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Norwegian charity organization CARE campaigns for women’s rights and has recently released a short film drawing attention to how male culture today has the potential to promote violence or abuse against women. In just a short period of time the video has garnered over a million hits, but some critics, both men and women, are not entirely on board with every aspect of the video’s message.

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Nonetheless, it would be difficult to deny that there is value in what this video is trying to do. Raising awareness about how women have been, and still are, objectified, as well as talked about and to in derogatory ways, is an important issue to look at and we certainly have a lot of work left to do as a society to change this. I can empathize with the fact that women still face a lot of challenges in this world and are battling inequality in many aspects of their lives. When it comes to how they are viewed and how they are spoken to, a part of evolving our culture will come from learning and promoting a new vocabulary.

But one thing I did want to bring forth here is whether or not there is more we can do to help curb this, and other issues, effectively.

The Video’s Purpose

The video, which you can see below, essentially tells the story of a young woman asking her father to make sure he helps teach men and young boys not to call women names, like bitch or whore, because of the impact this can have on her in the future. She suggests that, because these negative messages have become culturally acceptable, we are creating a society which implicitly promotes domestic violence and rape.

While the film draws attention to many serious challenges our society faces, I question whether or not this film makes some rather extreme connections, and if, perhaps, there is more we should be saying about each issue brought forth.

In my interpretation the film is raising awareness about 2, perhaps 3, different issues and I’m not sure it’s fair to say they all lead to one another. The issue of name calling and poor language towards women is clearly brought forth and rightfully so as men, and women, can certainly look at how we speak to one another. The issue of domestic violence and rape is also brought forth and this is again another very big issue to look at and raise awareness about. It’s also possible they are bringing up the issue of bullying in general, as when we look at it the video is calling attention to how we speak to and about women in verbally abusive ways, which is absolutely a form of bullying, and how that can be hurtful.

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Where I believe criticism is coming forth and where I believe we can explore some interesting things is in the realm of how the film links bullying and name calling to domestic violence and rape. It appears to be quite an extreme jump and perhaps they are separate issues that require separate solutions or forms of awareness that are more clear and actionable. As a person, I simply do not believe that name calling leads to such extreme actions, but I do entirely empathize with the need to transform each issue brought forth. It’s not that name calling towards women is not an issue or that rape or domestic violence isn’t an issue, because obviously they are, it’s more so that it’s not effective or helpful to try to link multiple issues together that require very different solutions.

Is it useful for us to simply stop there? Just say the film is extreme and move on? No, we have the opportunity to do more here, to see what is great about this video and what opportunities for further discussion it provides. We can recognize the value in it raising awareness about how we talk to women, and also take the chance to remember that when you look at society as a whole, we are being taught, systemically, to act this way.

So What’s Really The Issue Here?

Let’s specifically talk about what I think is the crux of this conversation: how women are treated poorly and objectified in our modern culture. Perhaps we have made great strides in improving our portrayal and treatment of women over the years, and we can see this in the empowerment of women and a much greater level of equality in genders compared to years past, but an honest look at our current state shows us we are not there yet, we are not at an equal point between both genders. Let’s take that in and accept it.

As mentioned before, however, I believe there is a bit of a danger associated with taking very different issues, as presented in the film, and trying to link them together when they don’t really link, as it can create much resentment and extremism, whereas they could be approached in more effective ways on their own.

For example, are we taking things too far when we say that if someone calls someone a name that it is going to lead to them being treated terrible ways? Or in the case of what the film says, if a women is called a bitch, it will lead to her potentially being raped? I’m not so sure, and I’m not sure this is the most effective way to tackle the issues at hand. However unacceptable and inappropriate these words are, do they imbue someone with the capacity to commit such a terrible act?

As this is a sensitive topic, I want to be clear — this doesn’t mean we should promote a culture where derogatory or offensive jokes are okay; I can see challenges associated with that. What I’m getting at is, we must get to the root of the various issues being brought forth, and for something like being sexist or derogatory towards women, we require a solution similar to educating people about how we speak to each other in general and then transforming the culture at a systemic level. To get to the root of a problem like rape and domestic violence, however, requires a much deeper look into what causes people to make these choices. Much of the time it’s due to traumas experienced at a young age or at some point in life, certain belief systems that cause an imbalance in how we view other people, relationships, sex and so forth. These are much bigger issues that require a very different approach than just encouraging these people to talk to women differently. We would be overlooking deeper and important issues, and doing all of us a disservice, to stop at the surface.

So, we have two unique and important issues, with two very different loving actions steps required to solve them.

Why Do I Mention This?

I mention this because in my view, it is time for us to be honest with ourselves about things and make an honest and loving attempt to solve our world’s challenges from a different (and more effective) standpoint — to look at each issue and not only transform culture but also look at the scarier things out there like rape, trauma, abuse, and so forth, and determine how we can truly try to resolve these issues as best we can. All people must be looked at as people, as human beings, and by doing this perhaps we can help them to stop these actions from happening in the future.

For example, imagine a child who had a very tough time growing up — abuse, parents with drug or alcohol addictions, suppression, and so forth. We can all empathize and see the challenges this child may have faced. When they get older they then follow in the footsteps of their past — abuse, drugs, alcohol, potentially rape or domestic violence. Now this person is a bad person in society’s eyes, which is entirely understandable, yet if we were able to better assist these people with their damaging upbringings or traumatic experiences, we might prevent extreme experiences in the future. And I believe this comes from looking at changing the culture behind how we develop ourselves as human beings and the importance we place on that growth. We are all human, with our own unique and challenging circumstances, and we need to remember that of one another so we can better address the core issues causing this behaviour.

Our society and systems focus so much on things like money, movies, media, music, sports, career, and war, and yet so little on developing people, on understanding how habits form and what leads people to commit these types of acts. Then when terrible things happen, we don’t have the full capacity to look at how to stop them because we are out of touch with the reasons why they happened in the first place.

It’s Everywhere – And This Is Another Area To Focus On

Looking at advertisements, music videos, TV shows, movies, pop culture and more, we see that it’s more than likely people are learning much of this behaviour from these areas, as it’s constantly there. I believe we need to go back to how we are making these films, writing music lyrics, examining what is being sold in magazines as beautiful and ideal and stripping out the derogatory nature of it all, especially as it relates to women. It’s no secret that these things are there, so maybe we can begin to focus on that as another systematic issue that we can address.

For a perfect example of this at work, check out the following article and video from a Hollywood film that very clearly reveals how we objectify women:  The Movie Scene Rant That Rips Apart How Men Objectify Women.

Empathy For All As Well

Finally, as an added tidbit, although I believe the issue of women being derided is very important, I’d like to also say that everyone gets called names; this isn’t a one gender thing. People of all kinds are verbally abused every day, though we might not always hear about it. This is why I feel the more important approach comes back to not polarizing the sexes and instead learning to be self aware and mindful in understanding how we treat one another. It’s also important to be honest about the fact that many women also call each other many of the names brought forth in the video — perhaps as a result of being brought up within a society which makes these words acceptable — and in that case are also contributing to the problem.

Strictly speaking, when it comes to name calling, have we ever asked ourselves, both male and female, why we sometimes get called the names we are called? This is an incredibly unpopular idea but I can tell you from my own experience that when I am unkind or an a**hole during an argument, and called out for it, I can own that, because I know my actions were eliciting that type of response from someone. It gives me the chance to be honest with myself and find out why I might be generating that reaction. I might not be doing something ‘wrong’ in every instance, but it’s great to be mindful and check. This is something I believe is part of the solution — to look at our own actions honestly and consider what we might be attracting into our lives. I believe we can all relate to this in some way, and again, I think it allows all of us to be part of the solution in helping make the world a different and more equal place for both genders.


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