Protesting Rape Culture

In the wake of the Roastbusters revelations, several groups have popped up on Facebook in protest of the handling of the case, or in anger at the boys. There’s much talk of getting out into the streets and protesting . . . something. The demands of the groups are often a bit fuzzy. Imprison the boys? Yes, nice and concrete. Ending rape culture? A complicated mess.

What are we hoping to change by getting out on the streets and being heard? We can make demands – of ending victim-blaming, of better laws around the internet depravity we have seen here, of the end of rape culture even. I don’t know if a short-term campaign over a single incident is going to work (I’m no sociologist here). It might work, it might be the seeds of the next cultural shift. In any event, it’s a noble endeavour.

A friend of mine made an observation about all this, one that I think dilutes the cause of the campaign. There are men on these marches who are rapists. There are many more who have sheltered rapists. There are men marching for an end to rape, who are part of the problem. And there are women marching alongside the people who committed and enabled their assault.

Because few rapists are reported, much less convicted, there are a whole lot of them out there being normal people. And due to social pressures, there are a whole lot of women who see their attacker every day, and have to try and pretend everything’s ok. These men, marching alongside women who have been raped or people who support these women, make a mockery of what the organisers are trying to achieve. They prove how pervasive rape culture is – there are people that know what they’ve done, but they’re still allowed to march, even to be on organising committees (well, I suppose no-one can stop them marching, but they don’t need to make them welcome). The people that know about it don’t speak up, they don’t rock the boat by making a fuss. Some of them don’t believe he’s a rapist, because ‘it’s her word against his’ or ‘it’s just drunken regrets’ or ‘he’s a nice guy, he would never do that’. Believing that no rape happened means that the woman is ‘creating drama’ or ‘trying to ruin his reputation’ and it all puts the woman on the defensive – which is exactly the thing that we’re supposed to be marching against.

Marching against rape culture is a good idea, at least on paper. It’s a noble aim, and it might do some good. Letting the people you march against march by your side is eroding your credibility quite significantly.

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