Monday, January 12, 2015

Why Feminism? Concerning Rape Culture

Here is one of the huge reasons that I believe feminism is an important movement: rape culture. I have heard debates as to whether or not the term "culture" is appropriate and I am not here to argue the semantics, but many online blogs and articles refer to it this way, so I am going to go with it.

One of the best definitions of rape culture that I have seen was by Emilie Buckwald in Transforming a Rape Culture. She defines rape culture as:

"a complex set of beliefs that encourage male sexual aggression and supports violence against women. It is a society where violence is seen as sexy and sexuality as violent. In a rape culture, women perceive a continuum of threatened violence that ranges from sexual remarks to sexual touching to rape itself. A rape culture condones physical and emotional terrorism against women as the norm... In a rape culture both men and women assume that sexual violence is a fact of life, inevitable... However... much of what we accept as inevitable is in fact the expression of values and attitudes that can change."

Part of all of this is that rape culture normalizes violence against women and places the blame for said violence on the women.

Ever heard the term, "she was asking for it"? Let me break this down.

Women are not asking for rape or inappropriate touching or inappropriate advances. 

But women are often blamed anyway. A question nearly all women encounter when reporting rape or sexual harassment is "What were you wearing?"

And I am here to tell you that it doesn't matter. How you dress does not invite touching or rape. And unless a woman says "yes," you should stay away. We call that consent. You should acquaint yourself with the meaning of the word. 

There are places in the world where women are so severely punished for being raped that some don't survive. 

Furthermore, we have to train our women what to do when confronted with sexual assault, violence, and rape. We do not teach our men NOT to harass or rape, which seems a bit backwards.

"If you're promoting changes to women's behavior to 'prevent' rape, you're really saying 'make sure he rapes the other girl.'" --@itsmotherswork

It's even worse than that, because we brush off the violent behavior of boys and men. "Boys will be boys." We also ignore the fact that these men are capable of making these choices for themselves. To rape or not to rape? Not a difficult situation and not hard to tell which choice they made, right?

I know that men get sensitive to this issue, and there is the whole NotAllMen movement because not all men rape. And this is true. But as a woman, I cannot tell the difference. Especially when rape and domestic abuse jokes are rampant. "It's just a joke." Yes, a joke that helps normalize rape and abuse of women.

While perusing the internet, I stumbled across this treasure:
A joke? I hope so. Does that make it ok? Absolutely not. Because THERE ARE MEN WHO ACTUALLY THINK THIS WAY. As a woman, I cannot tell if you are joking or if you actually believe that. Either way, I am on my guard. And either way, I do not think it acceptable.

On a related note, this article and video are worth a gander. Lindy West reading the responses she received for calling out rape jokes in which most contributors seemed to confuse the terms "rape" and "sex," which are very different. Sad, but she is a very brave lady: If Comedy Has No Lady Problem, Why Am I Getting So Many Rape Threats?

How many of you women have attended classes to defend yourself? Want to hear something sad? When I was at college, the school held a class geared for women about deterring rapists. It started with basic self defense and ways to get help or get yourself out and slowly moved on to the littlest things you could try to keep him from raping you if you were already at his mercy, which boiled down to defecating or urinating as your last-ditch attempt. And that was heartbreaking.

How many of you women carry your keys a certain way when walking to your car alone? I have. I still do. Because I figure a weapon is better than no weapon.

I always make sure my female friends make it back into their homes or cars safely. We try not to walk around alone.

The fact that we have to plan like this means that something is wrong.

And men cat-calling and what-not is not ok, either. Now repeat after me: "WOMEN ARE NOT HERE FOR THE PLEASURE AND APPROVAL OF MEN!" Got it? I don't care if you like the way I look/dress/et cetera when I leave the house. I didn't do it for you. Likewise, I couldn't care less if you DON'T like the way I dress/look/et cetera. Do you understand? It is not for men to comment on. I am just going about my business. I am not inviting attention and commentary. And I would MUCH rather be left alone.

I stumbled across this. It is a rough read and it makes me cry to read it, but hits the point right on the nose (find it here: inkskinned: my name is baby)
my name is BABY and you lean out of your car and spit at my feet it lands in a puddle in front of me and i am thirteen and in a suburban neighborhood on the way home from school and i gag and run with my backpack banging like the echo of your words against my back like you are chasing me all the way home
my name is SWEETIE and i am fifteen in the city with my friends for the first time and we get a little lost and you follow us for a full block you name my friends HONEY and DARLING and WHY THE FUCK WON’T YOU TALK TO ME
my name is NICE ASS and it’s two in the afternoon and i still feel my heart slam against my ribs because i am under a hundred and fifty pounds and i have weak lungs and weaker fists and while you saunter down the steps, swinging the beer bottle in your fist, my father who is walking behind me shouts, “she’s seventeen, you dipshit” and maybe i’m near my family but i don’t feel safe until we’re home again
my name is JAILBAIT and my friend is laughing and we just graduated high school and we feel like we are on the brink of something beautiful and terrifying and she is in heels and about to throw up and you name her DRUNK ENOUGH and i have to physically drag you off and when we go home she cries for four hours because a night that should have been just teenage fun almost resulted in the end of her trust of humans
my name is LOOK AT THOSE TITS and we are on a college campus and the boy i am with holds onto my waist just a little tighter while you drive up next to me. you name him THUG and throw a bottle at his forehead. i can’t stop shaking until long after it’s over. he says “it happens,” and i say, “it shouldn’t.”
my name is DAMN GIRL and we are walking down the street. there are ten of you and two of us and you snap a picture when you think we’re not looking. you tell us to either come inside or you’ll fuck us on the street. you all laugh like this is funny. this is compliment. this is just something boys do to get ladies.
my name is LITTLE LADY, my name is FINE MISS, my name is FUCK YOU AND FUCK YOUR FRIENDS, my name is LOOK ME IN THE FACE, my name is STOP FROWNING, my name is SMILE, my name is WHY DID YOU EVEN GLANCE AT HIM YOU WERE ASKING FOR IT, my name is THIS IS A COMPLIMENT so i looked it up according to Oxford that’s “a polite expression of praise or admiration” i think you’ve got the definitions mixed up
my name is PRETTY THING, my name takes nice words and make them into bullet wounds my name is NICE BODY and no girl i know has dated a man who catcalled her, my name is GREAT RACK and it turns out that if you shout things at a stranger, they sound like knives more than flowers, my name is WOMEN LIKE YOU NEVER KNOW THEIR PLACE and every single “nice” thing you say to a woman is something you’d never utter to another man because you know that it’s derogatory, my name is PRINCESS and A REASON TO GET PUT IN PRISON and if another man spoke to your mother sister girlfriend like that, you’d kill him
my name is SEXY and every time i hear someone raising their voice i am thirteen again and i don’t know who you are and i’m running home with a weight on my shoulders and your words like a slap to my spine and your laughter like a hanging, i am scared and alone and suddenly so small,
and compliments are supposed to make me feel good not afraid for my life, compliments are a way of saying “i care and i appreciate you and i thought you should know it,” and if you really meant it as a compliment, you’d care about how i would take it - but you don’t mean it like that, you mean it to show off, you mean it to make us object, you mean it to shove our names into your back pocket so you can tell your friends “i saw the HOTTEST LITTLE THING yesterday” and they can groan about how we just walked away because you don’t see us go home with keys in our fists and all the lights on and we keep 911 dialed just in case and we triple-check our locks and we don’t fall asleep at all because your compliment knocked us over and took who we are
if we are all saying “it doesn’t sound like a compliment, it sounds like a threat,” if you really wanted to make us feel good - wouldn’t you stop doing it?
COMPLIMENT =/= CATCALL // r.i.d (via inkskinned)(via alllisonmccalls)
Source: inkskinned

Even catcalling puts women on edge. Because how are we supposed to know if you meant it as a kind compliment (if it is polite, and maybe you did), but maybe you are looking to take advantage of the situation. I can tell you that I have been confronted many times by men in public and of those times only ONE was a genuine compliment: a man on the bus liked my shoes. "I like your shoes. Classic," he said, and walked his separate way. I was wearing my nice converse.

The rest of the "compliments" were about my butt, and would I be interested in a date with a stranger at least twice my age, and so forth. Those are not compliments. Occasionally, a man might say, "you are pretty." Which sounds nice enough on the surface, but I don't know what lies under that. Maybe it is meant to be a genuine compliment, but what if it isn't? And we don't know, so we put our guards up, smile awkwardly, and try to get away as quickly as possible. Because getting attention from a strange male sends up a red flag for most women. And most men might be upset about that because they are good guys who mean no offense. But there are plenty of men who DO mean offense, and that is enough for us.

I suggest watching this video clip. Her bit at the end is brilliant: The Daily Show: Masters of Sexism-Claps and Catcalls. For the record, she is responding to this:

How do we stop all this? I don't know. But this tells me that something needs to change. No more cat-calling. No more rape jokes. No more blaming the woman. Teach our boys and men self control and teach them to respect to girls and women. Until things change, women will never feel safe. And that breaks my heart.

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