March is Women’s History Month! So, while I tend to follow a lot of feminist-esque accounts across social media platforms, I’ve seen more people than usual posting about women’s issues. They have an intent to focus on violence against women and what it’s actually like to exist in America as a female-presenting person. More specifically, a certain post has been circulating through the Instagram stories of a lot of people I know. Basically, the post has the words, “protect your daughter” crossed out, and “educate your son” written as a replacement underneath.
On its own, the post itself has a great message; victim blaming is unfortunately still fairly common. When you ask what a sexual assault victim was wearing when they were attacked, or how much they had to drink that night, or claim “boys will be boys,” you mitigate the perpetrator’s responsibility. At its core, victim blaming assumes that women must protect themselves from the actions of men, when really, men should know better than to harm others. Thus, this post has an inherently good message about putting victims first, and changing the way we approach violence against women. I genuinely like the post. The issue arose when I saw men that I personally knew had a history of objectifying, degrading, harassing and assaulting women repost this image on their own accounts. To make matters worse, half of them added little captions like “facts” or “As men, we need to do better.”
Congratulations! You’ve somehow managed to miss the point of an entire movement! There are barely even words to describe how frustrating it is to see such a blatant example of performative activism. Comparable to #BlackoutTuesday last June, where many people posted a black square on Instagram to show solidarity with black people and support the Black Lives Matter Movement, these types of posts may vaguely spread an idea but ultimately spark too weak of a conversation. In the simplest terms possible, a post on social media does not make you an expert on an issue, nor does it make you a saint. Likewise, posting one, singular Instagram story does not make you an ally to women, nor does it mitigate any harm you may have done to women in the past. You’re part of the problem and social media isn’t the solution.
This is the definition of hypocrisy. How can you believe that a mediocre show of support or basic attempt at spreading awareness means you understand an issue that you have helped to create? In reality, you’re either advocating for women’s rights or you’re the reason we still need to advocate for them; you can’t be both. Male privilege allows these men to pretend they commiserate with women. They’ve managed to distance themselves just enough, by claiming that society as a whole should be better than this, without recognizing that they themselves contribute to the societal issue by objectifying and harassing women. I know it can be hard to understand the current state of women’s issues in America if you’ve never been the one getting cat-called on the street, drugged at the frat party, or threatened for saying “no,” but difficult does not mean impossible.
Maybe I’m being too judgmental. Perhaps these men with questionable past relationships with women want to change. Maybe their Instagram story is only the beginning of their feminist journey, and they plan on continuing to advocate for women loudly. Honestly, I really want this to be true; I believe that people can learn and grow. However, actions speak louder than words. I’ve never seen these specific men attend a Women’s March, or proudly support a women-owned business. I’ve never even seen these men acknowledge how their own actions have hurt women nor call out their friends for the same offenses.
Only posting a singular image to your Instagram story, especially just re-posting one that is already popular, does not do much. Praising men for doing the bare minimum is not helping women. Worry less about broadcasting your social consciousness and more about supporting women in your everyday life. Avoid mansplaining and sexist gender roles. Instead, vote for politicians that want to help women, call out sexism and harassment, and make sure your personal behavior isn’t tearing women down on any scale. Call me an idealist, but I believe we need more than a viral social media post if we really want to see a world where sons are educated and daughters do not have to be protected.