A brief word on rape culture with a lot of quotes…
I posted this on facebook and twitter, but I wanted to dedicate a blog post to it.
You know what is a huge factor in rape?
A culture and media that blames victims and more readily sympathizes with people who commit rape rather than the people who have actually been raped.
CNN’s coverage has been completely unethical, but so has most the mainstream reporting on this case. Reporting like this feeds into why people feel entitled to each other’s bodies as possessions and objects, rather than understanding that consent is key and no one has a right to your body except for you.
Silence is not a yes, inebriation is not a yes, a short skirt is not a yes.
Here also is a list of links that covering the problematic way the Steubenville case was reported on, as well as a relevant petition for an apology from CNN…
And here also is some very articulate writings on rape culture and our society’s reactions…
When the allegations that such men committed rape are first revealed, there is an endless supply of people to normalize and excuse what they did; to doubt that the victim says, and also to blame her own behavior for whatever happened to her (usually under the guise of “well-meaning” rape prevention advice.) When they are tried, CNN and other media outlets qualify every statement about their culpable conduct with words like “allegedly,” and while this is necessary for liability reasons it subtly but surely conveys the impression to the audience that CNN doesn’t believe her.
The justice system so rarely works in the victim’s favor. Rape is the least-reported major crime because rape victims fear for their own mental health if they submit to a process that interrogates every aspect of their conduct — and often their past — and leans so heavily on their credibility. When reported, their stories are often rejected as unprosecutable. When tried, jurors’ biases often result in acquittals that are facially unjustified. And sometimes, particularly with celebrities like Kobe Bryant, the victim’s name becomes widely known and death threats from fans literally force her to withdraw her complaint.
Here’s the thing—when you argue that it’s impossible to teach men not to rape, you are saying that rape is natural for men. That this is just something men do. Well I’m sorry, but I think more highly of men than that. (And if you are a man who is making this argument, you’ll forgive me if I don’t ever want to be in a room alone with you.)
And when you insist that the only way to prevent rape is for women to change their behavior—whether it’s recommending that they carry a weapon or not wear certain kinds of clothing—you are not only giving out false information, you are arguing that misogyny is a given. That the world will continue to be a dangerous and unfair place for women and we should just get used to the fact. It’s a pessimistic and, frankly, lazy view on life. Because when you argue that this is “just the way things are,” what you are really saying is, I don’t care enough to do anything about it.
Do people making this argument really want to live in a world where we just shrug our shoulders at epidemic-levels of sexual violence and expect every woman to be armed? (And little girls, do we give them guns too?)
Teach young men to see women’s humanity, instead of seeing them as sexual objects for male pleasure: There is a reason why women are shamed into silence and why teenage boys in Steubenville, Ohio are caught on camera laughing about gang raping an unconscious girl at a party. The dehumanization of women spans all areas of American life.
There is no shortage of evidence that rape culture results from the objectification of women and the view that we exist simply for male pleasure. When a ESPN football commentator implies that the reward for being a star quarterback is that you get to have a pretty girlfriend, that takes away a woman’s individual agency. She is simply an object to be possessed. An object there for male desire and nothing more.
The young men in Steubenville aren’t monsters. They did something monstrous and criminal but perhaps we should begin to stop repeating the notion that “criminals” are the ones raping 1 in 5 women. No, it’s our husbands, boyfriends, acquaintances, relatives, and friends and they rape because they are not taught to see women as full autonomous human.
Let me also point to some well written allowance for sorrow for what has happened in a way that honors the humanity of everyone involved.
I do feel sorry for these boys. And not only because they will be put in cages that will not make them any better. I also feel sorry that two 16-year-olds are capable of the things these boys have been found guilty of doing. That makes me deeply, deeply sad. That we have created a world in which, at just 16 years old, and even younger, boys can already hate girls this much. That they can already dehumanize and degrade them. That misogyny is so insidious and so effective as to make 16-year-old boys incapable of respecting this girl, of seeing her as a human being with the right to make her own choices, even when drunk, and the right to remain unviolated, even when passed out. I am sorry for these boys that, at 16, some of their humanity is already gone. The cruelty of kids is not new, and I guess it should not shock me, but this specifically gendered cruelty, at such extreme levels and at such a young age, is shocking to me. And I do feel very sorry for these boys.
Just not as sorry as I feel for the girl they raped.
And what do we do? I am firmly in the camp advocating that we MUST TALK about these issues. And we need to all talk about them in a real and accountable way, a way that takes into account the broad scope of problems that feed into misogyny and rape culture, a way that makes us all responsible. We all need to be allied in the fight against oppression and recognize the very real privileges any of us hold. If you are a male person, perhaps it feels overwhelming. Here is another great article I have seen passed around for what you can do, everyday, as a potential male ally against rape culture and misogyny.
Part of male privilege is that, as men, we expect people to listen to what we have to say, and that’s no surprise—we’re socialized to take men’s voices seriously, to hear authority in them. And as much of a problem as that is, I can’t help but consider a few possibilities. An obvious start is for fathers to talk to their sons about consent, but there’s more. Think of the power that a high school football coach has to talk about violence against women. Think of how this kind of message sounds coming from an educator whose primary field has nothing to do with social justice. Think of how far consent culture can spread when a popular male artist, or blogger, or politician starts talking about it. And you don’t have to be a celebrity or leader to be powerful—anyone with a Twitter account or Facebook page can push the conversation forward.