Things That Matter

It’s Time For Men To Step Up And Call Out Their Homies About Sexual Harassment And Assault

At first, I was apprehensive to write a piece about what’s going on in the Harvey Weinstein case, because this conversation is so important and we need to be listening to women. We need to all believe women.

But it is also a time to turn to your boys and speak to them, to change how we all act, treat and support ALL women. It’s also time that we stop putting the burden on women to address the issues that WE have often created. 

The women who have come out and spoken publicly against Weinstein are far from alone. Their voices are echoed by the experiences of our sisters, mothers and close friends, and, if you’re listening, women everywhere. Because, fam, it’s literally all women.

You do not need to know someone specifically, or be connected to them, to understand, empathize and protect their safety. Or to care.

If you open your ears and your hearts, there isn’t a woman that hasn’t felt the fear of walking home alone at night, or being scared to not speak out at school or work when a boss or coworker does something awful.

It’s time to stand up for victims of sexual harassment and assault. Let me say that again: It’s time to stand up for victims of sexual harassment and assault, and to end rape culture.  

As the huge majority of perpetrators of harassment and assault, it’s men who need to do the most work here, and the first step is to realize we are all part of the problem, whether or not you have engaged in harassment (you have) or assault.

As a man, if you are not speaking up, speaking out and adamantly against harassment and assault of women, you are complicit in the sexual abuse and violence against them. If you’re not calling out stuff that’s problematic and contributing to rape culture, or backing up women when they do instead of arguing against them, you’re part of the problem.

Some of you think catcalling is fine. You think grabbing at a woman every now and then is fine. You think your boy is wild for slapping a girl on the butt without permission is fine. You might even laugh about it with him, even if you disagree with his actions. Or you think it’s all no big deal.

But you’re fucking wrong.

Don’t cat call.

Don’t touch women without their permission.

Tell your boys to cut their shit.

Even if you all aren’t out there harassing, assaulting or raping women, by saying nothing you’re encouraging and supporting a culture that leads to that. Rape culture is real and it starts and ends with men.

Credit: Angela Martini/ Flickr/ @feministapparel

Don’t come at me with the “but men, too.” We saw what Terry Crews said on Twitter last week about being groped by someone at a party. Yes, this is awful, and shouldn’t have happened to him or to anyone. But Terry Crews is an ex-football player and a towering man who gets hired to play action heroes and whoop ass because he can whoop ass. Most people wouldn’t mess with him.

Even if Crews wasn’t famous, he doesn’t have to worry about being catcalled in the street or that meeting up with someone from Tinder could lead to him being assaulted. He probably doesn’t have to worry that his ability to move up in his acting career is dependent on whether or not he watches a producer bathe. That’s likely never happened to him and probably won’t, but as we’ve seen, it’s happened to a long list of women and their male counterparts did little to nothing to help them.

No one is perfect, but by and large, men are the violent members of our species.

We start the wars, we have the dick measuring contests, we have toxic masculinity issues that permeate everything we do or don’t do. And even if you consider yourself as just a regular dude, who’d never hurt a woman, there are still plenty of ways you can be promoting patriarchal systems of power.

Like if you think you’re being romantic and aren’t causing harm when you’re negging a girl to get her to be in to you, or won’t take no for answer for drink or date, or play piano in the park until your ex takes you back. When you treat a women differently because of what she’s wearing or her size, or call her names behind her back because she wasn’t feeling it or did something all your homies have done and gotten high fives for. 

Those are all forms of harassment and you need to see it in order to stop it. You need to take a long hard look at yourself and your homies and think about what you’re doing.

It’s not easy to be the voice of reason in a group of guys. Like rapper Kendrick Lamar says in his song, “The Art of Peer Pressure,” “I’ve never been violent… until I’m with the homies.”

The pressure to be this idea of macho is amplified when you’re with other men. I get it, I hear you, you’re just joking around, it’s not serious. Well, it’s time for something different. Be the guy who stands up to your friends and calls them on their shit. Don’t makes excuses for them, because those excuses uphold rape culture and violence against women.

I’m no angel, I’ve done my fair share.

For example, as a teenager I’d hang out with a group of friend’s outside of McDonald’s and we’d all catcall women. We’d make a night of it. I used to sing to girls passing by. The song “Slow Down” by Bobby Valentino was a personal favorite. Sure the girls would laugh, but what else could they do while I’m rolling 10 deep and it’s just the two of them walking by? I had no malice in my heart. All I wanted was to make a pretty girl smile and maybe get her phone number, but using that power in numbers, finding myself in a position that made it easy for me to approach and hard for them to deny, that’s a problem right there. And without correcting it, it becomes the way you do things forever.

Harassment comes in many forms, like cat calling, not taking “no for an answer, coercing a woman into sleeping with you, threatening them and uninvited touch. And these are just a few.

Credit: Radu A. D. / Flickr

Let’s not kid ourselves, it doesn’t start when you’re a teenager. The groundwork for this behavior begins much younger. It happens when you teach little boys to whistle at girls. Or when you tell them it’s okay to be mean to girls they like. All of that shit needs to change. 

This behavior should not be the norm. For that to happen, we have to be the catalysts for that change ourselves so generations coming up after us can look to us as role models. Men often learn these behaviors from their fathers and uncles, emulating their words and actions towards women. When the next generation emulates us, let’s make sure their behavior reflects respect for women. So how do we do that?

Be friends to women, without expectations. Hire women and work with women, and keep your professional relationships professional. If you’re in a position to do so, help women level up in their careers, but don’t take advantage of it. Helping women should never come at their expense. Nobody owes you sexual favors, or should be subject to your advances or harassment, ever.

There are no professional (or other) circumstances under which anyone owes you a sexual favor.

Credit: employee justice/ Flickr

Most importantly, you don’t have to be related to a woman in order to see them as human beings who deserve to feel safe and be treated as equals with respect.

Listen, we’ve all said dumb things and done dumb things, but we have to acknowledge the privilege we have in this world, and to see the issues that affect women as issues we must care about, and to ensure we do our part to stop this problem. 

We’re all guilty, but there comes a time to separate yourself from that mentality – to grow up, and say “nah.”

And if you haven’t yet, let right now be that time for you.


READ: Here’s What Lin-Manuel Miranda And Quiara Hudes Have To Say About ‘In The Heights’ Being Produced By The Weinstein Company


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With “Florecer,” LA Cumbia-Salsa Band La Mera Candelaria Celebrates Survivors Of Sexual Violence

Fierce

With “Florecer,” LA Cumbia-Salsa Band La Mera Candelaria Celebrates Survivors Of Sexual Violence

In the United States, someone is sexually violated every 73 seconds. With each passing year,  more than 433,600 people, mostly women and girls, experience some form of this brutality, including rape, molestation, sexual harassment, sex trafficking and reproductive coercion. For many survivors, art is used as a tool to promote healing, providing them with a creative outlet to externalize their trauma and express themselves. With the upcoming album Florecer, Stephani Candelaria, of the woman-fronted cumbia-salsa band La Mera Candelaria, uses art, and music in particular, to work through her own history with sexual abuse and inspire holistic healing among her listeners.

The EP, which melds Caribbean salsa and cumbia with old musical stylings like cha-cha-chá and popular reggaetón rhythms, is a celebration of survivors of sexual violence. It includes songs like “Sonrisa,” which speaks to the fear and threat women experience daily by choosing to frequent public spaces, as well as powerful paeans like “Florecer,” a sonic love letter that praises women’s resilience while also encouraging them to flourish and lead the full, purpose-driven lives they deserve. 

We spoke with the Los Angeles-based Candelaria about the album (which drops on April 28), the curative power of art, holistic healing and the band’s partnership with LA’s Violence Intervention Program to raise awareness about sexual violence among the Latinx community and the services available to them. 

You’re no stranger to writing feminist songs, but I don’t think you’ve had a project as explicitly about and for women’s empowerment as this one. Why did you want to release an EP that celebrates survivors?

Honestly, I’m planning to do a lot more talking about this. This album was inspired by one of my therapy sessions. I’ve been seeing a therapist twice a month for several years. As a survivor of sexual abuse, a lot of our sessions focus on working through this. The message of La Mera has come up in my sessions, and she encouraged me to make music about this. I’m at a point in my healing path where I’m opening up about what I’ve gone through, and she suggested that music could be an effective avenue for me to talk about this with other musicians and my fan base, which is majority Latina. I know this is a prevalent issue that impacts all of us, whether we’ve personally experienced it or not. Everyone knows someone who has survived an abusive situation. I have never shied away from making feminist and LGBTQ-friendly music. I’ve touched on these topics in my music in the past, but this time – living through a global pandemic, thinking about the pandemic within the pandemic and how many domestic violence survivors have been forced to quarantine with their abusers, and not being able to perform for a whole year – I feel like it’s a good and natural time for this; to  open up and be more public about being a survivor and creating a more explicitly supportive space for women in all our wholeness. Yes, survivors have scars, but we are also resilient and can live whole lives again. 

One of the songs off the album, “Florecer,” speaks to the yearning of survivors to not just survive but also flourish and thrive. This is so important. Oftentimes, people don’t realize the hurdles women face upon leaving abusive relationships, from the difficulty of finding jobs, housing or even obtaining parental rights to children. How can art, music and dance help women flourish on their healing journeys?

Great question! I think that music and art can serve to help women from many different avenues, including being a creator, like myself, who is channeling my healing process through my art specifically. I’ve been growing leaps and bounds while working on songs and talking with my group. But my community, my fan base and my new fans can grow, too. It can be healing to see someone open up about their truth. It doesn’t necessarily feel good but it does help to hear these stories reflected in the music you listen to. Unfortunately for Latinas, how we hear women framed in our popular music does not reflect the complexity of our lives and the things we live through. Instead, it’s a very one-dimensional and sexualized portrayal. Through this EP, I hope to create a platform for dialogue, action, thorough reflection and hearing other people’s stories on how they navigate this healing journey. “Florecer” is less about the specific examples of abuse and more about saying, “yes,  abuse has happened. I will have scars. It may take time to navigate through this journey, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. There is more for me than just getting by day to day. It is possible for survivors to flourish, not in spite but rather because of the pain and trauma they lived through.

I know Florecer is being released in partnership with LA’s Violence Intervention Program to raise awareness about sexual violence and the services that exist for survivors. Talk to me about this partnership. How did this come about? What will it look like?

Again, my therapist has a role in this. She is amazing! She recommended this program to me because I had been considering joining a support group. When I saw the website, I knew it was a perfect fit. They work with young people and adult survivors, but more than that they work with the entire family to create a holistic healing journey for survivors of abuse. A lot of the time, when people come out to their families about what happened, the family members don’t know how to be supportive. The program believes that abuse doesn’t just impact the person being abused but also the entire community they are a part of and, because of this, they believe the community must be a part of the healing process as well. Knowing this, I really wanted to partner with them. We shot one of the music videos at their center, where we followed a young woman attending the facility for the first time. The video really highlights the space and the services it offers with the hopes of inspiring local viewers to visit and start or continue their healing journey. We’re also doing a live virtual fundraising event on April 30 via Twitch, where all proceeds will be donated to the Violence Intervention Program to help fund their crucial services. 

Another song I had the pleasure of listening to is “Sonrisa,” which is truly a sonic treat. But more than that it’s powerful, especially because the lyrics speak to the darker experience of street harassment that women encounter. Catcalling can seem harmless to some, but women understand the real fear and danger that comes with this. What message are you hoping to spread with this song?

It’s toxic behavior. This song is about an experience I had. I was walking my dog down a street, really having a beautiful moment, when a car of dudes rolled past me and yelled things at me. Now, I’m a feisty person, so naturally I yelled back. But then they stopped the car. At that moment, I realized that I could die. Thankfully, nothing happened. They ended up driving off. But this isn’t the case for all women. Just last month in New York, a woman was groped on the street. When she confronted the man, he killed her. A few years ago, a man killed a woman who refused to give him her phone number. These moments of street harassment seem so innocuous to men but yet are so impactful and traumatizing to the women experiencing it, especially at the rate that we experience it: daily. As you said, any time we step out of our homes or cars, there’s a potential for this harassment. And I wanted the song to feel true to this experience. You’ll notice that in the song, there’s no resolution. I keep walking, feeling icky, violated and traumatized, while the men in the car drive off and probably tell themselves something like, “she was ugly anyway.” Ending the song without a happy ending felt honest and like a good way for listeners to reflect and consider how we can denormalize this form of harassment.

How can bilingual art, like this album, raise awareness about violence in our communities? 

The Latinx community is a musical community. Music plays a huge role in our daily life. As kids, we grow up watching our families sing and dance cumbia and salsa while they’re in the kitchen. And I thought, how can I use these catalogs that are a part of our DNA to talk about issues, create visibility and spark dialogue. In the past, we’ve released songs about LGBTQ issues. While performing these lesbian love songs, I see my audience listening and dancing to these songs and how their faces change when they realize it’s non-heteronormative. I’m having the songs speak to you. With cumbia, and now reggaetón, the body responds to these sounds. You want to move. But as you move, you also begin to mentally reflect on the lyrics, and this is vital, especially for our community. 

While things are getting better, many Latinx families still don’t believe in airing so-called dirty laundry, which forces many survivors to suffer in silence. What do you hope this project provides to survivors?

That’s exactly one of the larger goals of this project: to provide the language to survivors about how to speak to family members about lived trauma and advocate for yourself. It’s also about providing points of reflection for the community, people who don’t understand and abusers, including the men who might not consider themselves abusers. The focus is on survivors, but it’s for everyone because we are all either complicit or impacted by abuse, where we realize it or not.  

This is the band’s fourth EP. How do you think you have grown, or flourished, to keep in the theme of the album, since then?

So many ways! I’ve been doing a lot of reflection on this through my process of recording, where I’ve been listening back to older releases and songs I love. I used humor a lot to talk about feminist issues. You can’t just jump from A to Z without going through the alphabet, and humor is a great way to make points that are digestible and palatable, especially as a Latina in a male-dominated industry. This album doesn’t incorporate humor, though. That side of La Mera isn’t present in this release. It’s more serious in tone. 

Musically, I think we’ve also grown so much. We’ve really spent these last releases and performances we’ve done honing our musical style. Previously, we stuck to the cumbias and salsas we were comfortable with. But now, with “Florecer,” for example, we are doing reggaetón, and it’s intentional. We’re talking about sexual abuse survivors through a genre that has been one of the biggest enforcers of the sexualization, and sometimes even violence, women experience. The same is true with “Sonrisa.” A lot of the older cha-cha-chás of the ‘50s and ‘60s were songs about catcalling women that had coros that were catcalls. This song about street harassment had to be a cha-cha-chá. It’s another way of sharing our message. By using these genres, we’re also calling them out for the harmful ways they’ve taught our community what is an acceptable way to treat women and girls.

Follow La Mera Candelaria on Instagram for more information about the album’s release and their virtual fundraising event for LA’s Violence Intervention Program on April 30.

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NFL Lineman Justin Herron Saved A 71-Year-Old Woman Who Was Being Sexually Assaulted

Fierce

NFL Lineman Justin Herron Saved A 71-Year-Old Woman Who Was Being Sexually Assaulted

Fans of the New England Patriots offensive lineman Justin Herron know by now that he’s got a thing for being in the right place at the right time. After all, his career relies on it.

Still, most likely didn’t know that the 25-year-old football player has a hero’s spirit as well.

This week, the lineman was honored by an Arizona police department for his role in saving a 71-year-old woman from being sexually assaulted.

On March 21 a 71-year-old woman was taking her daily stroll in Kiwanis Park in Tempe, Arizona when a 30-year-old man attacked her. The man, now identified as s Kevin Caballero, threw the woman to the ground in the park and attempted to remove her pants.

Herron and a Phoenix resident, identified as Murry Rogers, were present during the assault attempt and intervened.

“It was a crazy experience,” Herron stated during a news conference on Wednesday, according to NBC affiliate KPNX. “It was something that I never dreamed that I thought I would see. You see it in movies and TV all the time but you never think it’s gonna happen in real life until it does. In that moment, I was in shock. It was 11, it was in the middle of the day, not one cloud in the sky, and in a very open field, and the fact that it happened there at that time was very shocking.”

At the time of the incident, Herron was working out by the lake and Rogers was getting ready for a birthday party in the park for his 15-year-old daughter.

“I’m a football player, I’m kind of big,” Herron who is Herron, who is 6-foot-5 and 305 pounds, stated during the news conference. “I try not to be too aggressive with people knowing I could potentially hurt somebody. I do have a loud voice. I yelled, told him to get off of her, and then yanked him off and I told him to sit down and I told him to wait until the cops come.”

For their actions, Herron and Rogers were presented with Outstanding Service Awards by the Tempe Police Department.

“These two individuals stepped forward and really, truly saved her life,” Tempe police chief Jeff Glover stated during the ceremony.

According to the Today Show, “Herron has been in Arizona for offseason training ahead of his second season with the Patriots. The team’s sixth-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft out of Wake Forest University said he was just reacting when he saw the woman being attacked.”

“And in the moment, I wish I could tell you what I was thinking, but I just knew that someone needed help,” Herron said. “… All I could do was just rush myself over there and make sure and help the victim, and make sure that I comfort her and be the best person I can be.”

Herron and Rogers were able to meet with the woman who has yet to be identified.

“Over the past several days, I have thought about her and pictured her face, so it was really nice moment, and I’m really glad I got to meet her,” Rogers said during the ceremony.

“My parents always talked to me about it, if there’s someone in need, make sure you can help them and be the best you can be,” Herron added. “I don’t want this to happen again, I don’t want to have to save someone else’s life again, but I’m glad I was able to save someone’s life on Saturday.”

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