I’ve been slow to blog my way into the new year. Needing a break perhaps. It’s a lot for us all to read the news about the violence against women because of misogyny and to know that while some things improve, many don’t and for women, it’s a slow change.
We’re six days into 2013 and so far, to me, it looks like a good year, but it also looks like one for education. I don’t mean, let’s all get up on our soap boxes and do some preachin.’ I mean, we all need to work together to understand what is going on around patriarchy, around misogyny- and examine how to change it.
We entered this year with the Indian woman who was gang raped having just died. The men who are guilty may face the death penalty. Will that be enough? In India, official statistics show that a rape is reported every 20 minutes. Think about the many that are not reported.
Then there is the rape case in Steubenville, Ohio. Last August a sixteen year old girl was raped there by two or more members of the high school football team when she was unconscious after drinking alcohol. Protests have been ringing in the new year as it is believed that the investigation has not been open to all of the facts. It is believed that the investigation has favored perpetrators in favor of saving the football team which has, in the past, brought the town much pride.
Someone identifying as “Anonymous” saw many of the interactions on social media about the rape and began posting it on social media. “Anonymous” may have hacked into email to get some of the information. What that says to me is that “Anonymous” is fed up with rape culture and feels it is worth the risk of repercussions in order for there to be justice.
Even aside from the rapes themselves, when you see the ways the guys on the football team and people in general have responded to the victims, to the cases, to the issue of rape itself, you begin to see what we call “rape culture.” It is the idea that rape is normal, that victims deserve to be raped, that rape is sex. It is the excusing of rape in the culture, the tolerating of it, and even condoning it. It is the expectation of rape of women.
Though rape affects everyone, men, women, young, old, there exists the idea that women’s and girls’ bodies are for public use. In the Steubenville case, there were boys on camera dragging the unconscious girl off to rape her. There were boys saying she was “dead,” so “dead” that she was to be raped and “if it was their daughter, they wouldn’t care.” There were tweets about how she was raped. Social media all over the place. Anonymous informed the public. “Anonymous” made it clear that the case was not to be blown off. It has gotten national attention because of “Anonymous” blowing the whistle. We all need to be whistle blowers around rape. We all need to speak up to stop it, to make sure it doesn’t happen, to say it’s not okay! It is NOT the norm. It is NOT to be expected.
In this new year, we have the opportunity to change. We can educate each other. We can brainstorm ways to stop violence against women. Against girls. Against people.
We can speak out against rape. Against street harassment. Against all sexual violence!
I know someone who posted on Facebook the other day that she now hates to go jogging because every time she goes, she is ‘cat called,’ whistled to, or propositioned. There were some people who said she should get a weapon and asked if she wanted someone to kick some ass, but many people responded to her saying, “Enjoy it while you can,” “It won’t last forever,” “Once you’re older, you’ll wish that happened,” “Take it as a compliment,” “It’s because you’re beautiful,” and “Girl, that was me.” They were joking and trying to make her feel better, but what she knows and what I couldn’t resist commenting is that street harassment is a threat and dangerous. It is sexual violence. She is beautiful. What has been happening to her when she jogs has nothing to do with that.
How different would it be if everyone said, Whoa, that’s sexual violence- not okay. Sorry that happened to you. Street harassment has to stop. It keeps women from being fully free in the world. It is a threat and can escalate quickly. We must shape these conversations, even online ones- maybe especially online ones, to stop rape culture.
How different would it be if any time someone saw another person engaging in inappropriate behavior, they said something against the behavior and worked to make it stop and prevent further harm.
2013 is a good time to start to make change. To change our culture to not tolerate rape. The rapists in India might get the death sentence- we need stricter laws to deter people from raping and we need a society that absolutely will not put up with sexual violence against anyone! We need education around sexual violence and around stopping it.
Keep ringing in the new year. Let’s make some change for 2013 and for all of our futures!