Explaining rape culture to a man named Kyle
TW: rape culture, victim-blaming
Today’s post is dedicated to Kyle, a fellow who recently left a comment on a SlutWalk themed-post that was first published in 2011. That piece was called “To our male allies: a challenge,” and if you follow the link you may read his thoughts in their entirety; I will only quote from it here. Be warned that the original post is triggering as hell!
Thank you for your interest in my blog. I don’t know what brought you here, but it’s obvious that you are exactly the sort of man that feminists like myself are trying to reach when we talk about rape culture.
“This is one thing about feminism that rubs me the wrong way,” you wrote, “what do you all mean when you say that you want the right to ‘walk down the street and exist and not have to fear assault? I really don’t understand that.What are you saying? Do you not feel safe when you walk down the street?”
From your defensive, almost unbelievably naive viewpoint, I assume that you are the sort of person who has led a pretty charmed life. I don’t know for sure, but I’d bet my Replacements tickets that you are a cis-gendered straight white male who is about to run to Google to research what the hell “cis-gendered” means. You haven’t met many people likely to challenge you on your rosy view of the world, but when you do, you say what you wrote in your comment to me:
“That sucks, but what exactly do you want me to do about it?”
This is such a common reaction that it has its own meme. Several, actually. I like this one:
You continue: “What do you want? More police on the street? Ankle tracking bracelets on all men? Is this even that big of a problem? Is there really an epidemic of rape going on, or are you all just sensationalizing a story and getting worked up into an irrational fear of the outside world?”
Kyle, this is the part of your comment that really breaks my heart. I’m totally serious. You can sit at a computer screen, with THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD at your fingertips, and still believe that rape and sexual assault might not be “even that big of a problem.” But let me be clear: my heart does not break for you, Kyle, but for the women in your life.
Because, Kyle, you know women who have experienced rape and sexual assault. The Joyful Heart Foundation quotes a 2010 CDC study that found one in five American women are raped in their lifetime.
Think about the last time you gathered with your family, Kyle. Maybe it was for Easter, for a Passover seder, or just a birthday party. Were there five women in the room? Grandma, aunts, cousins, nieces? Maybe you were there with your wife and your daughters. One in five of those women is keeping a secret from you.
Why? Because you are an insensitive creep who would dare suggest that rape is not “even that big of a problem.” It’s not a problem to you, Kyle, because the stigmatization of survivors prevents them from telling you that they are part of you family, part of your community, part of your world. That’s what we mean by rape culture. If your daughter were robbed, no one would tell her that the theft was her fault, but the same would not be said if she were raped, especially if she were raped by someone she knows, which happens in 60 percent of cases.
You end your comment with this statement, the caps yours:
“If you want to feel safe, then YOU NEED TO STOP FEELING AFRAID.”
This is rape culture, Kyle. A statement like this makes sexual assault an issue to be resolved by victims, not perpetrators.
You say you don’t rape. That’s great. Now allow me to quote MYSELF from the 2011 post, the point of which you totally missed in your clumsy attempt to absolve yourself of any blame for sexism in America:
Help us end [rape culture], guys. We can’t do it without your help. We need you to speak out against this warped view of the world. You are not dogs, and we are not meat. We are all human beings who deserve respect, safety, and freedom.
I hope you’re listening, Kyle, and that you’ll allow compassion for the survivors in your life to soften your angry, defensive heart.
The Radical Housewife