Part 12: Rape Culture and the Media

By January 2, 2014Gender & Faith, Women

In this continuing series, guest blogger Toria helps us consider rape culture and how better to “do justice” for women. Warning: May contain explicit images, language, and/or triggers.

Whenever we see the media sympathizing with rapists, they tell their viewers/readers/listeners that yes, they might be guilty, but just think of how great their life/career would have been if they weren’t going to have this criminal record haunting them for the rest of their days We are also shown through advertising that some marketers don’t understand the idea of consent, especially in ads for alcohol. For example, Heineken released a magazine ad for a light lager beer with the tagline “Now seduction can happen anywhere—irresistible,” suggesting that a woman wouldn’t be able to say no, even though alcohol and consent really don’t go well together anyway. Several ads also show women in compromising sexualized positions with a man standing over her in a power pose, and very rarely are the tables turned. Men are advertised as the dominant sex, and women are advertised as submissives.

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 An anonymous blogger wrote about how he had unintentionally followed a woman for a number of blocks, as sometimes happens when two people are headed to the same general destination. He noticed that she kept glancing over her shoulder at him, looking concerned and clutching her purse. He noted that she was a petite young woman, pretty, and wearing high heels, whereas he was relatively large and dressed in street clothes. For some reason that I still cannot fathom, he decided to toy with her by continuing to follow her and walking faster towards her. She noticed this, and quickened her pace as well. He walked even faster, and she did the same. Finally, he flat-out ran at her. She began to panic and ran as fast as she could in her heels. When he caught up to her, she screamed and began to cry. Instead of stopping her, he ran right past her and laughed in her face. He then ended the story saying that he felt victimized and hurt that this woman had seen him as a threat, and how unfair it is that any woman on the street can see him this way when he has done nothing to hurt them.

Instead of seeing that he may have traumatized this young woman, he played the victim by crying, “How dare she treat me like a threat? I was just minding my own business.” He thought it was okay to actively stalk and pursue this woman, who was clearly afraid of him. He could have fallen back a few blocks, taken a different route, crossed to the other side of the street, anything to put her more at ease, but he turned her desire for survival into a game.

By wanting sympathy for harassing her, this man made a mockery of the things that women fear when we are out on our own. For all this poor woman knew, he could have mugged her, raped her, or killed her. Laughing at her for being afraid of a large man who was chasing her makes it clear that he saw nothing wrong with what he had done. Who is to blame for this? His parents? His friends? His political representatives? Popular culture? The news? The man himself?

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