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.
Categories: gender & feminism, violence
Yesterday walking to work I passed a weedy looking male university/TAFE student wearing a t-shirt with BITCH written in big letters above an image of a faux-traffic sign with the ‘universal symbol of man’ (like the one you see on toilet doors) shooting a ‘universal symbol of woman’ in the head. Not yelling at the ‘bitch’, not mocking the ‘bitch’ – shooting her in the head!
I was just so shocked and affronted! It was such a statement to me about how comfortable he and the t-shirt makers and everyone passing him on the street are with outright misogyny. If I hadn’t had my toddler in tow I would have turned around and found him and confronted him. I hope we don’t live in a country where it is SO ok for him to wear that t-shirt that no-one confronts him the entire day wearing it.
I have too many depressing stories of near-misses with sexual violence of my own to share but I will just support the statement in this post that preparing for sexual violence is so common place as to be a way of life for women in our society. Disgusting.
Feministing had a piece a few days ago, where teenage boys yelled at 10 year olds on a school run “keep going or I’ll rape you”.
It is so true that most women have a constant awareness of how best not to put themselves in dangerous situations. Just last night I lost sleep because I am anxious about the fact that I have to walk through campus and an unlit neighborhood to get to my car tonight after dark, since I have a late class. I laid in bed thinking of all that could go wrong or what dangers could be out there. Its so foreign to me that men don’t have internal dialogues like that.
Interestingly, I have heard that male-to-female trans-gendered individuals are often the target of attacks and violence, and I’m betting that this may be due in part to the fact that they are less careful about putting themselves in “unsafe” situations that other women have always known to be wary of.
Here’s a fabulous post on a parallel issue, that of moving through America with dark skin.”Do you understand where you are?” In this post, some northerners ignore their southern relative’s warnings to not go to “Klan country” while visiting their town because they assume that things have really changed, as that the south can’t really be that different (similiar to you MTF transexuals, Becky?).
The post was inspired by the Jena 6 case, and points out that when the oppressed fight back they find that the seemingly nice members of the oppressor class still know all too well how to keep them in fear and subjugation. He’s all too right: a noose display for uppity blacks, a rape threat for uppity women.