Dickinson students performed a sit-in at Old West in protest of the campus
sexual assault policy, drawing a lot of attention to rape culture at large and
how it affects Dickinson campus. It sparked a lot of heated debate.
For those less familiar with
feminist theory jargon, rape culture in a nutshell is an environment that makes
rape and scary rape-y type things (things like sexual assault, catcalling on
the street, sexual harassment, the way that womenfolk are usually looked down on
more for sleeping around than men folk... you know, bad stuff) easier to get
away with. For example, the attitude that women that catcalling is harmless or
the fact that a lot (not all, but a lot) of women that report sexual assaults get
1. dismissed or even blamed themselves by some part of the system that is
supposed to help them 2. shunned by people that know them -- as a result most
women don't report. That is an important side note, but not what this blog post
is about. It's about the heated debate at Dickinson college around this topic.
The absolute horribleness and
pervasiveness of rape culture is something very obvious to me, and I would
wager a guess that it's obvious to most women on Dickinson campus. We think
about it every day. We're all taught not to go out alone, after dark, in the
wrong place, wearing the wrong clothes, smiling at the wrong people, etc. or
else horrible, horrible violent things will happen to us and might happen to us
anyway even if we do manage to do all the crazy paranoid crap on the list.
However, what was not intuitively
obvious to me (because it's not something I have to think about every day) is
the way that rape culture effects men; and it does effect men very profoundly.
In rape culture (which is a heteronormative structure so please don't assume
that I am purposefully excluding LGBTQ or women that commit sexual assault),
women are largely classified as the victim gender. We learn to do things to
avoid getting attacked. Men, on the other hand, are classified as the assailant
gender. They are not threatened daily with the same extensive checklist of
insane things you have to do OR ELSE, so rape culture's effects on women are
less obvious to them. However, the fact that men are constantly treated as
potential rapists, and how that effects the male psyche (fear, irrational guilt
on behalf of your entire gender, etc.), is not obvious to women.
These two assumptions of the obvious
in opposite genders are the main explanation I have right now for what I see as
largely polarized gender rhetoric. The atmosphere on campus has changed since
in the wake of the new sexual assault policy. Men feel targeted -- not because
they are guilty, or because they oppose the destruction of rape culture -- but
because they are men. As women and as feminists, we cannot necessarily dismiss
this fear as male privilege or resistance to change or admissions of guilt.
Yes, rape is a much worse consequence than men feeling targeted, but that does
not mean men's feelings should not be validated and sincerely addressed.
needs to change from women vs. men to everyone vs. rapists.
~Jesse Battilana, class of 2012
Religion, American Studies