Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Defining Rape Culture...

We are approaching sexual assault awareness month and our postcards are flying out the door with the phrase "We live in a rape culture, but we don't have to." It's one thing to have three hours to facilitate a workshop about this idea with eager advocates, or to check out a myriad of books about it and have a conversation with folks who are familiar with the term. But it's another thing to have a working definition of what we mean by "rape culture" in a few minutes with people who might be unfamiliar with the term, many of whom may recieve a postcard, or see an ad on the side of a trimet bus in the coming month.

How do you define "rape culture"? Can you talk about it in 3 to 4 sentences, and avoid over using words like oppression and patriarchy? How do we both explain this idea and engage people in a dialogue about it, and use ideas or words that can convey the ideas in an easy way? Let's talk about it!


We'll be bringing this discussion to the April 1st brown bag at In Other Words to continue the thread...

3 comments:

Abigail said...

I really wish I could attend the In Other Words event, because this sounds like a good discussion.

The way I define "rape culture" is by explaining how it is normalized for women to be on guard. We hold our keys in our fingers just in case we are attacked in a parking lot, we check our backseats and under our cars before getting in, we don't walk at night without a companion and we get emails day in and day out about the newest way to protect ourselves from sneaky predators. The nexus of responsibility is placed on us to deal with the problem and most everyone can agree that the problem exists. Furthermore, with that responsibility to protect ourselves comes blame if we are unable. It's punishment from both ends. Implicit in this message that says we need to be on guard is the convoluted idea that most rapes are stranger rapes. A rape culture encourages us to ignore how our most intimate relationships are often the most violent and it pits women against each other in an effort to divide and ultimately conquer us.

Kelsey said...

I've been thinking a lot about this...

The easiest way for me to describe rape culture in a concise way is to say that rape culture is a culture (like our's) that often minimizes, accepts, normalizes or ignores sexualized violence. This can happen in a number of ways like sexualizing violence in the media (see movies like Hostel or more subversize media like music videos or commercials), cultural norms that excuse violence (victim blaming, "blue balls", etc) and institutional flaws that back up these norms (see low conviction rates for sex crimes).

I guess that's not THAT concise, but its about as close as I can get.

Linda said...

Oh this is such a hard one. I've been rolling it around in my brain, trying to get to the heart of what rape culture is without sounding like an angry academic. it's hard.

i really like what both Kelsey and Abigail have to say. I hope that more of us will weigh in too. Here's my personal take on it:

For me, rape culture is defined by all pf the places in our lives where it is unconsciously assumed that women and girls will inevitably be victims of rape and sexual violence. Rape culture is teaching 15 year old girls the "5 ways to avoid being raped" instead of the "5 signs of a healthy relationship". Rape culture is blaming the 20 year old college student for her assault because she was drunk. Rape culture is the elderly woman who only feels strong enough to talk about her assaults 50 years after the fact. Rape culture is Elliot Spitzer. Rape culture is Associated Press stories of rape as a weapon of third world war buried on page A11 of the New York Times.

Rape culture makes me cry if I think about it too hard...