Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Rape.

The following is not written in 'classic' blog format or what you may be used to reading written by me. The piece isn't even from my Women's and Gender Studies classes. Rather, it's from a newswriting course I'm taking and of course, because I take my feminism everywhere, when given an assignment to write a 'special' report about an issue affecting us at large, I chose RAPE. Newswriting is different from a theoretical/analysis requiring essay. I'm sharing this because it's simple to read and understand unlike the other work I do which is indulged in bulky language and theory. You may or may not understand everything I've mentioned in this piece. It might be overly simplified and very broad. It's a good start for me. 

Boy meets girl. Girl plays hard to get. Girl is raped by a gang of street thugs. Boy saves girl and becomes a hero. Typical Bollywood plot? Maybe. But the reality of rape in India is far from classic Bollywood. In fact, the hero is nonexistent. Victims of rape are left to deal with the shame and suffering on their own. As the fastest growing violent crime in the world, rape continues to focus on the victim. This is a problem. However, current feminist activism is allowing women in India and beyond to realize their worth. They are not alone. Sexual violence will not conquer any woman.

In any given rape case, the victim is closely interrogated. The conversation revolves around blaming the victim about where she should have been or what she shouldn’t have worn. The assaulted is held responsible for asking for it. Blaming women for their sexuality is not a validation for raping. Dressing provocatively is not an invitation to rape. Rape is not about attraction or fulfilling a sexual fantasy. Rapists seek vulnerability. Victims can range from a three-and-a-half-week-old baby to a 94-year-old woman. Thus, rape involves male privilege of power, rage, and sexuality over women. It is about the entitlement to control and objectify the female body. Is this how a rapist rationalizes rape? No. In fact, the language surrounding rape does not question the rapist’s motives. Statistics show that 97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail. While the rapist may or may not receive punishment, it is the woman who deals with the consequences. Victims worldwide simultaneously face emotional, physical, and social trauma. In more “traditional” cultures, women are ostracized by their families and communities. This abandonment often results in forced prostitution or suicide. Instead of empowering the victim to realize it was not her fault, chastity, a constructed virtue associated with a woman’s body, becomes the central focus. 

Losing one’s virtue is attached to what feminists theorize as a rape culture—everyday language, laws, and images that perpetuate rape. Rape cultures condone sexual assault by promoting violence against women as a natural phenomenon. Women are devalued and assumed to have no authority over their bodies. A rape culture makes it acceptable for men to rape. Since birth, it confines women to live their lives in fear of sexual violence. Social movements such as SlutWalks challenge rape culture and the belief that sexual violence is brought on by the woman because of her clothing or sexuality.

If the objectification of women is not challenged, rape cultures will continue to exist. Allowing women to live independently of sexual terror cannot be an afterthought. The dialogue of rape needs to begin with the rapist—not the victim.