I’ve been spending some time watching an interesting video about men and rape culture. Moderated by Eve Ensler, with panelists Peter Buffett, Jimmie Briggs, Joe Ehrmann, Tony Porter, Dave Zirin. I’ve seen a few of Tony Porter’s talks, there’s TED talks I’ve seen with him talking about the man box and how to tear that down. Here’s the video, make some time to watch it as it’s two hours long.
There was a comment that Tony made that struck home in something that I’ve heard before in another aspect of culture, and that being in the media. Tony mentions that men are not taught to be interested in women’s interests. If you see a man or two men in a college environment that happen to be enrolled in a women’s studies class, there’s an assumption that either those men are trolling for a date (especially if there are two or three men in a class of thirty women), or that they happen to be gay. There’s an automatic need for men to question that aspect.
And we see this in another area; comic books. We have this very ingrained and stereotypical view of women who enjoy and read comics. Women are questioned and grilled and forced to justify why they read comic books. A woman walks into a comic book shop (for this shop, it may be her first time even though she’s an avid reader). The men in that shop will automatically justify the reason why she’s there. Say there’s ten men in the shop, chances are that only one will think “she’s here to pick up some comics or reserve a pull box for comics for the week”. The rest will think she has either A) come in to meet her boyfriend B) come in to see if there’s some crappy indie comic C) has come into the wrong shop D) needs to get out of the rain/snow/wind and the shop was the closest. There’s probably other automatic instances that come to mind, but for me those things are things I’ve actually thought of in the past.
Take that stereotype of women in comics and how readers and creators who happen to be women, and now exam the reactions to seeing men taking an interest in women’s interests. It’s pretty clear that those men who question the validity of a man in a women’s studies course are exactly the same men who question the validity of a woman who reads comics.
This idea is present in every aspect of culture. Rape Culture is merely a sub culture throughout everything. And it starts with idiotic preconceptions about women, and idiotic preconceptions about men taking interest in women’s interests. Which also goes hand in hand with homophobia. Which also goes hand in hand with sporting events and athletics. Which goes hand in hand with movies, television and books. Which goes hand in hand with advertising.
Now at this point, someone is screaming “Whoa, hold on! That’s too much! We’re talking about rape culture”. But rape culture isn’t a single thing you can point at. There’s hundreds of venues where rape culture lives. It’s lives in NFL stadiums, in CFL stadiums, in NHL arenas, on NBA courts, on the mound at the local ball park and in the MLB, It exists at comic book conventions, right from San Diego down to Brandon, Manitoba and Humboldt, Saskatchewan. It exists in Hollywood. It exists in the business world. It exists in high school. It exists in the church. And it exists in the home.
You might say that rape culture and violence against women doesn’t happen in the locker room, but the athlete doesn’t stop existing once they leave the locker room. Look at what happened with Ray Rice. Look further back to what happened to the young men that were sexually molested by their head coach who played with the Swift Current Broncos of the WHL. Look at the case of Ben Roethlisberger charged with rape.
If you say that violence against women isn’t pervasive in movies, tv and advertising, you need to crawl out of the rock you’ve been living under. If you say it isn’t pervasive in the church, you’ve been ignoring years of abuse committed by Catholic priests.
This aspect of culture becomes worse when you look at race. Black women suffer a greater deal of violence than white women. First Nations women, even worse. In Canada, there is a call to launch a public inquiry. That’s how bad violence against First Nations women and children is in this country.
I can hear that lone cry, which happens to be really loud, coming from the opposite corner of the room. “But men get raped too”! I’m not saying they don’t. But men don’t live their day to day lives in fear of being raped, sexually assaulted, or beaten. Women do. Men go on a blind date and think “I hope she’s not fat”. Women go on a blind date and think “I hope he doesn’t kill me”. Men may be victims of rape. Boys may be victims of rape. Women definitely are victims of rape. But the primary perpetrator of rape is men. A woman who rapes is nearly unheard of, even though it does happen. But it does not happen nearly often as men who commit and promote acts of violence and acts of sexual violence.
Rape culture isn’t just one place that we can solve with something magical. We have to understand that it exists everywhere.
I’m not gonna say that I came up with this all on my own. This has come from the past few years since I wrote that little book about gunslinging elves. I’ve listened to men and women talk about the male gaze, the female form in media, rape culture, the objectification of women, the issue of women of colour and violence perpetrated against them, women who discuss popular culture, and men who have discussed it as well. But the key is not just repeating information, the key is listening and understanding what’s going on. Take the blinders and remove them.
It’s scary when you do, but you’ll be able to move forward and work to improve it.