I think I can speak for many people when I say reading the Time article "It’s Time to End ‘Rape Culture’ Hysteria" by Caroline Kitchens felt like a punch of fire to the stomach. Reducing a traumatic and life-altering crime like rape to “hysterics” is harmful and dangerous on so many levels, not to mention it is just plain insulting.
Hysteria. Hmmm, where have we heard that term before?
The term “hysteria” is defined as a state in which emotions (such as fear or anxiety) are so strong that individuals or groups of people behave in uncontrolled and irrational ways.
Now let’s talk about what that means for rape culture.
As women we are constantly being told that we are in hysterics. When we speak out about an injustice, suddenly we are “hysterical,” “crazy,” “bossy,” or the ol’ standby, “a bitch.” The concept of Female Hysteria goes back to Ancient Greece, with the “wandering womb,” which reappeared in the late 1800s as a so-called mental illness. Although Female Hysteria is no longer a recognized mental illness, the ideology behind the idea has not gone away, but has become more implicit. We are still getting told to shut up and take a chill pill, insinuating women are hysterical and therefore cannot be taken seriously.
Rape culture is not a concept we bat-shit females came up with in a hormonal rage. We are not a small group of young women claiming “Rapist!” the same way people once called “Witch!” And let us not forget that rape is not just a women’s rights issue - it is a human rights issue that affects all identified genders and sexualities.
The Time article upsets me for many reasons. First of all, this country tolerates rape culture, no matter what nonsense Time is trying to sell. From the article:
“Tolerance for rape? Rape is a horrific crime and rapists are despised. We have strict laws that Americans want to see enforced. Though rape is certainly a serious problem, there’s no evidence that it’s considered a cultural norm. Twenty-first century America does not have a rape culture; what we have is an out-of-control lobby leading the public and our educational and political leaders down the wrong path. Rape culture theory is doing little to help victims, but its power to poison the minds of young women and lead to hostile environments for innocent males is immense."
Excuse me while I repeatedly smash my head against my desk.
First of all, rapists are not always despised. We constantly defend rapists (Hiiiiii, did you forget about Steubenville and Maryville?) and the media spends much of their time trying to convince audiences that the rapists are not guilty, and selling the ridiculous story that a victim would lie about being raped, only to then through the agony of a trial and a brutal attack on her moral character.
Also, have you never seen statistics about how few women ever go public with their stories of rape, and how even fewer survivors see their attackers actually punished for the crime? Oh, but I guess the legal system is just so friendly to survivors of assault, but our hysterics are keeping us from seeing that clearly.
Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond from Steubenville, Ohio were found delinquent of rape and sentenced to two years and one year in a juvenile facility, respectively.
Let’s also talk about the so-called “poisoned minds of young women.” This is really my favorite part. It makes so much sense that my mind has been poisoned by all of these stories of rape culture and claims of victim-blaming, and the deeply permeating message that it is my responsibility not to get raped, and that it is my fault if I do is a totally harmless message that actually helps the epidemic. Wow, thanks for clearing that up!
She was right about one thing, I have been poisoned. I've been poisoned by a patriarchal and misogynistic culture that normalizes rape so intensely that we resist and deny the reality of the immense suffering it causes. We are so used to the idea of rape, that the justification of that violence can be ingrained into nearly every aspect of institutions of knowledge, and we barely even realize it without a serious mental overhaul.
The Time article defends RAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network) and its recommendation to the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault:
“Rape is caused not by cultural factors but by the conscious decisions, of a small percentage of the community, to commit a violent crime.”
I went on the RAINN website and here are the statistics they share:
Every 2 minutes, another American is sexually assaulted.
Each year, there are about 237, 868 victims of sexual assault.
97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail.
How can we say this is a small percentage of the community? How can we tell victims that they are simply “hysterical” and their stories are invalid, or that they are somehow insignificant in the big scheme of things?
How can we say we need to “remain focused on the true cause of the problem and suggests a three-pronged approach for combating rape: empowering community members through bystander intervention education, using 'risk-reduction messaging' to encourage students to increase their personal safety, and promoting clearer education on 'where the ‘consent line’ is.” Seriously? Why isn’t “no” enough?
Oh yeah, because of rape culture. Again from the article:
“Moral panic over 'rape culture' helps no one — least of all, survivors of sexual assault. College leaders, women’s groups, and the White House have a choice. They can side with the thought police of the feminist blogosphere who are declaring war on Robin Thicke, the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, male statues, and Barbie. Or, they can listen to the sane counsel of RAINN.”
We are not insane. We are not hysterical. If the methods we are supposedly focusing on were working, a sexual assault would not occur every 2 minutes, more attackers would be in jail, and fewer women would be fighting off the dark demons of trauma. Stop allowing American culture to evade responsibility for this violence. Rape culture calls it what it is, and avoiding that reality is an excuse to be apathetic to the brevity of the issue at hand.