Monthly Archives: March 2013

Weekly Link Roundup: 3/22/13

Publishers reject video games such as Remember Me because they have female protagonists.

Katharine Hughes reflects on Steubenville and the larger context of rape culture.

Anne Thériault explains why we should stop defining women in terms of their relation to men.

The language of violence against women is steeped in victim blaming.

“Creepshots”, or the sharing of pictures of women taken against their consent for a sexual purpose, are becoming more common on facebook.

The NRA is fighting to keep guns in the hands of perpetrators of domestic violence.

So you’re tired of hearing about rape culture?

Prominent women’s colleges are rejecting trans women.

Adria Richards heard a man making inappropriately sexual comments at a professional tech conference, reported it, and is now facing horrifying retaliatory harassment and was publicly fired as a result.

Joe Rogan facilitated internet harassment against a woman who called him out on transphobic comments against Fallon Fox.

In good news, more than half of all female voters identify as feminists!

Randi Owenby, Katharine Hughes, Kristin Tillotson, and Dr. Phyllis Thompson talk about Women’s History Month to BTN Channel 16.

Civility week begins this Sunday! Here’s the schedule.

This has been your weekly link roundup! If you are an ETSU student and would like to submit a story or article for publishing, contact our editor Katharine Hughes or our facebook or twitter.  Either way, “Like” and follow us!

Remember to check out our website!

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Rape and Rape Culture: Beyond Steubenville

By Katharine

Yesterday, a judge found Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond guilty of the rape of a 16 year old girl in the highly publicized Steubenville case.  The case involved disturbing video evidence of the assault leaked by internet hackers as well as texts and publically-visible tweets documenting it as it happened.

Despite the horrifying evidence, the defense’s actual argument was that what happened to the victim is her fault (and isn’t actually rape) because

“Defense attorneys believe the girl, who lived across the river in Weirton, W.Va., made a decision to excessively drink and — against her friends’ wishes — to leave with the boys. They assert that she consented to sex,” reports the Cleveland Plain-Dealer‘s Rachel Dissell. Richmond’s attorney, Walter Madison, is getting specific, citing “an abundance of evidence here that she was making decisions, cognitive choices … She didn’t affirmatively say no.”

Let that sink in for a moment.  Not only was the defense of the perpetrators based upon the premise that consent to sexual activity is the default state of being, which one must “affirmatively” opt out of,  but that the entire incident was her responsibility to avoid rather than the responsibility of the perpetrators not to perpetrate it.  In addition, after the verdict, there have been no shortage of individuals who have also elected to blame the victim, rather than the perpetrators, for the incident.

This is unacceptable.

This is bigger than a reaction to an individual case.  This is an epidemic of “victim blaming” and “slut shaming” in our society which serves to perpetuate rape culture by further assaulting its victims.

“A rape culture is a complex of beliefs that encourages male sexual aggression and supports violence against women. It is a society where violence is seen as sexy and sexuality as violent. In a rape culture, women perceive a continuum of threatened violence that ranges from sexual remarks to sexual touching to rape itself. A rape culture condones physical and emotional terrorism against women as the norm.

In a rape culture both men and women assume that sexual violence is a fact of life, inevitable as death or taxes. This violence, however, is neither biologically nor divinely ordained. Much of what we accept as inevitable is in fact the expression of values and attitudes that can change.”

What the defense and the reactions of many to the Steubenville rape case are saying is that the violence perpetrated against the victim was an inevitability, which she alone was responsible to prevent, by “affirmatively saying no” (in an incapacitated state, in a confined space with physically dominant attackers) or removing herself from society by never going to any parties or being in any situations in which rape might occur.  Where are the rapists in this equation?

Their absence is the evidence of rape culture.


These are the facts:

Rape is always, 100% of the time, the fault of the rapist, and not the victim.  Victims do not deserve rape for the clothes they put on their bodies or the things that they put into their bodies.  They do not deserve rape because their bodies were in a certain place at a certain time.  They do not deserve rape for being visible.  They do not deserve rape for not carrying a deadly weapon, nor should their safety depend upon ownership of a deadly weapon.  Victims should not simply have to accept rape as an inevitability due to our flawed social dialogue.

1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed rape; 2.8% attempted rape).

Children

15% of sexual assault and rape victims are under age 12.3

  • 29% are age 12-17.
  • 44% are under age 18.3
  • 80% are under age 30.3
  • 12-34 are the highest risk years.
  • Girls ages 16-19 are 4 times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault.

7% of girls in grades 5-8 and 12% of girls in grades 9-12 said they had been sexually abused.4

  • 3% of boys grades 5-8 and 5% of boys in grades 9-12 said they had been sexually abused.

In 1995, local child protection service agencies identified 126,000 children who were victims of either substantiated or indicated sexual abuse.5

  • Of these, 75% were girls.
  • Nearly 30% of child victims were between the age of 4 and 7.

93% of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker.6

  • 34.2% of attackers were family members.
  • 58.7% were acquaintances.
  • Only 7% of the perpetrators were strangers to the victim.

(Via RAINN)

Rape in our society should not be a blemish on the victims of it, but rather on those who perpetrate it.  Rape should not be made excusable by the actions of the victim.  Rape should not be used as a threat or as a means to put women in their place.  Rape should not be sexualized in and used as a selling point in entertainment.  Rape should not be a joke.  Rape should not ever be thought of as something that an individual deserves, even if they are a sex worker or if they have consumed alcohol – no matter how much.

Unfortunately, that is not our reality.

What happened in Steubenville can’t be limited to its borders.  The victim blaming and rape apologism, the threats against rape victims, the assertions of false rape accusations (despite their rarity and the damaging effects of the false rape accusation mythology) , the defamation of the victim’s character – These intimidate rape victims from ever reporting their rapes, from talking about rape culture, and maintains a status quo in which, as Freda Adler put it,

“Rape is the only crime in which the victim becomes the accused.”

This is a status quo that we cannot tolerate.  This is a status quo that ensures that there will be more Steubenvilles, because despite a guilty verdict for the perpetrators of that rape, rape itself is still running free.

We must aggressively work against rape culture if we wish to end rape.  We must place the blame where it belongs, upon the heads of the rapists.  We must change the way we talk about rape.

We must do these things to ensure that not only Jane Doe receives justice, but to ensure that there will be no more Jane Does.

Weekly link round up 3/8/2013

Happy International Women’s Day! Learn the history behind the date. Also, take a look at the Guardian’s interactive map of the history of women’s struggle for equal rights.

The first episode of Anita Sarkeesian’s series analyzing the portrayal of women in video games is out, and it’s pretty awesome.

Good news?  Sponsors of Tennessee’s forced ultrasound bill have withdrawn their bill.  Bad news? They want to seek a constitutional amendment to implement more reproductive health restrictions in its place.

A new bill allowing counselors and social workers to legally refuse helping clients based on their sexual orientation has unfortunately passed senate committee.

Also in depressing LGBT news, 62% of Tennesseans are against gay marriage.

Fallon Fox shares her story of becoming the first out transgender MMA athlete.

Telling a woman to get a gun is NOT rape prevention.

Men who have a preference for large breasts are more likely to be sexist.

RoleReboot explains how “masculinity” doesn’t really exist.

Feminists can be sexy and funny if they want to be.

Jill Filipovic questions why men don’t change their names when they get married (and why women often do).

Stop sexualizing transgender children (and accusing transgender people of being sexual predators in general).

In Women’s Studies:

The Women’s Resource Center has a calendar of awesome events coming up, including Diane Rehm and Soledad O’ Brien visiting campus, and WoW goes global on March 20!

Katharine Hughes posts about the recently implemented abortion restrictions in Arkansas, Virginia, and Idaho.

These Aren’t Hurdles, These Are Brick Walls

By Katharine

Yesterday, the Arkansas state legislature used their ability to override a veto by Gov. Mike Beebe to implement the harshest abortion restrictions in the nation.  The restrictions, which prohibit abortions after 12 weeks, and the latest in a string of incidents in which state legislatures, dominated by (male) republican politicians, are assaulting women’s access to healthcare.

Since 2010 and the sweeping Tea Party “shellacking” that the democrats endured, states have enacted a record number of abortion restrictions.

In the 50 states combined, legislators introduced more than 1,100 reproductive health and rights-related provisions, a sharp increase from the 950 introduced in 2010. By year’s end, 135 of these provisions had been enacted in 36 states, an increase from the 89 enacted in 2010 and the 77 enacted in 2009. (Note: This analysis refers to reproductive health and rights-related “provisions,” rather than bills or laws, since bills introduced and eventually enacted in the states contain multiple relevant provisions.)

Fully 68% of these new provisions—92 in 24 states—-restrict access to abortion services, a striking increase from last year, when 26% of new provisions restricted abortion. The 92 new abortion restrictions enacted in 2011 shattered the previous record of 34 adopted in 2005.

2012 kept up that feverish pace, and 2013 is off to its own awful start.  All states except for Oregon now limit abortion access, and along with the Arkansas legislature’s action, we also saw Idaho’s ban on abortions after 20 weeks (which was just struck down, thankfully) and the last abortion clinic in Mississippi in danger of closing.  Mississippi’s 2011 personhood bill failed, but another personhood bill, crafted by the very same backers, has just been filed again for legislation.  Virginia adopted restrictive regulations for facilities providing abortions and for those wishing to receive abortions, including:

  • A woman must receive state-directed counseling that includes information designed to discourage her from having an abortion and then wait 24 hours before the procedure is provided.

  • Health plans that will be offered in the state’s health exchange that will be established under the federal health care reform law can only cover abortion in cases when the woman’s life is endangered, rape or incest.

  • Abortion is covered in insurance policies for public employees only in cases of life endangerment, rape or incest or fetal impairment

  • The parent of a minor must consent and be notified before an abortion is provided.

  • Public funding is available for abortion only in cases of life endangerment, rape, incest or fetal impairment.

  • A woman must undergo an ultrasound before obtaining an abortion; the provider must offer her the option to view the image. If the woman lives within 100 miles of the abortion provider she must obtain the ultrasound at least 24 hours before the abortion.

Let’s be clear about this: these restrictions are blatantly unconstitutional because they place an undue burden on women in obtaining access to abortion.  Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which has been consistently upheld, forbids any restriction of abortion prior to viability.  They fail to take into account the hurdles that women, especially poor women and women of color face in obtaining access even if abortion is still technically legal.  It’s not an accidental oversight, either.  Politicians are crafting these restrictions in a deliberate effort to undercut women’s access to healthcare.  In the aftermath of a presidential election defined by women’s ability to access reproductive healthcare and in a social environment where the issue is still hotly debated, there can be no doubt of this fact.

These restrictions are not in line with any desire to protect life, as the chart below illustrates.

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Furthermore, if these policies are crafted from a desire to legislate their interpretation of Judeo-Christian morality, whose official stance on the issue is hardly consistent and has changed greatly over time, that only speaks to the unconstitutionality of these measures.  The concept of freedom of religion, the implicit freedom from religion, and the preclusion of the governmental establishment of religion are enshrined in our bill of rights.

The issue is not whether or not life begins at conception, although there’s hardly a consensus on that, anyway.  The issue is women having autonomy over their own bodies and being able to access the health that they need to pursue a happy, healthy life, which is defined as a universal human right.  And while certainly those whose life is in danger or who were victims of rape or incest should receive special attention, we should not frame the debate around which circumstances are acceptable for a woman to exercise control over her own body – she always has that authority and no one else can claim it.  Period.

Bills like this are unacceptable and their harm is immense and immediate even if abortion technically remains illegal.  These restrictions are not hurdles which prevent women from making rash decisions (which is a sexist, paternalistic thing to assume of a woman seeking an abortion anyway) but rather they are brick walls erected by bureaucrats to cut off access that women need to essential reproductive healthcare – access which is their right as a human being.

Check out the Women’s Resource Center’s March Newsletter for an awesome lineup of Women’s History Month events!

March2013

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