Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Steubenville and (Post) Feminism

feminism (noun)

the belief that women should be allowed the same rights, power, and opportunities as men and be treated in the same way, or the set of activities intended to achieve this state.

There are two kind of people in the world: those who understand that rape is a crime, and those who make excuses for it. A couple of years ago, Forbes ran a post called "Who's Afraid of Post-feminism?" by Jenna Goudreau. After listening to and reading about the Steubenville rape and subsequent trial and conviction, I have to say that I'm not too happy to be living in post-feminist world, a world where a young female victim is still being blamed for the crimes committed against her by young men.

I am shocked that those boys and their friends thought it was OK to use new media to further victimize this young woman. I am shocked that traditional media further violated her by revealing her name and calling the conviction of the young men "a tragedy."

In the mid seventies, at the height of the modern feminism movement, the Take Back the Night (TBTN) movement began as stand against sexual violence. I know a young woman whose greatest fear is of being raped. She lives near a college campus and, in a sad irony, her terror began when she first heard students participating in a TBTN event as a young girl. Each year, as she heard the marchers protesting continued sexual violence in her own neighborhood, and realized that women were simply not safe—she was not safe.

And she's right.

Those young men in Stubenville shared their crimes across the interwebs and others participated, passing along appalling photos of the crime in process and adding lurid comments. No one called a halt. No one turned the Tweets over to the police or even to an adult who could intervene. That's a tragedy and, to my mind, a crime.

Until and unless we reach a point where women can make personal choices (good, bad or indifferent) and still be safe from sexual assault, until we stop hiding behind "boys will be boys" and victim blaming, then I'm revoking the "post" from post-feminism.

In 2009, Rebecca Whisnant wrote an essay called "Feminist Perspectives on Rape", found in the The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. She concludes:

"Feminist theorizing about rape draws on a rich tradition of feminist scholarship in many disciplines, as well as on women's insights into their own rape experiences and on the knowledge gained through decades of feminist anti-violence activism. As such theorizing continues to develop—growing both more radical in its challenges to patriarchal social and sexual assumptions, and more global and intersectional in its analysis—it constitutes an essential support for feminist movements against sexual violence."

When it comes to rape, there can be nothing "post" about feminism. When it comes to rape, we must all be feminists. Our feminism must become more radical in its challenges against sexual violence. Feminism is not a dirty word. Feminism is not a crime. Rape is.

So go ahead, call me a feminist. I can take it. How about you?

photo credit: Slutwalk NYC October 2011 Shankbone 28 by David Shankbone via a Creative Commons License

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