On Gender and Abuse in 2014 and 2015

(photo courtesy of google images)

In My Ohio

Darren C. Demaree

Last year, shame finally found the shoulders of Bill Cosby, of countless athletes, and an alarming number of male writers as well.  There had always been a section of the male community that took their size/muscle or the money/fame they possessed to be an invitation from the gods (religious, political, etc.) to behave as actual beasts in the presence of women.  We knew about them, as men, even we shied away from them if we knew what they were capable of.  We kept those we loved away from them, but at no point did we ever stick our chests in theirs and demand that they keep their damn hands to themselves.  We were afraid; those kinds of men are scary, even to other men.
 
Then 2014 happened and like a thousand women had shot a thousand flares into the air all at once, we got to see the look of those men caught in their own awfulness.  There was no where for them to hide, not that other men (possibly protecting their own beastdom) didn’t try to find a language to explain away the terrible destruction that sexual and domestic abuse incurs, and finally (thanks to those epic women) they were forced into passive stances, into hiding, and sometimes into appropriate physical incarceration. 
 
As a gender we had been exposed as passive accomplices, sheltered busybodies, or participants in what had been three millennia of persecution of women and transgender people.  The worst part was that we had to be shown the horror, repeatedly, before we ever found an athletic stance, before we started to confront that section of us bent on unleashing hell towards the other. 
 
That feeling that men carried through 2014, even those of us with marginal guilt in the bloody tapestry, was palpable.  I went silent on things.  I wrote a few poems about it.  I wrote a column declaring the NFL to be weak in their response to the issue, but overall I was frightened of the environment that seemed to be tightening around my gender.  I tried to celebrate and encourage the women that had outlasted the bullying nature of our world to voice their experiences, but I failed to appropriately join them in their cause.  I failed.
 
Now, I can’t help feeling that the conversation is disappearing too quickly.  The fatigue from the terrible acts has taken over, and people just don’t want to hear about it anymore.  Well, I’m sorry, but this can’t disappear right now.  We have tried to rally around those that needed us too, but all that has done is brought us closer together.  We can’t simply move in unison for the rest of time.  There will still be animals daring enough to try and pick off those they (incorrectly) consider to be weaker than them.  They’ll pair up.  They’ll hunt as teams.  Moving forward with a sense of safety isn’t an option. 
2015 has to be more than just a pivot away from the spectacle of 2014.  It has to be the year we start ensuring the safety of everyone.  Domestic abuse and sexual abuse needs to be bullied the same way it has bullied others, constantly and publicly.  Those that feel they have the freedom to behave as such must have that freedom taken.  Those that are abused shouldn’t feel doubted or shamed for speaking up for even a minute.  Those of us that are not direct participants need to be more active in the prevention of abuse.  We need to see physically and sexually aggressive men around us not as masculine or virile, but as lost boys that need to be checked back into their own space.
 
We’ve seen it now, right?  We should have seen it the millions of times that it had happened before, and that we didn’t is an egregious error. Just because society seemed to passively condone the actions of these men, that wasn’t cover for our timid reaction, it was the stretching of the shame into a firmament that covered every man.  The victims of these crimes are leading us, and theirs is the voices we should follow.  What men need to do now is not rally to protect and hover, what we need to do is actively participate in the education/prevention of abuse.  This is a fight to right the ship, and the ocean will bury all of those unwilling to do the work required.