OPINION: A culture of empowering complacency, endurance instead of taking a stance

Maria Ferrato Opinion Writer

“You can’t let one whacko ruin your night,” a family member texted me after I informed her that a man logged into a Zoom call and performed inappropriate sexual behavior on screen after having listened to me and my five female friends talk for 10 minutes with his camera off. It was the student involvement fair, we were letting everyone into our Zoom call to hear about our organization and people often keep their cameras off, so we didn’t think much of it until his camera turned on to expose himself.

While I agree with this family member that one must keep on keeping on, I also think it would’ve been completely acceptable to pause my night to report this man. If it had happened in person, after all, it would have been public indecency, a misdemeanor. 

Yet, my own family member’s reaction was to downplay the situation and encourage me to simply persevere rather than report a man for his indecent, unacceptable behavior. I feel as though this happens quite frequently: we empower our women to be complacent rather than empowering them to make a difference. 

We give our women the tools to overcome trauma rather than giving them the tools to fight to stop the trauma from ever happening in the first place. 

When I talked to the other women who were on the Zoom call with me, they said they did not see the point in reporting the incident to the Kent police. They didn’t think anything would come of it and simply didn’t see why we should waste our time reporting it.

It’s not a waste of time to report people for performing illegal activities. People should be held accountable for their behavior so that they never perform the actions again.

But we as women have been ingrained with the mindset that we can handle it, so there is no need to report it. 

We did end up reporting the incident to Kent State instead of the police. The university’s response was simply that It’s certainly not the first time it’s happened throughout this pandemic; just another obnoxious side effect.” We haven’t heard from them since. 

Repeated inappropriate behavior by men has worn down women. Repeated behavior without consequences has exhausted our will to fight the system. Sexually indecent incidents are now inconveniences that we’re all bound to endure rather than being acknowledged as the — often incredibly traumatic — crimes they are. 

We’ve simply given up on trying to remedy the issue and have instead settled for ensuring that our women will be strong enough to endure any incident. 

We should empower our women to take action — not to suppress the event and title it is an “obnoxious side effect” of being a woman. We tell our women that they are strong and can survive anything (which we are because years of oppression have forced us to be) instead of eliminating the reasons that force us to be stoic in the first place. 

During another conversation with this same family member, she explained to me that she thinks women need to “take partial responsibility” if they engage in physical actions with a man and then say that they don’t want to have sex anymore because it’s “so much harder for a man to turn it off.” 

No, it’s not difficult for men to resist having sex with someone who directly objects. 

Our patriarchal society has used rhetoric and actions for thousands of years to convince women that men’s sexual drive is uncontrollable. Society has not tried to tame men’s sexual drive. Society has not attempted to teach men how to control their impulses. Society has given up on developing our men and has instead focused on creating strong women who can endure anything.

This family member also said that a man should not be incriminated for sexual behavior they performed at 21-years old when drunk.

If a woman has sex with a man when she’s drunk and is consequently impregnated, society tells her that she shouldn’t have had sex in the first place and will often stigmatize her. The woman is seen at fault. If a man rapes a woman when he’s drunk, society gives him a second chance because alcohol impaired his decisions. The alcohol is seen at fault, not him. 

Not to mention that 21-year-olds are considered full-fledged adults. At 21, we can drive, drink, smoke, have jobs, choose careers, get married, etc. If society trusts 21-year-olds to partake in all of those activities, we should be able to trust them to not have sex with someone who says no. And when they don’t, they should be held accountable. 

Women can only turn their cheek so many times. 

At some point, we have to start putting on a brave face to fight against injustices rather than putting on a brave face to persevere through tough times. 

Maria Ferrato is an opinion writer. Contact her at [email protected].