I haven’t written anything about rape culture for a while now. Sometimes I’m just not sure what to say. Half the population experiences it directly, and the other half often seems to me to be divided into those who actively participate in it, and those who seem to not quite believe that it exists*. And I get outrage fatigue; the outrage is there, but what is there new to say about it? What words have a hope of breaking through the obliviousness and the denialism?
“Moving Through the World as a Woman” sums up some experiences that I think will resonate with everyone I know.
Last week, as I walked up the hill from the bus stop, two young men in a junky car buzzed me and one screamed out his open window just about a foot away from me. Not a “Hey, baby” yell – just pure primal yelling, intended to frighten. I got to the house as quickly as I could after that, not sure if they would turn around and harass me further. I skipped checking the mail on the way in just in case.
Her commenters have responded with their own tales. Tanglethis:
I’ve had thoughts like these when I’m getting ready to go out for the night. Checklist: Can I run in these shoes? Is my clothing too provocative? Can someone grab me by this hairstyle? How about my purse – and did I put some kind of defensive weapon into it?
All this, in tandem with the other refrain that goes Does my hair look okay? Are these clothes flattering to my figure? Are these shoes too oldladyish?
It’s messed up.
I used to run at night, and many years ago, I was running down my country road, with not another soul or a car in sight, when a strange car suddenly passed me, slowed, and, just ahead, turned around to come back. But being female, I was way ahead of him/them mentally and had already darted off the road and hidden behind a huge tree trunk, which I moved slowly around as the car’s occupant(s) passed and returned several times, looking for me, before giving up and driving away.
These aren’t isolated, unusual events: these are happening constantly, and almost all women have a few of these stories to tell, when you get down to it. But it takes a bit of getting down to; they aren’t at the forefront of our minds most of the time. Defending ourselves against sexual violence is the ever-present background noise, the aether of womanly existence, the static drowning us out and preventing us from participating as full humans in public life.
* Come to think of it, they’re not exactly “divided”; many of those who don’t really believe rape culture exists are active participants, one way or another.