Tweeting for Change: Challenging Rape Culture
In response to the TIME article “It’s Time to End ‘Rape Culture’ Hysteria,” by the American Enterprise Institute’s Caroline Kitchens published in late March (http://time.com/30545/its-time-to-end-rape-culture-hysteria/), hundreds of people have posted under the hashtag #rapecultureiswhen (http://www.gurl.com/2014/03/26/rapecultureiswhen-tweets-about-what-rape-culture-is/) with examples of how normalizing rape, minimizing the impact of sexual violence and blaming the victims of sexual assaults are woven into the fabric of our everyday lives. “Rape culture” is used to describe the normalization of rape and sexual violence in our society to the extent that that they are not only common, but also thought of as an innate part of life.
The term “rape culture” is meant to be shocking, as are the examples of it. To accuse everyone of participating, directly or indirectly, in a culture that condones such violence is bold, and it has stirred up quite a conversation. Currently debates are raging in the blogosphere about the use of this term and whether it lends itself to ending sexual violence. In this debate, questions have been raised about whether this takes the focus off of individuals and at worst stereotypes all men as perpetrators of sexual violence.
Philosophical debates about the relevance and usefulness of the term “rape culture” aside, our young people sort through our culture’s confusing norms and beliefs around rape and sexual violence day-to-day. It comes across their Facebook and Twitter feeds, they hear it in the hallways of their schools and most hadn’t thought much of it, until we started talking. Then we heard:
#rapecultureiswhen women and the situation are blamed for a guy’s actions
#rapecultureiswhen “It’s time to get over it.” –my mom
#rapecultureiswhen my guy friend posts about “b——-” and “hoes” on Facebook and thinks that a girl’s still going to want to date him.
#rapecultureiswhen I hear the word “rape” used as slang when I walk down the hall. Too often to confront it every time.
#rapecultureiswhen a kid grabbed my chest in middle school because he had gotten away with it before.
#rapecultureiswhen it is always your fault.
#rapecultureiswhen I tell someone I was raped and they ask how long ago it was, and when I respond, they say “oh so a while ago.” Like it makes a difference.
While the hashtag #rapecultureiswhen may raise awareness and can be validating for those of us concerned about common victim-blaming, violence-minimizing, accountability-excusing beliefs, it may not ultimately prove productive in ending rape, which begs us to take it one step further. Making change requires both challenging harmful norms and creating something new in their place. And so #consentcultureiswhen is born. Here are a few to get us started:
#consentcultureiswhen there’s nothing at stake when you say no.
#consentcultureiswhen we see couples asking for permission (yes speaking to each other!) during sexual scenes on TV and in movies.
#consentcultureiswhen sexual decisions are made between equal partners, without the social pressures of what “should” occur and when.
What do you think consent culture would look like? Tell us! #consentcultureiswhen…