by: Heather Fawn
The rape and murder of a 23 year old woman in India heavies our hearts and opens our eyes, once again, to a problem we MUST face…..
The news of the rape and subsequent murder of the 23-year-old medical student is extremely disquieting. Now, every woman’s ultimate nightmare, their reason for constant vigilance and careful planning, their reason for self-defense classes and ending nights out early… well, the heroine in this story has succumbed to that nightmare.
There is not enough outrage.
India, yes, weep for your daughter. Lay her lovingly to rest. Hold each other a little tighter, look out for each other, check up on each other.
But do not put your anger to rest. Again, the world is watching a worst-case scenario with horror and disgust. I applaud the amount of people who have come forward to turn up the heat for harsher punishment of rapists, for people demanding to know exactly what happened and why no one intervened. Unfortunately, tourism will suffer because of the publicity of the murder. The ramifications of this gruesome crime echo throughout India, and, indeed, the world. The echoes are loud and ugly. In Delhi, people are incensed. They want guaranteed safety for their wives, daughters, friends. They want merciless justice, and, equally important, reassurance.
Without question, the six men who did this need to be punished. However, they are the product of a system. A system which stretches across all borders and time zones.
Fellow humans, punishment is not nearly enough as the threat of punishment does not stop rapists. We must figure out how can we prevent these things from happening in the first place.
It is not any particular group’s fault. Our global society is united by a common species. No one gets out of this unscathed, my friends. We want to point fingers, but we all share skin and eyes and hair and teeth that look pretty similar save for the variations in shades. We have beating hearts and we all have something or someone that motivates us to keep scurrying around this big, swirling marble in an expanding universe.
But something is very wrong, fellow homo sapiens. Rape is a devastating problem throughout the world. Collectively and individually, we have not been very good at preventing it. Yet we keep telling ladies how to dress, where to go, when to go there. We have self-defense classes, Mace, Glocks, deadbolts, baseball bats. We have an arsenal that we tell women to use. We have a list of do’s and don’ts that is lengthened as tragedies occur. Every woman feels the emotional impact of rape; we will always be instantly emotionally engaged with each hideous manifestation. Men share the sentiment because they love the women in their lives. But women must face a constant ambiguity that, should they ever survive sexual assault or rape within their lifetime, they must continuously reevaluate every time another incident becomes public knowledge.
When I meet a new guy, friend or otherwise, I never think anything but, “I hope I get out of this alive,” when I get into a car with him for the first time. This is the world I live in.
Bad things happen to lots of people. Statistics abound. But you know what? Whatever. Does it really make you feel better to rationalize how likely it is that a loved one could be the victim of a violent crime?
People say things like, “I don’t want a daughter. It’s too hard. I’d always be worried.” Fellow humans, what the fuck? You’d rather someone you love didn’t even exist than face the reality of the world they would be living in.
This is so fundamentally distressing. The death of our heroine in India is shedding light onto all the dark corners of what isn’t right about being a woman in the world, about being a woman in the world simply going about her life, in close proximity with others.
Those men told the world that awful night, “Being a woman is a fate worse than death. Now we ‘re all on the same page.”
This is not what I want for the world. Indian culture is not different from American culture when it comes to a woman’s potential to easily become a victim of a violent crime. As I said before, this is a humanity problem. I am starting to get really pissed off at the news headlines like, “The problem of rape in India”, “India’s struggle to deal with gang rape”, “India worries about its daughters”. Because, naturally, rape is only a problem in one country?
Why is my gender, comprising 51% of the world’s population, the garbage dump of being a person? Why do we carry this burden, many times, seemingly alone? Or worse, blindly, unknowingly heaping more garbage onto one another to avoid carrying it ourselves? Why do men’s bodies deserve a different status? Why are they treated with more respect? Men and women both risk suffering from PTSD after violent incidents, but women are in the overwhelming majority when it comes to the soul-crushing experience of another person trying to strip them of their dignity and rub in their faces just how much their bodies bother others.
None of us can choose our genders, and it often horrifies me that I have heard many women proclaiming that they would prefer to be men, if given a choice. A vagina, for life, is apparently not ideal. That is a lot of self-hatred, and a lot of hatred for others. It is telling of the kind of lives we imagine for men and women, and how different those lives are.
But there is also a kind of power in being the ever-visible, less-than-ideal gender. As Eve Ensler has pointed out, maybe being a girl is so powerful that people do everything they can to avoid being that.1
And when men use rape as a weapon, they say this: They pour out their hatred. They highlight their own specific power. They are permanently morphed from human being to rapist. Much like murderer, you can never not be a rapist. Almost all men, to be clear, are not rapists. But where is this disconnect that some men are? It’s a very specific, very deliberate crime. It isn’t one of those things you suddenly are. Many thoughts, beliefs, and opinions go into becoming a rapist. Whether a guy doesn’t listen to a girlfriend’s, “No,” or several men on a bus brutalize a woman and her friend for over an hour, rape is pretty specific.
As far as I know, no one raped her male friend (This is not to say that men are never the victims of rape, or that it is a lesser crime.).
If rape is such a precise violent behavior, then there are precise ways that societies are all contributing to thoughts, beliefs, and opinions that make rape a possibility. We are all unknowingly on the rapist’s side, is what I’m saying. And the more people try to rationalize this thing that isn’t rational, to say women shouldn’t be in the military (to avoid being raped by their, for all intents and purposes, brothers), to say that women shouldn’t dress provocatively (because just having a different body shape than men is bad enough?), that a woman shouldn’t drink as much as they’re comfortable with imbibing (because she might be physically overcome by someone who is probably larger and stronger than her and she better be sober for that fight?), that women should stay in groups as much as possible (because she is a helpless creature with “victim” already branded onto her forehead?)…
The more we try to tell women what to think and do, the less it sounds like we really take the time to think as a species.
BREAKING NEWS: Women, all of us, we’re doing everything we can not to be raped.
IRONIC, NO? Believe it or not, women in the military, women in slinky dresses, women having beers with friends, women walking alone to their apartments….we are thinking about not being raped. Maybe not all the time, but we think about it a lot. It’s woven into the fabric of daily life. Check drink. Call mom. Walk faster. Avoid eye contact.
We are doing it all. By the BOOK. Just for the record, we don’t want to be murdered, either. We avoid that too, however we can.
There are movements dedicated to working on the psychology of men. Men Can Stop Rape is one example.2 But it’s not enough, my friends. Bad things keep happening. Especially to women.
I understand that this is the type of thing that theses are made of. Believe me, I am heading in that direction in the future. If not just by the sheer amount of times I will address the issue of sex crimes in my writing. I also understand that I am not saying anything that people have not already said. Though I do want to be clear that men are not to be vilified. I know that most men are good people. I know that most men want to stop this shit from happening, too.
Locally, nationally, globally, we are just getting it wrong. All organizations, from grassroots to NGO to United Nations…they do a lot. If anyone is trying to make life better for women, it’s these types of organizations, often in cooperation with many government organizations. We’re talking about groups of people who dedicate their lives to work that makes the shared task of being humans on the planet more bearable and interesting and hopeful and noble. We’re talking about nation re-builders, peacemakers, people who know the underbelly, the overbelly, and where to scratch the belly.
But the problem of rape, as a weapon, a tool to silence, control, force, and threaten women…we are still not on top of it, at all. All truly horrible crimes against humanity are worthy of their own specific examinations, in my opinion. As I said before, rape is specific, and it’s deliberately aimed at women because something about being a woman is just worthy of being vilified.
Want to know what street harassment, rape culture, and stories like the untimely death of our heroine in India all have in common? They’re all connected. It’s like connect-the-dots for horrible realities.
Her horrible ordeal is what everyone woman secretly fears could happen to them when they hear, “Hey, baby!” on the subway. Just a look, a few words, unnecessary touching, and many women are “put in their place”…one where their autonomy, dignity, and safety is called into question. All within seconds.
Women’s bodies are still public property. Fat or thin, ugly or pretty, big-breasted or flat-chested. We are on display. And if someone wants to invade our bodies without our consent, it is not only our duty to do everything we can for that not to happen, but we have to somehow find a way to feel like we are still real people worthy of respect in public or private. When many women have so clearly been told, whether it was just by their rapist, or also by the rape apologists, or the police, or the lawyers defending the rapists….that not only did women do a terrible job at protecting themselves, but they also somehow made another human being rape them. On top of this, they now have the task of not only healing, emotionally, spiritually, and physically…they also have to do a better job of not getting raped in the future. Clearly.
Fuck our logic, everyone.
We need to think way harder on this one. This can happen if we start talking about this. All of us. Not just in absolutes, but how each of us contributes to the problem. What are the thoughts, beliefs, opinions, and actions that make rape a thing that still happens in this world?
Very few of us are experts on this particular subject, but every one of us is studying in the university of being a human, so let’s try our hand at a new approach, shall we? We owe it to the women in our lives.