Research and writing assistance from Christine Slocum.
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When Chris Brown appeared on the Grammys, there was a lot of buzz about sexual violence… requesting sexual violence.
Three years after Brown beat his then girlfriend Rihanna, punched her in the eye, and hit her mouth so hard that blood spattered in the vehicle, women invited Brown to use his masculinity, on them through physical violence. (Whether any of these women have experienced sexual violence is unknown)
As chaos ensued, the media such as the Wall Street Journal weighed in, but much of the coverage was about Chris Brown, the individual. The Journal quoted Grammy producer saying, “If we’re going to get in trying to personally evaluate artists in terms of their personal lives, that’s a slippery slope that we wouldn’t want to get into.”
But, the real issue should not be about whether or not we have forgiven Chris Brown, but about our culture’s cozy relationship to violence against women. Pop culture is so much keener to look past Brown’s felony, and not other sexual crimes. Why?
If you have had the experience of hearing “Hey baby” from a stranger, a whistle from a guy driving by, or a creepy up-and-down from the man across the road, you may have been told it was a compliment or asked what you were wearing. The implication might be that it is normal and by some attribute that you invited it.
There is a reluctance to call it what it is: street harassment, a byproduct of rape culture that sexually objectifies women. It accepts that woman are inherently are rape-able, and normalizes this risk, instead of treating it like a problem.
“Rape culture” refers to “an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture.”It is a form of social control maintained to keep people in narrowly defined gender roles.
The Hollywood Reporter published, “Of course, there still remains contemporary culture’s problematic sense of culpability when it comes to gender roles, much less domestic abuse.” This aspect of rape culture fails to hold the abuser responsible.
How does rape culture our ideas of men and women?
- Blame the victims of rape (“She asked for it!”)
- Trivialize sexual assault, street harassment and domestic violence (“Boys will be boys!”)
- Refuse to take rape accusations seriously, either through being suspicious of the victim or perhaps by failing to investigate
- Take away rape victims ability to determine their fates
- Sexually explicit jokes, or rape jokes
- Tolerance of sexual harassment
- Publicly scrutinize a victim’s dress, mental state, motives, and history
- Create or watch gratuitous gendered violence in movies and television (think horror films)
- Define “manhood” as dominant and sexually aggressive; defining “womanhood” as submissive and sexually passive
- Pressure men to “score”, and women to be sexually available
- Teach women to avoid getting raped instead of teaching men not to rape (though this one is finally getting some ground)
- This one creates a story of an assault which focuses on how a victim failed to avoid being raped instead of a criminal who decided to rape
- Real and rhetorical violence aimed at the LGBT community
You do not have to be Rhianna for this to be a problem that affects you. Question the normal. Hold men to a higher standard. If you are a man, be that higher standard. So many already are.