Monday, March 21, 2011

Rape Culture 101

[EXTREME TRIGGER WARNING for discussion of sexual assault, rape and violence. Assume a trigger warning for this entire post and all links within it]

I’ve been thinking about writing a post on ‘rape culture’ for a while but after scanning the news today, I feel like I have no other choice.

I did a little search through my Facebook and Twitter feeds and this is what I found in ten minutes:

- Nurse jailed for sexual assault in Iqaluit

- Sex worker found dead in Caledon in an article that speaks more about her occupation than humanity

- Maclean’s runs an ‘amazing’ “Escort vs. Prostitute” ‘joke’ column that includes the ‘fact’ that escorts like horses and prostitutes look like them. (I’d link to it but 1- it’s been pulled down thanks to activism on Twitter and 2- I don’t want to give Maclean’s anymore traffic)

- Youth pastor had sex with queer teens to ‘cure them of their homosexuality’.

And I’m sure it’ll just get worse as the day goes on.

But even in the context of all this BULLSHIT, I still hear tons of rape apologists and flat out haters claiming that the term ‘rape culture’ is dramatic and exaggerated. As someone who routinely complains about rape culture and the war on womyn around the world, I’m used to hearing this kinda stuff. But my goodness, does it ever piss me off.

Part of the insidious nature of rape culture is that it’s taboo to even talk about it. So when I hear the haters and sceptics, I think to myself “Maybe they just don’t know. They don’t get it because they’ve never had it explained to them”.

So let me explain.

Since the internet age has completely killed people’s attention spans, I decided to make a handy little list for y’all:

Rape Culture is the creation and maintenance of an environment where rape is condoned and where those affected by it are systemically silenced.

Rape culture is

- The fact that 1 in 4 Canadian womyn will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime

- Studies have found between 80-100% of womyn have experienced street harassment at least once in their life

- The fact that this street harassment is normalized

- The fact that it’s often referred to as ‘cat calling’, which not only makes no logical sense but reaffirms that womyn are deemed less than human

- That a womyn makes an incredibly racist video attacking ‘Asian students’ and rather than challenge her for her racist views or her absolutely vile comments, the internet trolls make threats of rape

- In expressions like “I just raped that exam” or “Wow, we got raped by that team” when referring to victory or defeat

- The fact that we’d rather discuss the details of someone’s ‘escort’ girlfriend than the actual scandal, which is scandalous contracts for much needed water treatment on reserves

- The fact that a 21st century university institution chose to blame a survivor of sexual assault for her own assault, legally stating that she ‘failed to take any steps to protect herself’

- The fact that every day in Ottawa, 8 womyn are sexually assaulted and only 1 reports it to the police

- This and this and every other music video, movie or advertising campaign that glorifies stalking

- The fact that Harper’s “Economic Action Plan” built more animal shelters than womyn’s shelters

- Journalists who create torture porn out of news stories

- The fact that Canada sits around 21% womyn in the House of Commons (How does that relate to rape culture, you say? Well rape culture is inextricably linked to sexism and the entire notion of ‘keeping womyn down’ and ‘in their place’. And time and time again, we’ve seen that ‘their place’ ain’t the House of Commons, it ain’t in the public sphere and it ain’t about making noise)

Rape culture is viewing sexual assault as a rite of passage for womyn.

Rape culture is the fact that more people know about "Womyn crying rape" than they do about "Rape culture" or "Trigger Warning".

It is the fact that we only care about the sexual assault of men because society is homophobic; we don’t care about the violation of boys but the fact that they were the subject of a homophobic act.

Rape culture continues to exist because it benefits those in power. It keeps womyn out of politics, out of the media, sports and unions. It keeps police, lawyers, insurance companies and advertisers in business. It allows men to climb ladders on the backs of womyn and call it ‘meritocracy’.

Rape culture is alive and well in the hearts of those who read about it and roll their eyes, rather than their sleeves.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

'Balled of the Female Promoter'

So Jezebel has an article about the situation of womyn who are working to promote their work. Check it out.

This article means a great deal to me because I'm currently in this battle. To be a successful professional, you need to 'sell yourself' and learn to self-promote. But apparently, to be a 'good' feminist, doing that means you're in it for the wrong reasons, egotistical and other evil things.

How do we ensure that our issues get brought to the fore and are discussed in the mainstream when doing so puts us at risk of losing our 'cred' in the feminist bubble?

Do we honestly think that men outside social justice circles go through the same dilemna?

This whole thing feels so gendered to me; it's like womyn have to be meak and downplay themselves or else they're not 'good' womyn. So my initial thoughts are a giant middle finger to the feminist haters for internalizing sexism in that way. But then I can't ignore the way that Jessica Valenti, for example, has been treated. Is she perfect? No way. But the pros of her work far outweight the cons, in my book. And yet, she's been ripped apart by feminists (not to mention the all around misogynist bullshit she's had to deal with). Being shat on by people in your 'circle' is tougher than any anti-womyn BS. So it's not as easy as saying "Ignore the feminist haters" and moving on. There's gotta be some reconciling.

So how do we support feminists and bring their work to the maintsream (which in my opinion, is the only way we'll ever make change) without falling into the traps of questioning everyone's intentions all the time?

Particularly when you add in the extra layer that you may not call yourself a leader, but they'll make a leader out of you. The media, the average Joe-The-Plummer kinda person, wants to see leaders. So even if you insist a hundred times over that you're part of something bigger, you're just one of the pack, etc. they'll paint you as THE person because it makes an easier narrative.

So do you say "I don't want to be part of this at all" and lose the opportunity to have the work be exposed or do you embrace the label and the backlash that comes with it, knowing that at least the work was discussed?