Monday, 18 March 2013

Steubenville and CNN: Perpetuating Rape Culture

I don't normally write about topical things because I am just not that quick off the mark (or at the zoo) and by the time I get round to it several hundred other wonderful feminists have articulated it far better than I could, with my O'Level in English Language. However, this whole incident/issue has just given me the rage. I am an angry feminist. And the more angry feminists that speak out against this shit the better. It is a travesty that there are probably only hundreds of people speaking out about this. It should be millions. Steubenville should not be allowed to happen.

And that is the problem. This is what happens when you live in a rape culture despite those that deny its existence. <warning don't click on that link if you believe men should actually be responsible for their behaviour or you have the critical faculties required to join the dots together>

Rape culture not just men raping women although there is enough of that about. It is the low conviction rate. It is women changing their behaviour to try and avoid rape. It is victim-blaming and shaming. It is idolising perpetrators. It is covering up for perpetrators. It is wanting anonymity for perpetrators. It is the reporting of rape as 'sex scandals'. It is the public regulation of what women wear. It is expecting women's behaviour to be different or of a higher standard than men's. It is the culture that expects a woman to say no otherwise consent is implied. It is where men shouting obscenities, making sexual advances or groping women is seen as something women just have to put up with. It is prioritising a tiny amount of false accusations over the thousands of rapes that occur every year in the UK. It is the pornographic images seen all over the web. It is the culture where men buying women for sex is acceptable. I could carry on ... and on but I am sure you are managing to join the dots by now. The coverage of this rape (and the backlash against the convictions) has ticked so many of those boxes. To be honest the coverage of most rapes normally does.

But CNN have truly managed to surpass themselves with their reporting of the sentencing of the Steubenville rape. The language used about the boys - "promising futures"; "still sound like 16 year old boys"; "difficult to watch [their sentencing]"; "their life fell apart"; "[the boys] lives are destroyed" - was sympathesing with the perpetrators of a crime whilst completely eradicating the victim's experience. It was as if they felt justice hadn't been done. I suspect that we have that in common, although for completely different reasons. How the media report crimes like this is incredibly important. The regretful language used to describe the fact that the boys are now on the sex offenders register gives the impression that they have been hard done by. Their upset at being caught and found guilty (because this wasn't remorse as shown by Mays statement about how the photographs and video should never have been taken - no mention of the rape) has been validated by this coverage. This is like a green light for abusers - validation for their feelings, sympathy for their punishment even sympathy for what they had done like it was all a big mistake. Everything they believe has just been reinforced.

I have two young sons. I have already started teaching them not to rape through respecting their boundaries and their bodies and getting them to respect each other's. This is such a good letter to sons. Yet the society we live in will be fighting back against those teachings all the time. Everywhere they look will be "evidence" that women are there to be raped; their boundaries can be crossed; there is no consequences for rape and if you were unlucky enough to get caught and convicted then you will still get sympathy and understanding.

Shame on you CNN. I hope you are forced to apologise.
Shame on you Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond. I wish your sentence was harsher, it is what you deserve.

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