Rape, Misogyny and Objectification… of WOMEN
Have you had THAT chat with your children, lately? I’m going to go all serious this week and talk about rape culture. In this world in which we are raising our children, as parents it is our duty to talk about rape, misogyny and objectifying, in the same way we teach our children compassion and empathy, how to cook and clean, birth control and how to save money.
Rape culture is images, jokes, media, words, advertising and laws that make violence and sexual coercion against women both normal and inevitable. It is basically how our society teaches how not to get raped, instead of teaching not to rape.
Apart from the obvious rape ‘act’ as such, there is a much deeper meaning and importance to this subject. This is way beyond the scope of this article, this newspaper, and indeed, my own understanding of this topic. But as a parent, I implore you to consider what you are teaching your children about these topics so we can raise children who positively change this aspect of our world.
Some of this culture starts before our babies are even born – when parents expecting girls have wallpapered flowers across the nursery walls, and parents expecting boys have bought onesies with truck motifs and ‘tough 100% boy’ across them. Once these children have been born, they are surrounded in gender stereotypes which begin to define and excuse their behaviour.
For example, I’ve seen a baby girl’s singlet which reads, ‘sorry boys, daddy says I can’t date until hell freezes over’ – we’re sexualizing our children when they are still in nappies. Another reads, ‘Lock up your daughters’ on a baby boys tee – implying that even before he can walk, our little boy has no control over his sexual urges. It is not just about pink and blue, it’s about how we perpetuate rape culture in creating identities for our children.
We carry on through childhood, and when our boy tot starts to tug on the little girl’s hair, or becomes rough and pushes children over, his behaviour is excused, as ‘boys will be boys’. When a girl is told that a boy hit her ‘because he likes you’ – exactly what is that teaching her? I often hear boys told not to ‘scream like a girl’ – and what message is THAT portraying to these children?
By the time that our children are growing into young adults and finding their place in the world, girls are being taught that they must be careful, they must not wear scanty clothing or walk alone at night. In response to the Steubenville party rape story last year, many said that the victim put herself into that position, drunk like that – ‘I’m not blaming the girl but…’ when obviously blame is exactly what they are saying.
Instead, we should be teaching our children not to rape people. No matter how drunk they are, what they are wearing, whether they said yes and then changed their mind, it is not ok to rape. Ever. And it is never the victims fault. If you disagree with me, you’ve bought into rape culture.
While we’re talking to our children about being safe, treating others with safety and respect, and being responsible for one’s actions, let’s also chat about misogyny, and the sexual discrimination of women, violence against women, and sexual objectification of women. This is what last week’s horrific killing spree by Elliot Rodger was caused by. Let’s not hide it behind mental illness or hate crime; Rodger used violence against women because he stated all of his suffering has been at the hands of women, who are sadistic, evil and committing crimes for not giving him the attention he felt he deserved.
Talk to your older children about rape statistics – how 1 in 5 women will be raped, how most rape is estimated to go unreported, how girls are bullied for speaking out over how they are treated, and blamed for being victims. Talk to them about how almost every women has had to change her path when walking because of a man, or locks her car doors at nights, or had unwanted attention from a male. Yet a male does not commonly face these issues, he has the simple privilege of being born a different sex – ask perhaps how your young man can help fix this problem.
#yesallwomen is the new internet hashtag, created in response to Rodger’s killings that embodies all of this: misogyny, rape culture and how we, as females, have all been discounted and objectified by men. And I acknowledge that women also rape and conduct sexual assault, but statistically more men commit sexual crimes against men. Don’t let your children be products of society in this way, and don’t allow your men to believe they are entitled to women’s bodies and attention. Have the talk.