But where are the women?
On Tuesday, the White House released a rather extraordinary PSA about sexual assault that starred a laundry list of A-listers: Daniel Craig, Benecio del Toro, Seth Meyers, Steve Carell, Dulé Hill, and both the President and Vice President. It wasn't baby pictures or Miley Cyrus twerking, but the "1 is 2 Many" PSA that absolutely clogged my Newsfeed and Twitter last night. "I have tears in my eyes," commented one friend. "I just got chills all over," said another. Right now it has over 653K views on YouTube, and that number is only climbing. Why is this video so popular? Well, it features Daniel Craig, but moreover, it's the first male-driven PSA to ever tackle the fact that victims are in no way responsible for sexual assault.
The PSA comes alongside the "Not Alone" report — the first report of the White House's task force to protect students from sexual assault. As the report states, today one in five women is sexually assaulted as a student. It's a more sobering, more exacting follow-up to 2012's "1 is 2 Many" PSA which featured David Beckham and Jeremy Lin talking about ending dating violence. Ending sexual assault is something Vice President Biden has been focused on since drafting the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, but this is the first real time men are publicly telling other men that rape happens all the time on campuses and it's time to take action.
"If she doesn't consent or she can't consent, it's rape and it's assault," Benecio del Toro tells the camera. "I'd never blame her, I'd help her," says Daniel Craig, which might be the most salient part of the entire PSA.
What is missing from the oddly grey and dark world of the "1 is 2 Many" PSA is, well, all the women. In the minute-long spot, there was no mention of sexual violence committed by women or perpetrated against men at all. For the one in 71 men who are statistically the target of rape within their lifetime, the PSA seems to leave out a whole side of the conversation. Yes, it happens a lot more to women by men, but should we be trying to stop all sexual assaults regardless of gender?
I approached a friend of mine, a victim of sexual assault, for comment about the "1 is 2 Many" initiative. "I actually liked this, because I think usually when we talk about sexual assault, it's to women, and the subtext is 'watch yourself.'"
Which is why Biden's push to flip the script on victims and witnesses of sexual assault is key, and for the viral video generation, unprecedented. "If I saw it happening, I was taught that you had to do something about it…We need all of you to be apart of the solution. It's about respect, it's about responsibility," Vice President Joe Biden says.
Bystander's responsibility has been in the media a lot in the past year, after the Steubenville assaults revealed that not only were schools the major site for sexual assault, but they were also part of the insidious silent audience. Today, the U.S. Department of Education released a list of the 55 colleges under investigation for possible violations of federal law over the handling of sexual violence and harassment complaints. The list might surprise you. It's full of large public schools you or a friend might have attended and illustrates the point of the "Not Alone" PSA: it's everyone's job to speak up.
The "1 is 2 Many" campaign might have been devoid of women, but maybe that's the point: women are the ones within these conversations every day and, clearly, the statistics say this talk is going ignored. Perhaps 007 can get a few bros to check up on their wasted friend? The sweeping music, the sobering color palette, and the words of familiar straight-faced actors are emotion-grabbers straight out of a filmmaker's handbook, but that's not why the PSA works alone. "I like that this was talking to men. I do think that making it only about woman was a bit of misstep, but at least it was geared towards making this not just a victim's problem," my friend remarks. "For one PSA, I liked it. It's hard to capture all the sides of an issue, but the side that so often gets left out, is men who stand by idly."
This is one of the recent steps of larger organizations, and prominent voices, to tell men "don't rape" instead of just telling women "don't get raped." If it takes YouTube, stern music, and Steve Carell to make the already powerful message viral, then I'm all for it.