Saturday, April 22, 2017

The "Good Kind" of Rape

There is no such thing.

So it’s been a while since my last post, and I’m sorry.  I’d like to say that I’ll start trying to post with more regularity, but let’s be honest, that’s not all that likely to happen.  Especially since my posts currently seem to be sparked by something that incites fury and frustration to the point that I can’t stop thinking about it and need to say something… or write something.   Lucky for me, I have a great family, great friends, good job so this doesn’t happen all that regularly, but every now and then.

Last night, I met up with a friend that I hadn’t seen in a while, and he brought along his housemates.  At one point in the evening, the four of us headed back to the bar for more drinks, and one of the housemates, admittedly a guy, started trying to convince us to get some sort of shot.  The two others responded pretty negatively to this shot and groaned at the persistence with which their friend tried to push it on them, so I asked what it was.

“I don’t know what’s in it, but it’ll rape you.”

Stunned and fairly sure that he must have misspoken, I responded,

“Well I in no way want that. At all.”

Trying to give him a chance to backtrack or think about what he had said, but instead of taking the hint, he barreled on through,

“Oh no, it’s the good kind of rape.  You’ll enjoy it.”

And he walked away.

There are so many things wrong with this sentence that I don’t really know where to begin.

Now I exchanged maybe 10 sentences with this guy all evening. He may be a very fun and genuinely nice person, but there is never a reason to use the word rape as a positive. It has been a very long time since I heard the term rape used in a flippant manner, and I’d forgotten about these other “uses” of the term.  But holy shit I find them disturbing.

The excuse I often hear for using this word is “I don’t mean it like that!”, but in essence you do.  Always. Because unless you are talking about a “grape pomace” [1], then you do mean it.  Phrases like, “Oh that test raped me”, or “Work is gonna rape me today”, are meant to imply that whatever it is that you are unprepared for is going to inflict physical and mental pain and anguish.  But how many times has a test or work or physical exercise or anything else for that matter ever actually raped you. Never. These uses of the word rape belittle and normalize a horrific act that is already not taken seriously enough in our culture.  How can we expect victims of rape to be taken seriously, when we turn around and use this word to describe something a difficult test does to a student? How can we possibly explain the severity of this heinous crime to young boys and girls if we are allowing them to use it to describe a tough day at school?  Normalizing this word, like so many other offensive terms, does not disregard the original and real meaning of it.  It merely discredits the horrific experiences of others. 

So, in these situations, rape at least has been used as a negative term, but this guy last night somehow managed to use the word rape to imply a positive sensation.  Rape is never a positive.  There is no such thing as the “good kind” of rape.  And it is never enjoyable.  This hinges back to the dismissive mentality of a victim “asking for it”.  This merely serves as an excuse to dismiss and discredit a victim’s story, and there is NO SUCH THING.  No one. Ever. Is asking to be raped.  No matter what a person is wearing, how she, or he, is acting, there is never a reason that rape should be acceptable, much MUCH less a positive experience. This use of “rape”, along with the expression of making something “your bitch” perpetuates this idea that in certain situations or circumstances the act of rape is acceptable.  Generally the expression of making something “your bitch” is used as a term of success and triumph, but I’d really like us to think about what that’s implying.  In order to, say, finish the race (metaphorical or physical, your choice), you had to force yourself sexually, and generally violently, onto whatever it was you were doing… Beating or using some sort of extreme violence to force whatever it is into sexual submission.  I don’t actually think that is what you're doing, at least I really hope not.  Using this expression about things, events, life circumstances or instances, is a short leap to using it about people, and from there it’s an even shorter leap to using it about a specific person, and acting upon it.

A conversation I found myself having often in Cameroon was the question of why women are so scared of rape.  This question, especially in Cameroon where rape is not recognized generally as a crime because it is always the victim’s fault, startled me.  And it took me a while to be able to form a calm and complete response (in French) that explained things in terms for these, usually, men to understand.  

Women are blamed for rape.  Always.  There is always some implication that she, in some way, allowed it to happen or put herself in a situation that invited sexual assault.  It is seen as OUR responsibility to prevent our own attack, and generally no help will come from anyone else during or after the fact.  Afterwards, if we choose to seek action, we will be dragged through the mud and every action and decision we have ever made from our sexual history to the types of grades we got in middle school will be examined and questioned and forced into a light that implies that we have made this happen. 

On top of the idea that it will always be in someway “our fault”, there are actual physical differences that make women more subject to rape.  Generally, men are stronger than women.  I hate saying this because I am very strong, but an in-shape man is easily just as strong as me. Usually stronger. I don’t think most men realize that in walking around day to day life, women are CONSTANTLY made aware of the fact that men are generally stronger.  And that really any man, not that most men will, but if a man CHOSE to do something, there’s very little most of us could actually do to prevent it.  I’ve never felt this to be more true than when I was living in my village in Cameroon.  My village was made up of farmers, where even my 8 year old students were stronger than me.  So walking to school in the mornings, having to walk past a group of young men hanging out drinking beer at the bar, I felt real fear when they began cat-calling.  I know that they saw it as harmless, more so within their culture they saw it as a compliment, but in my mind, as it is in most women’s minds, is the knowledge that if at any given moment, these men decided to act on the comments they were making, there would be absolutely nothing I could do to prevent it.   So what’s the solution? I have to change my route to school every day, start carrying a small pocket knife, wear clothes that hide any semblance of a figure, leave for school earlier or later in hopes to avoid this group, etc. In essence I have to change everything about my behavior and appearance in an attempt to prevent these men from deciding to attack me.  And even then, after all of this, there is no guarantee.  

This fear of men is everywhere.  I love my friends, both male and female, and I’m really not constantly terrified that someone is going to attack me, but it is something that girls inherently think about and act upon every single day.  It’s so ingrained in most of us that we don’t even register it.  But yet, we still go to the bathroom together.

So back to my main point.  There is no such thing as a “good kind of rape”, and we need to stop using this word and similar expressions in flippant and casual settings, because violent sexual assault is never a flippant or casual act.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Feminism: It's Not Just About You

Feminism is Not Just About You.

In the past few months, I find myself continually discussing the idea of equality, and what it means to be feminist.  As an upper middle class white woman, I hear constantly this idea of women “playing the victim” or creating a problem and sense of inferiority where none exists.  This on the whole is a disheartening and frustrating view to hear, but it becomes more so as I realize that the only women who could really possibly believe this are other women like myself of extreme privilege. 

I have to say to these women, you’re right.  I personally do not face adversity every day because of my gender.  I have surrounded myself with people and organizations that empower women and see me as an equal, and more, as an individual.  I have grown up with two parents that have always fully and completely reinforced an idea of equality and individual strength between my brothers and me. I not only had the opportunity to go to college, but the ability and freedom to choose which college I wanted to attend.  I, of course, have had to deal with street harassers and the occasional man or teenage boy that makes sexist and demeaning jokes, or calls me “honey” or “baby doll”.  In truth, I have lead an incredibly and wonderfully privileged life. But this isn’t about me. 

I recently read an article titled “Yes, I am Equal.  I’m sorry You’re offended by Women Who Lack A Victim Mindset”, which attempts to explain in every way why feminism and this women’s movement are unnecessary and based on certain women’s need to avoid responsibility.  The author explains in her article,

In psychology, someone who has a victim mindset is said to have a martyr complex. These individuals seek out ways to victimize themselves in order to feed a psychological need or a desire to avoid responsibility. Unfortunately, the modern day feminist movement seems to be catering to these types of individuals.

Read the full article here: "Yes, I Am Equal.".    The author systematically goes through what she sees as being the feminist movement’s biggest causes and calls for action, and explains why, in her opinion, these are no longer things that need to be addressed.  While I disagree with ninety-nine percent of what she said, she does accidentally raise one of the biggest issues with “white” feminism: this idea that it’s all about you.  Inherently there will be people who disagree on certain points in every movement.  I understand that.  But we cannot deny that, although I as an individual, am accorded privilege and a sense of “equality” (whatever that word may mean), I am ONE incredibly lucky person.  The women’s march and feminism in general are not about how one person feels that they are not a victim.  It’s wonderful that there are women who feel strong and safe and fulfilled, but this movement is not about you.  It is about fighting for the marginalized.  The women who do NOT have equal opportunity, equal pay, equal consideration, or equal rights.  It’s about fighting for every shape, color, class, religion, and gender of woman. The author of the “Yes, I am Equal” article even states, that she applauds feminists who are fighting for a group of people who are legitimately being oppressed” implying that this only exists outside of the United States, but what she fails to address is that she has no basis for what oppression means or looks like to each woman.  NO ONE should ever have to feel unequal.  NO ONE should ever have to feel oppressed.  NO ONE should ever feel that they have to fight for rights that have been denied them.  It is the responsibility of those of us who are in a place of privilege, those who feel safe and equal, to stand up for those who are not.  Because there are women all over the United States who are not treated as first class citizens, who are pushed to the side and denied the rights that men and women in other classes of life are given freely.  I march and I fight for the rights of women who do not feel safe and equal, who ARE still victims of a system that is failing them.