In nonprofit fundraising, you learn to tell only one person’s story. You tell the story of Rachel or Kiara or Buster or Skip, but you don’t tell all their stories at once. Because, in our heads, it’s easy to help one person. Housing Kiara seems within reach. But once you tell three or more stories, the problem becomes overwhelming. Trying to help 11,623 people experiencing homelessness across DC is too much for us to handle. A problem that’s too big makes us feel helpless, and we wind up standing on the sidelines.
“Homelessness” and “rape culture” are problems that sometimes feel too big for us to solve. How can I make sure 11,623 people have roofs over their heads? How can I prevent 1 in 5 women from experiencing sexual assault in her lifetime?
Enter Roosh V – a single person who stepped up to be our villain. He’s advocating to legalize rape. He embodies the most extreme picture of misogyny. Just like Bill Cosby and Chris Brown and Ray Rice, he is the problem that we need to fight – not rape culture and not patriarchy, just him. And we can take him. It’s so much easier to take down one guy than to dismantle an entire social system, to change the attitudes of an entire community, to address thousands of subtle messages that foster an environment in which aggressive behavior is encouraged and survivors are perceived to be “asking for it” when they experience sexual violence.
Many media outlets and friends of mine argued that Roosh should be ignored. His demonstration shouldn’t be dignified with a response. Click something else, they said.
I agree that we need to draw attention away from individual rapists and toward comprehensive solutions to address rape culture, but I also know what’s effective for bringing people into the fold. I see the way that Roosh is galvanizing people to support my organization, Collective Action for Safe Spaces, and moving people to seek an outlet to get involved in grassroots activism against sexual violence. We may not want to acknowledge this single confessed serial rapist, but taking him down feels so much more feasible for so many of us than truly rooting out rape culture – a problem that’s too big to quantify and sometimes feels too big to fix.
This battle feels winnable.
For many new activists, Roosh will have been the problem they aimed to solve before being faced with the next solvable problem and the next solvable problem until they see that the only way to solve the problem is by addressing its root causes, by having conversations and sharing Facebook status updates with the people close to them to reinforce the message that sexist behavior is not acceptable, by calling out our friends and neighbors when they make jokes about our toddler boys needing to chase that little girl or when they tease our prepubescent daughters by telling her she only plays sports because she wants attention from the boys. Rape culture is rarely as blatant as men like Roosh advocating to legalize rape; it’s about the subtle things we say and do to create an environment where masculinity is expressed through dominance and survivors are blamed or not believed.
But, if Roosh is the reason you’re joining the war, then I’ll take it, because I know that this is just the first battle for many new feminist activists who will be instrumental in bringing about the cultural change we need to truly dismantle white supremacist cis heteropatriarchy.