When LP sent me the link to the Time Opinion piece opining the grave travesty that is “Rape Culture Theory,” I got so pissed that I had to get away from it halfway through. Are you kidding me? I started the process of planning how all of the NSVRC bloggers could take it bit by bit and pick it to pieces. It was a two week process. Thank goodness CCASA cut to the chase and issued their short and sweet “12 Ways Time Got It Wrong.”
They got all of that good information into one place, so I just get to discuss the ways this piece reeks of internalized sexism.
- A woman wrote it. Of course she did, because that’s the way oppressive systems work. They establish a set of mores and norms that force misconceptions on every member of the system. Most notably, the oppressed. I love the way Freire discusses the pedagogy of the oppressed. According to my friend Paolo, members of the oppressed group can talk the game of the oppressor better than the oppressor can. They know it, they live it, and they reinforce it as a condition of the oppression.
- ‘Hysteria’ is in the title. I mean really, how cliché can you get? Hysteria, commonly referring to overreacting to a simple situation in an extremely emotional way, is historically understood as a “woman’s affliction.” It literally means “of the womb.” To use the term hysteria to describe the proponents of rape cultures calls upon a long history of belittling women and their responses to any situation by writing it off as a symptom of the weaker sex.
- It denies the influence of culture. If culture has no influence on behavior, then why did we spend 40 years campaigning on the dangers of smoking? Are you honestly telling me that environmental conditions will have absolutely no influence on the way that people act? That if 95% of what we see, hear, read, watch, or consume portrays women as objects, that’s not going to have any impact on the way we treat women and girls? Come. ON. To make it about the individual alone is tunnel vision.
- It suggests that rape culture blames men for rape. The entire notion of cultural influence is that it includes everyone in the system and holds each member accountable. Making men the supposed bad guys of rape culture taps into the misconception that feminists or anti-violence activists hate men. It’s simply inaccurate and it’s a dated supposition.
- It makes fun of feminists. You don’t start your article on hysteria by cherry picking statements from feminist bloggers and putting quotation marks around everything a community of activists says about a situation. That’s not journalism, that’s bullying.
In reality, we need a comprehensive, multilevel approach to sexual violence prevention. David Lee of CALCASA laid out a beautiful and comprehensive response to the first suggestion that rape culture was crock. We clearly have a lot of work to do, but the good news is that allies and opponents alike are paying attention.