by kristopher kole
[content note for rape culture, rape, violence, rape apologia]
Hello folks! Kristopher Kole here! The newest member of the UpRoot team and I intend to jump in with both feet, so to speak. Here goes……….
Before this very moment; I had never heard of Reddit, until one of my co-workers shared this link on the UpRoot Facebook page.
SNAP SHOT: the post poses the question about whether or not we should listen to the other side of the story. The rapist’s side. It is about rapists (and would-be-rapists) posting their thoughts, feelings and motivations in sexual assault victimization. Before I talk about that; how about we take a step back, let’s talk about rape culture.
In a rape culture, we are perpetually hammered with violent images against women, subject to discriminatory laws, accept hateful jokes, allow street harassment, listen to music that objectifies and degrades women, we watch commercials and advertising that normalize misogynistic ideas and imagery. We watch shows that continue to demonstrate **hegemonic masculinity at its worst. It is a culture where we allow violence (no matter how minimal or outrageous) against women to become a central and a normalized part of living and breathing in this this world. This hegemonic socialization and expression is pervasive, sometimes subtle and often insidious in nature. It is; overwhelmingly socially endorsed masculinity, which contributes to the idea that women “belong” in a subordinate position to men. Like I said earlier, this representation is often more subtle than we may realize. Some may even argue that any and all violence is in direct correlation to patriarchal institutionalization and the resulting effects. Alas, this is for another discussion on another day.
WHAT DOES RAPE CULTURE LOOK LIKE?
In American rape culture, we play video games that encourage the rape and humiliation of women. In our rape culture, students riot over the firing of a football coach who hid child rape and sexual abuse. In this rape culture, radical feminist writers are threatened with rape for blogging about rape. In rape culture, movies are rated with “sexual content” when there is an obvious and outright brutal rape. In this accepted and endorsed rape culture, we sling names like “slut” and “whore” at women who seek preventative birth control and equitable health coverage. In global rape culture, we ask women to protect themselves while failing to instill in men the resolve and commitment to NOT rape(for examples and further discussion, check out this awesome breakdown at Shakesville).
I could go on forever and this is NOTHING NEW!
I’m truly not saying anything that is new at all………..I’m merely punctuating it. Giving it life. Giving it recognition. All the credit belongs to all the many feminist voices that have spoken for hundreds of years. The credit belongs with the feminists around the world and in cyberspace.
IS THIS NORMAL?
I believe that we collectively create a world where sexual coercion and violence seems so very normal that people believe rape is entirely inevitable. I would take this as far as saying that we make it so very normal that we don’t even “see” it as rape at all. We glorify non-consensual situations in movies and attach it to arousing images and close-ups of body parts which also have the effect of female objectification. We fantasize, fetishize and glorify. This is not an argument of, “media made him do it”. Each and every individual is accountable for their own choices and actions; however, this is a valid discussion when considering prevention planning and counteracting.
I use the word collectively because by supporting this system; we collectively create it, we collectively perpetuate it. As a shared body, perhaps we begin to view rape as a normative, “just the way it is”. Of course this is not true for every individual. Not even slightly true for the social circles that I roll with. Yet, this is supported as a cultural norm and is shown in empirical research. Which I could cite; however, you can easily find plenty of information if you type, “empirical research, rape culture” into your search engine of choice.
I’ve had numerous and frequent discussions about this topic with many diverse groups of people. I’ve found people’s responses to ideas and concepts about rape to be overwhelmingly terrifying. These candid discussions can only happen when these discussions are safe. When s/he finds a space to be completely protected, open and un-judged in reference to her/his expressions and ideas. These are people that I respect and love. These people are everyday people. Sometimes they have even been self-proclaimed feminists. They have been gay men. They have been family. These discussions have been had with people who care about the world and care about humanity. They have been people that have never intentionally harmed anyone in their lives; however, they could potentially in the future. They have been your brothers and best friends. They have been me. I am humbled and conscience-stricken.
EDUCATION! Is a powerful tool.
For myself; as a guy in this current culture, I’ve frightened myself with former ideas, perceptions, behaviors and belief systems. I’m talking about the past understandings I have held about what it means to be a man, about masculinity, ideas surrounding sex, gender and consequently rape culture. When I truly thought about it critically and honestly; I at once understood that as a man, I had some real work to do. I had to do it for my younger sisters. I had to do it for my mother. I had to do this for my previous partner and I had to for any relationship I have ever had or ever will have. I had to do it for other young men. I had to do it for every masculinely-identified person. I had to do it for me. It was only through open self-evaluation, candid honesty and education that I could begin to challenge these gendered-ideas and see a broader change. I do feel this is essential in challenging the culture of rape. To effectively challenge the underlying belief systems and attitudes it is essential to truly know and understand them. It is going to be incredibly difficult on many levels; however, I do think that it is essential to open up the framework of conversation. We have to open it up to fully understand this problem; albeit, we have a responsibility to do this carefully and with unmitigated respect.
REFRAMING! Is essential.
So, back to the Reddit thread. Mark, another member of the UpRoot team responded to the link on Facebook by saying, “Primary prevention via social change in masculine culture is absolutely essential. We need to teach men not to rape.” I agree with Mark that it is ESSENTIAL to provide primary prevention work that educates men, young men, boys, and anyone masculinely-identified to REDEFINE masculinity and gender roles in this current culture. I suppose that what I mean is, If we are going to use primary prevention as a means of social change, then we need to fully understand the underlying mechanisms that reinforce it. We need to identify the faulty thinking and overtly challenge it bluntly and matter-of-factly. In such a way that encourages continued candid discussions; however, doesn’t allow any bullshit to slide by. In such a way that calls for accountability while challenging our perception of the world we live in.
CAN WE DO IT?
We have to. It is CRITICAL.
** Hegemonic Masculinity (from Wikipedia): In gender studies, hegemonic masculinity refers to a culturally normative ideal of male behavior. The concept of hegemonic masculinity emerges from the empirically verified hypothesis that there is a hierarchy of masculine behavior, positing that most societies encourage men to embody a dominant version of masculinity. Hegemonic masculinity is competitive and reflects a tendency for males to seek to dominate other males and subordinate females. The “oppression, exploitation, power and social control offer a more powerful account of the constraints that operate in personality and in social organization, and of the way in which the two levels are linked in the process of being reproduced.” According to the theory’s proponents, it is not necessarily the most prevalent form of male expression, but rather the most socially endorsed masculinity that contributes to the subordinate position of women. Sociological approaches inventory valued characteristics such as drive, ambition, claims to self-reliance, and heterosexuality, for example, which they observe to be broadly encouraged in and associated with males but more often discouraged in females in contemporary Western society. McCormack defines other hegemonic traits: “homophobic, misogynistic, and aggressive”. Research has also shown that to be more masculine is to become less feminine.
There are two key factors in producing a hegemonic masculinity: domination and marginalization. Domination establishes the ideal qualities by which some men are elevated, but marginalization describes the oppression involved and the actual ranking of men based on masculinities. As these factors are only what society currently deems masculine, and domination and marginalization are static, hegemonic masculinity is a dynamic standard.