Misogyny in the United States takes many forms. We usually think of it as angry and belittling. Those instances are blatant, but they are not the source of the problem. Open hostility towards women requires something far more subtle to gain the acceptance of what should be an advanced society. How does this happen? How does it wheedle its way into our brains? Well, sad as it may seem, it is frequently disguised in chivalry, though chivalry itself is a mark of great respect and not belittlement. There is a significant difference between doing something for a person out of your respect for them versus doing the same thing because you think they are too incompetent to do it on their own. In this latter manner, the guise of chivalry has been used to make women feel weaker and dependent on men. This is typically the most benign, undetected form of misogyny in our culture, though its undermining effect on the psyche of both men and women is significant. We teach men they should render aid and, likewise, teach women they should expect it, without teaching why. Thus, the psyche fills in the blanks and accepts: Men must do this because they are stronger and women must accept because they are weaker. Yes, yes. I know. This segment is about rape culture, so why I am sitting here tapping my keys on about chivalry? Well, because this is where it starts.
Before anyone gets all worked up, I am not saying chivalry is wrong. I am not suggesting the world should do away with it. What I am suggesting, however, is that our culture has forgotten what it is. Chivalry is, yes, in one aspect, someone who is stronger protecting another, who is weaker, from offense or harm. In this manner, any strong person who defends someone else is chivalrous. That is not the aspect of chivalry I’m talking about. I’m talking about the ‘treat women like ladies” aspect. I’m talking about the opening doors, ladies first, pulling out chairs, carrying objects, paying for meals and movies and all of that. I am talking about an expectation of men to provide these things and women to accept them without either understanding why. We are quick to apply these conditions on society, on both men and women and condemn those who do not accept these social norms. But when a boy asks why he should open the door for a woman, what do you tell him? Because it is polite? Because it is good manners? Because that is how you should treat a lady? And when a girl asks why men hold doors open, what do we tell them? He is being polite? He is being a gentleman? He is supposed to?
We have come to a point of teaching actions without reason. Why? I think because we become so lost in performing the ceremony, we forgot its purpose. These actions should be out of respect and appreciation for a person. They should be small acts of goodwill to our fellow humans, some small token of sacrifice or inconvenience we accept on ourselves to make someone else’s life fractionally easier. The idea behind the Random Acts of Kindness movement exemplifies what chivalry should be. However, because we have failed to teach respect along with actions, our cultural psyche has adapted to fill in those blanks. Instead of respect and appreciation, the undermining motivation has changed, to a large extent, to perpetuate the idea: Men must provide these services because women are weaker and need their help and women must accept for the same reason. This false chivalry, while quiet and almost unnoticed, has played an enormous role in perpetuating misogyny in its uglier forms because it has created a subconscious acceptance between the roles of men and women and the hierarchy of control. In the absence of teaching why (respect, humility and sacrifice to honor someone), we have taught instead that men are strong and women are weak. It also creates the illusion that women must be the idea of a lady and if they do not conform to this, then they are undeserving of respect. And this, my friends and fellow humans, is the root of rape culture and victim blaming: false ideas of chivalry which place a unique burden on women to deserve respect.
That said, it is not the reason for rape in our country, though anything which places a subconscious hierarchy of authority in our society certainly contributes. Rape is about dominance and control over another person. It is a violent act where the only sexual aspect is that the perpetrator is aroused by the complete dominance of another human being. Rape is never about sex or being too horny to control yourself. There is no greater primal dominance than overpowering and sexually penetrating an unwilling victim. The sexual satisfaction is completely secondary to their exhilaration of power. The sex is how they dominate and humiliate, it is their weapon, not their reason. There is no place for this in civilization. We are not animals. Every person with any moral compass can agree that rape is wrong. So, here is the big question, why do we more often blame the victim than the rapist?
Yes, why is it okay to minimize the atrocious acts of a rapist against the normal actions of a victim? Maybe it is because we have failed to recognize what is normal. Our indoctrination of false chivalry has dictated who does and does not deserve respect. We say the woman should not have been drinking. Why? I would agree that anything which interferes with judgment increases your risk of suffering harm. That is a fact. But if you have a few drinks, pass out on the couch, and then someone shoots you in the head, isn’t it still murder? Was the crime less violent, less wrong, simply because you had been drinking? Were you asking to be shot in the head? If you are wearing a short skirt or dressed provocatively and someone steals your car, is it right to blame the crime on the your apparel?
There are things every single one of us can do every single day to make ourselves safer, like being afraid to go outside our homes, drive in traffic, fly in an airplane, answer our door, walk our dogs, get in a boat, have a mixed drink or a beer, go jogging, climb the stairs, walk across the street, wear shoes with laces, climb a ladder, use fire to cook, go swimming, light a fireplace. In fact, over 700 people die every year simply from falling off their bed. There are always things we could do to be safer, but the absence of caution by a victim does not ever excuse a criminal act perpetrated against them. A woman’s clothes, drinking or even her dating habits are never responsible for another human’s decision to commit a violent crime.
Think about that. If you forgot to lock your window, does that mean it is your fault someone decided to climb through it and steal your belongings? Or abduct your child? Or kill your family? No. You are not responsible for the bad intent of another person. You may can take reasonable precaution against potential threats, but failure to do so is never justification for the unlawful and amoral actions of another human being. They make their decisions. We create the excuses criminals use for rape, and society dismissing it, by suggesting some women deserve what they get, that they deserve to be raped, dominated, controlled and humiliated. And why? Because they weren’t acting like a “lady”. Because women have been forced to bear the responsibility of the shortcomings of men. Even the dominant religions, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam place the burden of man’s sin on women, going so far as to blame women as the root cause of all sin on earth. Isn’t that convenient? A ready made, Biblical excuse to justify a man’s transgression because of a woman’s inherent wickedness.
But this is all hidden behind the niceties of false chivalry, where women and men are taught to place one another in a role of acceptance and dominance. Where women are taught to be a lady if they wish to be respected and men are taught to respect a lady and have disregard for women who do not conform. But that is not chivalry. We should be teaching our children to respect one another as fellow humans sharing this world, this life and this land. We should be teaching that all life deserves respect and that we should offer courtesy to someone not based on their actions or lifestyle choices, but as a reflection of our own. However, that would also require understanding what respect means, another failing in our society.
Many people confuse respect with agreement. We have learned to feign insult when someone challenges our beliefs or does not choose to believe as we do. Disagreement is not disrespect. Contempt for another person, their actions or belief is not disrespect. Abuse of someone, belittling another or seeking to insult or humiliate by degrading, misrepresenting their actions or lying is disrespect. Honesty is not disrespectful. For instance, if you act hypocritically and someone says you are a hypocrite, that is simply defining you by your actions, not being disrespectful. So, if you force yourself, sexually, on another person against their will, you are a rapist. Defining a person by their actions is not judgmental and it is not disrespectful. That said, their lifestyle choice never condones criminal behavior against them, whether you agree or not. Further, legitimate condemnation is based on the acceptance of society and its laws, not on religious choices or unique beliefs. It is based on things which are measurable by what the law provides. For example, if an unwed woman chooses to have sexual relations with someone, calling her a slut or shaming her because you do not believe in her lifestyle or agree with her free choices, or otherwise publicly condemning her, is disrespectful. Her choices have no affect on you, they are just simply a difference of opinion. You are free to disagree with the lifestyle and offer your reasoning, but shaming her because she does not agree with you, especially to the point of suggesting she deserves to be harmed, is disrespectful. And this is the rape culture in our country, and beyond. We have come to the point of freely suggesting women we do not like, do not agree with, or who we feel have challenged us, actually deserve to be raped. We have armed impulsive men who have a deep desire to dominate with ample excuses to condone their behavior. We have normalized rape and frequently treat it more as an inconvenience than a reprehensible crime.
Don’t believe me? We are living in a fundamentally misogynistic society and the proof is in our rape culture. Society keeps looking for anything else to blame for rape besides the rapist. And the real kicker here is, by creating excuses, they empower perpetrators to believe it isn’t even their fault they aren’t controlling their impulses. Every person bears their own demons. Every human being has a dark side to them, some far worse than others, but everyone has it because no one is perfect. We all have to choose between right and wrong every single day. Most people do not have such violent impulses or desires, but many people do have quick, violent or hostile tempers which they must keep in check. Most people choose to either maintain control or not. Those incapable of that choice are mentally unstable and must have treatment and/or be removed from general society for the safety of others and themselves. But the vast majority are capable of choice. Those who choose to be a rapist are just like those who choose to commit any other crime. In the end, it would not matter if the victim wore a bikini or a burka. The rapist would have an excuse why either made him do it.
I really wish I could say that only the rapists are to blame for the state of our culture. As if the heinous crimes are not enough, victims are further assaulted by religions who call them harlots, judges who sympathize more with the convicted felons, giving them ridiculously light sentences, and being blamed for their violation based on what they wore, what they drank, whose house they were at, walking alone, being called a tease and even, in the event of married women, for not being willing in the first place and doing their duty. Women who are raped are dehumanized, first by the rapist, then by the legal system and, finally by society.
Rape is being used like an insult against women who challenge or push against the patriarchy. This man, Mike Krawitz, wrote a reprehensible Facebook post
about female journalist, Olivia Nuzzi after she shared a post about the Republican Presidential Candidate, Donald Trump and his wife. The post read:
“Fuck. You. Olivia. I. Hope. Somebody. Rapes. You. Today. :)”
A minute later, he wrote:
“Hope. You. Get. Raped. By. A. Syrian. Refugee. :).”
For full disclosure, after receiving backlash for his comments, he stated that his account had been “hacked.” However, Nuzzi states that this man has been harassing her for over a year. She does not believe he was hacked, just trying to avoid the responsibility of his actions.
Sure, this is one man, so why is it important? Because he is a politician who was running for public office at the time. This is rape culture. This is why women are blamed when they are raped, because there is a deep seeded belief in our country that women who do not fit in the preconceived dainty box of “Lady” simply doesn’t deserve to be treated human. And why? What teaches this in our culture? What separates and defines men and women, who they should and should not be? Do we learn to respect all people or just to respect those who share our values? You see, that is the difference in chivalry and whatever this is that we have accepted in its place. There is no way to change everyone right now. But we can demand justice. We can refuse to accept scenarios like Brock Turner, Austin James Wilkerson, and Kraigen Grooms. We must be loud. We must denounce rape culture at every instance and, at the least, make it so that the people who think this way feel outnumbered. Let them hide. Show them that they will be challenged and exposed. We cannot change the way they think, but we can make it unacceptable to espouse those ideas publicly. We have to stand and say no, every time. Our resolve must be stronger than their hypocrisy. Eventually, civility and equality will become a habit in society, which is the best that we can hope for. There will always be bad people, but our desire for equality must be stronger and our inability to accept anything less must remain steadfast.
We are One Woman, One World.
Credit Politico for photograph and factual data. Read more: http://www.politico.com/states/new-jersey/story/2016/09/south-jersey-candidate-to-female-reporter-i-hope-you-get-raped-105182#ixzz4KNDVVfP6
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