We’re sure you’ve read about the horrible shooting that happened in California over the weekend. You’ve probably even heard about the undertones of mental health, gun control, and misogyny. You’ve probably followed the hashtags, and maybe you’ve had these conversations with your friends.
All of these different underlying issues can, should, and have been discussed in relation to the shooting, and there’s been quite the outpouring of opinions, responses, and reactions. But we don’t think that’s enough. It’s powerful and important that people are raising their voices on social media, through blogs and websites, and creating online communities who won’t tolerate violence against women. But we think the movement needs to be much larger, and needs to actually be a movement. Speak About It works on a relatively small scale: we stage performances at high schools or colleges, for a portion of the student population, and then it’s up to them to continue the conversation. And this movement is similar. The show is only really a success if audience-members take what they’ve learned during the performance and apply it to their lives: talk about it with friends, ask for consent, be an active bystander. Notice those are all action verbs. It’s fantastic that people are speaking out against violence against women and sexism and bringing attention to a larger national (and international) problem, but we need to do more than just tweet about it.
It’s not our job to analyze this crime; we are not experts in mental health or gun violence or even the perpetuation of misogyny, but we are educators who promote communication. Jaclyn Friedman articulates this in a TIME blog post about sex education being part of the cultural and social structure in which this violence was perpetrated.
Obviously, it wasn’t the sexual culture alone that drove [Elliot] Rodger to kill. Most of us who are exposed to these damaging messages don’t stockpile weapons, let alone loose them on our community. But Rodger himself was pretty clear that his beliefs about women and sex were a big part of the fuel that caught fire inside of him. And it didn’t have to be that way. What if instead young men like Rodger could grow up learning that sex is about communication, not consumption, and that being a man has nothing to do with your number.”
People are demanding change for how we teach about sexuality, how our college and universities react to sexual assaults, and how our leaders navigate through what is quickly becoming an epidemic. Movements must start somewhere, and we have turned to the internet to spark conversations about social change, but change must occur from actions. Yes, keep the conversation moving forward, but we also need to have these conversations in person, with peers and partners and from parents to children.