Photo Credit: Maxim
A few months, weeks or even days ago, I may not have written this article. In fact, I probably would have never even imagined that a slight chance existed that I’d be writing this article.
There comes a time when enough is enough. After watching the feminism movement over the years and seeing how it had inspired some individuals to totally abandon the idea of gender equality in favor of flat-out man-hating, I had simply had enough.
So when the #MeToo movement arose, I didn’t bat an eye. I rolled my eyes. I truly believed it was a feminist-inspired man-hating scam. It seemed as though every accusation made had something to do with politics, and the accusers were all being used as a means to an end to promote an agenda. I was ready to blow it off.
Until I actually started paying attention. Until I actually started seeing how many everyday people — some of whom I personally know — had been sexually abused. Until I saw that many claims had nothing to do with politics or any kind of agenda. Until I realized that this was all…real.
I don’t exactly remember when the first time I heard the name Larry Nassar was, sometime last year most likely, but after the recent abuse claims started piling up against him and he pleaded guilty to sexual assault in November, I certainly didn’t — and couldn’t — ignore it.
Like usual in today’s society, the crowd of deniers arose. As I’ve expressed in another article, I believe the main reason for this is simple. It’s the fact that so many recent sexual assaults have had to do with politicians, and those in the party of the accused politicians automatically believe — or want to believe — that the accusations are false. And they want the public to believe it as well regardless of the truth. This could not be more divisive to society.
Let’s make one thing clear. Sexual assault is not political, and it never will be. It doesn’t matter what party the perpetrator votes for. Sexual assault is sexual assault. Period.
Let’s make another thing clear. The only thing false accusers do is make real victims look bad. Real victims, including Nassar’s, should not pay for the sins of the liars. It is sad that this even needs to be brought up.
And as I’ve also learned, partially as a result of these facts, is that the main reason why sexual abuse victims don’t come out against their abusers right away, if at all, is because of the prevalence of victim shaming in today’s society.
First of all, there are the inevitable thoughts of the victims, such as “What if it wasn’t assault?” or “What if no one believes me?” These thoughts are certainly justifiable in Nassar’s case seeing as how Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics covered up for him.
But in early November when one of Nassar’s victims in particular accused him of sexually assaulting her for years, you could tell right away that it was going to be a field day for the victim-shaming Twitter trolls.
Why? Because that accuser, six-time Olympic medalist Aly Raisman, had previously been featured in the “Body Issue” of ESPN The Magazine and the “Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue” of Sports Illustrated.
Here is just a small sample of the victim shaming comments that Raisman has received and sadly may continue to receive.
It seems someone got addicted to attention. Just sayin.
Being sexually assaulted is not an attention-seeking scam. “Just sayin.”
I smell feminism
I’m not a feminist and yet here I am writing this article. The proper terms are “respect” and “common sense”.
So why disrobe for all the pervs to see? And your speaking out now? Hmmm
She posts photos like these then hit people with sexual harassment charges hypocrisy
IF YOU WERE SO TRAUMATISED BY SEXUAL ASSAULT WHY SHOW SO MUCH SKIN????????????
Will touch on this subject below.
As a victim & Survivor, my blood boils every time I think about how she waited to profit while other people were suffering…. talk about character.
Profit – over what?? A book she had already written?? And she was also suffering…
I have not yet read Raisman’s new book, Fierce: How Competing for Myself Changed Everything. In fact, I probably haven’t read a book for fun since I was in fourth grade a decade ago. But I anticipate that both of those statements will change in the near future.
Under a Sports Illustrated tweet about McKayla Maroney, another Olympic gymnast who was sexually assaulted by Nassar, someone even posted one of Raisman’s SI swimsuit photos (thinking the picture was of Maroney) in a failed attempt to victim shame Maroney. Sad, but at the same time, it made the victim shamer look like a complete moron — the true identity of every victim shamer.
The fact that people use these magazines as reasons to justify Raisman being sexually assaulted by Nassar speaks volumes about the prevalence of victim shaming in today’s society — the victim shaming that prevents victims from reporting sexual abuse right away, if at all, and the victim shaming that ruins lives.
First off, these photo shoots were taken after she was assaulted. Anyone who has access to the Internet to the point where they can victim shame Raisman over social media also has access to running a simple Google search, which would have provided them with this information within seconds. The images clearly did not inspire Nassar to do what he did. But of course, facts aren’t convenient to victim shamers.
Secondly, even if they did, using them to justify sexual assault is extremely naïve; in fact, by resorting to this, these victim shamers are basically saying that Nassar had a right to assault her simply because of the fact that her pictures appeared in these (unreleased) magazines. This has never been the case.
I also don’t think I’m going too far out on a limb by saying that the people who are blaming her for her own assault and saying she should stop “provoking pervs” are the ones who are being the most provoked by the images.
Think about it. Why else would that be their first response — their first thought — in regard to her accusations, and why else would they attempt to justify the actions of Nassar, a proven predator, in this way? It’s like they’re publicly endorsing sexual assault for the world to see just because they’ve looked at the images.
And thirdly, Nassar assaulted 140+ girls. Not one, not two, not five, and certainly not none, but more than 140. He didn’t pick and choose, much less pick and choose out of magazines (again, magazines that weren’t even released yet). These images literally had nothing to do with the assault.
Just to be clear, I am definitely not saying specifically whether or not I support the types of photo shoots in which Raisman partook, but I am simply mature enough to understand that they do not justify sexual assault in any way, shape or form and should not be used to attempt to do so. It’s 100% ridiculous.
Here’s a quote from a pastor during a sermon that was delivered back in August of 2014 about how women are viewed in today’s society.
The way that women are sung about and talked about, in most cases, our culture is presenting women as commodities…the culture is treating them as commodities.
As I said before, I’m not a feminist and this is not a political article. But if you think this quote is incorrect or naïve, turn on the radio. Maybe you’ll be fortunate enough to hear one modern-day song in a row that doesn’t have to do with objectifying women as commodities.
But this quote also leads to a far greater realization, and this ties directly into victim shaming. This quote discusses the way women are presented in today’s culture — not men. Why? No, not because it’s a feminist quote; again, it’s not.
I would venture to guess that not one person in the whole world would be able to guess what the following men on this list* have in common, aside of the obvious fact that they are all athletes.
*Note that not every man who qualified to be on this list is on it; just a select “few”.
- Nelson Cruz
- Dwight Howard
- Carl Edwards
- Ryan Lochte
- Manny Pacquiao
- Adrian Peterson
- Casey Hampton
- Torry Holt
- Joba Chamberlain
- Ivan Rodriguez
- Mark Martin
- Patrick Willis
- Amar’e Stoudemire
- Herschel Walker
- Apolo Ohno
- Jose Reyes
- Blake Griffin
- Helio Castroneves
- Tyson Chandler
- Rob Gronkowski
- Jose Bautista
- Maurice Jones-Drew
- Colin Kaepernick
- Matt Harvey
- Giancarlo Stanton
- John Wall
- Vernon Davis
- Kenneth Faried
- Serge Ibaka
- Marshawn Lynch
- Larry Fitzgerald
- Prince Fielder
- Odell Beckham Jr.
- Bryce Harper
- Kevin Love
- DeAndre Jordan
- Jake Arrieta
- Dwyane Wade
- Antonio Brown
- Von Miller
- Vince Wilfork
- Conor McGregor
- Javier Baez
- Isaiah Thomas
- Julian Edelman
- Ezekiel Elliott
- Zach Ertz
Because I know no one has figured it out, much less Raisman’s ignorant victim shamers who tend to ignore key pieces of factual information, here’s what those 47 men have in common: they have all also appeared in an edition of ESPN’s “Body Issue”.
But here’s a short example of things you didn’t (and won’t) hear simply because these male athletes appeared in an issue ESPN’s “Body Issue”.
- People cheering when Joey Logano wrecked Carl Edwards in the 2016 NASCAR championship race, ruining his chances at his first career title
- People booing Helio Castroneves, a fan-favorite at the Indianapolis 500 (listen to the crowd when he takes the lead away from Max Chilton with seven laps to go in this year’s race)
- People hating Colin Kaepernick‘s national anthem protest (many do, but certainly not because of ESPN’s “Body Issue”)
- People saying Larry Fitzgerald didn’t deserve his Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 2016
- People cheering that Odell Beckham Jr. went down with a serious ankle injury, knocking him out for rest of the 2017 season
This list of scenarios, some of which simply sound foolish, could truly go on forever. Honestly, why would someone resent a role model like Larry Fitzgerald winning the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award simply because he appeared in that magazine? They wouldn’t!
So why is it acceptable to take something of a much deeper level, sexual assault, and justify Nassar’s actions simply because Raisman appeared in the same magazine? It’s not and it never will be!
Now, how does all of this make Raisman the role model that today’s society is in desperate need of? After all, the talk about victim shaming really only eliminates the one key flaw in peoples’ minds that makes them believe she can’t be a role model.
In a world where it has become increasingly easy to offend people and for people to play the victim, that is not so in Raisman’s case. It seems like everyone wants everyone else to feel sorry for them for one reason or another in this generation. Not Raisman.
In fact, you could make a case that even Nassar himself tries to play the victim by saying he has “no animosity” toward those he affected through his disgusting actions. People will go to all kinds of length to play the victim nowadays.
But despite being sexually abused by Nassar and despite the fact that many people have predictably taken to their social media accounts to victim shame her and put her on blast for it, unjustifiably so, the 23-year-old Olympic gymnast does not consider herself a victim.
I am not a victim. I am a survivor. – Aly Raisman, The Players’ Tribune
This quote is from Raisman’s article on The Players’ Tribune titled This Is Survival, which contains a statement that she was prepared to read at Nassar’s sentencing hearing. However, she ended up not being allowed to read it.
After everything that has happened to her, she could very well settle for the status of “victim”, and the majority of reasonably prudent people would not fault her for it whatsoever. But she is much stronger than that.
Raisman is a survivor, and she has used her platform on social media to support other survivors and combat the huge problem that is sexual assault. And let’s not forget the fact that she is only 23 years old and still processing what she has been through.
Let’s also not forget the fact that at 23 years of age, she is a member of the millennial generation, which has become synonymous with many negative terms when referenced by other generations. When you look at the social media profiles of the people who are victim shaming her, it is clear that many of them are members of those other generations.
Perhaps they see the world-class athlete as a threat to the narrative that millennials are the “me” generation, “entitled”, want “participation trophies” and want “special privileges”. Because let’s face it; her attitude resembles nothing of the sort no matter how you look at it, so she would definitely considered a threat to that narrative.
I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen people claim that they respect the opinions, many times political, of everyone who wishes to have a discussion with them. Yet when those opinions differ from their own, massive arguments break out, and relationships are ruined. It’s divisive, and it happens among celebrities as well.
Not the case with Raisman. While it would certainly be easy for her to try to promote an agenda given her massive fanbase and following, she doesn’t. Unlike most, she does respect the opinions of others, and she isn’t divisive about hers.
Instead, she is attacking the issue of sexual assault head-on and going out of her way to let all of the other survivors who are out there, and I’m sure there are many, that they have her support. As opposed to turning her social media pages into “war zones” where there is constant arguing, she is focused on combating a real issue, and a huge one at that.
That hasn’t kept the trolls from trying to prove otherwise, however, even though they’re basically grasping at straws and proving themselves wrong, thus showing that Raisman is exactly what this society needs in a role model.
After a male TSA agent made derogatory comments toward Raisman in May, she took to Twitter to express her frustration with those who are “judgmental”, to which she received a reply that stated the following:
wahhhh im entitled WAHHHHHHHHHHH
This is pretty much average as far as her fact-ignoring victim shamers go, which only further illustrates what they don’t want you to hear: Aly Raisman is the role model that today’s society needs.
This is not only important due to the fact that it doesn’t fit the narrative of other generations that can’t stand millennials. It is also important in that it gives other millennials and younger individuals of Generation Z and Generation Alpha someone to look up to — someone who isn’t all about “me” in a society where it is has become so easy to be.
Asher C. Fair
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