BY AMALIA SIRICA
This past week, to commemorate the 17th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act, Vice President Joe Biden announced his “1 is 2 many” campaign. In an impassioned speech that can be viewed here, he urges us to step up and take action.
At the heart of this new campaign is the notion that victims of sexual violence are more than mere statistics. I love the name “1 is 2 many,” because I think that too often we look at a number and think, “oh just 1 in 5? that’s not that bad,” but in reality we should be thinking, “1 is WAY too many.”
One of my favorite parts of Biden’s speech describes his position on bystander intervention. “There’s no such thing as an innocent bystander when it comes to the abuse of a woman,” he says. “If you know of it, if you see it, you have an absolute obligation to stop it.”
I was glad to hear him say this, because I think that too often campaigns will focus on “teaching women how to protect themselves,” when really we should be teaching others to be socially responsible for the communities they reside in.
While overall I responded positively to “1 is 2 many,” I did take issue with some of the language that Biden used.
I cringed a little when he said, “One more thing, guys: If you know somebody’s being abused or see someone being abused, be a man. Step up. It could be your sister. It’s your obligation. Thanks guys. We need your help.”
While I’m sure his intentions were good, this appeal to men has always irked me. Why is it necessary to remind them that the women being assaulted could be their sister? Isn’t it enough to say that a member of their community is in need? And on top of that to encourage them to, “be a man”? It feels downright paternalistic, and a little patronizing…
I’m happy the nation’s leaders are taking notice of these issues and making them a priority. But I also yearn for a day when a woman could count on her community for help just because she is human, and not because she might be a stand-in for a blood relation.