20 Mar 2013

#1 Do not rape people. #2 Women are people.


I’ve long wanted to write something about the spate of rapes in India. I’ve wanted to write about rapes and rape culture in the USA and the UK and Egypt and…  well… just about everywhere in the world today. But the problem is so vast and daunting. Where does one person begin to even make sense of any of it or have anything to say.

One particular problem I’ve had is with the way well-meaning people, particularly men, have tried to help make things better. This may sound ‘ungrateful’ or even rude, but you know what? I’m sick to death of hearing that these vicious assaults should not happen because “these girls and women are our daughters, our mothers, our wives, our sisters” – and in the case of India and Hindus worldwide, we hear that women should not be raped because womanhood is sacred and we Hindus have so many goddesses and worship God in the form of the Devi, the divine feminine, divine mother, divine wife….

So what? That’s the reason a woman or girl should not be raped? Really?

This line of argument irritates me to no end. But I’ve been at a loss of words for how to express it. Today I read a brilliant article on the US Steubenville rape case on The Belle Jar blog that says all I wanted to say about this subject and more.

Please read it. Read every word. And don’t forget what it says.

Let me paraphrase it for you here: What we need to teach the men and boys of the world is not that women shouldn’t be raped when they remind you of someone you love. Women and girls should not be raped because they are people. 

It must not be made any more complicated or esoteric than that – because if we put it out there that a woman is only Not-Rapable when she conforms to certain norms and fits certain roles and follows certain rules, then we solve nothing. We fix nothing. We perpetuate the problem. Even if a woman doesn’t dress like your mother, is no one’s sister, does not remind you of a goddess – she still deserves her human and civil rights. She should still be safe from violence and, if violated, her abusers should never be excused because, well, ‘she was no one’s daughter’.

We can keep things very simple:

Rule #1: Do not rape people. Rule #2: Women are people.

Full stop.


BELLEJAR“The Steubenville rape victim was certainly someone’s daughter. She may have been someone’s sister. Someday she might even be someone’s wife. But these are not the reasons why raping her was wrong. This rape, and any rape, was wrong because women are people. Women are people, rape is wrong, and no one should ever be raped. End of story.

…. It defines women by their relationships to other people, rather than as people themselves. It says that women are only important when they are married to, have given birth to, or have been fathered by other people. It says that women are only important because of who they belong to.

Women are not possessions.

Women are people.

I seriously cannot believe that I have to say this in 2013.”

--- Anne Thériault, The Belle Jar Blog