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“Two weeks ago a man in France was arrested for raping his daughter. She’d gone to her school counselor and then the police, but they needed “hard evidence.” So, she videotaped her next assault. Her father was eventually arrested. His attorney explained, “There was a period when he was unemployed and in the middle of a divorce. He insists that these acts did not stretch back further than three or four months. His daughter says longer. But everyone should be very careful in what they say.” Because, really, even despite her seeking help, her testimony, her bravery in setting up a webcam to film her father raping her, you really can’t believe what the girl says, can you?
Everyone “knows” this. Even children.
Three years ago, in fly-on-the-wall fashion of parent drivers everywhere, I listened while a 14-year-old girl in the back seat of my car described how angry she was that her parents had stopped allowing her to walk home alone just because a girl in her neighborhood “claimed she was raped.” When I asked her if there was any reason to think the girl’s story was not true, she said, “Girls lie about rape all the time.” She didn’t know the person, she just assumed she was lying…
No one says, “You can’t trust women,” but distrust them we do. College students surveyed revealed that they think up to 50% of their female peers lie when they accuse someone of rape, despite wide-scale evidence and multi-country studies that show the incident of false rape reports to be in the 2%-8% range, pretty much the same as false claims for other crimes. As late as 2003, people jokingly (wink, wink) referred to Philadelphia’s sex crimes unit as “the lying bitch unit.” If an 11-year-old girl told an adult that her father took out a Craigslist ad to find someone to beat and rape her while he watched, as recently actually occurred, what do you think the response would be? Would she need to provide a videotape after the fact?
It goes way beyond sexual assault as well. That’s just the most likely and obvious demonstration of “women are born to lie” myths. Women’s credibility is questioned in the workplace, in courts, by law enforcement, in doctors’ offices, and in our political system. People don’t trust women to be bosses, or pilots, or employees. Pakistan’s controversial Hudood Ordinance still requires a female rape victim to procure four male witnesses to her rape or risk prosecution for adultery. In August, a survey of managers in the United States revealed that they overwhelmingly distrust women who request flextime. It’s notable, of course, that women are trusted to be mothers—the largest pool of undervalued, unpaid, economically crucial labor.
— Soraya Chemaly, How We Teach Our Kids That Women Are Liars ”
*ed. Removed second copy of quotation – Yep, more coffee required.*
The experience of society and day to day living is different for women and men. This should be a simple concept to grasp as it lies at the base of every discussion when it comes to gender roles and society. Gender socialization runs deep and wide encoding behaviours and expectations onto people who live in our society. The enforcement of gendered roles and stereotypes begins at birth and ceases only at death.
A problem (among many) with this socialization is that it is inherently biased toward people that happen to have an XY set of sex chromosomes. Concomitantly, possessing the XX chromosomes presents an entirely different landscape to grow up. Let’s take a peek at some of the experiences of women(quotes from Everyday Sexism tumblr) -
2013-07-13 01:30 : “I was sitting down with my friends eating lunch when a boy walked up to me with his friends and said to me “pop a tit you slut!”. I was wearing school uniform which was track pants and a jumper. His friends laughed. When I looked at the boy angrily his friend scoffed and said “Jesus, you’re moody!” I ignored them and they walked away. Once they were gone I said to my friends that I felt so intimidated and uncomfortable. One of my friends looked at me and said “well he told you to pop a tit, so he must think you’re hot!”
Anon – “On a college spring break trip, one of the guys thought it was appropriate to pat my rear. He was already walking away before I could do more than give him a sharp look. The next day, he sidled up to me and slung his arm around my shoulders. It seems like such a little thing, but I barely knew this guy. We’d spoken only a few times in the past, and I froze. My utter lack of response-ironically enough-seems to be the hint he needed to back off. He didn’t bother me for the rest of the trip, but I still wonder why he thought any uninvited contact was okay?”
2013-07-11 16:46 : “At a choir, a boy called me a slut and lifted up my skirt for all to see. It was mortifying. I’m 17.”
2013-07-11 17:26 : “A man was touching the fronts of my two older (early pubescent) sisters’ t-shirts- he was pretending he was only interested in what was written on the shirts, not what was under them- but he was touching their breasts in reality, and doing this right in front of my mom! I was a lot younger and did not have a T shirt on, and I was clueless and felt a little jealous that the man was not paying any attention to me!! But because of the look on my mom’s face, I knew something was not right as I did not understand that he was fondling their breasts. Mom knew, yet she did NOTHING to protect her daughters! In retrospect I realize that she felt as helpless as my two sisters did.
Huh. Seems a little different that what it is like to be male in society, no? Going further, let’s understand that all of this cognitive baggage is going to effect a person’s performance negatively, and yes dudes, just because it doesn’t happen to you doesn’t mean that it isn’t happening.
2013-07-11 01:07 – “A man approached me at the library to day. He made a joke about a girl (me), wearing a “Twins of Evil” (Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie) T-shirt. I didn’t understand, until he made a grabbing motion with his hands towards my breasts.
Some inspirational words from the 2013 Feminism in London Conference, the speaker was Finn Mackay – see the whole speech here.
Let us be clear. It is not feminism that turns women into victims. It is the men who choose to abuse women, who choose to violate women, who presume a right to buy women. It is those men who make women into victims; not feminism. Feminism is here to stop that process, to end the violence of male domination. We respond to individual experiences with the aim of collective change for all. That is what empowerment looks like.
It is not pessimistic or negative to name our oppression. It is liberating. Ours is a movement of billions of women, which says: no, it wasn’t your fault, it wasn’t because of what you were wearing, it wasn’t because of who you dated, it wasn’t because of how much you had been drinking, it wasn’t because of how late you walked home. Ours is also a movement which feels every loss, we feel every indignity, we feel every assault – because this is about you, and also because this goes beyond you; because this is about all of us. It is about every woman made to feel that she wasn’t worth as much as a man; every woman made to hate her body; every woman made to question and judge herself simply due to her sex alone; every woman denied opportunities or directed away from them; every woman made to feel she was lesser, second class.
What we all share as women, despite our vast diversity is our experiences of sexism in a world of male supremacy. What we should also share, but too often don’t, is our involvement in a collective movement of resistance to that oppression.
Homophobia, misogyny and a lack of faith are what hold women back from identifying with one of the oldest and most powerful social movements the world has ever known – their own. It is up to all of us to challenge that misogyny, to restore the faith in our personhood, our own potential, our own humanity.
For what is shameful about social justice, what is embarrassing about dignity and worth, what is wrong with demanding a stake in the world we have built? Feminism is only frightening to those who gain the most from oppression, to those who would stifle the human spirit and hold the world in stasis. The rest of us really do have nothing to lose and everything to gain; a revolution still to finish, and a world to win.
Clueless dudes are always going on about the rise of female power, and how good women have it now. Heck, the post-feminist era has been declared, always by dudes, to have arrived.
Lisa Kudrow, in a scene from Scandal, enumerates some the features of the ingrained patriarchal cultural norms we live within.
Fantastic interview with Germaine Greer. Appreciate a great intellect on display.
I suggest reading the entire article, but some highlights I’ll post here.
“I said this a long time ago, and I’m saying it again – not only is rape about a rapist having control, but victim blaming is about controlling the female population: what better way to cajole women into standards of purity, decency, “learning how to behave” and sobriety than dangle the threat of “Well, if you don’t, you’ll surely invite rape upon yourselves?” What better way to get “these hoes” and “these broads” to understand that they don’t “know how to behave” than to help drive home the point that rape happens because women do bad things? Better yet, bad things happen to women who aren’t perfect, or at least striving to be. And who defines that “perfect?” Certainly not women.”
“One of the most pervasive and undisputed gender stereotypes is that men are more aggressive than women. However, this stereotype has, until recently, led researchers to conclude that women are nonaggressive and, therefore, to ignore the topic of female aggression as a distinct phenomenon. The basis of the myth, factors supporting its maintenance, and theories of female aggression are examined. A feminist reinterpretation of aggression that views women’s and men’s aggressive behavior within social structural arrangements that create and sustain differential power relations is presented.”