A woman’s knowing

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As the Weinstein assaults take on Goliath-ike proportions, indeed it seems there is barely an actress in Hollywood who has not been assaulted in some way by this bathrobe-wearing predator or others like him, it’s time to take the blinders and have a look at the so-called civilised society in which we live.

This is not a Hollywood-specific sickness. This is a society-at-large sickness, a sickness that, at it’s core, is seeded and perpetuated by men in power and is even, in some cases, enabled by our fellow women.

It seems there is barely a woman who hasn’t been sexually harassed at some point in their lives (Franke, 2002).

Think about this—almost every single woman you know has been sexually assaulted in some way, and we’re not talking about a wink or a catcall here and there, like the hysterics would have us believe. We are talking about rape, and rape-adjacent crime. Fuck that, and fuck the greed that enables it. Because if you’re rich, or an athlete, or making other people a lot of money, apparently society’s rules do not apply. In fact, if you’re a predator, and make money doing it, you get rewarded.

To say this is unacceptable in the 21st century is a woeful understatement, but it is still happening, right under our noses as we go about our daily business while patting ourselves on the back that we recycle and don’t park in handicapped spots.

It is time rape and sexual assault be understood for what it is: as a crime that reflects the male dominance and entitlement that still exists in every facet of our society (Franke, 2002).

Assault and rape is not about sex. It is about power, and the misuse of this power to attain, maintain, and retain male dominance.

Now, please understand that most men don’t rape. In fact, 95% of the men I’ve met are lovely, wonderful, supportive, empathetic, sensitive, beautiful creatures who would never dream of doing such a thing.

This is about the 5%. The 5% who think rape’s ok if she was asking for it because she was wearing a short skirt, or she was drunk; the 5% who would rape if they think they’d get away with it; and the 5% who stay silent in the face of rape and sexual assault because ‘mates’ or greed.

There is nearly universal acceptance of rape as a male trait typical of all time periods and cultures (Franke, 2002). But it is not acceptable, and it can no longer be ignored.

But of course they’re trying. Much like the deafening silence and lack of action following every mass shooting, they are desperately trying to ignore—the perpetrators, the complicit, the wilfully ignorant, and even some of the victims. Oh boy, are they trying to ignore.

We have come to a rare moment in time where women are actually being heard. And we want to share our knowing. Our knowing that this is too much to ask of us and we are not going to stay silent any longer; that sexual assault, and assault-enabling via silence, wilful ignorance, or just flat out complicity, is still as much a part of out society as when we were so-called uncivilised Neanderthals, it’s just been brushed under the carpet by the helpful cleaning (woman) we employ every spring.

Our knowing that we have to pay for a taxi rather than walk three blocks at night, because we might get attacked, knowing, as we all do, that the taxi drive itself might not be safe, lest our being drunk or wearing a sexy outfit be taken as an invitation to rape, so then we text the taxi badge number to a friend, knowing they are doing the same.

The knowing that, on those instances we have to walk alone, in the dark, then we must have the handy key knuckledusters at the ready for use against those who think ‘no’ is foreplay, or a woman walking alone is fair game.

Our knowing that we must say no to offered free drinks at pubs and clubs, lest they be spiked, because we all know if we’re too unconscious to say no, that means yes.

The knowing that you have to dress down at work, in case you look too attractive which will simultaneously dent your prospects of promotion while inviting leering from your boss, which of course you have to pretend to like because this sexist fuck is the key to you paying your mortgage.

The knowing that you must be careful how you dress elsewhere, too, because god forbid people think you asked for it. Knowing how to skirt the fine line when declining a dance, because if you’re too rude you might get glassed, and if you’re too polite than it’s not really a no, is it? Same goes for turning down a drink. In those transactions, getting called an uptight, frigid bitch is a win because at least he’s not laying in wait for you by your car for you to find out if those key knuckledusters are effective.

The knowing you must go dutch on a date, lest the guy buying you a coffee thinks that gives him a right to least a kiss, don’t you think? He spent money on you, and like a hooker, your end of the bargain must be upheld.

And, worst of all, knowing that you’ll have to pass these hard-won skills on to your daughters, like when you had to tell your 9-year-old that she shouldn’t wear the short shorts she wanted to wear because predators don’t see a child, they see a sexualised object, and also knowing, in that exact moment, telling her your knowing stole a little bit of her innocence, even though by telling her you are trying to protect the innocence that you know without a doubt will be day be stolen if the cries of ‘me too’ are anything to go by.

In rape cultures, like the one we all live in, dominance and control over women become aspects of achieving and experiencing masculinity, and rape, while not overtly condoned, becomes part of the culture at large (Taschler & West, 2016), insidiously, behind closed doors, so we can all be polite and ignore it.

Already the entitled men are crying out in a chorus and ‘witch hunt’, because the anti-rape movement is a threat to the male right of sexual dominance (Taschler & West, 2016), which is why, when women come forward with their stories, the first reaction is disbelief, the next being, once the rape is actually established, to victim blame and slut shame. She asked for it, she was dressed inappropriately, she was walking alone late at night. She consented, even though I held all the power and if she said no, we both know she would have been fired. And it’s important to note that it is not only men in positions of judgeship and authority making these claims. Women often join in the hateful chorus, so indoctrinated are they in the patriarchy and the right for men to assert their dominance with sexual deviance.

Feminism has somehow become a dirty word, synonymous with man hating. Misandry, they cry. Don’t fight for equal pay, or equality of any kind, less you be labelled a ‘feminazi’. But feminism is more important that ever, as the current climate of sexual assault makes obvious. Because as far as we’ve come in a generation, and much overt sexism has been stamped out, it is the covert or benevolent sexism that is still doing our society harm. This benevolent sexism enables rape and rape culture, not to mention the rape of little boys and adolescents by men in power, as Corey Feldman so bravely pointed out this week.

Benevolent sexism is characterised by sexist attitudes that limit women to stereotypical roles, and this sexism has been linked to a variety of negative outcomes, including rape myth acceptance, because it maintains a male-dominated power structure (Taschler & West, 2016).

This covert sexism is the men who refuse to see women as equal and relegate them to the menial, mostly unpaid roles in a society whose economy is reliant on those very unpaid roles, but which are undervalued or just flat out ignored due to her genitals being different to their genitals. It is the men who expect women to give up their careers to become domestic unpaid workers while simultaneously deriding them and telling them they ‘don’t contribute’ while they do so. It is the last, power hungry men who desperately clutch at their self-awarded supremacy by subverting the rights of everyone they consider lesser to them, while they cling to the last vestiges of their tenuous manhood with their sharpened talons as they sit atop their self-regulated thrones of power and consider all they get to be their god-given ‘right’. It is the cowards who hide behind their careers and their NDAs and think that if they get away with it, it makes it okay, never once actually showing any true contrition, while those who haven’t been caught yet in their crimes send up cries of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ as they hide like the festering, gaping wounds they are behind their high-priced lawyers and the legal system paid for and administered by men who are equally as guilty as they are and therefore have a vested interest in victim blaming, all the while fully aware their victims have neither the resources or the connections to ever see a day in court.

Sexual assault is a physical manifestation of the sexist prejudice we see every single day. It is justified, and its seriousness denied, through insistence of ‘rape myths’, which are used to shift the burden of responsibility for rape from the perpetrator onto the victim (Taschler & West, 2016).

Although men are more frequently perpetrators of rape and other sexual violence, not only men ascribe to sexism. Women, like all members of devalued groups, can absorb and internalise negative messages about themselves, tailoring their expectations to hold sexist beliefs against their fellow women. How many times has one woman called another a slut or a whore because she owned her own goddamned sexuality? How many times has a woman victim- blamed when they hear about rape on the TV? She asked for it, look what she was wearing. Women may use rape myths to deny their own vulnerability; if a woman believes that only women who dress provocatively or behave promiscuously get raped, she can feel protected from the possibility of being raped by avoiding these behaviours (Taschler & West, 2016). This is a fallacy, of course, for no rape victim every asked for or deserved a rape.

Rape and sexual assault is not a given. It can be stamped out. “Rape-free” societies do exist. First, “rape-free” societies are characterised by sexual equality and the notion that the sexes are complementary.” Second, “the key to understanding the relative absence of rape…is the importance… attached to the contribution women make to social continuity” (Franke, 2002).

As women rise up and raise our voices, we will no longer be silenced. We will no longer tolerate male domination and entitlement. We are not here for your pleasure, we do not exist for you to assault, or to exert your domination over, and we are not here to raise your kids and to be resoundingly economically slapped down for our troubles.

The society of equality is a fallacy; where male domination exists, covertly or overtly, rape and sexual assault will continue and women will continue to be disbelieved by the very system that claims to protect them. Equality, true equality, is the only solution to this insidious problem. Until women are seen as just as valuable as men, economically or otherwise, this will not end.

What will this take? For women to speak up, and continue to speak up, loudly and with conviction, until their chorus is so loud they can no longer be ignored. It will require the victim blaming and slut shaming to STOP, by both men and women. But most of all, it will take men, the good men of which there are many, to hold other men to account. Do not keep quiet and laugh at those rape jokes your mates tell, stand up and say enough is enough. Do not accept daughters, nieces, granddaughters, and wives being raised in a culture of male domination where rape and assault is considered a right of manhood, and the role of women is seen as menial, undervalued, and even derided.

Manhood achieved by the subjugation of women is a false manhood, and never really existed at all.

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