Start With a Whisper
In the fourth in this series, Emily shares how you can feel empowered to challenge the little things. It starts with a whisper.
It starts with a whisper. What is considered normal is only considered normal when it is not questioned. Question.
Welcome to part 4 in my series on ending rape culture. In the first of this series, I shared my dream to end rape culture within a generation, and in the second, I defined what I mean by rape culture. Before the Christmas break, I took a look at the little things, and invited you to start noticing those little things around you, the ones that help create a culture where women are demeaned, objectified, talked over, used, ignored, minimised and silenced.
What did you notice? Did you start seeing the world differently? Did you notice you were more aware? I watched Love Actually (now a much beloved staple of the Christmas televisual viewing calendar) and had to switch off as I was wanting to throw my sofa cushions at the TV. (In case you’re wondering why, this article explains it so very comprehensively). Did you start to feel a well of anger rising up in you? Did you feel overwhelmed with how pervasive these ‘little’ things are? Did you feel tiny and impotent in the face of so much that has been normalised to the extent that it’s only noticeable when your eyes have been opened to it?
Well, this week we’re looking at what you can do, what we can all do, to challenge rape culture when we see it; and by challenging it, change it. What is considered normal is only considered normal when it is not questioned. Question.
The truly excellent news is that this is one of those things that can only be achieved through the micro-actions of the many. Powerful people with big budgets at their disposal are as impotent as the next one of us in making this change, if they are acting by themselves. But we are not tiny and impotent, we are many and with our anger, we are motivated to make change happen.
So, what can we do, and how can we do it?
It starts with a whisper. You know how when one person whispers quietly to themselves, no-one will hear? But you also know when a whole room full of people whisper the same thing, it sounds like a loud roar? Well, that’s exactly how we’re going to make these changes; this change. We might not even always whisper. Over time, we’ll notice that we’ve found our voice and sound will come out too. And our neighbour will whisper. And the next person too. Until everyone is. It works like dominoes, when you whisper, it’s out in the open, no longer a secret, no longer normal, and more people start to open their eyes and join in the whisper.
If you see an advert, a news article, a TV show, a slogan on a T-shirt, any of all those things that you started noticing over the break, that seems to denigrate, or objectify, or disbelieve a woman then, whisper. Whisper it to yourself. Acknowledge its wrongness within yourself. When you feel ready, you can find sound, and mention it to your companion, ask them if they see what you do. Bring the wrongness out into the world by sharing it. What is considered normal is only considered normal when it is not questioned. Question.
If you’re in a group and a joke is told, the kind that isn’t actually funny, simply ask – please explain to me what it is that’s funny? You don’t need to go all-out and accuse the teller of the joke of misogyny or worse; simply ask, what is it that you find funny? They may respond defensively – but your asking will have made them question themselves, and may have started a shift. A quiet shift, yet a shift. As I said above, what is considered normal is only considered normal when it is not questioned. Question.
If you’re parenting, raise your child to question. Children love questions. The excitable curiosity of a child is the kind of curiosity that we were always trying to reconnect with in my marketing career. Raise your child to continue to question and ask why. Raise your child to believe they can be anything, achieve anything, and their gender has nothing to do with it.
As a consumer, don’t buy products which demean, objectify, or normalise in any way rape culture. Organisations make decisions based on profit and sales. Show them that bad decisions cost them in both profit and sales.
As an employee, quietly start to challenge projects which demean, objectify, or normalise in any way rape culture. (Especially if you work in marketing or advertising; the power of influence should only ever be used to do good in the world). Question the insight. Question the business case. Question the ethics. Question the company reputation. Mention it in passing. Mention it in a meeting. However you choose to start to pick holes in the apparent status quo and modus operandi, know that even a corporate culture is only the sum total of its employees and your whispers will be heard.
Start with a whisper. Standing up to a big behemoth and saying this shouldn’t be normal, feeling like the only voice, might seem overwhelming at first. Start with a whisper. Like anything that is unfamiliar at first, expressing your point of view will become easier as your familiarity with it grows. Start with a whisper. And then notice that you’re not the only voice; hear everyone else’s roar.
Next week we'll start to explore the uglier impacts of rape culture, beyond the slogan on the T-shirt, and look at how you can be part of the movement that better supports the survivors of rape; how you can be a survivor ally.