Friday, July 15, 2011

The Way That You Move Through the World is Not the Way I Move Through the World

[Trigger warning: rape culture, patriarchy]

Lately I've been seeing a bit more from the feminist community trying to communicate to the rest of the world, straight males especially, how rape culture affects women and how they move through the world. (One example here) Which, in short, involves a lot of concern for self and physical safety and the reality that someone may attempt to violate one's body, not to mention the street harassment and the impact on personal interactions. And the response as been an overwhelming "how dare you call all men rapists I'm not a rapist so I should be able to do what I want" or general "oh you feminists are just playing the victim card whaahhh whaahh you said you wanted equality..." ...which is SO much missing the point that it actually physically hurts me a bit.

For anyone missing the point right now, allow me to at least try to break it down for you: 1 in 6 women is raped or deals with an attempted rape in her lifetime. That number goes to 1 in 4 women for college-age women. Even with repeat offenders*, that's still a heck of a lot of rapists walking around. As a female person presenting as a woman, I know that I am most likely to be the target of said rapists, and I pretty much have no choice but to adjust my behavior to try to limit the opportunities of said rapists, which are most likely to be male people presenting as men.
 [No, I'm not down with victim blaming, and I'm by no means encouraging it. The "cause" of rape is rapists. Full stop. The way women move through the world is not a solution to rape/sexual assault; it is a coping mechanism.]

Try to wrap your head around that. There really is no way to fully understand it unless it is your lived experience, but try to have some empathy and try to look beyond your privilege for a second. [And some defenses come up; unclench. That was not a snarky or condemning remark on my part. It is simply the reality that there is privilege attached to appearing to be a man (a lot of privileges, actually, but we'll save that for another day) that majority of men are blind to. Feminists are not claiming men asked for this privilege or it is their fault, especially on a personal level. However, individuals do share some of the blame when they refuse to recognize it and try to correct the problem.]

Try to look at the world through that lens: there are rapists. I am potentially a target of these rapists. I do not know who is a rapist, but I do know that there is a very very good chance that any given rapist will be a man.** This does not mean I treat any unfamiliar (or familiar, for that matter) man as a rapist right off the bat. It DOES mean, however, that I recognize that possibility.

So that brings us back to the poopeypantshissyfit "BUT IIIIIII'MMMMM NOT A RAPIST!" But I don't know that. No one's accusing you, no one's assuming you are, I'm just not going to automatically assume you aren't and behave in an irresponsible way. This is not an affront to you or your ego. If you insist on taking it that way, then you are part of the problem. And if you insist on behaving in a rape-culture-y way, getting all offended because women would like to avoid bodily harm, you're going to set off big, giant internal alarms for a lot of women.

Instead of getting offended, perhaps it would be more productive to put that energy into doing something about the general rape culture in our society. Really, it's a lose-lose situation.

*Entirely possible, since only 16% of rapists actually go to jail, and that's out of the 39% of rapes that are reported; factoring in unreported rapes, only 6% of rapists spend time in jail.
     http://www.rainn.org/get-information/statistics/reporting-rates

**NOTICE that I said "a very very good chance that any given rapist will be a man," NOT "a very very good chance that any given man will be a rapist." There is a HUGE difference. The accusations of crazy, paranoid feminists might have some truth IF feminists were claiming the latter. THAT is accusatory of men and not entirely realistic. The first statement, which is the claim, is NOT accusatory of men and is very realistic. It is also not "paranoid." Just so we're all clear here.

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