags.  Stop ignoring them.  The next time a man is charged with flirting with your friend, groping an employee, sexually assaulting a woman or molesting a child, pause and take an honest look at the issue as opposed to reactively defending the man.  Don’t jump to questioning the validity of the victim without ever questioning the guilt of the accused.  Minimally, stay neutral until you have more information and please stop throwing other women under the bus as so much of our world does.  It’s time to say enough—isn’t it?
Challenge: pay attention to how you talk about the victims of crimes.  Notice what you think and say in response to a powerful man being accused of a sexual crime against a female.  Listen to how the media stories first come out and when and how the story begins to turn.  Be aware.  Don’t blindly defend men nor blindly defend women—seek the truth and have the courage to back it when you find it.


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Thank you for reminding us women of our role in relation to men's bad behaviour. Our behaviour is just as important. After all, it is US we can change. As is so true, 'we teach people how to treat us'. We need to be brave and make it known that abuse is not okay!

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