It’s the Little Things
In this third in the series, Emily shares how it’s the little things that collectively contribute to the commonality of rape and invites you to look for them.
In the first of this series, I shared my dream to end rape culture within a generation, and in the second in this series, I defined what I mean by rape culture. Because, whether you believe the statistic the WHO uses, or the one that RAINN uses, or the one that Rape Crisis uses, even one in six women being raped in their lifetime is one in six too many. Rape is pervasive, it has happened to at least one person you know, and yet it is a choice and could be ended tomorrow.
In this third in the series, I look at the little things, the things that are generally swept under the rug, the things that often come under the heading of ‘boys will be boys’, that collectively contribute to the commonality of rape.
Because, whilst you may not think that telling your little girl that the little boy only ran after her in the playground because he likes her is contributing to rape culture, it is. It is normalising a girl thinking that for a boy to like her, he must be violent or threatening towards her. It is normalising a boy thinking that if a girl runs away, it might mean she likes him too.
I’m reminded of a conversation I had with a business colleague, her comments that she thought, growing up in the 80s and the 90s, that having a boy squeeze her bottom, being jostled as cover for being fingered at a rock concert, being rubbed up against by the man wanking on the night bus, having to just ‘lie there’ and ‘take it’ because no-one says no to him, and she’d gone to his room – her comments that she thought that all this was just a side-effect of being a girl. But that, now, if anyone were to do any of those things to her young daughter as she grows up, she’d want to kill them. Because now she’s an adult she knows those things aren’t supposed to be a side effect of being a girl. It’s a sign that we live in a rape culture when we grow up thinking male entitlement over our bodies is normal.
You know that thing where you decide you want to buy a jacket, and it’s got to be a particular shade but you’re frustrated because you can’t find that shade, and you go searching for the jacket, in that shade, you’re full of smugness and achievement when you find it, and you buy it… – and then you suddenly see versions of that jacket in that shade everywhere, on everyone? Rape culture is like that. For a while, it hides, it looks like everything else. But once you start seeing it, you see it everywhere.
Put simply, it’s all the little things that demonstrate that a woman or a girl is worth-less than a man or a boy. Because when it’s normalised to treat women and girls as less-than, then it’s only a short hop, skip, or jump to shrug off those instances when you do treat women and girls as less-than, and the line between respect and objectification, between consent and entitlement, becomes ‘blurred’ (and apparently ‘excusable’ as a result).
Yes, to end rape culture is also to end patriarchy. And I know that over a century of feminism since the suffragettes have yet to achieve this, yet I still maintain we can do it within a generation.
I invite you, in the next two weeks (there will be a short break for the ‘holidays’) notice how many times you observe instances of the following, in your real world, on your television set, on your social media feed….
- In how many adverts is the role of home-maker female?
- In how many adverts does the camera spend time sexualising the female body?
- How many plot points of films or TV are about the woman saying no, and the man ‘valiantly’ being persistent until she changes her mind? How many are even more obviously about stalking and kidnap but sugarcoating it as romance? (see, Passengers) A story is never just a story.
- How many girls’ slogan t-shirts are empowering vs those for boys?
- In the toys section, is there a boys’ toys and a girls’ toys section separately? What are the differences between the toys on offer in each section?
- Do the girls’ toys empower them to be anything they can be, or conform to gender stereotypes?
- How many songwriters, singers, actors, directors are entertaining you over the period, who have also been accused, or convicted, of sexual violence offences? How many sports stars?
- How many films, TV shows, or novels have ‘banter’ which diminishes women, without any mention of it doing so?
- How often does the ‘news’ focus on what a woman is wearing, and not what she’s saying?
- How often does the ‘news’ explain a man’s actions in being violent and/or killing his (ex)partner as because of something that ‘caused him to’, like tinnitus? (like this one)
- How many times do you see people defending someone accused of a sexually violent crime, and blaming the accuser?
- How much of the advice for not being hurt over the holidays focuses on what the victim should, or shouldn’t, be doing to avoid it?
- How much office ‘banter’ about the Christmas party fun focuses on female colleagues’ bodies, and whether men ‘scored’
- How often do you see people/characters in shows tell a boy or man to ‘man up’?
- How often do you see signs of emotion in boys or men ridiculed as ‘being like a girl’?
- And how many more examples of how pervasive rape culture is, do you suddenly see too?
I think you’ll be surprised. And outraged. But hold onto your outrage quietly, as unbridled anger has never been a very helpful emotion. Next time we’ll start to look at ways we can be empowered to challenge rape culture when we see it, and by challenging it, change it.
I wish you all a peaceful Christmas (or other seasonal celebration) filled with kindness and laughter. Until next time.