Rape Culture: You’re Soaking In It

So another day, another mass murder in the US. This one committed by an unstable young man with creepily entitled and misogynistic attitudes. Women didn’t adore him the way he thought he should be adored, so he decided to kill them all. As you do.

The shootings have kicked off a whole range of responses. From the depressing – women should put out then things like this wouldn’t happen, he wasn’t misogynistic, just mad, don’t politicise the tragedy – to the provocative and empowering. I’ve been looking at the yesallwomen hash tag on twitter. Thousands upon thousands of women talking about what it’s like existing in world filled with casual harassment and gendered violence. And I’ve read a few blog posts by women outlining the harassment they’ve faced.

I’ve been reminded of all the small indignities and the moments of fear and stress that are so much part of being female out in public that I mostly don’t even think about them. It happens all the time, very few women wouldn’t have stories of their own to tell, and yet, it’s invisible. It’s easier that way, easier than acknowledging that one half of the population goes in fear of the other half. Easier than admitting that unfamiliar (and depressingly often known and trusted) men are Schrodinger’s rapist for women. They don’t come with advisory stickers or flashing lights indicating danger, so you have to assume that they’re a potential threat until they prove otherwise. This is a horrible way to live.

So we are encouraged to pretend that’s not how it is. The people around us say, “if she hadn’t been out alone, drinking, wearing those clothes, sleeping at a friend’s house, flirting, dancing, being out in the world while in possession of girly bits, she would have been fine.” We put the responsibility for managing sexual harassment and assault on individual women so that we can ignore the fact that we are all immersed in this culture and that it’s a systemic, social issue.

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