A TikToker’s recording of her male classmates joking about rape and saying that ‘silence is consent’ has viewers horrified.
I’ll make a confession.
About 30 years ago now, I was walking through the ME labs at Purdue with a professor. If I’m frank, I didn’t care much for this professor. I didn’t think he was a good instructor. I only found out later why, when I was told by another professor that his field of expertise was different than what he was teaching, and he was bitter about the path his career had taken. I don’t say this to besmirch him; we all have career regrets, but it’s important in a moment.
As we walked by one experiment, running on a bench, I asked about it. In the process of giving me the context, he mentioned that it was a woman who was doing it. I made a comment about wondering if she were studying engineering to design better hair dryers. And, yes, it makes me cringe to this day. The professor — despite whatever job disappointments and career pressures he was under — just calmly said that she was one of the brightest people he’d ever worked with, and he looked forward to amazing things from her career.
In that moment, as they say, I was enlightened. Both about my attitude, and how to be an “ally.” Honestly, I was “going for the joke” more than I was being intentionally misogynistic, and I claim some small amount of pride, in today’s politically-charged society, that all it took was one measured response from an actual adult to recalibrate my boundaries.
The males in this classroom aren’t just ignorant, and they aren’t just joking. They’ve been making these sorts of comments on Reddit and 4chan for a long time, and their behavior has been reinforced through those moderation systems. Women don’t speak up about this sort of systemic, generalized misogyny because — if it doesn’t achieve social media virality as a shield — the blowback will be too much to handle. And even now, as the video has been marked private, I guess it was too much for her. That’s OK; that’s for her to decide. I understand it. I’m just glad she got this out there to begin with. We need more of this. A LOT more. As a society, we need to name and shame this behavior. It needs more sunlight and fresh air as disinfectants.
We also need adults in the room to say that this is not acceptable, but to do it in a non-confrontational way. This is vital, no matter how good it would feel to lose your mind about. Not because these comments aren’t worth yelling at someone over, but, rather, doing it in a measured way will avoid the very human, gut-level response of getting defensive when attacked, and shut down the person’s ability to hear that this is not acceptable.