Monday, April 1, 2013

In response to media & rape culture

Thank you to everyone who replied respectfully and thoughtfully to the last post, "Let's have a chat about rape culture and our media". I was nervous when posting that because, well, not only is it a touchy subject and I generally find my views to be quite extreme, but I was also very concerned that I would have a slew of anonymous comments bashing me and celebrating rape culture. None of this happened and I was extremely appreciative of everyone's supportive comments, as well as those who maybe questioned how I approach things. I'm always trying to be more aware of how I address certain issues (I'm really brash about 98% of the time, which I'm trying to work on), so I appreciate comments that provoked me to think again about how I take up certain issues.

I wanted to take some time to address some of the questions asked and maybe expand into the topic a bit more. And yes, I will be posting my final essay about Twin Peaks after I've received my grade back.

First, I try to be more and more careful about how I address gender in regards to rape or rape culture. Victims are not all female, and rapists are not all male. To suggest anything else would be ignorant.

Meli brought up the interesting point which I've seen circulating about the tactic that is commonly used (I used it) about addressing victims in relation to someone else (e.g. it could be your mother, your sister, your brother, etc.). A new wave is pointing out how counterintuitive this is. While the feminist movement promotes women as being independent and more than a wife or daughter, when addressing the issue of rape, relational connections are mentioned more than not. Generally this tactic is used in hopes of empathy. But when you really think about it, that's silly. No one should have to be relational. They're human and that makes them equal to everyone else, regardless of whose son, daughter, husband, wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, etc. they are.

Lexi also brought up a good point about the photo I shared in the original post. I was a bit nervous about using that photo because it is quite direct and says something huge - "Don't tell your daughter not to go out, tell your son to behave properly". This sign was in protest of the recent gang rape (and death) of a young university student in India and the law enforcement who said that it was the victim's fault. A dominant ideology of rape culture is that if a woman (or man, though rape culture scarcely recognizes that) is raped, it is their fault. This sign was clearly in response to this victim blaming that is so prevalent in rape culture (that a man rapes, a girl is raped, and it's her own fault). If anything, I'd believe that these girls are protesting the utter stupidity of how rape is viewed in our global culture. The above signs also protest how awful rape culture is. (For more photos of the protest, try checking out The Guardian or Oregon Live)

If we want to have an honest discussion of rape (not rape culture), we have to understand that not only women get raped, not only men do the raping, and no fault lies with the victim. It is absolutely true that we live in a society that (predominantly) teaches women not to get raped. If I am told one more time to take a women's self defense class, I will lose it. Teaching respect and fighting against rape is not a gender issue. Men and women should be taught the same thing and this inequality is the root of gender oppression and, thus, of rape and assault. Currently, men are taught differently from women, and women differently from men. And a lot of this 'teaching' lies within our media.

I also appreciated the photo that Lexi sent a link to. I've seen this, or something similar to this, circulated throughout my Facebook. Obviously quite thought provoking and, I think, one of the many ideologies of rape culture, though maybe one that many people are blind to. As a girl, I've never looked at it that way, but all men (who are not rape celebrationists) should absolutely be offended by that ideology. I think that largely goes hand in hand with the speech by Andrea Dworkin which I shared an excerpt from, I want a 24-hour truce in which there is no rape. Protesting rape is not a gender issue (as we've seen in India), teaching against rape is not a gender issue. Rape largely exists because of gender oppression, but that doesn't mean that protesting or teaching should be left to the oppressed gender(s).

Abby asked if I still liked pin up girls. Yes. As a general rule, there is nothing wrong with expressing your sexuality. Women are sexual beings. Men are sexual beings. Sex is part of nature and there's nothing wrong with that. In fact, sexuality is quite beautiful. However, the damaging part of women in media being presented as sexual is that this is the only representation. Men are presented as multi-dimensional and their sexuality is scarcely an issue, as long as their getting some. However, with women, even when presented in power positions, nothing else really matters as long as they're sexual. And it's made even more confusing for women because they're supposed to be very sexual, but also very virginal. That paradigm really does not exist for men as it does for women. But, I still love pin ups, and I've done pin up modeling before. It's fun and it's freeing, so I like that. My 2013 planner is all Gil Elvgren pin ups. I like them because they're pretty ridiculous half the time, but they're also these really beautiful women who don't fit into beauty standards of today (necessarily). However, I wish that these pin ups existed along with media representations of women as powerful, strong, in control, and not primarily sexual.

Abby also asked me about my response to Fifty Shades of Grey, BDSM, and porn. I honestly have not read Fifty Shades of Grey and I know little about it, except that it does contain BDSM. As far as my opinions of BDSM go, kink is okay. There's nothing wrong with being aroused by kink or wishing to participate in it. I personally wouldn't because of a prior history of abuse, but if both partners are willing and comfortable, what someone does in the privacy of their own bedroom is not my business. I think that mainstreaming BDSM in media can be extremely damaging. Moving beyond just pornography, BDSM is apparent in music videos, television shows, movies, etc. and this presents a norm of what is erotic, and that can be dangerous. Trying to present something as a 'norm' can be dangerous in general, but especially when it comes to sex. BDSM presents sex as violent and most media representations don't talk about, or even imply, consent. When consent is absent in the context of sex, that's when things become dangerous.

As far as pornography goes, I'm extremely wary of it. I'm wary of porn becoming mainstream - of pornification - and I'm wary of porn becoming more and more violent. Whenever sexuality is present as violent (or violence as sexy), I am concerned because that has huge implications.

I know that there was some hostility towards my comment about media reflecting reality. It is simply my opinion, and the opinion of many scholars, but I absolutely do believe that we accept our media as a reflection of reality, or a reality that we should strive to achieve. I know I posted a trailer for Dreamworlds 3, all about music videos and how we reflect those back into ourselves and our actions. If you didn't watch it, I absolutely advise you to check it out. It is shocking, and I should let you know that it could be a trigger.

I also wanted to share this quote by Jean Kilbourne about media and violence in her piece Can't buy my love: How advertising changes the way we think and feel: "Adverts don't directly cause violence ... but the violent images contribute to the state of terror. Turning a human being into a thing, an object, is almost always the first step towards justifying violence against that person...This step is already taken with women. The violence, the abuse, is partly the chilling but logical result of the objectification."

(p.s. watching her most recent movie, Killing Us Softly 4, can provide loads of enlightenment on media and its effects - I've seen it a few times I am still blown away.)

Our media does well to objectify women and present them as sexual objects, first and foremost. Or, even, in touching on the topic that Keit brought up, countries which ban pornography but still have a high rate of violence, there may be something in their media which contributes to this even without being explicit. It could also have to do with religion or other ideologies which are well rooted in their culture. I will not make the claim that media is the only contributor to violence or gender oppression - it's not. However, do you remember when women were completely edited out of Ikea catalogues in Saudi Arabia? Even simply making women (or any other 'minority' group) absent from media representations is damaging.

I'm not here to promote censorship. That is absolutely bad. But we have a media oligopoly of 6 companies (Comcast, NewsCorp, Disney, Viacom, Time Warner, & CBS) in charge of 90% of our media. Can't that be seen as censorship? The ideologies of those 6 companies is 90% of what we consume. I'm not saying that they are responsible for rape, but the media that these companies put forth are absolutely responsible for the culture of rape which we live in, and that culture fosters rape or ideas of rape in each and every individual.

I hope that I got to every question in one way or another. Again, I am so thankful for the outpouring of love, support, encouragement, and even questioning which I received. I'm sure that this will come up in the blog time and time again, and I hope that I can become more educated and less brash with every post. I'm not here to dictate to you or act like I'm on my high horse. I'm just extremely concerned and want to facilitate safe conversation about such an important topic. I'm still learning and I hope that everyone helps me to learn. We learn from each other as much as from our media, right?


Anonymous said...

Hi Chloe. YOU GO GIRL! At least you had the guts to speak out. And yes, unfortunately, we are controlled by large companies WITH THE FINANCIAL AND POLITICAL BACKING. These people control what we see and hear. This is already censorship. They are controlling society. What do they care. As long as the money keeps rolling in. Just this past Sunday in church the discussion was how, over the past few years, laws are being relaxed more and more. Why, what was not for a child to see 20 years ago is now ok. They decided that, for their own financial gain (more sales). Is there anything decent to watch? Violence, violence, violence. And the laws? You kill some-one and you're out on bail, but a warning shot, at night, when confronted by an intruder your house (with your wife and kids there), lands you in jail with a criminal record.
Yes, the world we live in is SICK. Where is the love. GONE. What is the greatest commandment? LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.
The only problem with reported rapes, is they are the reported rapes, as most of the time people are to scared to report the rape out of fear of being victimized.
Ok, had my mixed vent. You keep up your awesome blog, and say it like it is!

Meli said...

This is slightly related: I got a book in the mail yesterday that I think you might like. It's Backlash by Susan Faludi, and it's a little old but very interesting, about how women are being turned against the feminist movement. Have you read it?

Anonymous said...

Hi, I wondered if you had any thoughts on this article, which mentions Charlie Chaplain. I couldn't find an email address to reach you at about it.

Anonymous said...

Chloe, I love your blog. Where else can you find a sexy woman that makes people think? You rock! I like how you responded to all the issues brought up in your last post, mine included.
You may just change the world one mind at a time, and look great doing it.
I wish you all the best life has to offer.

Anonymous said...

"We are controlled by large companies"? You must be so weak minded. The marketing people are looking for people just as dumb as you.
Who typed your comment for you?

chloe said...

Meli: I haven't read it but I've talked about it in classes before. I've enjoyed other Faludi writings, so I'm absolutely curious to check that one out as well. Probably after I graduate though...

To the anon about Chaplin: I've know that Chaplin was indeed a very sexual man, however I'm not sure how much truth there is to that article. But most of Chaplin's more public exploits, I am aware of. I have no problem with consensual sex.

And to the anon about large media: I'm not saying we are controlled by these companies at all. I am simply saying that these 6 companies control 90% of the media we consume. To suggest that I am dumb for realizing this and trying to make a change about it is absolutely ridiculous and shows how little tactic your argument has. Maybe instead of calling young girls who are trying to be informed about what they consume "dumb", you should educate yourself and learn a thing or two about how media is catered to you in such abusive, manipulative ways.

Beautifully Pure said...

I like your ideas, and in a perfect world men would behave better. But my problem is that we don't live in a perfect world, and being attacked is very much a danger for us women nowadays. Should we not learn to defend ourselves in protest of that fact that the blame for rape is put on us? Should we really put ourselves in a position of danger because the men should behave better?

I would love as much as any other woman (or man) to be able to go out and not worry about someone attacking me, but I'm not ready to go out somewhere that makes me feel uncomfortable just because I should be able to. I'm not going to willingly put myself in a possibly dangerous situation because the other person should behave, because there is no guarantee that they will! People are sinful creatures, and will always sin. So even though I wouldn't be responsible if I did get raped, why not just listen to my instincts and keep myself safe? I may not make a statement about how it's not my fault, but I also won't be hurt emotionally and physically and have months - if not years - of recovery ahead of me.

And what's wrong with taking self-defense? You want to teach people not to rape people? I think that getting punched in the gut or kicked in the groin and then having your victim call the cops on you would be a pretty big lesson in "don't rape someone. 101" The victims shouldn't have to kick butt for the attackers to realize they shouldn't do that stuff, but like a previously said we don't live in a perfect world. Even if media stops protraying women they way they do there is always, always, always going to be that one person that doesn't care. That just wants what they want and will hurt anyone in the process. So why not learn how to defend ourselves, just in case?

And that reminds me one other questions I have: is rape really about sex? In some cases, I believe it can be, but I think a lot of cases have more to do about control. There are horrible people out there who want to "strong" they want to control other people - I know people like that. And the media changing the way it portrays sex won't have any effect on people like that, so why shouldn't women - and men - learn to protect themselves, just in case? I just don't see the problem with that. As a person, I full intend on kicking the living daylights out of anyone that lays a hand on me without my consent. I fully intend on defending myself to the death. Because in the middle of an attack, I don't think there's anyone on earth who would be thinking "I shouldn't have to do this!" I'm pretty sure everyone would be way more focused on getting out of a dangerous situation by any means possible - whether it's their fault their in this situation or not.

Anonymous said...

Watch other media, and educate yourself.

Jess said...


As to what Beautifully Pure said:

You're right, we don't live in a perfect world and EVERYONE, guys included, should take defense classes, BUT that doesn't mean we shouldn't teach people not TO rape. We should be learning how to defend ourselves, but the blame DEFINITELY should not be going towards the victim, but it is, and that's the issue. I mean ideally I should be able to leave my phone on a bench and it still be there, but it probably wouldn't be, and so I should take precautions; HOWEVER, the important message should still be taught that you shouldn't steal from or rape people. We are taught that stealing is bad, and as a result, I have had people return my phone/wallet. I know those aren't interchangeable, it was just a bad metaphor.

It would help if we had a better view of women in the media so that there wasn't this feeling of male superiority and seeking out control over raping a victim that is seen as inferior (most of the time women or younger men). Sure there are always going to be bad people out there, but like I said before, that MOST CERTAINLY does not mean you just give up and not do anything to try and change majority thinking while also teaching a prospective victim in how to protect themselves.

That's like the expression, "Boys will be boys!" People will act how you allow them to act.

Women are constantly shown as less than important, inferior, or/and sex objects. The point of view in most movies/video games/porn/etc is from a heterosexual male.

Sexuality is a beautiful thing, and I too love pin ups, but the problem is when that's all you are shown. I love a strong sexy female character, but what about other personality types?

I really liked this post. Sorry for the rant of a comment, but also...

No, no victim is probably thinking, "I shouldn't have to do this!" while it's happening. I can't speak for others, but I actually didn't really think of anything except how do I get out of this, and I hope they don't try to bash my head in. I'm sure afterwards there are tons of self-destructive, poisonous thoughts going on and wishing they were dead (I attempted suicide 3 times, 1 ended in me being taken to the hospital by my parents and the other 2 by my roommate). It's really hard to comment on something like this when it hasn't happened to you though, right? You say you intend on completely defending yourself and that's great for you, but when I was attacked, no matter how much I fought, I couldn't get him off of me or his 3 other friends.

Please think before you comment...and if you've never been in the probably shouldn't comment on how one "should react."

Jess said...

Oh forgot to mention that all 3 of those guys went to school with me and we were all hanging out at a house with FRIENDS, and I don't drink/I was wearing a turtle neck and jeans.

I don't believe I put myself in a dangerous position.

Oh..number 2. I was molested in my room by a family friend when I was 9. Also, please tell me how I could've defended myself/avoided it.

Now I'm done.