Thursday, August 7, 2014

You Can’t Slay Rape Culture: The Axe vs the Pool Noodle

[TRIGGER WARNING: RAPE, VICTIM BLAMING]

I can't believe I found a gif like this

Having yet another argument about the merits of teaching women not to get raped the other day, something occurred to me. I’ve explained how giving women rules to follow in order to avoid getting raped sets them up to be blamed for the crime committed upon them. I’ve explained how, even if a woman follows all the rules, a rapist will simply target another woman – it does nothing to reduce the amount of rapes. Yet again and again I see people clinging desperately to the idea that teaching women how not to get raped will help. That we should still be allowed to give “suggestions” and “advice,” and hey, why can’t we do both?

Well, sure. If you want to chop down a tree, you can both whack at it with an axe AND smack it with a pool noodle.

Why are people so determined to hang onto the thought that they can stop rape by teaching women tricks to avoid it and defend themselves, even when presented with the simple fact that it doesn’t work?

People like to do what’s easy. It’s easy to tell the women and girls in your life what to do. Don’t go out alone. Don’t get too drunk. Don’t wear this. Don’t say that. On and on. Meanwhile, trying to change the mindset of an entire culture is a massive undertaking. Shifting the entire subconscious of a whole people. A whole world. It’s hard.

More importantly, it’s abstract.

People want something tangible to face, something physical. We want to think of these cultural problems as something we can solve, essentially, with violence. We want to think of it as a person or a beast that we can fight, and once it’s vanquished, everything’s fine. Look at the fiction we put forth again and again, in books, movies, TV and video games. We want to be able to solve problems with a sword, a gun, our cunning, our fists. We want to think of rape as something we can solve by teaching women to cleverly avoid rapists or defend themselves with pepper spray or kickboxing classes. Tell a woman to say “no” when a man asks her to get into his car or go to his home or other isolated spot, and the rapist is vanquished! Give her a weapon and have her beat him down when he supposedly jumps out of the bushes to attack her, and rape is solved!

It’s a fantasy. It’s a desperate attempt to live out an unrealistic narrative that makes fixing the evils of the world simple and easy. Because the task of changing even the way oneself thinks and speaks and interacts with others on a day to day basis is too daunting. It requires self-reflection, and generally thinking about a lot of unpleasant stuff. And to change the way other people think? It’s not something that can be done instantly, or quickly, or over the course of a single lifetime. We can’t solve it ourselves.

It's hard. I get it.

But if we really want to make the world a better place for marginalized peoples, we have to give up the fantasy. There is no easy path. Put down the noodle and pick up the axe.

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