I really liked what Nigerian writer Teju Cole had to say about fighting rape culture, and how it should be a fight for all mankind, because when women are dehumanized, the entire society is. The author of Open City reacts to the Bill Cosby’s controversy in a very articulate manner, and we should all take the time to read it. Enjoy! For the entire text, visit the New Inquiry website, where it is titled ‘Improving on Silence’ by Teju Cole.
Last night, reading the accounts by women who had been assaulted by Cosby, I was overcome with sorrow.
Tricky to say anything about this, but silence is simply not an option. This is everybody’s business. But I’ll say some things to the men who are reading.
We men benefit, all of us men benefit, from rape culture. We benefit from the pain it causes women because we sprint ahead obliviously; we benefit from the way it knocks them off circuit and opens space for us; we benefit from the way it dehumanizes them so that our own humanity can shine more greatly; and we benefit from the aura of power it gives us as perpetrators or as beneficiaries. And because we benefit, explicitly or implicitly, we are not vociferous enough in our opposition to it. […]
We must fight rape culture, even in its allegedly mild manifestations, we must be grieved with the grief of those who commit the crime and those who benefit from a world built on such crimes, we must oppose men who wade in with stupid explanations and caveats and distractions, we must surrender the poisonous sentimentality that makes us believe a “great artist” over a less well-known woman. Indeed, we must be willing to let anyone go—think of any man you admire, any man at all, alive or in history, close to you or far away, and think to yourself that you must be willing to let him go—if such things are true of him too. And understand that such things can be true of any of them, of any of us. […]
And above all we must listen, to women, and to the significant but vastly smaller number of men who have also been assaulted. So that, gradually, we can collectively begin to slough off this wretched state of affairs in which the first thing someone who has been assaulted thinks is “no one will believe me.”
That’s to men.
And to women: I believe you. And I’m heartbroken about the many ways in which I fail to live up to that belief.