Saturday, 13 April 2013

[Content note: discussion of rape and sexual assault]

I was actually going to force myself this weekend not to read articles online. Too late. This post comes from a place of rage, so if you’d prefer to read something more suited to the nature of weekends, read Vic’s excellent guest post instead. And sorry Vic, for publishing this so soon after your post, but the rage has taken over.

I read this article today about yet another teenage girl who has killed herself after photos from her sexual assault were shared online by her so-called ‘friends’. It’s similar to this story, and of course, Steubenville. It’s similar to probably tons of stories like this that occur every day but are not reported on the news. I mentioned on twitter that it’s hard to read story after story of this happening to young girls and women and not think that our societies just really hate women. And we do: we fundamentally hate women. A teenage girl is raped, and she is the one who is bullied. How is this anything other than misogyny? And this is not a culturally specific hatred, it occurs everywhere. I found it telling how certain people from Australia, UK and the US who commented on the various articles on the Indian gang rape victim who was so brutally raped and killed sought to make it a cultural or Indian problem. Sure, misogyny and rape are subject to particular cultural practices and beliefs, but they do not belong to one culture alone. All we have to do is look in our own backyards to know that’s true.

I just can’t even begin to express the sense of rage I feel when I read these stories. And it feels like indulgent rage sometimes because I’m not one of these women who have been raped, and I’m not a member of their families dealing with the aftermath of their death. But this rage nevertheless exists. It’s a rage that comes from a feeling of complete uselessness and hopelessness, and it’s also a rage to do with the fact that I recognise how little I’m worth as a woman in the world as it is. You know what reading these stories says to every woman and girl? It says this:

You are a piece of shit. You are not a person, you are a thing. You are worthless.

I read these articles, and I wonder: why do we even exist, to be treated like this? Because articles like this one show women what the world really thinks of them. And then you have some smart-arse dude wanting to argue with you that rape culture doesn’t exist and that misogyny is a myth. Or read a comment saying that the girl shouldn’t have been drunk if she didn’t want to get raped. Newsflash genius: THAT’S NOT THE FUCKING POINT. You do not get to demean, brutalise, penetrate, or treat another human being as anything other than a human being just because they are unconscious. Funny how my first thought when I see a guy passed-out at a party is not: ‘gee, let me sexually assault him with my mates, because that’s just so fun!’ I don’t know how in the year 2013 we’re still teaching boys that aggressive dehumanisation is an acceptable and endorsed definition of masculinity and girls that they are essentially a piece of shit. And I feel so useless writing this, because I know that tomorrow, or next week, or next month, I’ll read another article that sounds exactly the same. My rage is meaningless.


Gabriela said...

I don't think that your writing about this is meaningless. This is the internet, after all. This point of view needs to be shared and enforced.

thatinblackink said...

I swing between deep, disempowered sadness and absolute rage, so it's comforting to see someone else feels the same anger. It often feels too big to take on but I think the more people talking about it the better.

My flatmate's 13 year old brother infected his parents' laptop after watching porn. They had a (really healthy I think) discussion about how what he was feeling was normal but porn wasn't an accurate depiction of what sex was like. His mum insisted that he wasn't allowed to watch porn involving rape. His response? 'What's rape got to do with sex?' He is so used to using the word rape as a metonymn for ownership and domination ('I totally raped that video game' etc) that as a young teenager he isn't aware of the real meaning of rape.

What is wrong with society when a 13 year old boy is watching people have sex, but he doesn't even know the linguistic difference between consensual and non-consensual sex?

Danielle P. said...

Thousands of years of so-called "evolution" and this is how human beings behave towards each other. There are more and more frequent moments when I sincerely don't know if there's any hope left...

But it's still crucial that we speak out about mysogynistic crap when we encounter it. Thank you for your rage, Hila.

Maria said...

Writing is never meaningless. I like reading your thoughts, plus I didn't know about any of these stories (except Steubenville). I'm grateful that I haven't had to go through this kind of traumatic experience thus far in my life, but I feel for these girls because it so easily could be me.

I don't have a solution, I just try to have a positive outlook. I think the first step is to stop treating boys and men like they are just 'animals' who 'can't help their urges' because that is the biggest bull ever.

I really like reading your writing because you talk about things that matter and your words challenge me to think.

Kelly said...

Oh. Yes. Thank you for writing this, for voicing your rage. I felt similarly last month, after reading an article in Rolling Stone, about women being raped within the U.S. military, and how they're treated by the military courts & culture. One of the women, a brilliant, high-ranking officer with her career & life before her, is now homeless.

Andi of My Beautiful Adventures said...

Ugh this is sooo heartbreaking! :(

Mia Wallace said...

The posts you write when you are angry are the ones that mean the most to me; I feel as if you're speaking for me. It's so hard to articulate your feelings when you're angry, or enraged, but you manage to do that. Please keep doing it. Some things have to be expressed in rage, particularly things like this; they are worth being angry about, and people need to see that.

These things have begun to make me feel a bit numb, because of the helplessness. I seem to view things through this weird lens of melancholia, and focus on the sad stuff. I think your expressed rage is much healthier, and I'm going to try to express mine, again.

Thank you for tackling the hard stuff, Hila.

Rachel Bayles Lacey said...

Thank you for voicing how I feel.

Rambling Tart said...

Your rage is not meaningless, Hila, not to me. I wasn't allowed to rage, and reading yours is healing beyond measure. I think of the family members who contacted me after I was finally able to write about the sexual assaults that happened to me. They didn't comfort, didn't support, they instructed me NOT to spread such stories about the man who had done it. They protected HIM, not me. Only now am I finally able to get angry about such things, and it is YOUR rage that helps me. Please keep writing, keep getting angry about the things that SHOULD be gotten angry about. So many of us need your anger to give us strength. XO

querido diário said...

i was saved twice from situations like this and i live struggling no to cave in to fear.
But the rage part is always here.
When people talk about how much the humanity evolved i laugh in doubt - don't see that much evolution going on when i think how women are treated...
i live in Europe,but my country has one of the meanest rates is domestic violence leeding to death: almost everyday a woman is shot.burned to death or stabbed (usually in front of the couples children) because she refuses to continue to get beaten up or ask for the divorce.
Only two years ago they made domestic violence a public crime,before it was considered something 'private'.
And Portugal is supposed to be 'first world' for what ever that means.
Our rage is useful,keep us aware and away from alienation.
Thank you for this post.

Hila said...

Gabriela: It would be nice if I could do something more productive sometimes though.

thatinblackink: "What is wrong with society when a 13 year old boy is watching people have sex, but he doesn't even know the linguistic difference between consensual and non-consensual sex?" Exactly. I move from deep sadness to deep anger too, and both positions feel powerless.

Danielle: Speaking out about it is the least I can do, but unfortunately, that's often interpreted as more 'offensive' than rape itself. Mustn't talk about it!

Maria: It could just as easily be me too. I agree with you that the idea that boys and men can't control themselves, and are the slaves of their sexual instincts, is bullshit. It's an ideology, not the truth. I mean, in the middle ages, the exact opposite was believed: that women couldn't control their sexual instincts and men were more naturally pious. Everything we believe and are taught about being a man and being a woman is cultural and ideological, not 'natural'. That's the first step to unlearning harmful ideas.

Kelly: I read about this too. I read a story about another woman who was both raped and viciously beaten by a fellow soldier, leaving her unable to eat solids for the rest of her life. When she sought compensation from the army, they wouldn't give it to her. I don't think anything happened to the soldier who did that to her either. It's a shitty world.

Andi: agreed.

Mia: I'm glad this helps. And yes, the hard stuff is there to be tackled, not ignored.

Rachel: Thank you for reading.

Krista: How dare they, really, how DARE they? I can't imagine what that feels like. I can't imagine my family ever doing that to me either. I've always had the comfort and knowledge of their support, their belief in me, even when we disagree. I'm sorry you had to go through that.

querido diário: There were a few 'almost' situations for me too. One was with a man I knew, another was with a stranger, a taxi driver. It makes you feel like a piece of shit to know this is what others think of you, this is what they are capable of doing to another human being. But I know my experiences are minor compared to what other women have gone through. I agree with you, talking about these things, taking away that veil of 'privacy' (which is just a euphemism for silencing), makes us less alienated.

Debie Grace said...

You have a point there, Hila. It's not totally useless. These articles are very depressing. :/

Hila said...

I know :(