Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Shifting the Dialogue (and the divide between men and women)

I wanted to move away from talking about rape since it's something that is very personal and it's hard for me to distance myself from the subject. I end up getting really angry and I hate that. (Even though rape is very good reason to get angry in my opinion, I don't like it when that anger becomes directed at particular people instead of rape culture as a whole.) Men are also victims of rape culture and we will never change public opinion if we exclude men from the dialog. How exactly we’re supposed to go about making that change I’m not entirely sure, but I do know that talking about it can’t hurt.

So, I want to direct your attention to a pretty bad ass post by Gender Across Borders called "The Eyes Have It."
Every time I turn on the TV, I’m watching another story about a woman being brutalized on CSI, Law & Order, 48 Hours, the evening news, etc. It’s an orchestra of media screeching, “Be Afraid. Stay Inside. Everything is dangerous!” Whenever I get an email chain letter about a scary new gang tactic or a serial killer, the perpetrators are always targeting women. And I’m given the same laundry list of safety tips from my family, friends, police officers and media. I’m regularly warned that there are men hanging out around every corner, behind every bush, lying in wait to rape me. And if I’m raped it means I slipped up, let the wrong man close, wore the wrong clothes, looked for too long or in the wrong way. The message is, “It’s your fault if something happens to you.” The never-ending chorus croons the fictitious message, “Boys will be boys. This is just how men are. You sent the wrong message. You secretly wanted it.”

...This is a rape culture. This is a culture where men and women live on opposite sides of a thick black line dividing human existence into masculine and feminine, like two siblings sharing a room.

Let’s put aside that it’s questionable if these tips even make women safer or not. Let’s put aside the limitations of personal freedoms that our culture is proposing for women. Let’s put aside that this erases the experiences of male victims of sexual assault. Let’s put aside how much this setup controls and limits women’s public space. Let’s put ALL that aside for a moment and ask, how does this conversation affect relationships between men and women?

Women are taught to always be vigilant, to never let their guard down. This means that everyday occurrences will mean something different to them then they mean to men. It’s within this context that we reexamine the male gaze.

Let’s examine an example. Two people pass on the street. One man, one woman. The man checks the woman out or to be specific looks her up and down. The woman does not look over at the man. Both continue walking.

Within a rape culture, this looks different. A woman walks down the street. She sees a man walking toward her. Her defenses go up. Her muscles tense ever so slightly. She wonders for a second if she should cross the street. The man looks at her. Not just looks but seems to invade her space with his eyes. A sick feeling develops in her throat. She feels vulnerable. Her eyes dart to the side. When they pass each other, she increases her pace.

I have been this woman. I have watched this woman. I have seen my friends become this woman. I have seen my sister become this woman. I have seen my mother become this woman. Are we all suffering from paranoia? Are we being unreasonable? Well, if the never-ending chorus of cultural conversation trains me to see all men as my enemy, then why wouldn’t I treat them as such?

Follow the link to finish reading the post. It's great.

1 comment:

What's on your mind?