It's Time to Hold Men Accountable
Even in the turbulent year of 2020, there were some positive role models that emerged. A notable one was Vanderbilt soccer star Sarah Fuller, who became the first woman to score in a Power Five conference game after she joined the men’s football team as a kicker. This was a moment that should have been celebrated—instead, Fuller’s success was met with criticism and cruel comments, mostly online and mainly from men.
They joked that Fuller “would be making cookies for the team after the game” and asked if a "gang bang" would be taking place in the locker room. In short, they were trying to reduce Sarah’s success to a joke and play into age-old beliefs that women aren’t capable of playing the same sports as men.
In these situations where a man mocks a woman, we often hear that the woman being targeted is someone’s wife/daughter/sister, so “don’t make comments like that towards her.” While this is a helpful perspective in certain contexts, the man making the derogatory comments is also someone’s husband/son/brother. Why is no one saying to him “hey, you shouldn’t say things like that to begin with?”
It’s not about who the targeted woman is related to, it is about holding men accountable for their actions and words. That means confronting the person who says things like “does Sarah Fuller have any leaked nudes?” or “you would be prettier if you smiled more.” Reducing the woman to her relationship with a man in order to evoke empathy isn’t a guaranteed solution. Saying things like “imagine if that woman being insulted was your sister” is like putting a Band-Aid on a gaping wound: it’s meant to help, but it’s only covering a tiny bit of the issue.
We need to hold men accountable for their actions. It doesn’t matter if the speaker is your friend, your boyfriend, a family member, or even a stranger. The relationship does not matter. What matters is making yourself heard and making it known that comments like that are unacceptable. It may seem out of line to confront someone you know (or don’t know, for that matter), but it starts with looking them in the eye and standing your ground:
“Don’t say things like that, it’s rude and uncalled for.”
“That’s inappropriate and you need to stop. Now.”
I have had a number of friends and even family members mention that they have been on the receiving end of rude comments, sexist statements, and even sexual harassment. In some cases, they spoke up and confronted the speaker. Other times, they admitted that it was just easier to brush it off and just keep going on about their lives. That should not be the solution. People like to say "boys will be boys" because it seems to be an easy way to avoid confrontation and an awkward conversation.
Let's have those awkward conversations.
Don't be afraid to open the floor to holding men accountable. You're not out of line for acknowledging that you need to be treated better. The first time you tell someone that they are out of line, you may feel like you're the one out of line. You're not. You have a voice for a reason—it’s meant to be heard. It might strike a nerve how easily a revolting comment can be made. That feeling will be quickly replaced with a sense of strength for saying what you feel and holding another person accountable.
Make yourself heard by holding others accountable. Stand your ground and stand up for not just yourself, but the women in your life. They are watching.