Sunday, March 24, 2013

Let's have a chat about rape culture and our media

In my last post I mentioned that I am writing my senior paper - for a class called Feminist Media Studies - about the extensive theme of rape culture which lies underneath all the avant-garde filmmaking and quirky dialogue of David Lynch's Twin Peaks. Nothing wrong with pointing out the much-obscured (and rejected) themes of certain media texts, right? Well, apparently there is. I received comments telling me that, "It must be fun being a pessimist and seeing misogyny everywhere you turn. Your statements make you sound like a sexist bitch." and that I'm apparently "bashing" a show and that my college isn't teaching me well. I have to admit I scoffed at these comments and felt sorry for each and every person who feels this way. It's sad that we live in a world where we can't even interrogate our media with an open mind - instead we just mindlessly accept it, and often, the rape and the misogyny that our everyday media exemplifies.

So, I thought, let's have a real talk about rape culture and our media. Because it exists. And if you're a rape culture denier or a rape culture celebrator, you better read this and get the fuck off your high horse and stop being a mindless drone of all the damaging parts of your culture that affect you, your mothers, your sisters, your daughters, your grandmothers, your fathers, your brothers, and every person in this society. It's time to rethink things, to interrogate our media with the hard questions, and to make a change. If questioning the praise for Twin Peaks makes me a "sexist bitch", then I'd really hate to think what that makes you.

And you know, actually, let's throw out all these words. Let's throw out bitch, let's throw out cunt and ho and dick and homo. Let's throw out fag and slut and pansy. Because not only does that make everyone sound like uneducated two year olds, but it also reinforces rape culture and the gender and sexuality bashing that goes with it. There's nothing wrong with being a girl, or a boy, or gay, or straight, or asexual, or pansexual, or between genders, or whatever you want to be. There's absolutely nothing wrong with it, so let's start off by stopping the hate. Stop putting other people down for these things. Calling someone a "sexist bitch" doesn't make you sound so educated, open minded, or progressive yourself. It makes you sound close minded, stuck in the past, and full of hate. Let's all have some credibility and be thoughtful with words, instead of perpetuating the rape culture that we should all be fighting against...because you know, it really does affect each and every one of us.

Women in India protesting certain ideologies of rape culture after the brutal rape and death of a university student last winter

The 2011 National Crime Victimization Survey reported 243,800 cases of rape or sexual assault in that year. That's almost 668 rapes a day, or nearly 28 every hour. The NCVS also suggests low numbers of reporting with only 54% of rapes or sexual assaults being reported to the authorities.

The National Violence Against Women Survey from 2000 found that women who were raped before the age of eighteen were twice as likely to report being raped as adults. Approximately one million women are stalked every year in the U.S. and 64% of women who reported being raped, assaulted, or stalked since age 18 were victimized by an intimate partner.

According to WOAR, one in three women will be sexually abused during their lifetime, and one in four women and one in six men will be sexually assaulted before the age of 18.

RAINN reports that someone is sexually assaulted every 2 minutes. And furthermore (possibly most shocking - or not - of all), 97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail.

So now, you may be thinking right now, "Gee, that's so sad and all, but I'm not a rapist." And you know, I'm really sick of hearing this. I'm not a rapist either, but you don't see me defending the media, the institutions, the politics that place rape in our culture. You don't see me doing that. And so, to quote Andrea Dworkin in her 1983 address, "I Want a Twenty-Four Hour Truce During Which There Is No Rape":
"The men's movement seems to stay stuck on two points. The first is that men don't really feel very good about themselves. How could you? The second is that men come to me or to other feminists and say: ' What you're saying about men isn't true. It isn't true of me. I don't feel that way. I'm opposed to all of this.' And I say: don't tell me. Tell the pornographers. Tell the pimps. Tells the warmakers. Tell the rape apologists and the rape celebrationists and the prorape idealogues. Tell the novelists who things that rape is wonderful. Tell Larry Flynt. Tell Hugh Hefner. There's no point in telling me. I'm only a woman. There's nothing I can do about it. These men presume to speak for you. They are in the public arena saying that they represent you. If they don't, then you had better let them know.

Then there is the private world of misogyny: what you know about each other; what you say in private life; the exploitation that you see in the private sphere; the relationships called love, based on exploitation. It's not enough to find some traveling feminist on the road and go up to her and say: 'Gee, I hate it.' Say it to your friends who are doing it. And there are streets out there on which you can say these things loud and clear, so as to affect the actual institutions that maintain these abuses. You don't like pornography? I wish I could believe it's true. I will believe it when I see you on the streets. I will believe it when I see an organized political opposition. I will believe it when pimps go out of business because there are no more male consumers. You want to organize men. You don't have to search for issues. The issues are part of the fabric of your everyday life."
And so, you know, I'm not going to apologise for trying to make a change. I'm not going to say, "Gee, I'm sorry for picking apart our media, and maybe your favourite television show, you know I'm sorry for trying to find the roots of what places rape in our society and to tear them up. Gee, I'm sorry I want to end rape. I'm sorry I don't want little girls and little boys to be raped, or to grow up and do the raping. Gee, I'm real sorry I don't want any of that. I'm real sorry that I'm trying to make change, and in making that change, I'm real sorry that I won't defend your favourite programme."

If you really think that the reputation of a single television programme is more important than stopping 28 rapes an hour, then you've really got your head on backwards. You must not have a heart. You must not care for your mum, or your sisters and brothers, your neighbours, even your friends. You really must not care about them at all, because I promise you that there is rape in their lives and there is rape in your life, whether you want to admit it or not. And all these people are human and not a single one of them deserve rape, whether they're related to you, whether they live near you, whether they're just a random person you pass on the street - no one deserves to live in this terror and this rape.

And you know, you can say that our media doesn't cause rape. And I won't go as far as to say that it does. But what our media does do is put these ideas in our head of a reality. And sometimes those realities are fun or exciting, and sometimes we want to live in those realities, but what they almost always have in common is misogyny and rape culture. But we don't always catch on to just how damaging that is, and so we replicate these realities that our media put forth.

As Jackson Katz notes, "We're socializing boys to believe that being a man means being powerful and in control, being smarter than women or better than women or our needs get met first in relationships with women. That's not genetically pre-destined. That's learned behaviour."

And that's rape culture. That misogyny. That's telling people how to be, how to perform gender. It's telling people to rape, and others to be raped. And so why shouldn't we find that stuff in our media, and we shouldn't we rip it out and ask the big questions? Why should we let it slide by because maybe the way that it is filmed is surreal and avant-garde, or maybe the script is real witty, or maybe the characters are enjoyable. Why should we let that slide by as being revolutionary or "the best"?

And so, I really hope that everyone thinks about this before posting (anonymously or otherwise) on a 19 year-old's blog that she is a "sexist bitch" because she's trying to make a change. I really hope you think about this before you let yourself fall into the trap that media sets for you. Think about it, become educated about it, make a change about it.

I also highly recommend reading the article, "Why does America pretend it doesn't hate women?" and Shakesville's "Rape Culture 101". If you're further interested, check out Transforming a Rape Culture from your local library.


Meli said...

I just want to add to all this: I was reading coverage of Steubenville earlier (ugh) and read something about language regarding rape culture (that I cannot remember for the life of me where/who it was..) that saying "if it was your mother/sister/daughter" is a bad thing in itself, because it puts the value of a woman on her relationship to a man. That never occurred to me before- what do you think?

chloe said...

Hmmm...Meli, an interesting point. I'll have to think about this more, but I guess in the case of pointing out relationships, it's to make the issue seem more widespread than just yourself. I guess, when I wrote this, I wasn't just addressing men to think about this. I assume that most of my readers are women, and not all women realize the impact of rape, so I was writing this to address whoever read it.

But I do understand where this comes from.... It's used as a way to impress empathy, but maybe it is counterintuitive. But maybe all it really does is suggest that people with whom you have close relations (regardless of gender) are directly changed by rape/rape culture, and thus we should move beyond ourselves.

I appreciate the comment and I will read more about this thought... Also, all the Steubenville press definitely does call for an ugh!

Anonymous said...

All I can say go girl. If being a "bitch" is what you are, then more people need to start bitching!!! You have the discernment and the compassion to evaluate media and want to make a change in the world. I agree with you, support you, respect you. Keep it up!!!

<3 Cambria

Alaina M. said...

Those people stayed anonymous because they know their opinion is something to be ashamed of. It's awful that I consciously never put gas in my car at night because I perceive it as not being safe. Several years ago I lived and worked in an urban area without a car, so I walked over a mile to work, in the dark, at 5:30am regularly. Would I be asking for it because I was walking alone in the dark? ugh, it all makes me sick. A friend of mine just posted something on her facebook about her experience, that you might want to read.

Lexi said...

Nice blog on a sensitive subject, however to be honest after reading your very refreshing intro paragraph about equality only to be faced with a totally contraditory photograph "Don't tell your daughter not to go out, tell your son to behave properly", I found it really difficult to continue reading your blog.
You say "...let's start off by stopping the hate. Stop putting other people down for these things" then show an image which clearly portrays a belief that men can't 'behave' themselves. I take offence to that (unless of course you placed the image there to demonstrate how one-sided the general public can be about these kinds of things, in which case forgive me). In case you don't know what I'm on about, the poster should say "Don't tell your children not to go out, tell your children how to behave." I'd love to know your reasoning behind that image (a picture says 1000 words after all!).
On a slightly related topic, I saw something on Facebook recently about the attitude towards rape victims and men in general which you may or may not have seen. It was something I hadn't seen before and found it quite profound:
Food for thought eh?
Finally, you didn't touch on the horrifyingly acceptable term 'frape' on Facebook. This is something I think deserves a mention in an article about rape culture and our media - how has this become so acceptable? Who on earth first compared writing rude/funny comments on someone's Facebook profile without their permission to the horror of rape? And why do so many people use it so lightly?
Sorry for the slightly jumbled bunch of thoughts - I hope it all makes sense! I have pages I could write about this but I don't want this comment to become an essay!

chloe said...

Lexi! Great thoughts. I really did think about what that image suggests while I uploaded it. I wasn't meaning it to be my own ideology - or a solution to the issue - but rather as a political statement that has been made which I believe is in response to very particular political happenings in India.

When you really break down rape culture, you have to understand that gender is often a non-issue and it isn't the fault of one gender or another, but rather the rapist (which could be man or woman...and the victim can also be man or woman). Perhaps I should add a caption suggesting that this is simply in political response to a certain case, and does not reflect any solution (or fault) on the whole. I agree with your suggestion of how the sign should have been termed, but I believe in this context, the original wording applied best.

Also, I'm totally unfamiliar with the term "frape" but I am definitely interested and will check it out. Do you suggest any articles? Now I'm curious.

HannahMMurphy said...

Maybe the term "frape" is a British/European thing, which i wasn't aware of. But it certainly winds me up! People use the term so lightly in public with no thought for the people surrounding them. I have been called a part time feminist before now, as an insult. Which infuriated me beyond belief. Thanks for writing this post, I'm glad I'm not the only one that thinks that a change is needed. Hannah x

Abby said...

I really enjoyed your post a lot. Rape culture has been on my mind a lot lately and I appreciate your thoughts and the resources you included in your blog post.

I was wondering, do you still like pin up girls? I know in past you said you did. I was just wondering what you thought about pin ups, pornography, and the idea that if a woman wants to be involved in BDSM or other controversial things she should be able to?

A lot of my female friends recommended that I read Fifty Shades of Grey. When I told them that just the idea of it makes my blood boil, they said that it turns them on. That they like the idea of a guy doing those things to them. This brought up a lot of questions in my mind. In my mind, books like Fifty Shades of Grey perpetual the rape culture. But then my friends are saying that they'd willingly participate in BDSM. So I guess my question would be about women's willingness to participate in BDSM, pornography, and pin ups? I mean particularly in media (aka supporting books that contain BDSM, participating in pornography that will go out to the public, and pin ups for the public). I feel like if a woman wants to participate in those three things privately, that's up to her. But when it's for the public, it confuses me a lot. What do you think?

Drew and Rachel said...

Hi Chloe,

I was wondering, what do you think about the relationship between a sex-saturated culture (including sexy music videos, sexy advertisements, sexy dress, sex in movies, on the internet etc.) and its proliferation and reinforcement, or not, of rape culture?


Keit said...

Let me first say that I truly believe you cause is noble and important. I've been harassed a lot, most of the time I don't even know how I got away without being raped. But I think you are missing the real point. Your post reminded me of those statements about video games, which promote violence, therefore violent games make people violent. Or, that kid who killed himself listening to Marylin Manson, therefore Marylin Manson is Satan's music.
I really don't think that media is the problem here and that it is responsible for men being rapists.
Most Arab countries ban pornographic and other material with explicit content, and yet those countries have a high rape rate.
I believe that by suppressing sexual content in media, we won't solve anything and even worse, we will be responsible for the frustration and dissatisfaction of most men.

Chloe said...

Amazing post. More food for thought:
This status really shook up the way I saw rape apologism and rape culture--even as someone who has been learning about it (and experiencing it, unfortunately) for a couple of years now.
Recently things came to a boiling point at my university because of comments a representative of the student body made about rape, saying, on Facebook on a photo protesting victim blaming, that "It’s important to note … that some of the onus in these situations should lie with the victim"--and then didn't apologize for it at an assembly discussing a potential censure or impeachment. He even openly mocked survivors at the assembly, smirking while they were telling their stories. He got ejected at one point, after which he harassed people leaving the assembly--and harassed people in the bathroom.
Basically: I think posts like yours are important, especially so in light of what's happened at my university. More people need to be aware of rape culture, and aware of the necessity of fighting it.

Chelsea said...

Would you be willing to share your essay on Twin Peaks? I would love to read more about this.

Chelsea said...

I actually just found an article in Insights from Film Into Violence and Oppression that covers this topic quite well. Very elucidating - a lot to think about.

Ivy said...

Thank you so much for posting this!

As much as I like the dreamy and whimsical environment that I often find in personal style/lifestyle/et c. blogs (both in general and the ones I follow), the reality of rape culture often seems to be overlooked, so I love that on your blog I can find a great personal style post one day, and a post touching on rape culture the other.

Also, I hope at some point you can share your essay; I'd be interested in reading it!

jenna d. said...

i love this post. it is honest, passionate, and i personally think it is very fair. and in response to lexi's post, i think it's completely reasonable to use that first picture, because the whole point of the article is about feminism and rape culture. of course it makes sense to use a picture that says "don't tell your daughter not to go out, tell your son how to behave", because the rape culture we experience in the world today, whether it be the US or India or France or anywhere promotes WOMEN being raped by MEN, not everyone being raped by everyone. because really, although rape has been known to happen where the rapist is a woman, it's quite rare and not really the issue being addressed in the post. the whole point of the post is equality, and by teaching men how to respect and not objectify women and treat them as full human beings, it promotes that. i think by changing the wording of the sign it would defeat the purpose of it, and make it too general to really address the issue at hand. and keit, the post explicitly says that the media is not necessarily to blame for rape culture. there is nothing wrong with a women expressing her sexuality in media, say like madonna did in the 80's, but the real problem lies in HOW women are portrayed, oftentimes in degrading and submissive ways that appeal to men. generally, woman are sexualized in accordance to the male fantasy, rather than owning her sexuality and being treated as the strong individual she is. when a you see a "sexy" woman in a music video, that's generally all she is. a sexy body, whereas a "sexy" man in a music video is usually shown as more three-dimensional and powerful. anyways, just my thoughts about that. and chloe, this post really is amazing. i definitely enjoyed reading it, and while i love your awesome outfit posts and musings, this post was super well written and i would love to see more about this subject. great job!

Anonymous said...

Maybe your college is "teaching you well". Maybe you are not learning well.
And to the person that said that I remain anonymous (Alaina M. sounds quite anonymous to me) because I am " ashamed" of my opinion, you are quite wrong! People make choices every day. A person makes a choice to rape. No media outlet is responsible for the decisions a person makes. To say so would be tantamount to censorship, and you will lose that atgument every time in this country.
Chloe I know from reading your blog that you are a very intelligent WOMAN (not girl). I did not mean to offend you, only to make you question yourself.
Keep thinking for yourself and trying to make the world a better place for all.
Oh, and I am not the one that called you " a sexist bitch", and I love your fashion style.

Anonymous said... def. have to post the final essay, because even just this has captivated me. my mind has been similarly preoccupied by this issue for some time now. ever since I wrote my own paper on the issue of mass media and it's effect on, seven years ago. My attention then focused mainly on the issue of mass media and it's effect on women's body image and the advent of eating disorders, but even from that angle, the issues of male dominance and female submissiveness were pervasive and disturbing. Watching the footage of those women in Central Park made me nearly physically ill, and the comparison between the ugly reality and the fetishized fantasy was one of the most effective I have encountered.

To the anonymous who asserted that no media outlet is responsible for the decisions a person makes, I would merely say that you, my friend, are an advertisers wet dream. Also, to toss around the word censorship without actually knowing what it means and not coming up with any argument as to why the media ISN'T partially responsible for the overall opinion and treatment of women in this society makes the implication that you are incapable of questioning anything, let alone something as complex as human sociology, psychology and the proliferation of media. Perhaps you should read one of the articles she mentioned or watch one of the videos she posted before you just make thoughtless statements with no real substance. Just because you don't understand/have no awareness of reality is no excuse. educate yourself. otherwise, you are implicit in the culture you claim doesn't exist, if not outright contributing to it.

I will say, the only way this sort of thing can be rectified is by educating people like the aforementioned Anonymous. So, hopefully they actually take my advice and educate themselves a bit. Watch the Frontline piece called "The Merchant's Of Cool" Or maybe check out this piece by Susan Sontag "Women's Beauty, Put Down or Power Source". Mebbe learn something about a Gloria Steinem? Unfortunately, most people take in media without actually consciously thinking about it, which is why there are so many people out there who are so easily suggestible. Be aware of what your consuming. question it. think about the theme of it.

other goodies:
PBS : MAKERS: Women Who Make America
ROOKIE : "Boys Will Be Boys

or maybe just google the words "feminisim", "gender roles," "violence against women" or "rape culture." Or look around you. It's pretty obvious if you're paying attention.

beautifully done, Chloe. This is why I love you.


Emma said...

I love your blog, Chloe! You are obviously a very smart and stylish lady. I do agree with everyone who says you should post your essay, or at the very least tell us more about it. As a feminist and a lover of Twin Peaks and all things David Lynch I'm very interested in why you think it's "just a rape fantasy" supporting rape culture. If anything I see it as a condemnation of rape culture. I must admit, however, it's been a little while since I've seen the show, so I'd be very interested in hearing more of your thoughts on the matter.

Julia said...

Please keep in mind: just because someone has a different opinion on a subject does not mean that they are less educated or informed about said subject. That occasional mood of intellectual superiority is the one thing that drives me a bit mad when reading this blog, and while it no doubt comes from a lifetime of being told that you are one smart cookie (which, yes, you surely are)and is therefore probably not an easy thing to detect or contol in yourself I just thought I'd let you know it's there as I hope someone would do the same for me. While it's not a leap to assume that you're more educated about this particular subject than our old friend Mr. or Ms."You Sound Like A Sexist Bitch" I refer also to the situation with your coworker and her feelings about boyfriends and outfits. I'm sure there was more to the story than what you shared with us but the lasting impression was that you felt sorry for her because you found her feelings on the subject to be less enlightened than your own. Now, that may or may not be correct;maybe she would appreciate your thoughts on the matter and maybe they would change her attitude and life for the better. But it's also true that no matter how many statistics she's memorized or articles she's read about being female in this society she has (presumably) lived as a female in this society for an equal percentage of her life as you have and so it seems that her ideas/feelings should be no less valid. Just food for thought or something, hopefully you get where I'ma comin'from. . .

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.