The far-reaching implications of rape culture

“I think the bitch got what she deserved.” “However the woman was probably causing shit too.” “…there has to be more to the story.”

I do my best not to hang around threads concerning rape because the subject upsets me too much. Way too much. So, what am I doing with quotes like those above? Well, as much as those kinds of phrases crop up when dealing with rape, that’s not where I pulled them from. No, I got them from the bad_service livejournal community. According to two news articles, earlier one woman had spit on a fast food employee. Later, the woman’s aunt encountered the same employee. After an altercation that involved soda and lead to the aunt seeking a manager, the employee got a cup of oil and threw it onto the aunt.

Yes, that’s right: the aunt was punished for the “crime” of the niece. Does this sound familiar? Well, it does to me. Using women’s bodies to get revenge on others is one of the normal tactics embraced by rape culture. One that, for whatever reasons, tends to be unquestioned outside of feminist/profeminist circles. As pretty much happened with the livejournal post that lead to me writing this article.

Most commenters agreed that the oil was an over the top reaction for mere spittle (and in the ranks of those who violently disagreed was one tigerwolf, a gay male furry famous for his line that vaginas aren’t self cleaning but anuses are), but only very few commented on the fact that the “revenge” wasn’t even carried out on the person who had made the “offense.”

Amidst liberal throwing around of the word “bitch” (aggravated by the fact that all three parties involved are female), we run the full gamut of victim blaming, from the “I’d have done it, too!” response to the verbal bastion that every good victim blamer hides behind: “Justification and expectation of likely consequences are two very different things.”

One of the most common themes in the thread is the idea that she must have done something to instigate it, even though the oil was out of line (yeah, because someone who would throw hot oil onto someone would never do so without a really good reason). This sentiment was actually expressed in one of the linked articles, where the restaurant manager is quoted as saying, “Nobody would just throw grease at somebody without provoking.” But it’s not really victim blaming — the manager understands that it’s not okay to take it to the level of hot grease! You should just rape her stick to the soda!

Seriously, have we made no progress in understanding that it’s not okay to claim that a woman “provoked” violence onto herself, especially when said woman wasn’t the one who made the initial insult? Are women still so ill thought of in 2006 that the majority of people don’t see using us as objects to enact revenge as something completely inappropriate?

I guess, all I’m left with is one last question: How can we ever hope to eradicate rape culture when it pervades the very fabric of our lives? Do any of you have any ideas? Because I, for one, am fresh out of them.

Via Darth Sidhe.

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7 thoughts on “The far-reaching implications of rape culture

  1. wow

    That is just insane.

    It makes me wonder about people’s reactions to things like the infamous McDonalds hot coffee lawsuit and how it’s usually the one people pull out when they bring up “frivilous” lawsuits. Maybe it’s just me, but all the lawsuits I can think of that people mention as examples of frivilous lawsuits involve women or children. It’s almost as if the gender and age of the plaintiffs are brought up as proof that such lawsuits must be frivilous because “real adults” (men) would never do anything so stupid.

    I just don’t get people’s reactions to this.

    I often want to lash out at some of the annoying people that come into my store and I must admit that I will sometimes let my displeasure show. Thi is partly because I’m human and partly because if they are being that annoying I don’t really want them in my store – what little money they bring in isn’t worth it.

    However, I would never dream of actually hurting anyone or even damaging their property or publicly ridiculing them. And I have enough of a temper that – on particularly stressful days – I’ve been known to slam books around in the receiving area.

  2. Would people really not wonder at the circumstances had the attacked person been an Uncle instead of an Aunt? The event seems peculiar enough that most people I know of wouldn’t outright dismiss the possibility of joint responsiblity regardless of gender. Not trying to be critical, just wondering about it.

  3. Dead-on. People don’t *notice* that the aunt was different. Women are a lower class than men. Pissed off? Take it out on the closest woman. It doesn’t matter that she didn’t do anything to you. Attacking the gender works just as well as attacking the individual.

  4. Would people really not wonder at the circumstances had the attacked person been an Uncle instead of an Aunt?

    The point is not that people wouldn’t have wondered, but that they would have been more likely to conclude that he did not deserve to be hurt for something someone else did.

    The people saying that she must have done something to instigate it are doing more than simply “wondering” about the aunt’s actions. They are trying to excuse the attacker. I can definitely see people wondering – and even making excuses – if the attacker threw hot oil on a male person who was being rude. I don’t think the reaction would have been the same if it was a male companion – such as an uncle – of the person being rude who was deliberately injured, however. Which was really what Andrea was talking about.

    Women’s bodies are often seen as something to be used by others – mens bodies rarely are. This is why gay men creep more people out than gay women. Since society usually describes sex up as something that one person does to another, many people automatically see men having sex as a direct assault on the idea that men’s bodies shouldn’t be for other’s use the way women’s bodies are.

    Personally, I think the dynamics would also be quite a bit different if it had been a teenage/adult nephew rather than a niece. In that case attacking the aunt would have seemed cowardly. Especially if the attacker had been male as well – but, in that case, it also would have more likely have been shrugged off (by the public, not the police). Boys will be boys, after all.

  5. Personally, I think the dynamics would also be quite a bit different if it had been a teenage/adult nephew rather than a niece. In that case attacking the aunt would have seemed cowardly.

    Hmm, I’m not sure if that’s the case. I think even — perhaps especially — in the cases of males, it is seen as completely acceptable to target a female family member as retribution. The rape case I link above is one example. I can also remember another one where a woman posted on the feminist LJ about how, to get back at her boyfriend, some frat guys sent harassing e-mails to her.

    But, yeah, as to TrueTallus’ assertion that the aunt’s gender wasn’t a factor in the speculation, I agree with you completely, Mickle. You nailed my intent perfectly 🙂

  6. Hmmm, good point

    I still think that fewer people would excuse the oil throwing if the rude customer had been an adult nephew, but I can also see people still being more likely to excuse such a scenario than if the companion had been an adult male.

    It is certainly more acceptable to see women’s bodies as something to be used more than men’s, but hurting someone’s family is also seen as one of the dirtiest things you can do – something reserved for gangs and the mafia. So, I guess it’s not so much that I think people would think that it’s cowardly, but that it would be seen as escalating the violence by an even greater factor than just changing from words and gestures to physical harm. This dynamic doesn’t occur when both the rude customer and the victim are female because they are not seen as belonging to each other the way female family members belong to adult male family members.

    I don’t think if the rude customer was male that people would suddenly argue that if anyone deserved it, the nephew did, but I do think that simply having a man in the equation gives the customer/victim duo greater authority and makes it less likley that people will argue that they deserved it.

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