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Feminspire | April 19, 2014

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Why Does America Pretend It Doesn’t Hate Women?

Why Does America Pretend It Doesn’t Hate Women?

Last August, a high school girl in Steubenville, Ohio was gang raped by her classmates. No one did anything. Ever since, the woman has been shamed for “letting it happen” or “asking for it” (or some similar bullshit) while the classmates, who are supposedly supposed to go on and do great things (like get away with one of the most heinous crimes ever and play football), have an entire community rallying behind them. Have you even heard about this? If you have, good. If you have, I’m pleased that this news made it to you through the patriarchal grapevines of American media. If you haven’t heard, that sounds about right. Most people I’ve talked to haven’t.

Next story. A couple months ago, a woman in India was gang raped in a public bus in New Delhi. The law enforcement said it was her fault. Did you hear about this? Of course you did! Everyone did. And you know what happened immediately after? The whole country, in one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in my life, protested against the legal system and Indian government. It was college students – men, women, and otherwise – fighting against arrays of policemen who make a living using their baton. It was newspapers starting to publish articles about respecting women. People stood up for this woman and all the women that are constantly abused and mistreated in India. India’s civil society stood up, literally, against violence, and protested against the institutionalized patriarchy and lack of action regarding rape survivors. It was inspiring, empowering, and gorgeous. It was India’s civil society and it was mesmerizing.

india rape protests

Let’s compare these two cases. A gang rape happened in Ohio and no one heard about it. A gang rape happened in India and everyone heard about it (as we should). The American media has represented India as a misogynistic country where women need to be constantly wary of the men that surround them. And after that gang rape, large-scale protests blocked the streets and clogged the media. Now, I am in no way saying that rape and domestic violence are not problems in India. As an Indian-American woman who has been to India many times and is incredibly familiar with the culture, I am in no way denying that. Rape, in India, is a serious problem. Rape, especially in lower class areas in India, is an extremely prevalent problem that needs to stop being ignored and taken seriously. Violence against women in India is a serious issue.

But violence against women in America is also a serious problem. Violence against women in South Africa, and Sweden, and Chile, and Thailand, is a serious problem. Violence against women is a serious problem. Period. Full stop. While our media went out representing India as a typical place for these deplorable events to happen, another woman’s similar story went ignored and without subsequent societal action. This country outright refuses to admit that it is a rape culture.

Our media and our country are so obsessed with presenting foreign countries as worse than us or uncivilized or, most importantly, undemocratic, they will blast our radios and timelines and homepages with news of rapes in India, but refuse to acknowledge that the same thing happens here and is happening here.

Women in India are unsafe, but so are women in America. I feel unsafe walking home from the library on a Wednesday night. I feel unsafe wearing certain clothes, drinking certain drinks, or generally trying to enjoy myself. I feel unsafe because any threat to my body turns into my fault, lack of action, exhausting procedure embodied with shaming, or constant triggers that our world cannot really get a grasp on. This isn’t an America problem or an India problem. This is a global patriarchy problem. This is a global slut-shaming, victim-blaming, anti-female empowerment, “it’s just a joke” problem. And we have to do something about it.

One out of three American women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. Our male politicians consistently try to redefine rape as one out of every three of our entire female population is facing rape and a judicial system that favors rapists. Unfortunately, I live in a country that values maintaining orientalist media over our own active civil society. Whatever your view may be on India, after that gang raped happened, India’s citizens’ voices that condemned those who take part in sexual violence were heard around the world. When that same thing happened here, we were still talking about that gang rape in India that shows how “uncivilized” that other country is.

We have to stop presenting rape cases in foreign countries as within their relative norms and out of ours. We have to stop discussing rape in the context of community or location and we have to start discussing rape in the context of men trying to assert dominance over women – no matter where she is or what she is doing or asking or saying or wearing or drinking.

There is a lot wrong with the way we spread and internalize information. Rape exists everywhere. Rape plagues people’s lives everywhere and that doesn’t let America off the hook. So, can we stop presenting other countries as “third world” and “uncivilized,” especially when we refuse to acknowledge similar atrocities affecting people right here? Until we can deeply ratify the embedded victimizing views of women, this rape culture that is a constant threat to women, the queer community, and people of color, especially. Rape is not something we should be discussing in the context of countries with specific GDP levels or political systems. Rape is something we, as America and as a culture, have consistently ignored and helped augment through our unwillingness to shed light on the realities that affect the greater female population. Both of these gang rapes happened and many more have happened and will continue to happen. As America, let’s take inspiration from the protests that followed this crime in New Delhi and as a collective society transforming into a rape culture, let’s stand with survivors and stop letting their stories be overshadowed by blind nationalism exerted through our society, politics and news media.

Written by Anisha Ahuja

  • Lenna

    “Women in India are unsafe, but so are women in America. I feel unsafe walking home from the library on a Wednesday night. I feel unsafe wearing certain clothes, drinking certain drinks, or generally trying to enjoy myself. I feel unsafe because any threat to my body turns into my fault…”

    I feel the same way EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. It is so absurd that most men argue that the situation for females has changed to the point where men and women are treated as equals, because we are CONSTANTLY being harassed by men and are deprived of a lot of freedoms and rights because of fear of being raped or hurt. Lets take for example a girl that decides to take a walk alone at night. If the girl in this example got raped, in the machista way of thinking, many people might ask, “Why would a girl BE alone at such hours of the night? or “She asked for it”. It’s freaking ridiculous. If guys can do whatever they feel like whenever they feel like doing it, WE SHOULD BE ABLE TO DO SO AS WELL. And for guys thinking “who’s stopping you?”, YOU are stopping me. This extremely unfair patriarchal society is stopping me and my fellow females from living completely free.

    • Litost

      Okay guys, no offence but India was voted by the UN the worst country for women to live in. Comparing the way you feel with the way Indian women struggle is a bit much. I get that as a women living in the West our lives arn’t perfect and we still have to watch our asses, but you are belittling how terrible life actually is for women in India with such a comparison. I suggest you do a little bit more research and while we should not stop our fight against misogyny here in North America, thank your lucky stars you weren’t born in India as a woman.

      • http://www.facebook.com/jamela.a.clark Jamela Asha Clark

        hmmmm, I was in India doing research a couple of months ago, and as an American I can say in full confidence we are more similar than different. Both suffer from outrages income disparity, both suffer from class based systems that create system which keeps people trapped in generational poverty, and both countries have serious issues with gender inequality….and I don’t know where you are getting your UN stats from but I think you may need to recheck them because that doesn’t sound quite accurate……

      • ay

        but how did the UN get its stats? did it do research or did they just do it based on other stats? i’m not trying to undermine what goes on in india at all but if the UN used other stats, it may not be totally accurate since the article even said the US is known for hiding it’s problems and many women dont report rape as well. (i dont know much about this and i’m not trying to seem like i do, but i feel like it is a possibility)

    • Ernesto Romero

      Work out, carry a tazer or something, don’t go to a high risk location: the same precautions I would take if 50% of the population was gay men, or if I didn’t want to get robbed in a bad neighborhood.

  • sghrfgh

    lol tinfoil hat

    • http://twitter.com/reanimated Kelly S

      it must be nice to live the sheltered little life of a guy.

    • srsly nao

      trollololol male privilege

  • http://twitter.com/Boudica03 Tricia LaBeau

    Great article!

  • http://twitter.com/reanimated Kelly S

    still relevant, almost 20 years later. meh.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PHzOOQfhPFg

  • elijahjones

    The difference is the woman in India was murdered. Violence against women is deplorable, the case in Steubenville really affected me, but she wasn’t murdered and tossed from a bus.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1302308698 Susan Fowler

      There are plenty of cases where women have been so brutally raped that they die in America to. Although, the idea that it takes death for people to even notice is an unhappy statement regarding our civilization, or lack thereof.

  • Anon

    @Lenna
    I don’t think anyone has the audacity to say, “She asked for it”
    I even doubt that you have heard ‘many people’ say that.

    • Anonymouse

      @Anon,
      I don’t think you have any idea what you’re talking about here. I can’t count how many times I have heard at school (I went to both Catholic and Public, heard it at both) that “it was her fault.” I can’t count the number of times I have seen in the news that it was a girl’s fault.

      What about that underage girl that got raped a while back? The big media report was that she “dressed older than her age,” as if this somehow made it OK, aka, “she deserved it.” I don’t know what rock you’ve been living under (the same as some of my male friends), but you’re kind of ignorant. Not to be rude or insulting, there, but it happens all the time. You kind of have to ignore it to miss it.

      • Anon

        Sources or it never happened. C’mon, if it is from what you’ve seen on the news then you must have sources on this vast internet of ours.
        Do it.

        By the way, the ‘dressed older than her age’ might have been said to lessen the fact that the girl was underage. I agree with you that it is an absurd quote, but you are still really stretching for the “she deserved it” translation.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1302308698 Susan Fowler

          “Delhi gang rape case: ‘she deserved it’ is not a good
          argument” (http://blogs.reuters.com/india/2012/12/21/delhi-gang-rape-case-she-deserved-it-is-not-a-good-argument/)

          “Indeed, a lawyer for three of the six
          defendants offered a “she asked for it” explanation, saying that respectable women are not raped.” (http://www.vindy.com/news/2013/jan/12/patriarchal-society-an-excuse-for-the-ra/?print)

        • picaflor

          So what’s your response to Susan’s links?


          I see.

          • A

            The primary response of the media in India was very different from the “it was her fault” sentiment. You link to the lawyers defending the accused to come up with an equivalent to Anonymouse’s point? Of course they’d take that route. So would MANY in Indian society and I agree that is terrible. The point of the article is that Indian media doesn’t pretend these flaws don’t exist or jump to demonize the rest of the world just to make itself feel better.

        • an indian-american girl

          You’re so naive.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1567291007 facebook-1567291007

      You’d be wrong. I have heard it plenty.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1302308698 Susan Fowler

      Actually, the “she asked for it” response is a normal and common socio-psychological response. When we see something horrible happen to someone else, we have a tendency to blame the victim because we don’t want to identify with them and believe that the same thing could happen to us. We feel helpless so if we can apply a reason why it happened that we can avoid ourselves, like how someone is dressed or that they were out late at night alone, it makes us feel better. It is important to recognize our human tendency to do this and to see that it is not connected to reality. And, LOTS of people are not aware that this is a human tendency and believe their knee-jerk response to be fact.

    • deckbose

      Such a famous case of blaming the rape victim, it was made into an Oscar-winning movie. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheryl_Araujo

  • reggybooboo

    i produce a very male oriented afternoon radio talk show (on what is generally considered a conservative talk radio station), lots of ‘X% of Men/Women think this, but Y% think that!’ and Cosmo tier sex tips. We talked about the Steubenville case for a week straight, our host was beyond livid. I’m sure a lot of people would say that we did more harm than good (this is not a show you go to for nuance, he was basically calling for the death penalty), but it definitely was a huge point of focus for us, for whatever that’s worth

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=541010187 Hayley Prychun Rodgers

    Good
    article, but I really don’t think it is so much about women. I think it
    is the fact that we don’t want to see what makes Americans look bad. I
    think if a group of woman gang raped a man, men would laugh and women
    would scoff. I think we as Americans, especially in the media, want to
    believe we are better than other nations and we ignore anything that
    says differently. A single person’s actions can be looked at as one
    horrible person, but when we see societal issues, we turn our back. Look
    at our homeless, our veterans. Outside of a few times a year, we ignore
    them.

    • a scientist

      Why did you even bring men into this? Can we please just focus on women here for just a second? Can we escape the male gaze for a bit and focus on the struggles of women NOT juxtaposed to the what-ifs of men? Thank you.

      • brad hart

        Its called free speech and she can say what she wants, get over it and move on.

  • http://twitter.com/curiousjen Jen Yarrington

    elijahjones, the people in India were pretty upset before the victim died from her injuries. Are you saying the Steubenville vicitm doesn’t matter because she didn’t die? Because that is how it sounds.

    • brookstyle

      Which victim would you have preferred to be? Can’t imagine anyone choosing that of the Indian woman.

      • lollipop

        I as a woman would have preferred to die, I was hoping hearting the case she would die and not have to continue living with this horrible memory.

  • Crystal David John

    women every where are unsafe — -

    • brookstyle

      The weak and small every where are unsafe.

      • Sam

        Are you implying that women should feel unsafe because they are weak and small…?

        • brookstyle

          “Should feel” in what way? Morally correct “should,” or one that sees it as the result of a world that is sometimes dangerous, and unfair? Nay to the first but yea to the second.

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  • sufyan hayder tipu

    very shameful and awful acts ……………………….. to bad governments should take stand……………………….. and God help and bless u sisterz…..

  • http://www.facebook.com/mamof7 Karen Wallace Miller

    Blaming an entire nation for the crimes of a few is stupid! Since the MEDIA failed to do it’s job blame the MEDIA not the nation. The victim is in my prayers, her family is in my prayers, and HER RIGHTS are to decide if she wants national attention . It’s not up to you.

  • Cora

    Can I have a proper link to that statistic? That’s devastating.

  • yeah

    This is factually inaccurate and rhetorically immoral. People have not forgotten. The guys accused of this crime did not get off. One google search would produce hundreds of articles from every major news outlet detailing the defendants trial this week. Stop using a straw man to sensationalize a serious subject. Violence against women is not okay. But falsifying a collective understand is not going to fix it. Be honest to yourself and to your readers.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=788180182 Bonnie-jean Stacey

      this was my first thought. i think what went on in stupidville was incredibly unjust and the media stories made it up here to canada but this article does no justice to women’s rights…appearing to have been written by a privileged product of a sheltered, self centred and hysterical western viewpoint. FURTHERMORE the story is HIGHLY disrespectful to the horror experienced by the bus victim and her male friend who had to witness it and every other victim in the world of violent, ritual, and incredibly mind blowing painful experiences. the stupidville case was not the same thing at all. it was a very drunk girl, and a bunch of very drunk boys behaving like irresponsible kids – nobody was physically assaulted and i don’t think she was even penetrated…possibly by a finger. i could name a handful of kids in my highschool that had a similar experience. this isn’t to say those football fools should not be legally held accountable or that this girl isn’t in great pain…or that the whole thing isn’t terrible. this is to say that the article displays and embarrassing ignorance to the reality in many parts of the world where women experience horrific violence on a regular basis that should NEVER even be in the same conversation as a drunk bunch of kids with a cellphone camera

  • Just Saying

    The message and details in this article are all true and valid. But I feel I need to point out that this article’s premise is terribly flawed. The observation “you heard about Rape X in India, but you didn’t hear about Rape Y in the US” is flawed. There are thousands of rapes in India which have occurred over the years, which nobody heard about and which did not inspire nationwide protests. Meanwhile, there have been rapes in the US which have been well-publicized. Not to mention that the Steubenville incident has been discussed in most media outlets – not sure why the author is under the impression that it hasn’t been?

    Anyway, other than the framing of the argument using these two flawed examples, I completely agree with what the author is saying.

    • Just Replying

      Your point is true, but I think that what the author was trying to do was take two examples of rape that are controversial in both countries. It’s valid that media has covered the Steubenville incident, however, I can tell you from a typical college student’s point of view, it’s definitely less-known.

      To give you a little bit more insight, I heard about the incident in India the day after it happened. I heard about the Steubenville incident almost five months after it happened.

  • Marissa123

    This is SUCH a good article.

  • Shadia

    What a relevant article. Our society continues to operate in the most hypocritical fashion, but everyone wants to keep turning a blind eye and chanting “AMURICAA.” The rape culture in America is one that we continuously become desensitized to because of the way it’s represented in advertisements, television, music and even the law. Even the words we use speak to the prolonged tolerance of rape in our society. The very fact the word “rape” is now a verb you’ll hear in relation to an exam, “That exam just raped me.” (I hear it all over campus all the time), proves how desensitized out society is to this serious pandemic. Did that exam really just hold you down and force itself on you? No, it didn’t, because it’s an exam and not a predator.

    • seraphimblade

      I can’t understand this hypersensitivity to language. Many words are used rhetorically. “Stop monkeying around and get to work.” “Wow, that brilliant scene in that movie really knocked me to the floor.” “I just did a really tough workout, it beat the crap out of me.” Were the workers, literally, temporarily turned to monkeys? Did the movie jump off the screen and give someone a good shove? Did the treadmill stand up and start throwing punches? Of course not. The language is being used in a metaphorical way, not literally, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

      You could, of course, make a case that it is wrong to do so -specifically- in the case of “raped”. In some cases (“that’s so gay” and its like being a good example), a good case can be made that, indeed, one should not do that. But criticizing use of a word because its literal meaning is not what is intended is ludicrous. Humans do that all the time.

      • http://www.facebook.com/ciwilder Ian Equality Wilder

        I think you answered your own question. Some words should not be used metaphorically. And “doing something all the time” is not a defense.

  • Patrick

    I have a problem with our society being called patriarchal. Real men care for their women. Real men would see a women walking home alone at night and make sure she gets home. This american society… not so much. As for the rape case in ohio.. football and money go hand in hand. Our judicial system has shown time after time it will fail rape victims and anything that affects football.

    • Lila

      “Real men would see a woman walking home alone at night and make sure she gets home” is also patriarchy and male dominance and implies that women NEED a man’s help – Men just need to stop raping!!!

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  • Mayank

    In India, with a population 1 billion plus, a woman is raped every 20 minutes. In US, with a population 1/3 of India, a woman is raped every 6 minutes.

    • an indian-american girl

      I don’t know why this comment hasn’t gotten more thumbs ups.

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  • bluevw16

    You couldn’t be more wrong. I’ve heard about Steubenville and this is the first time I’m hearing about what happened in India. Since you wrote this on March 5 I assume it was before Steubenville was all over the media.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/iReinventLOVE Marissa Barber

    It doesn’t matter how horrible the crime was, EVERY RAPE to man or woman should be reported in the news. The fact that girls and men are taught “Don’t get raped” sickens me. What we need to be teaching is “don’t rape!” I can’t express this enough. I think for rapists the pentalty should be death, it would save us a lot of worry and stress. In statistics, men and women are actually raped the same percentage – however, male rapes tend to go unreported due to the shame they feel, or the fear that they won’t be believed.

    I shouldn’t be afraid to do the things I want because some guy can’t control his d-ck, and understand the word NO. This is why so many people avoid leaving the house, its stupid.

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  • Lenny

    The woman in India died due to injuries that occurred during the rape, (which happened in a public space in broad daylight). The girl in Stuebenville was digitally penetrated (with fingers, not penises) in a private party, which she elected to attend. Furthermore, everyone involved in the incident was extremely intoxicated and prone to making bad decisions. These are two extremely different cases and holding them as equivalent is beyond dishonest.

    • erikatheicyone

      So the fact that all of the persons involves in the Stuebenville case were intoxicated and there of their own volition makes the fact that a woman was raped acceptable in your eyes?

      That is rape apologist bullshit of the worst kind. It doesn’t matter if she attended that party willingly, it doesn’t matter how she was dressed or how drunk she was, she was raped. She didn’t ask for it, she didn’t want it. She was assaulted. A terrible crime was committed against her.

      You are the one being dishonest comparing the two cases. They were both violent rapes. One tragically ended in the victim’s death, one didn’t. Neither should ever have happened.

      • brookstyle

        these boys were under 18…children. Why is it that some feminists scream bloody murder and use the term “child,” when a girl under 18 has sex with a man? “She cannot truly consent because she’s a child.” That should imply these boys can’t consent to rape anyone either. Plus, they could just as easily claim to be inebriated. Dont think I approve of what they did. They sound like a holes…but I find this to underscore the double standard which women mention all the time.

  • Ernesto Romero

    Bahahahaha, those are the worst statistics I have ever heard. Also, using the New Delhi thing is a logic fallacy, do you even debate? Also, if it had happened to a guy you would have never heard of it yourself, and the results would have been the same: in other words it’s not special towards women. Finally, in other countries who really have a bigoted view of women (it has nothing to do with “hate”) you probably wouldn’t be able to write this article.

  • brad hart

    Very good points Cathy

  • Goro

    Oh my god, I am sick of hearing this…shit, about how women are treated so unfairly, Oh because some high school kids raped a young girl and bullying happened, Oh what do you know! its a high school! oh and in India a woman got raped, lets compare America and India, Hmm 1′s a super-power and the other suffers from mass populations with diarrhea…seriously, spending all your time battling inequality will get you nowhere.