Let’s talk about the 97%. First of all, what exactly is it? The 97% statistic represents the number of women who have experienced sexual harassment at some point in their lives. This number was released in a report by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women a few weeks ago. This report, along with the tragic death of Sarah Everard, stunned millions across the globe and prompted massive social media attention. Soon, information regarding the 97%, personal experiences, and Not All Men hashtags flooded social media platforms. With April being Sexual Assault Awareness Month, I find it extremely pressing to expand upon this issue and examine these fundamental flaws within our society.
As women, we are taught to adapt to the rules of the patriarchy. Regardless of this, we still experience harassment and abuse, no matter how many precautions we take or adjustments we make. For instance, I, like many other women, constantly check my surroundings, keep my keys poking out of my fists, and lock my doors immediately when I walk to my car alone at night in what is considered a “safe” neighborhood. This is the sad reality of what we, as women, endure on a daily basis: the constant fear and worry that something bad could happen to us at any given moment because that is what we have been conditioned to do.
Sadly, many of us are part of the 97%, whether this be the result of catcalling, being groped on a train, being sent an unwanted explicit message or image, being raped, etc. This objectification of women has been upheld by societal standards for years — WHY? We are told that this is a “man’s world,” that “boys will be boys.” When men don’t face consequences for their inappropriate actions, these behaviors become the norm. This perpetuation of women as sexual objects and nothing more has been consistently sustained by our core societal values (most of which are promoted by or portrayed in the media).
So, what can we do to break the barrier of gender equality and end rape culture? We need to redefine masculinity and denounce toxicity, call out friends or family who make jokes regarding these issues, practice intersectionality, listen to survivors, and so much more. We need to actively reverse the notions that have been maintained by our current sphere of influence. It’s time to reclaim our identity as strong, empowered women and fight sexism and misogyny at its root.