March 25, 2013

CULTURE: The Rationalizing of Rape

I spend a lot of time trying to understand how things happen - how we can exist on a planet where it's perfectly normal to read about about a woman being raped every minute in Johannesburg, South Africa and the global incidence of child mortality (6 million children die every year due to ignorance, neglect and war) without having too much of a reaction. After all, in my reality there is no evidence of an alarming incidence of rape or infant death. I have a friend who was raped. I have another friend who suffered a miscarriage. Canada enjoys a high quality of life, relatively speaking.

So how does a society evolve from being a rape-intolerant one to one that turns and looks the other way? That's a damn good question. Here's one possible strategy:

1. Create divisions within your society. Decide that foreigners, for example, are not part of your culture. Make sure everyone knows it's a "them" vs. "us" mentality.

2. Attribute most of the bad things going on to "them." Crime, neglect, disrespect of property, abuse of the system, no interest in education, taking advantage of what we have to offer - that's all their fault.

3. Make sure this stain doesn't affect "us", either by punishing them more harshly, or by making it clear that we are not responsible for their way of thinking.

4. Keep this tainted brush from touching our own. I mean, we may be fine with having them live among us, but we don't want them to influence us, or worse, for our children to adopt their behaviour. Perish the thought.

5. Finally, make sure the world knows that, even when one of us crosses the line, it can't possibly be the same intent/crime/behaviour. In the interest of self-preservation, exercise extreme prejudice. One which benefits only our kind.

If you don't believe it can be that simple, watch what's going on at a recent rape trial in the USA:
After two teenagers were convicted on Sunday of raping a young girl in Steubenville, Ohio, a CNN correspondent lamented that it was “incredibly emotional, incredibly difficult” to watch the court proceedings. Only she wasn’t referring to the victim, or even to the crime, but to the “two young men that had such promising futures, star football players, very good students,” who “literally watched as they believed their lives fell apart.”  On the screen as correspondent Poppy Harlow spoke was the headline, “Two high school football stars found guilty.” Not, as some critics have pointed out, “Two rapists found guilty.”

So, to summarize: If one of them does it, it's horrible. If one of us does it, we need to rationalize it somehow and soften the blow. But hey - if we wake up one morning to find out that it's happening all around us because we rationalized it so well that it has become comparatively benign (like stealing office supplies), then don't act surprised. We are all one.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent, if deeply disturbing, synthesis, Lorrie. Demonizing "the other" is almost a reflex. And the reporter's reaction to the Steubenville convictions goes beyond the pale.


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