Dear Margret Wente,
On March 1, 2014 your column focused on an emerging issue on university campuses, specifically the recognition that rape culture is a problem that must be addressed. Your piece was a lot of things but mostly it was about this ‘phony rape scare’ sweeping the nation, casting our “sons, grandsons, nephews and brothers” into rapey sociopath’s intent on destroying the lives of their female colleagues. It’s been 29 days since you wrote that piece, and I have thought about it every day since.
I think what we need to talk about Ms. Wente and what is meant by rape culture, because that’s where the confusion starts. In the last 8 months I have often heard my male friends and colleagues express the “you think I am a rapist’ fatigue. This has caused me much angst and reflection.
Let’s get one thing straight: I don’t think all men are rapists. I don’t think that because some men rape that all men rape. I don’t hate men. And I think that the vast majority of women concerned about rape culture would agree on this.
Here’s what I have seen, I have seen men and women make jokes about sexual assault that have made me feel stupid and insecure. I have watched lawyers suggest that all women are liars. I have read judgements that note that ‘sex was in the air’ as evidenced by the women’s tube top and lack of bra. I have heard people ask “was it a date?” when there is sexual harassment. This is a problem. This is rape culture.
Rape culture blames victims and makes sexual assault ‘their fault’. It legitimizes stereotypes through jokes that make light of sexual assault and it exists on university campuses. Recently, #rapecultureiswhen started trending on twitter; women from all corners of the internet took to the twittersphere to explain what they thought rape culture was. In truth I could not have said it better myself
Rape is presented as something that strangers in dark alleys do to women
Men harass women on the street and expect women to smile back
Your friends call a guy you met at a party a real gem because he didn’t take advantage of you while you were drunk.
Young girls are told not to wear short shorts because boys and teachers will be distracted
When you point out what rape culture is and you get abused and attacked for it
Half of undergrads believe 50 percent of rape allegations are false. It’s much closer to 2 percent.
My high school spent four years policing women’s bodies and 0 minutes talking about consent.
A bar names a drink Date Grape Koolaid
The level of respect you give women is dependent on how she dresses
It’s not that it rape culture is hard to describe but that it’s ubiquitous. It comes down to a need to re-evaluate our social norms and values, and that takes time, and lots and lots of people.
It takes important influential public figures standing up and pointing it out and saying that it is wrong – as former President Jimmy Carter did this week in his new book “A Call to Action.” If a 89 year old Southern Baptist man can do this, why not Margaret Wente?
So Ms. Wente, while you would have readers shame Saint Mary’s University for taking action with respect to a chant that mocked the reality of rape culture , I would like to thank them for addressing it head on.
To the men and women who feel that rape culture is an exaggeration, I am extending my hand to you. Let’s talk about it because the key to changing social norms is education. We need to feel comfortable talking about these issues, without feeling we will be blamed, abused, or isolated. The cornerstones of this conversation are; (1) men and women experience varying degrees of sexual violence, in their home, in their school and their workplace and their experience deserves recognition and (2) the perpetrators of this abuse do not hail from one particular class, race, age or occupation and (3) women who speak out are not ‘men haters’ not all men are rapist. #Letschat
p.s.below is a link to Margret Wente’s original article.