During the World Economic Forum several weeks ago in Davos, Switzerland, Vice President Joe Biden made a strong statement in support of something that we have long known to be true: that cultural change is required to end gender violence. Speaking on economic progress for women, Vice President Biden firmly reminded the group of business leaders and politicians that we have to end gender violence to allow women to have economic freedom: “Folks, all the opportunity and entrepreneurship in the world is good. But ultimately, starting in this country, we have to change the culture. And we’re not going to change that culture until not a single woman who is abused ever asks herself: 'What did I do?’"
We applaud the Vice President’s commitment to cultural change as a method of ending violence against women. Having support at the highest levels of government is a huge step forward in making real progress towards our goal of eliminating gender violence. We know that addressing the root causes of gender violence (which are varied and complex, but the symptoms include everything from sexist or homophobic jokes to objectification of women in media to rigid gender roles) is the best way for us to make a cultural shift so that violence against women is no longer accepted as normal or expected.
As thrilled as we are to see such commitment to change, we would like to clarify one part of Vice President Biden’s speech. In discussing victim-blaming, Vice President Biden stated that other women questioned rape victims about what they were wearing, why they were there, and what they did. This may have been a simple misstatement, coming from someone who otherwise spoke eloquently about the issue. However, it is important to note that it isn’t just women who engage in victim-blaming — men, women and even federal agencies like the Centers for Disease Control are guilty of such behavior. By only mentioning “other women,” Vice President Biden may have inadvertently contributed to the very culture that he is trying to change! We are positive that this was not his intent, but it is still important to raise the point that victim-blaming isn’t limited to women.
So, what can you do to help start the culture change? It can be as simple as taking the pledge to end gender violence — and committing to enacting each point of the pledge. You can also become a conscious consumer of media, and sign up to walk in our annual Walk a Mile In Her Shoes event (register here). Change doesn’t require that you make a huge sacrifice or take major action; if we each dedicate ourselves to taking small steps in our daily lives, the combined effect will be enough to make a huge impact. Join our mission today!