Gender inequality and violence towards women are issues that affect men and women around the world. They are problems of the world. No one is exempt from the cause of these problems and no one will be exempt from working towards an end to these injustices.
These issues are not just an issue of the physical world, but also the digital community. There has been a lot of controversy regarding various sexual abuse scandals involving YouTube and Vine stars. All of the situations involve individuals who have thousands and even millions of followers, many of whom are young children and teens. While the actual events are traumatic and horrific, the response of teens and adults to the perpetrators and victims of these crimes are even more troubling.
Most recently, a prominent UK Youtuber named Sam Pepper was called out by fellow Youtubers for sexually harassing women in comedy videos on that he posted on YouTube. Although he had acted inappropriately in many of his videos, the final straw was when he posted a video in which he “pranked” young women on the street by grabbing their asses. Many other content creators and viewers were outraged by his actions. Laci Green, a Youtuber with a channel that focuses on sexual education and social issues, finally took a stand and wrote an open letter to Sam Pepper. The letter called him out on his disgraceful actions. It was signed by many other internet stars and shared by hundreds and thousands of viewers of the Youtube community.
After she posted this video multiple young women reached out to Laci and told her that they had been sexually assaulted at the hands of Sam Pepper. One chilling account of a fan being raped by Pepper can be read in this Buzzfeed article, and another account of harassment in this article covered by the Daily Mail. In all of the accounts he is accused of trying to coerce, and in some cases force, female fans to perform sexual acts with him. Some of the women are as young as 13 while Pepper is 25.
Pepper chose not to respond to these allegations and instead posted a video a few days depicting men have their asses grabbed. He then claimed that both videos were a part of a social experiment to prove that sexual assault happens on both sides. Are you angry about this bullshit yet? I am fucking fuming.
This was a pathetic attempt to cover his ass after abusing the position of power that he held with young women and girls. Did he really expect that to work? Well it didn’t. Many of the women who were featured in the video took to Twitter and proclaimed that they were not in on the joke. He was dropped from his production network, banned from Vidcon (an LA Youtube convention), and dropped from all future videos created by Youtubers React.
The most troubling part of this whole situation is the comments underneath the articles and videos exposing Peppers inappropriate behavior. People are claiming that anyone speaking out against him is “ruining his career” and actually claim that the victims of his actions are to blame forthe assaults. Many females speaking out against Pepper were harassed into silence by his fanbase.
Not only did he change the lives of the victims for the worse, but he is also influencing the way that young men perceive young women. Following in his footsteps, many young men have started to create copycat videos harassing women on the street and filming it. These videos are received with acclaim and called humor instead of what they really are, sexual assault.
The influence that people such as this have over young minds is troubling. The internet has made way for a new generation of celebrities. They do not operate by the rules of old Hollywood but they need to know that their actions have consequences.
We need to tell youth and adults that sexual assault is not ok, that you don’t have to suffer in silence, and that sometimes people that you look up to will let you down.
If someone holds a position of power, such as celebrity status, they have no business trying to solicit sexual favors among those who look up to them. It is disgusting and wrong. If you are ever in this situation then remove yourself immediately. Don’t be afraid of what they will think of you because they are not who you hope they are anyway.
As Laci states in one of her videos, most incidents of sexual assault are situations of sexual coercion. In these situations; one party uses insecurities, promises, and shame in order to convince another person into performing a sexual act. If you are using language such as: “just do this for me”, “what’s the big deal”, “we’ve done this before, so just do it now”, or “I’ll like you a lot if you do this” then you are committing an act of sexual assault. If the other party has reservations then don’t push them. NO means NO, not convince me.
For some reason, people have the idea that women who call someone out for sexually assaulting them is automatically a liar but the statistics show that the majority of women are too ashamed or scared to report crimes. Not the other way around.
Victims of abuse have been through enough without being shamed for being abused. We can’t just sit back and watch this happen. If Laci hadn’t taken a stand when would Sam have been held accountable for his actions? How long would he continue to abuse his position of power and privilege?
We need to take action now.
In her recent speech to the United Nations Emma Watson said, “If we do nothing it will take 75 years for women to expect to be paid the same as men for doing the same work. 15.5 million girls will be married in the next 16 years as children. And at current rates it won’t be until 2086 before all rural African girls can have a secondary education.”
Whether it is equal pay, sexual assault, or the horrifying practice of child brides; silence is fuel to each of these causes. By doing nothing, we are saying its ok. That nothing is wrong with forcing a child to marry an adult, or bullying a rape victim into silence because the rapist is a celebrity.
If we keep telling ourselves that a better, more democratic way of life is not possible then it won’t be. In order for young men and women to end inequality and sexual violence we need to stop normalizing it, and let people know that this is not the only way to interact with one another.
Positive influences for gender equality are needed in our world. While I had many positive influences in my life, they were nearly outweighed by the number of women who were telling me the things that they believed our gender could not achieve.
Our actions matter, our passivity matters, and our words matter. I can recall significant points in my life when female authority figures attempted to convince me that I could achieve the things that a male could. I can remember the aunt that told me I could never have a functioning marriage if I made more than my husband, the boss that told me a women would and should never be the president of the United States, and the mentor that said that if I don’t have a child my life won’t be worth anything.
All I have to say to these false statements is that I shudder to think what kind of person I would be if I had listened every time someone told me that I couldn’t do something. To all of the women who submit to the inequalities of the world by choice and preference: I do not agree with your way of life. However, I cannot tell you what to think or how to live.
What I can tell you is that limiting the minds of young women and trying to convince them that this is the only way to survive and be happy in the world is a villainous crime. You need to be stopped and I hope that my generation will work towards affording ALL humans the same basic rights. Regardless of one’s race, gender, or sexual orientation.
Many girls and women are afraid to call themselves feminists and fight for equal rights for fear of being called a “manhater” or “undesirable.” I want to tell everyone that feminism is not synonymous with hate of any kind. And if respecting one’s body enough not to let anyone abuse it or take advantage of it is undesirable, then that’s a risk I am willing to take.
So write a blog post, tweet about it, or use whatever medium that you have available to speak out about these issues. Sitting in silence isn’t changing anything; it’s time to make some noise.