Let us build a counter culture

Why is there such a high incidence of rape in South Africa? I understand what the problem is, it appears so obvious to me, but for some reason it’s not really being talked about in detail by many women who are in the forefront of the fight against violence against women.

Most women who are working to stop violence against women understand that we live in a rape culture but let me spell out what this description means to me.

Why is it that women, girls, children and even babies are so easily victimised?  What is it about a man that makes him so dangerous to women? Not all men across all cultures are violent in this way; there are cultures where I believe there is no violence, no sexual abuse of women. Certainly there was no violence against women observed by those who recorded the Koi-San cultures in South Africa. Violence is not intrinsic to the development of masculinity, violence is learnt, just like racism that other form of violence, is learnt. Baby boys are not fundamentally violent.  Just like puppies and kittens, some are more pushy and boisterous, some are shy and retiring, some are sensitive and defensive but they are not born fundamentally exploitative, predatory and violent. This is something they learn and this is where rape culture comes in.

I will never forget what one survivor of gang rape told me when I was helping her at Rape Crisis. She said of the four boys who raped her, one whispered to her that he couldn’t rape her but she must please pretend that he was raping her or the other boys would bliksem him and mock him! It made me feel sick when I heard that.

We all know that we live in a culture that glorifies male deities. All the different religions do this. There is no religion that glorifies female power or spirituality. Powerful women are depicted as witches, the embodiment of evil.

Our culture glorifies war, and boys are given war toys and dressed in combat outfits. Video games train boys to shoot and kill enemies, not to have discussions with them and iron out their differences. Boys are encouraged to disrespect girls – if you really want to humiliate a boy tell him he is acting like a girl! Naturally lithe, graceful boys are called effeminate, which the dictionary defines as effete, lacking strength, sissified, having womanish qualities. Oh so flattering to women!

Boys are conditioned to feel entitled to service from women. They are led to believe that that’s what women are for; they believe that women have no other value other than as servants to men.  And then to cap it all now boys and men are bombarded by the porn industry, which attempts to entrap them early and keep them buying and consuming porn as long as they live. The message of the porn industry builds on the myth that women are there to service men and in this case sexually. This industry puts out the lie that women are sexually insatiable and that nothing makes them happier than to sexually please men in any way the man demands, that is supposed to be their whole reason for living!

Popular rappers call women nothing but whores, the icon Madonna has herself photographed enjoying being raped in a back alley. Popular female singers enact pornographic sex on the stage. Romantic novels and movies give out the message that women swoon for the love of rough, tough men.  Male dominated fashion houses dictate that women wear clothes that look as if they are half ripped off them, that their lips should be swollen with lust, that their hair should be mostly blond, (and blonds are supposed to be stupid) that their bodies should be shaved of hair so they look prepubescent, that they should be thin so that they look infantile, that they should wear high heels so that they look off balance and vulnerable and on and on it goes.

The answer to the question why do men rape? is obvious to me, they are conditioned to rape it’s not a naturally male thing to do.

We have to work to change rape culture.

We need to build a counter culture. We can’t continue to glorify war. We need to teach boys practical conflict resolution skills. We need to teach boys to respect girls. We need to emphasise, enhance and publicly admire the positive qualities of girls.  We need to replace images of women as merely decorative, passive and pleasing with images and depictions of women and girls full of character, originality, wit and energy.  We need to showcase the strength and skills of female athletes, scientists, international airline pilots, astronauts, engineers and doctors.

The current ideal images of men and boys as hard bodied, clamp jawed, warriors, need to be replaced with images and depictions of men known for their intelligence, originality, humour, creativity and gentleness. The heterosexual imperative should be recognised as oppressive and limiting of human development. It should be replaced with an acceptance of multifaceted types of human relationships as long as they free of coercion and exploitation.

Let us work to create an intelligent, loving, caring global culture where humanity, animals and the planet’s abundant, diverse natural environments thrive. Wouldn’t that be lovely!

Think of ways we could build an alternative to rape culture. Write in and let us know.

Anne Mayne

Pic Anne

Anne Mayne, co-founder of Rape Crisis, with her partner Leah Abramsohn who is also an activist against violence against women and their dog Shayne

 

 

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About rapecrisisblog

We have a vision of a South Africa in which rape survivors suffer no secondary trauma, and are supported throughout their interaction with the Criminal Justice System (CJS). Our mission is to promote an end to violence against women, specifically rape, and to assist women to achieve their right to live free from violence. Rape Crisis Cape Town seeks to achieve its mission through counselling and training of women, thereby reducing the trauma experienced by rape survivors, and encouraging reporting of rape and the conviction of rapists.

5 thoughts on “Let us build a counter culture

  1. Lets look at one of the most successful methods, to date, of changing the beliefs and value systems of people worldwide. Hollywood.

    The “entertainment” industry doesn’t seek to explicitly embed it’s value system into the world, but it seems to be a by-product of the way it works. How is it that violence is glorified? Is it perhaps because the people making movies have never suffered a day of war? How is it that violence against women is glorified? Is it perhaps the people making the movies live in one of the safest countries in the world, where “gender equity” is protected by codes of conduct? Where violence against women (and minorities, and minors) is rare and certainly not a personal experience?

    We should perhaps stop calling it only “entertainment” and name those products for what they are: social education. This where some amount of the culture is created and transmitted.

    So, I propose that there are multiple fronts required to enact change:
    Changes to the “entertainment industry” and how its products are described.
    Changes to the composition of the people in the industry, in particular the creatives, the writers, the people calling the shots in the middle and the top of the pile.

    Just announcing that we need a “global realignment” isn’t concrete enough to make changes. The globe need specifics, perhaps once it’s started, it will become easier, but it’s certainly not in that easy place now.

  2. Thank you, Anne, for this beautiful and compelling reflection of real and material hope for building a better world. Your reflections, and Kathleen’s response, made me think of a recent piece that discussed the new gender zebra policy in Namibia. Here’s how the piece begins: “A quiet gender revolution the like of which has been unseen in Southern Africa and perhaps anywhere in the world, is now firmly underway in Namibia. The ruling party, SWAPO has not only committed to filling half of its seats in parliament with women but also committed to what they call a ‘Zebra system’ whereby if a Minister is a woman then the Deputy Minister will be a man and vice versa. Even more ambitiously, the implication is that the roles will be switched in successive elections. What this means is that Namibia’s likely appointing a man to the presidency in 2014 is being read by many decision makers as a SWAPO commitment to appoint a woman to the presidency in 2019.

    The reason why this is a revolution and not just another election promise, is that SWAPO is already moving to operationalise this commitment to gender equity.” (You can read the rest here: http://sacsis.org.za/site/article/2061).

    We must learn and relearn how to live together, how to build a human and humane culture and cultures, and also constantly work to compel the State to support those efforts. Policies within the State matter. State budgets, from the earlier Women’s Budgets to, hopefully, the next version of those budgets. Invest in Rape Crisis and sister organisations rather than mansions and fleets of limousines. We must all learn to “operationalise” our commitments.

  3. So true, cultural traditions & patriarchy the world over & through the passage of time, leaves females & males with a skewed view of how life should be, wherever we are in the world. I do not believe there is anywhere in the world where male violence on women – sexual or otherwise – does not exist. The answer to this perpetual nightmare is a global review & realignment of belief systems – & these are nothing to do with any faith any of us may follow. Thanks for yet another great blog 🙂

  4. I am so glad you have taken the time to actually spell out what rape culture means Anne – it really is so helpful to do this in a country that appears to regard women as subordinate to men, to view men as entitled to treat women as objects and to offer men impunity for rape and other forms of violence against women. Building a counter culture is a worthy challenge. At Rape Crisis we offer workshops that examine and explore the power imbalances inherent in relationships between boys and girls and men and women. We look at what it means and brainstorm ways of changing these power dynamics. What if men were to be of service to women, to cook, to clean, to do washing and ironing and to take care of the children while their partner goes out to work or lies on the couch watching TV after a long day at work? Or even better, a fair division of domestic labour and household accounts according to income and input. So if I earn two thirds of what you earn, then I pay two thirds of the household expenses and since we both work a full day we divide the domestic shores between us. Let’s have this conversation. Let’s change the culture of our domestic lives and see what happens.

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