Three Strikes & One Terrible Lunch
I've kind of been retaining from writing on this topic for a while since it can be quite touchy. But an incident during lunch pushed over the edge so fuck it.
Most people would've heard about Emma Sulkowicz. She's a Senior from Columbia University who's carrying around her mattress with her everywhere until the student who raped her during her Sophomore year is expelled. Essentially, she's paralleling the emotional baggage that she's been carrying around with her to the physical pain of doing so - of which the actual object is a daily reminder of that night. Strike one.
Then, there's the hacker who's exposed nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton, with the promise of tens more to come. I'm not going to provide a link here but I'm sure those determined to find it, will. There's also the issue of right to privacy here but let's ignore that one for now. I think Lena Dunham sums it up quite nicely in her Tweet: [the 'don't take naked pics if you don't want them online' argument is the 'she was wearing a short skirt' of the web."] Yep - that's strike two.
Last but not least, I'll relay the anecdote from lunch. I was sitting at a café called New York Sandwich - my usual lunch destination. There were two men sitting next to me. I'll exclude all details of their appearance but know that they were grown men. In suits. Presumably on their lunch break from a high-power corporate job. Whatever. They were chatting about Tinder, an app I'm sure most are all to familiar with. Here's what one of the men said:
"Yeah, this chick is 17, but she's like a tomboy. Why would I want a tomboy?"
I don't even know how to begin to bemoan the things that are wrong with that statement. There you have it, strike three.
The disturbing pattern that I'm seeing here is that: everything is the woman's fault (i.e. lying about being raped/trying to get a student expelled, taking naked photos of herself, being a tomboy and thus, undesirable.)
What I'm not seeing here is people stepping up for their deliberate acts of violence - the kind that's even more devastating than the physical. Why would a student place herself in a situation where she has to open up about being raped? What is she gaining here? Judgement? Possibly humiliation? The silence that she's facing must be an insistent repeat of what happened to her that night - powerlessness, no consent.
The same goes for the victims of the hacking. Their position of being in the spotlight does not make it okay for their privacy to violated in that way. Posing for a risqué photo-shoot or appearing nude in a film is completely different than having what is intended to be private photos shown to the public. Yet we blow this kind of stuff off, labelling as being "all part of the industry", when the act of just viewing these photos is a sexual violation.
Lastly, the guy at lunch, who I tried desperately not to confront, essentially epitomises what's wrong with the first two scenarios. He's entitled to his opinion but what he doesn't understand that when you verbalise something like that, you're essentially normalising our conceptualisations of what constitutes as a sexual offence and the role of women. Essentially, he's saying that it's okay to desire someone who is underage as long as she's attractive. But it's definitely not okay to be attracted to a woman who is not feminine.
None of this is about being a feminist; that's a different matter and not even remotely related to what the issue is. The issue is that people don't realise our everyday discourse, the way we talk about things, the way we write, show, and even think about things shapes how the society - and our future generations - conceptualises an issue.
When we assume that women are lying about rape or deserve to be humiliated if they take photos of their body - then how is that any different from the belief that we don't deserve to receive equal pay or vote? And this also goes for how we talk about race, sexual orientation, etc. It's not just about what you assume is a public understanding; what also matters is how you construct the discursive space that you live.
Okay, my rant is over. It's late and I think I've said all I need to say for now. Let me know what you guys think or if that even made any sense.