We’ve all seen the “1 is 2 Many” Public Safety Announcement released by the Obama administration earlier this year, and if you haven’t just follow this link to see it. The campaign asks men to be accountable for their actions, and the actions of their peers with regards to instances of assault and sexual assault or rape, within our society.
Celebrities like Steve Carrell and Daniel Craig stare directly at you and talk to you about something “that’s happening on college campuses; at bars; at parties; even in high schools.” Something that’s “…happening to our sisters, and our daughters; our wives and our friends.”
Vice President Joe Biden was on the video and said, “If I saw it happening I was taught you had to do something about it… we need all of you to be a part of the solution. This is about respect; it’s about responsibility.” Even the President of the United States Barrack Obama made an appearance, showing his support by informing the American public that’, “It’s up to all of us to put an end to sexual assault, and that starts with you.”
First of all, I want to applaud the current administration for starting and releasing a PSA campaign like this one, and in some way trying to inform the People about a major humanitarian issue: the disrespect of women by a culture that objectifies them and treats them as beings meant to be dominated. Campaigns like this one are what we need to help begin the serious shift towards gender equality in this country.
That being said I have some SERIOUS issues with the campaign, I’m going to focus on the three I find are the most detrimental to the usefulness of the campaign in general.
(1) Women are independent beings with their own voice.
The PSA is fantastic in bringing to light a serious issue concerning women’s health, but it fails to recognize that women shouldn’t be respected because they are someone’s daughter, or might be someone’s sister, wife, or friend; women deserve respect because they are human beings, and all human beings deserve respect regardless of relationships formed.
By having celebrities like Daniel Craig, or Steve Carell, seriously reciting a mantra-esque set of words (“they are someone’s daughter, mother, sister, niece, etc…”) they are reinforcing the idea that women deserve respect because they belong to someone else. It’s reinforcing the patriarchal idea that a woman can’t be something on her own; she has to be someone’s wife.
This “belongs to someone” mentality is actually a major factor in rape culture. When you view someone as less than human (essentially as someone’s property) it becomes very simple to ignore their humanity, along with their right to dignity, and dominate them.
I’m not saying the PSA is supporting this purposefully, I am saying that it subconsciously reinforces the lack of autonomy women have been subject to since what seems like forever.
(2) What about men?
Don’t worry, don’t worry, I’m not about to get all Men’s Rights Activist on you guys, but I’m not going to forget the other half of the population that is also affected by rape (which includes me… the writer).
The original PSA, released by White House.gov, completely forgets that (1) not all rapists are men but more importantly (2) that not all rape victims are women.
I’m not trying to take away from the fact that 1 in every 6 women are affected by rape, or that 9 out of 10 rape victims were female in 2003. This isn’t a competition about who is more oppressed, or who has it worse off. It’s about not forgetting that every human being deserves respect and deserves not to be forgotten.
The worst thing about rape culture is silence, and in not reminding people that men can also be raped we continue to enforce that silence on people who deserve justice and a forum for their voices to be listed to. Personally, I felt that I was left out of the mix, and I’m not even a survivor of sexual assault. If I feel left out, how do we think a man who has been sexually assaulted feels while watching this PSA?
(3) Finally, what happened to everyday human beings?
You know, I get the whole “lets get celebrities to say things because maybe then people will listen” but I think that the underlying message this sends is dangerous. By only letting people who have money talk about these issues the ordinary every day American watching this PSA might ask themselves “what can I do about any of this?”
I don’t know about you guys but I used to emulate celebrities for a reason. I saw something in them that I didn’t have, or something I wish I had, and while I’m sure the PSA is counting on this, I’m not too sure that people won’t take it in and say, “oh only people with money can do anything to change this”. That’s a major problem.
So while the WhiteHouse.gov PSA is great in that it gets the issue out there in the open, specifically with men who clearly understand they need to play a role in change, it fails to recognize a group of victims, it fails to allow women to use their voice as autonomous human beings, and it potentially dissuades everyday human beings from acting within their community.
But don’t think I’m the first one to think about these things. Here are two videos in which the creators saw the issues, and decided to do something different.