Feminist Friday: A Terrifying Truth

Friday, October 31, 2014

Photo Credit: http://stephaniehadley.deviantart.com/art/The-Body-Police-347411630
Feminist Friday: A Terrifying Truth
Rape is not permissible when a girl wears a short skirt. It’s time to stop this rape culture.

Last year on Halloween, one of my good friends had a very creative costume.

This year, I wanted to have one too.

However, I’m not a big Halloween person. Once I was considered “too old” to knock on strangers doors for free candy, Halloween lost it’s fun factor. Scary movies are always available on Netflix, haunted houses are rarely worth the high ticket price, and parties aren’t my thing.

Therefore, unless I could come up with a truly amazing costume idea, I wasn’t going to put much emphasis on dressing up this Halloween. I knew I wanted to be something scary, but I didn’t want to have to put much thought or effort into a costume I would only wear for a day.

So I came up with the idea of “rape culture” as a costume: a short skirt, crop top, and bruises and scratches painted on my visible body parts with a sign on my back that says “I asked for it.” 

My mother was the first to hear the idea and she wasn’t happy about it.

“I feel like you are asking for it.” She said. “Not necessarily rape, but confrontation. And I know how you feel about confrontation.”

“This is different.” I said. “Rape culture is real. It’s something that needs to be confronted.”

We wound up getting into a large debate about the validity of the rape culture argument. My mother believed if girls had little enough self-respect to advertise their bodies in public, it was their own fault if they got raped. She didn’t realize she was proving my argument by making such a statement.

Rape culture is the belief that men can’t help themselves. If they see a woman dressed provocatively, they’re going to feel obligated to rape her. And it will be the woman’s fault for dressing provocatively. She asked for it.

But of course, if she truly asked for it, it wouldn’t be considered rape, would it?

My mother’s assumption that a woman’s clothing choice encourages rape was hurtful for me. The guy who raped me when I was twelve had said the same thing: I asked for it. The hems of my skirts and dresses were too short; the cuts on my shirts too low. They were hand-me-downs from the twenty-something girl my mother worked with, and I wore them because they were new and exciting and expensive. And back then labels were everything.

But apparently my clothing choice encouraged the rape. Apparently, I must have had too little self-respect to be respected, to not be raped. Apparently, I asked for it.

The terrifying truth, though, is that my mother’s belief in rape culture isn’t isolated. Our entire society perpetuates the idea. That’s why it’s called rape culture. We teach our daughters how to dress like they respect themselves instead of teaching our boys how to respect women. We tell our daughters never to go anywhere alone, or take a drink from a stranger (or even a friend) because rape is inevitable. We don’t even think to tell our boys that girls are not toys, or sexual objects. They don’t exist for a man’s personal pleasure, and they are not to be used. They are to be respected, and recognized as human beings with needs, wants, and values that are just as important as a man’s. 

No matter what she’s wearing, a woman never asks to be raped. 

But we don’t teach our boys how to wait for consent. Instead, we teach our girls when to give it and how. We encourage our boys to be sexual and treat women as objects, conquests, and toys while we slut-shame and condemn our girls for expressing even a hint of their sexuality.

Rape culture is real. It’s real and terrifying. It’s terrifying to live in a society that allows and encourages rape by blaming the victim.

And that’s why I’m not afraid of the confrontation over my costume. I have faced much worse in my lifetime.

In fact, I look forward to confronting the issue of rape culture with my costume tonight. 

It’s time for this terrifying truth to come to an end.

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