One argument against feminism that is constantly recycled is that the movement, in the 21st century, is outdated and irrelevant. Women have the vote, it’s illegal to pay us less and generally people agree we can do more than just cook. Life is bliss ladies, amirite?
Okaaaaaaay I’m kind of getting the vibe life is not super bliss. If you sat through even 30 seconds of the above video, it’s pretty evident that sexism and internalised misogyny are still alive and thriving. Contrary to popular belief at Fox News, feminism is not about encouraging women teachers to sleep with male students (literally wtf?). Feminism is really about beating your chest like a gorilla, screaming ‘I AM WOMAN HEAR ME ROAR’, having hairy armpits and owning 20 cats.
Just jokes. In case you forgot, it’s about equality, and it is essential.
In 1971, Susan Griffin lamented that she had “never been free from the fear of rape” (p. 26), and spoke of the ways that fear of rape limit the freedoms of women. 3 decades later, this sentiment stills holds astonishing pertinency. As such, a concept known as ‘rape culture’ is a common theme in current feminist discourse. According to Ridgway (2014), rape culture involves “situations in which sexual assault, rape, and general violence are ignored, trivialized, normalized, or made into jokes.” Think Robin Thicke’s confusion about consent and blurred lines, sympathy given to rapists who are promising sports stars, revenge porn and frat house boys who gleefully promote their rapey intentions.
Victim blaming, also, is one of the most poignant examples of rape culture. Just this week sex abuse survivor Chrissy Hynde, an American singer-songerwriter, has been quoted saying:
This statement begs the question – why does this woman think she was responsible for her own rape? What is continually upholding cultural values that endorse the idea of women policing their own bodies to avoid rape? A.K.A victim blaming.
I would suggest one of the key ingredients at play in this practice is rape schemas. Put simply, rape schemas are ideas that people and cultures hold about what is considered ‘legitimate’ rape, and they are generally formed through socialisation and conditioning. So, in the West, rape = a dark alley at night, a dunk girl alone, revealing clothes, a monstrous man, and a whole lot of screaming for help. This is damaging because rapes not fitting this schema (which is most rapes, considering a high percentage are committed by people known to the victim) become less legitimate and are treated suspiciously. ‘If it was rape, why didn’t she scream for help?/ it can’t be rape if it was her husband / he couldn’t have been raped, he’s stronger than her’ – sound familiar? This is inherently damaging, because as Herman (1988, p. 45) explains, “it is difficult in our society to differentiate rape from ‘normal’ heterosexual relationships”. It is also why there is a widespread impression that rape isn’t a Western issue (Heaven’s no!), but only happens in developing countries.
So all this rape talk, but where does feminism come in? Feminism is one movement, the movement, that is consistently trying to counter these ideas of rape schemas and rape culture. The #yesallwomen movement is one recent example, which according to Chiu (2014) was a platform for women to share experiences of violence, fear of male reaction to rejection and the legitimate danger when ‘friendzoning’ turns ugly (translation: when you won’t have sex with men who think they are owed it for being a decent person). There are also transgender activists speaking out about the increased risk of sexual abuse the trans community face, and students speaking up about campus rape, such as Emma Sulkowicz There are feminist writers, bloggers and academics that dissect and raise awareness of women’s issues. If feminism did not exist, who would campaign against the inequalities and injustices that are so damaging to women’s freedom and options? Not the bronies, I’m guessing.
So the verdict is in. Feminism is legitimate, necessary and producing change. May the crazy cat ladies prosper.
Chiu, J 2014, ‘#YesAllWomen — More Than Hashtag Activism’, The Huffington Post, viewed 1 September, <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jenni-chiu/yesallwomen-more-than-has_b_5398133.html?ir=Australia>
Griffin, S 1971, ‘Rape: The All American Crime’, Ramparts Magazine, September, pp. 26-35
Herman, D 1988, ‘The rape culture’, Culture, vol. 1, no. 10, pp. 45-53
Ridgway, S 2014, ’25 Everyday Example of Rap Culture’, Everyday Feminism, viewed 1 September, <http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/03/examples-of-rape-culture/>