Rape Culture: What You Can Do To Fight Back

Image by Chase Carter
Image by Chase Carter

By Tasha Sanders

NEWSFLASH: Rape isn’t funny. It’s not something to be taken lightly. Yet our society perpetuates rape culture all the time. It’s often talked about in such a way that it is trivialized and therefore normalized, so we don’t even bat an eye when popular songs, like Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”, have lyrics like: “I know you want it… You’re a good girl.” Don’t even get me started on the objectifying video where the women are literally naked and are being ogled by fully clothed men. Yet this song was a massive hit and Digital Spy’s Lewis Corner was quoted as saying,

“It’s a subject that when in the right hands can be smooth and soulful, but in the wrong, crass and chauvinistic … you need the right balance of charm and swagger to pull it off.” Because if you are going to dehumanize women, you better at least dress nicely and look good doing it!

It’s not just in our music– rape culture is saturated in our television and movies as well. 2 Broke Girls is a classic example to fall back on, as you can find a rape joke in almost every episode. It’s even more surprising because the show is written by a female and has two female leads, which is something we should be celebrating.  Yet how can we do that with the content it contains? Some of the gems from the sitcom:

“Somebody date raped me and I didn’t think I’d live through it, but I did and now I’m stronger… and still needy.”

“This director slips you anything that looks like a sweet tart, it’s probably that date rape drug that knocks you out and distorts your memory. Or at least that’s what it does to the guys I give it to.”

Do they think this is edgy and hip? Because to me, it comes off as cheap and detrimental. The Twilight books are heavyhanded with it.

“’…There is so much I can give you that he can’t. I’ll bet he couldn’t even kiss you like that—-because he would hurt you. I would never, never hurt you, Bella.’ I held up my injured hand. He sighed. ‘That wasn’t my fault. You should have known better.’”

Still more:

“’Why did she hit you?’ ‘Because I kissed her,’ Jacob said, unashamed. ‘Good for you, kid,’ Charlie congratulated him.”

When we are dismissive or casual about these things, we are contributing to a much bigger problem. It sends the (false) message that men are sexually aggressive and “can’t help themselves.” It sends the message that if you are scantily clad, then you were “asking for it,” which is another false notion that needs to be put to rest. Women are raped whether they are wearing a mini skirt and a tube top or if they are wearing a hijab. It has nothing to do with your clothing choices (For that matter, not all people who are raped are women. 3% of men are raped, according to RAINN). Despite this, the questions that frequently come to mind to some people when they read or hear about someone who was raped is, “What was she wearing? Was she drinking?”

Rape culture is a problem because one out of every six women is the victim of rape. It is a problem because on college campuses, fewer than 5% of completed rapes are reported to law enforcement. It is a problem because when they are reported, the perpetrator is often allowed to return to school. It is a problem because when a female teacher abuses a male student, the incident brings out weird teacher fantasy comments like, “Lucky kid!” or “He is living the dream.” It is a problem because we tend to focus so much of our attention on victim blaming that we forget about the people doing the raping. Instead of telling girls what not to wear and how to approach a party/empty street/everywhere, we should be informing people about the importance of consent and controlling your damn self. Rape culture oppresses us all, ladies and gentlemen.

To combat rape culture, we have to call it out when we see it. When you see a TV program pulling a rape joke, take to social media. Visit their Facebook page and complain. Tweet about it. Write the broadcasting company. When the (now nixed) TV show Mixology decided to pull this stunt, I wrote angry letters to ABC expressing my distaste for the program and its sexist language. When enough voices join together, we can be heard.  You might also consider V-Day, a program which seeks to end violence against women and girls worldwide. It was founded by Eve Ensler, the creator of the Vagina Monologues as a means to empower women and raise money and awareness about female victims of sexual abuse. You can get involved via your college campus or your community, but what is so amazing about V-Day is if it isn’t already set up in your area, they will give you the tools you need to get started and feel empowered.

Join the #SurvivorPrivilege revolution, which was started by Wagatwe Wanjuki in response to several media sources and even advice columnists who claim that sexual assault on campuses are not only “not a big deal” and partially the victim’s fault, but also that the reason victims come forward is because of a “coveted status of privileges.” Wanjuki tweets: “Where’s my survivor privilege? Was expelled & have $10,000s of private student loans used to attend school that didn’t care I was raped.” @alymaybe tweets: “#SurvivorPrivilege was that cool feeling I got after getting my cap & gown for college commencement, when my rapist was standing next to me.” If we each take steps to end rape culture and therefore inspire other men and women to be brave and speak out when they see rape culture being perpetuated, then I think we have a good chance at overcoming the problem.

Tasha Sanders is a feminist and a follower of the body positivity movement after overcoming anorexia. She is also a book enthusiast, aspiring one day to also write one. You can read her blog, Feminine Feministe, here.
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2 thoughts on “Rape Culture: What You Can Do To Fight Back

  1. Hi there, and thanks for your interest! Adios Barbie’s always looking for great writers with a strong voice and a powerful idea to submit their work to us. If you want to learn more, click on the “Write For Adios” tab at the top of the page.

  2. I always hated Blurred Lines, partially because the tune was not particularly catchy, but mostly because of the lyrics. The number of songs I’ve wrinkled my nose at because they promote having sex with a woman because they (the male singer) wants it and the woman is pretty, and imply that the woman has not given consent but she must want it, or else she is too pretty to accept a “no” from. A lot of people give me weird looks and say “Jesus Christ, it’s just a song”, but I think that the fact that children especially are exposed to material that promotes such a sentiment as being “right” and “cool” is damaging and could lead to a rise in the number of rapes.

    Something else which has caught my attention is a song that gets played on Radio 2 a lot where the singer wants to marry a woman but she keeps saying “no”. The chorus contains the lines

    “Why you gotta be so rude?
    I’m gonna marry you anyway…
    I’m gonna marry you anyway…
    Doesn’t matter what you say”

    I think that last line says it all, really. If the woman says “no”, she is not being “rude”, she is making a choice about HER future, and he has no right to guilt trip her and/or force her hand. I know that this is one song and is slightly different but it promotes the same sentiment – the idea that a woman’s thoughts/consent is a minor technicality, or even just a pain in the neck, and is therefore irrelevant.

    Could I write for Adios Barbie? I’m very good at ranting about stuff like this!

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