A Closer Look at Meghan Tschanz’s “Women Rising: Learning to Listen, Reclaiming Our Voice”
for April 21, 2021
“Growing up, I was taught that respect was the greatest need of a man, and above all else, that is what I should give men, regardless of their behavior. On the surface, the roles seem unfair, unbalanced, but perhaps nothing more than minor inconveniences to overcome. But what if I told you that these scripts are not only unfair but downright dangerous?
Years ago, I partnered with a ministry that offered a full college education and a safe place to live for women who had been trafficked into the sex trade in the Philippines. Perhaps, unsurprisingly, it was these gender roles and expectations that I heard echoed in the bars where trafficked women were sold, over and over again.
One American man in his sixties had a young girl draped possessively under his arm as he told me that he went to the Philippines to buy trafficked women because “girls here are raised right, they know how to respect men.” His words echoed so much of what I had heard other men say.
Over the years working with sex-trafficked women, I heard this refrain again and again from the Johns (men who purchase sex.) For a long time I didn’t connect the way these men behaved and talked until I started to take a closer look at the gender roles we have been given– and the power differentials that they create.
It’s no secret that we live in a patriarchal world, in which men hold most of the positions of power. In the United States, men are vastly overrepresented and women underrepresented, men are in charge of most of the major conglomerates, and even in our household codes, men are expected to be in charge. Men hold power, women most often don’t.
It’s becoming common knowledge that sexual abuse is more about power than it is about sex. Lyn Yonack, a psychotherapist describes it like this: “Despite its name, sexual abuse is more about power than it is about sex. Although the touch may be sexual, the words seductive or intimidating, and the violation physical, when someone rapes, assaults, or harasses, the motivation stems from the perpetrator’s need for dominance and control.”
So if sexual assault is due to power differentials, it stands to reason that sex trafficking is as well. And where do power differentials come from? Well, I believe it all boils down to the way society tells men that they should be powerful and dominant while telling women they should take a backseat to men.
What’s more, it’s the emphasis of these gender roles that I commonly heard echoed from the men who purchased women. The demand, at least that I encountered, was fueled by men seeking the respect they felt they were entitled to.
What if we changed that? What if we raised our daughters to be both gentle and strong? What if we raised our boys to respect girls like they respected others of their own sex? What if we empowered women in our homes, encouraged them to teach, lead, and grow in their power just as we did with our little boys?
Sex trafficking doesn’t start on the streets, it starts with the way we raise our boys to see women. It starts with how we raise our girls to see themselves. It starts with us.” – Written by Meghan Tschanz, Author of “Women Rising: Learning to Listen, Reclaiming Our Voice”