“Me and a gun
and a man
On my back
But I haven’t seen Barbados
So I must get out of this
Yes I wore a slinky red thing
Does that mean I should spread
For you, your friends your father, Mr. Ed”
-Tori Amos, Me and A Gun
My daughter had this funny thing she did when she was a baby. She would do something she knew was “wrong” (throwing her sippy cup to the ground, throwing a toy) and when we would respond with a firm “No, no,” she would cover her eyes. She thought, in her adorable baby brain, that if she covered her eyes and couldn’t see the spilled milk on the floor, then it didn’t exist. My husband and I would laugh every time she did this. We marveled at the simple naiveté of a small child. We thought it was precious.
But you know what’s not precious? When adults do it. When we do it. When society does it. When we do it about something more serious than spilling milk, it’s not cute at all.
I would like you to complete a short, simple mental exercise. Imagine 5 young women or young girls that you know. Picture each of them. Now, with that mental picture in your head, consider that one of those girls will be the victim of rape. Horrifying, right?
It’s horrifying and shameful and appalling…
It’s also reality.
This is a reality in our country. I know that this is not something any of us want to consider. Who wants to look at our young girls and imagine those kind of odds, that kind of future for them? But not thinking about it doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Sticking our head in the sand doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Ignorance may be bliss, but it’s also dangerous.
Is this the way we are choosing to operate in our country? Apparently so.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 5 women will be raped at some time in their lives. An estimated 80% of those rapes occur before the age of 25.
And we call ourselves a civilized society?
We are lying to ourselves. We’re covering our ears and our eyes and pretending like we don’t see what’s happening all around us.
The world in which we live is oozing rape culture like a festering wound.
Rape Culture is an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture. Rape culture is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence, thereby creating a society that disregards women’s rights and safety.
-Marshall University Women’s Center
There’s no disputing the misogyny present in our music, our television, our movies, our advertisements.
It’s the accepted degradation of half of our population. Sexualizing women, sexualizing girls. Even taking images of young girls in literature/movies and creating “sexy” halloween costumes. So, now we have women dressing up as “sexy children”???
Violence marketed towards boys/men. The vernacular that plays out on talk radio and from politicians. The demeaning of feminism (“feminazi”- ’nuff said.) Women portrayed as hypersexualized while men stand by and look on in their fancy suits…
I have no problem with women expressing their sexuality. I think we all should embrace that part of ourselves. We should own it, nurture it, love it. We shouldn’t be ashamed of it. But I can’t help but notice the obvious disparities in our media. It is this incongruence that is troubling. And it’s just one small piece of a much larger rancid pie.
We have radio talk show hosts calling women sluts for wanting birth control pills. (Because, you know, women have sex in a vacuum. Men are not even in the equation.) We have politicians talking about ‘legitimate rape” and “forcible rape.” We have girls being raped while drunk at a party in front of a group of boys, boys recording the assault and posting it to social media to further the pain and humiliation of the victim. We have news outlets that do this:
We have “slut shaming.”
This week a wealthy DuPont heir was sentenced to probation for raping his 3 year old daughter. The judge said he “wouldn’t fare well in prison”. Last year a 56 year old teacher was sentenced to 30 days for raping a 14 year old girl. The judge said that she was “older than her chronological age” and that she was “as much in control”. The girl committed suicide before the case even went to court. In 2013 an Alabama man was found guilty of rape and sentenced to counseling and probation. For raping his teen neighbor on three separate occasions. These are just a few examples. A quick Google search for short rape sentences turns up a stomach turning number of articles chronicling similar sentencing.
Rape culture exists is alive and well in our courts.
Obviously it’s not just video games and popular music and movies and tv shows that contribute to the rape culture that is permeating our society. We are absorbing this from every place.
We see it every time a politician makes dismissive comments regarding violence against women.
We see it every time there’s another slap on the wrist for rape.
We see it when every time a rape victim’s sobriety, purity and behavior is all called into question.
We see it every time a woman is shamed for being sexual, for embracing her sexuality.
We see it every time a girl is told to cover up at school becuase her legs/shoulders/cleavage are too distracting.
We see it every time a young boy lashes out at his female classmate and we utter the phrase, “boys will be boys.”
We see it every time bros are whining over being “friend-zoned.”
We see it every time a girl’s rape is passed around on social media for entertainment and ridicule.
These things matter.
These things seep into our subconscious. The reinforce an ancient narrative. One of control, of power, of objectification.
Rape culture. It’s not just feminist speak. It’s not just political correctness run amok. Look around you. It’s every where.
We need to recognize it. Get used to calling it out. Get used to talking about it.
We need to stop looking past it, pretending not to notice. We need to take our hands off of our eyes and stare it straight in the face. We need to understand that to ignore it is to ignore a sickness that affects us all. That to ignore it is to ignore the ripped psyche of every girl or woman who is assaulted, raped or shamed. The longer we deny this exists, the more it will persist.
Ignoring it will only bring us more. More “Not Guilty” verdicts. More short sentences for rape. More victim shaming.
America, this is your rape culture.