I watched The Hunting Ground this weekend--a documentary that tells an incredibly disturbing story of rape on college campuses and how young women who are victims of this crime are systematically silenced and/or how their stories are co-opted by institutional interests. The documentary, however, is not only disturbing...it is hopeful and inspiring. These women were able to organize together and enact change. They fought a culture that first attempted to silence them and second, when their stories were articulated, effectively de-legitimated them. These women supported each other in the absence of institutional support--and reached out to other women experiencing the same kind of institutional and cultural violence instead of support to not only create space for these stories, but to organize together to ensure their stories were heard AND legitimated--and ultimately challenge the prevailing narrative of rape on college campuses. How can we be confident that our presidential candidates, who so willingly reduce women and men to their sexual organs on the debate stage--will take this epidemic seriously? The answer? We can't.
I've got news for each of you seeking the presidential nomination. Words matter. They shape and, unfortunately for you, reflect attitudes. Communication shapes reality--and the words that you choose on that debate stage or in that rally or in any other public forum matter a great deal. You are seeking to lead us. Your words reach a large audience--making them particularly powerful. With great power comes great responsibility. And quite frankly, in my book, none of you are worthy of that responsibility.
So, as we look around at each other in disbelief as this political process unfolds like a circus, let's not forget the incredibly serious implications of the circus we're witnessing. The rhetoric they are spewing has already been legitimated--and this only gets worse as the process continues toward the nomination. I went into this election season hopeful that I could evaluate differing perspectives and ideas on the issues that I see as most salient in moving us forward as a nation. Instead, I'm finding myself in the midst of an election season that threatens to move us backward and rather than looking hopefully to the future, I see us fighting to at least maintain what progress we've already achieved.