January 9, 2013

Enough with the Rape Talk

I believe a person becomes an adult when they realize their mortality. There is something so beautiful about a child who has no idea what death is, or where people go when they are no longer with us. The child that sees Elite Super Hero as a reasonable and viable career option always makes me smile with a twinge of sadness. 

Similarly, becoming a woman is recognizing the surreal vulnerability that will never leave you. Whether it was the first time you crossed your jacket around your waist to cover up an "accident" until you got home, or the first time a boy called you a Bitch, the truth about your existence as a woman in a male dominated world starts to sink in. 

We are supposed to be the pure, compassionate, healers. We are the mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, and nieces that must uphold humanity. However, when does humanity hold us? When do we get to relax and breathe easy as we walk to work, school, etc.? When do we not have to bear the blame for society's ills? Yes, I am talking about you Ann Coulter! Single-mother? You must have been a whore. Divorced? You must have drove your husband away with prudish bedroom behavior. Raped? You must have led the guy on, wore a short skirt, and had too much to drink. My world screams "Woman do better!" Meanwhile, my heart sighs because I am doing the best I can. 

In 2010 I moved to New York from Athens, GA. Aside from the sticker shock and countless cultural adjustments, I suddenly had the attention of every bum with an opinion. Last night, I watched a clip form The Colbert Report where he made clear that "It's not racist, if it is a compliment." Of course I laughed as he continued to run off complementary generalizations about the races, but there is nothing funny about it. The "Hey Sexy!" shouts I receive that extend even into the winter, are not welcome. They are an assertion of male dominance, and make me feel terribly uncomfortable because I do not know what may happen next

Me in the summer, chillin.
In New York City, where everyone is so "busy," it is not realistic for me to always walk in a girl pack checking fools who have something to say. Some "classy" responses include: "I haven't shaved my armpits in a week how sexy is that?" Or "You dusty a%s bum, go try a d@#k." Trust me; my wardrobe is more funky, with a heavy lean on classic staples, than naked. I try not to show more skin than I can bear in the summer, and will wear headphones without the music playing, but it does not matter. 

While I could go on for three pages about street harassment, I will move on to say that I feel vulnerable on a regular basis. It is rare that I do not see the escalation of one man's entitlement manifest as a violation of my body play out while walking. Someone could read this and say that it sounds irrational, and to them I would say do you pay attention to your world?  

I have been shocked at my reality over the past year. Talking to an older Jewish woman in a cafe on Christmas, it became clear that "Women's rights" are not ancient history. Hardly a lifetime ago, women could be denied housing if they were single and with child- widow or not, didn't matter. Fast forward to the 2012 election year, where women's reproductive rights were put on the table. Why? 

Every time some salacious comment came out from the Right, I wondered what had we done to deserve this conversation? Is it so threatening that I could choose to never have children that you would have to compete with me in the workplace? Meanwhile, if I had a child and did not get an abortion, as a single mother, who would help? Oh right the church, because they have always loved single mothers and women in pants

Then, as if to really shut us up, we had to endure "scientists" and "doctors" who claimed to know how women's bodies "shut the whole thing down." Todd Akin became the poster boy for "man logic" as it pertains to rape. He seemed to embody every frat boy, football player, and too cool dude that felt like women "ask for it" by exhibiting certain behaviors. 

Weighing heavy on my mind and my heart, and the prompt for this article, have been the rape cases of the young women in Steubenville and India. To this day, I cannot bring myself to read a full article and description of what occurred in New Delhi. In the pieces and clips I have heard "gang rape" and "rusty iron rod," which is more than enough. What did she do? What could anyone do to warrant this kind of behavior? The answer is nothing. This woman is DEAD. This woman had a heart and family and dreams. I don't know her. I don't need to know her. I am a woman. 

As a woman I don't want to read these things. I do not want to accept them as part of my reality. I want to cover up, not stay out too late, get my male friend to escort me home, and ignore the rape talk. I want to nurse my drink all night and pretend to take shots, because there is no guarantee that other women or men will intervene if a man drags my drunk, half-conscious body to a bathroom. If I just act right, these things will not happen to me. If I just click my heels three times... 

This is not Oz. This is not some good ol' American town where "things like that don't happen." That is exactly where they happen. New York is where these things happen. India, Iraq, the Congo, anywhere women walk with a quickened pace at night clutching a knife in their pocket, these things happen. When it is particularly late at night, I put my keys between my knuckles and walk with that hand out, quick and steady. 

I don't want to hear the rape talk anymore. I want to know about change. I want to know which old laws are being overturned. I want to know the rapists that are being prosecuted sooner than never. I want to know if I speak up no one will call me a liar, or tell me what I "should have done," because right now I do it all. I do it all and I still don't feel safe. 

Let's Have the Conversation
What do you think about the "she was asking for it" mentality?
How do you determine if your dress/skirt/shorts are "too short?"
Men: Have you ever intervened on what you perceived to be sexual assault? 
Add your thoughts below!

3 comments:

  1. Excellent and thought-provoking read. Unfortunately, I'm afraid I don't have the answer to this piece. As with the cases in India and Steubenville, there's been much public dialogue surrounding gun control laws due to the aftermath of Aurora and Newtown. The only answer is changing behavior on an individual level, and until man himself changes, mankind is not safe.

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