By Shahael Myrthil
A public service announcement was released last year where President Obama revealed that 1 in every 5 women fell victim to rape crimes. Why not get yourself involved to help decrease these crime rates, as Ben Atherton-Zeman did?
Atherton-Zeman, spokesperson for the National Organization for Men against Sexism, performed his one man play, “Voice of Men,” to the Nassau Community College community on March 31st. In light that April was National Sexual Assault Month, Atherton-Zeman pointed out his contributions made in rape crisis programs at various different shelters for over 20 years, after his then-girlfriend had confided in him with a dark secret of having been raped by another man. Being a college-aged student at that time, he got involved with talking about violence against women and provided aid to battered victims.
But bringing edgy humor to controversial topics such as sexual harassment against women and objectification isn’t something that I’d ever seen before.
The room got dark and quiet as a short clip showed the effect on a young boy after hearing his dad raise his hand on his mother in the kitchen over a dispute over a serving of food.
As if to change the mood of the crowd, music blasted through the speakers right before Zeman came out in full costume. Before he acted out the role of Austin Powers, he got himself into character as Rocky Balboa from the hit 1976 movie “Rocky” where he displayed a persistent aggression towards his love interest Adrian after he kept insisting for her to come inside his house so they could “hang out.” Once he finally lured her in, a reserved Adrian looked really nervous and uncomfortable. He tried to get her to sit down next to him and make herself comfortable, but she didn’t budge. The awkward tension continued to fill the room, after Adrian had asked to make a phone call to inform her brother of her whereabouts, to which Rocky objected. It was then that she started heading toward the door where he suddenly got up and put his hand on the door to keep her from going out.
It was pointed out that the number one missed sign of sexual violence is when a person refuses to stop despite the other person insisting on it; often the suspect, assumes that he/she is joking but Adrian wasn’t joking in this case. She really wanted to leave. This is usually how these crimes begin, Atherton-Zeman said.
It’s not about sex, it’s about power, which Rocky tried to hold over Adrian.
Later on, Atherton-Zeman, as Rocky, reflected on his remorse towards his actions earlier that day: “Don’t get me wrong, I still love Adrian. I had cared more about hooking up with her than who she was as a human being and giving her what she deserved from me,” Rocky said to himself.
Not all men are like Rocky, though; some are like Austin Powers. Portraying the role of Powers with a twist added to the storyline, was where Atherton-Zeman brought the objectification of women into focus. His impressive dance moves had caught the attention of an attractive girl at the bar. They chatted briefly before he was given a book on feminism, which she told him that he had to read if he wanted her phone number. That he did and was later invited over to her house to watch a film that degraded women as sexual properties. Austin thought those girls were hot, but she wanted him to see beyond just their sexy bodies.
“I love these images, they’re sexy women; but according to you, they’re being objectified. which bothers me. I see that I’m part of the problem,” Austin said to his date.
“You have to see women as full human beings, deserving to be leaders and treated with respect. It’s not just about their pretty hair or their bodies that should attract the attention of men. Someday one of these women could possibly become president of the United States,” she told him.
Right then and there was when he apologized for being a sexist and she confirmed her feelings for him, stating that she wanted to be with Austin, not just because he was an amazing dancer, but also because he didn’t get offended by what she’d told him; she also felt that he was a great listener, and understood her when she declared how women should be treated.
“You’re my international man mystery baby,” she said before planting her lips on him.
“Groovy baby,” he replied.
“Be an example of the man that you want your sister, daughter, and girlfriend to have. Strong men don’t bully!” Atherton-Zeman exclaimed to the audience.
“Young men need proper role models to change the way they think about women. The community must work as a team. It doesn’t matter what kind of man you are, once you raise your hand on a female, you become just like every other male abuser,” a woman said in a short video clip shown.
Atherton-Zeman pointed out that females aren’t the only victims. “I’ve met male victims as well; some of them were in heterosexual relationships. … But a vast majority of the victims I encounter at the shelters are women and young girls. Anybody can be raped. People need to let go of this idea that they should turn a blind eye to the situation. Just because it’s not happening to them, they assume it isn’t any of their business to speak up, but they should.”
Before leaving, Atherton-Zeman got the men in the audience to pledge that that they’d never commit, condone, or remain silent about men’s violence against women. They vowed to respect, listen to, and seek quality with every person they date and every person they know.”
Why don’t you too? Remember guys, “If it’s against her will, it’s against the law, so you should stop!”