“Louis CK is accused by 5 women for sexual misconduct”, read The New York Times on November 9, 2017. My heart sank. I stared at the headline a bit too long. “No, this can’t be true”, I mumbled. My first instinct was to dismiss the report and not believe the victims. However, I decided to re-watch his videos. To my astonishment, he had cracked a lot of rape jokes in his stand-up acts. I just chose to ignore them before. After this revelation, I was inclined to think that his jokes were not really jokes, but manifestations of his desires. Should we all have paid attention to it and seen it as a portent of danger before?
I am guilty of laughing at the sexist/rape jokes cracked by my male friends. I laughed because I wanted to be the ‘cool’ girl who doesn’t get offended easily and can take jokes in her stride. Guess what? I was contributing to the rape culture. Rape jokes are a part of culture that propagates sexual violence. So, what exactly is rape culture? According to Marshall University’s Women’s Center website, rape culture is an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture. Rape culture is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence, thereby creating a society that disregards women’s rights and safety.
Rape culture plays a huge role in our social lives. It’s crazy how misogyny and sexism has been so normalized that you don’t notice it anymore. Rape culture entails catcalling, stalking, groping, molestation, and unwanted touch. It is defining manhood as dominant and sexually aggressive. It is trivializing sexual assault, not believing victims, and publicly humiliating them on the clothes they wore and their motives. It is the disclosure of private details, non-consensual photography, sending unsolicited pictures, and being sexist.
Now that you know what rape culture is, how can we help dismantle it? Firstly, let’s talk to the men out there, how they can be agents of change in small ways. Call out your male friends for problematic language/behavior. Confront them and correct them whenever necessary. Avoid using language that degrades women. Do not assume consent at any point. It can be withdrawn and learn to respect that. Do not speak for women. Understand that your gender stereotypes are hurtful. Be supportive when a woman talks to you about the abuse she has faced in the hands of men. Believe her. Also, stop complaining about being in the ‘friend zone’. Women don’t owe you anything. Nice guys know that sex isn’t a trade for being a good friend. You do not deserve an Oscar for behaving decently with women. Ask yourselves how you can do better. Have the courage to admit that you have done something wrong and reflect upon it.
Do not let toxic masculinity stop you from expressing your feelings and emotions. Do not believe in the narratives, ‘Boys will be boys’, ‘Man up’, etc. Seek help whenever needed. Define manhood on your own terms. Women, listen up. If somebody invades your physical space without your consent, tell them about it without any hesitation. Demand safe spaces. Break free from the shackles of vicious patriarchy which you have internalized due to years of social conditioning to serve men. Do not take ‘You’re not like other girls’ as a compliment because after all, you are the combination of every woman that you’ve ever met. Under patriarchy, women are constantly pit against other women and they learn to hate each other. Try to support other women. Do not body-shame other women. Stop romanticizing the abusive actions of men. Stop doing emotional labour for men, especially in romantic relationships.
With #MeToo and #TimesUp, women are screaming their lungs out and telling the world their stories. It’s time we join that conversation too.
Feature Image Credits: Etsy