There’s few things in this world that scare the bejeezus out of me. Clowns. IRS audits (for no particular reason). Prostate exams (for obvious reasons). These all frighten me.
But, there’s nothing that scares me more than the persistent wink-and-a-nod attitude our society takes toward sexual harassment, gender discrimination and domestic violence. This scares me because I have a wife and two daughters, and I love them dearly.
That our society still treats women as sexual property is enough to make the blood boil. That misogyny would continue to define the world my daughters soon will inherit is terrifying.
I can hear some of you pshawing. For you, perhaps there’s no evidence that will convince you we’re still a long way from true gender equality and mutual respect.
For those willing to listen, here’s some sobering facts: Oklahoma has the sixth-highest rate in the nation of women being killed by a male domestic partner, and has the highest rate of rape, assault and stalking perpetrated against women. One in three American women will suffer domestic violence and one in six will be the victim of sexual assault or rape during the course of their lives.
You don’t have to look long to see the effects of misogyny. Harvey Weinstein. Bill Cosby. Bill Clinton. Bill O’Reilly. And of course, our current Misogynist-in-Chief, who’s been accused of sexually assaulting or harassing at least 11 women, and who likes to grab women in places my editor won’t let me mention. These are but a few disgusting examples of an issue that permeates all segments of our society.
I recently was reminded why misogyny persists when I took my daughters to the grocery store, and heard playing over the store speakers this lovely country ballad, “Redneck Crazy,” by Tyler Farr:
“Gonna drive like hell through your neighborhood / Park this Silverado on your front lawn / Crank up a little Hank, sit on the hood and drink / I’m about to get my pissed off on / I’m gonna aim my headlights into your bedroom windows / Throw empty beer cans at both of your shadows / I didn’t come here to start a fight, but I’m up for anything tonight / You know you broke the wrong heart baby, and drove me redneck crazy.”
Mr. Shakespeare, you, sir, have been replaced. These lyrics form the perfect song — the perfect song to illustrate what’s wrong with our society and its treatment of women.
This is not a love song. This is not a teary, beer-soaked ballad. It’s the opening sentence of a domestic violence report. It’s the clinching statement in a protective order. Yet, somewhere along the line, the writers, label and radio executives, agents and Tyler Farr all were OK with teaching people it’s totally cool to stalk an ex-girlfriend, threaten her and throw beer cans at her house.
Disgusting and artistically flawed as this song is, it’s one of thousands of messages our sons and daughters receive every day, reinforcing the perception that women are property, and it’s quite acceptable to go “redneck crazy” if they challenge that view.
Until we honestly recognize and tackle these messages we will continue to give lip-service to equality, while worshiping with our money, our loyalty and our votes men who abuse our mothers, daughters and sisters. The fact that’s continued until now is inexcusable. That it could continue further should be both frightening and infuriating for us all, regardless of gender.
James Neal is a writer, editor and columnist in Enid, Oklahoma. His journalism work can be found at enidnews.com.