It’s a new subreddit off of Reddit.com. It looks bare now, since it’s a couple of days old, but its existence was due to the flood of Project Unbreakable posts flooding another subreddit I frequent.
Reading about other people’s stories of sexual assault and rape, I feel oddly cynical. Recently, I read a paper written by my 19 year old brother about moral panic. His thesis was–supposed to be–about how moral panic is used as a distraction by politicians to keep people off of what really matters; a thesis I’ve fervently supported ever since my grade 11 History teacher taught us about how the Russian Tsar used the Russo-Japanese wars at the turn of the 20th century as a distraction for his people. Russia was on decline and the Tsar needed something to unite the people against an external enemy, or else he would be looking at another revolution.
This post is in no way to belittle any of what these people have gone through… but I have half a mind to post in that subreddit something about the women on the other side of the world, who are getting beaten, burned with acid, and this is all after they’ve had to live with their rapists (husbands) for years. These women are subject to all kinds of abuse on a daily basis, and they don’t have the luxury to frequent a popular international website to use as an outlet. Women who aren’t ever heard above the voice of the masses and they resort to suicide. What do you call these women? The Breakables?
Regardless. I’m comparing apples and oranges now. Both instances are the product of the same intention. By posting about two social injustices that are similar in nature, I’m raising awareness. But then what? I’m going to submit this post and then I’m going to work. I’m going to get through my day, go to class after work, and I’m going to come home to sleep. About 80% of anyone who reads this, or anyone who reads Project Unbreakable, will have the same type of daily routine I do. They’ll read about something horrible and they will feel horrible for five minutes, or half an hour, depending on how big of a heart they have–or think they have. And then they’re going to go on with their day. Maybe they’ll talk to their husbands about it. Maybe they will tell a few good friends. Those with a wider social network may even bring up during a social dinner as their controversial topic of the night. And then they will feel good about themselves because they’ve done their part, they’ve spread the word and sure enough, their word will reach some higher up somewhere and eventually Obama is going to hear about it and he will probably kick some rapists asses. This is how we combat social injustice, right?
The point is… anyone with enough power and motivation to actually change laws and social norms aren’t sitting on Reddit reading about it. They’re not writing about it because they don’t have the time between one press conference and another. Remember that last “project”? It Gets Better? Whatever happened to that? It generated a lot of buzz, sure, but what laws were actually changed as a result? Did any government decide to implement an anti-bullying law because of it? Nope. Nothing happened, despite the project being adopted by Dan Savage, the popular journalist and gay rights activist.
Some may disagree. Some may say that the countless video testimonials from Savage’s fans of how “it gets better” have provided hope for the victims of bullying still suffering now. Wow thanks. The bullies making my life hell are still continuing to do it, but at least now I know there is a deadline to the pain. I FEEL MUCH BETTER. C’mon. That’s like when my mother put on a Disney movie in the master bedroom for us to drown out the sound of my parents screaming at each other.
So instead, for every person who has been a victim of SOMETHING, anything, promise to act against whatever you’ve suffered from. If it’s rape, report it if it is recent, and if its in the long forgotten past, then go volunteer at a domestic abuse shelter for an evening. If it’s bullying, fight back, or if you see someone being bullied, DO SOMETHING. Do whatever you think is appropriate to “give back”. Yes, you’ve been a victim, and it’s horrible that no one was around to help you. But posting about it on the internet does dick all. The problem is, most people do nothing about a problem they are “aware” of. Most people feel that they have done their part by forwarding a post, or a video, because they are spreading “awareness.”
People should to be AWARE that AWARENESS without ACTION is as effective on social change as INACTION.