Princesses as role models? Maybe so!

Last week I had a blog dedicated to a young Facebook friend who wants to be a princess. The theme of the blog was simply this: dear Facebook friend, you do not want to be a princess (read the blog by clicking on this link)! I argued that the life of a princess was very difficult, and the life of the princess that she envisioned, the Disney princess, did not exist.  Keeping with this theme, last night I was delight to read Saraswati Nagpal’s article for the @Atlantic: Princesses Can, In Fact, Be Role Models for Little Girls – Saraswati Nagpal – The Atlantic.

Like my own thesis, Nagpal argues that the mythological Disney Princess is not really what we are looking for. However, unlike my article which shuns the whole princess thing, she argues that princesses can be role models for young girls.

Her argument is fascinating because much of India’s mythology is seriously influenced by patriarchy, making the role of the princesses rather bleak. And, when we consider the amount of mental, sexual, and physical abuses occurring to young women in and throughout India, especially the news stories about gang rapes in India and Globally, we can see how desperately women need good role models – especially for the young, and Indian cultural mythology can, apparently, provide this! Please take a few minutes to read this well written and thought out article by Nagpal.

Rebecca

Steubenville High School Rape &, ‘Anonymous’

I have been asked by a few folks why I have yet to post about, or talk about the Steubenville High School Rape investigation, and the participation from the “group” Anonymous.  To be honest, this particular story just hit too close to home. It’s taken me a little bit of time to digest, and even be willing to watch much of the media on the story – it’s a little like ripping off a bandaid. You know you gotta do it, but you avoid it as well.

As I disclose in Writing the Diaphragm Blues and Other Sexual Cacophonies, I have been raped and sexually assaulted at different times in my life.  One sexual assault happened while I was in 7th Grade at Orange Grove Jr. High.  I was attacked by some of my cross country teammates, and I am convinced I would have been raped if my mom had not shown up when she did.  Worse than the attack was how the administration and the local justice authorities handled things at the time. I was slut shamed and victim blamed when asked by police and the administration whether I was wearing a bra or underwear under my track uniform at the time – as if a negative answer to those questions could justify the act of molestation. The boys, well they got a slap on the wrist. Me, I was left with a complex for the rest my life – if I don’t dress the right way, I am asking to be attacked because I deserve it. Today when I decide to go out into public without a bra on, I consider it an act of protest – a reflection back to when I was a bra-less child being held down by several boys, my body probed by their unforgiving hands.

What upset me the most was how these boys were coddled not only by the justice system, but by the administration of the school at the time (I can’t imagine the same folks run the school today). The justification? They were boys. Boys will be boys, after all. It wasn’t so much that the school or the justice system were saying they did no wrong, but it was their effort to explain why they did wrong, and how I, apparently, helped them do wrong (not being old enough to have Mom’s permission to wear a bra), that stuck with me.  Further, a few of the boys came from affluent families – we wouldn’t want to tarnish those families … Would we?  That would be wrong!  Unthinkable!  Afterall, boys will be boys… Let’s give the boys a good scare, and close the book. As for the young girl, let’s give her an “end of the school year” award, and call it a day.

What fucking bullshit. The award given to me was called the “citizenship” award, but we all knew exactly what that award was really for. As a scholar today, and a scholar on the idea of citizenship, I now find the award rather laughable. To defined citizenship as silence – an agreement to the way things are.

If I sound bitter, I am. Bitter, but it is important to know that I have forgiven the boys that attacked me and the school I attended. Yet I cannot justify and encourage a system that defends and justifies acts of violence under the “boys will be boys,” or slut-shaming/victim blaming rationale. Our society is filled with this kind of bullshit justification. Think about it, banks are too big to fail. Football teams are too important to let a few bad eggs bring them down. Families are too important to tarnish.  This philosophy has done great harm in our society, not only from a personal point of view, but a collective point of view: economically, socially, politically, and philosophically.

The case at Steubenville is heightened by the fact that Anonymous has leaked videos showing the girl being attacked.  Showing the boys laughing at her, carrying her around and partying with her seemingly dead, lifeless body. The investigators being protested for their slow and crude investigation say that we can’t let social media try this case. But the boys that raped and killed this girl placed their own trial on social media, in effect asking for a public debate.  Indeed, on the night in question, they bragged and advertised their night of party and rape.  Example twitter posts included: “The song of the night is definitely Rape Me by Nirvana,” and “Drunk girl – rape.” They advertised their actions on Facebook as well – they made this public!

I am not sure how I feel about Anonymous generally – there are times I have celebrated their actions, and other times I have sat there disturbed.  But I must admit, I wish Anonymous was there to out the people “investigating” my ordeal in Jr. High.  Maybe justice would have been done.

This brings me to the next question, is the discourse about this particular rape, and the information leaked hindering justice or helping justice? In my opinion it is helping justice, and it is also helping to challenge wide and long standing justifications of rape and sexual assault. Much of our justice system is silent on rape.  We see this in the US and globally.  With this case, Justice has moved rather slowly when the evidence appears plentiful, there for the taking. I wait to be proven wrong.  Of course, I have no interest for justice to move so quickly that the gathering of evidence, and the arresting of guilty parties are done sloppily, not able to hold up in a court of law.  But if these boys were ever worried about getting a fair public trial, without a jury prejudicial to their actions, they should not have tweeted about what they were doing nor should they have put Facebook posts out there. In the end, these boys ruined their own chance at an impartial jury.

For good or bad, I’m rather glad this rape case is being tried in “the public,” as well as “social media.” It is time to make the issue of rape and sexual assult a public issue. We must talk about it. We must discuss how for centuries we have justified the act of rape through various means: women are objects, women are things to be owned, children are things to be owned, he or she deserve it, he or she asked for, look at how he or she dressed, she really wanted it.  She looks dead, maybe it was her last wish, we are just fulfilling her last wish (watch the video above).  We rarely blame the person who has committed the act, or if we blame the attacker(s), we justify their actions …. “it was wrong, but if the girl didn’t drink, this wouldn’t have happened.” The public must see these videos. Yes, they’re hard to watch … excruciating, and heartbreaking. I sat there with my palms sweating. My stomach turning … teeth grinding.  My heart pounded as I ran to the bathroom to eject my breakfast.  The drunk boy, sitting on his rocking chair, laughing and giggling at her dead body, “maybe it was her last wish, to be raped.” How funny is that… Even drunk… How humorous. But I watched because someone, all of us should be witnesses to her death.  Her death is for nothing if we do not bring meaning to it.

Let’s Talk about that “Rape Thing.”

Let’s Talk about that “Rape Thing.”

An Open Letter to Any More Republicans or Tea Party Folks or Others who Want to speak on Rape:

Today, I went to pick up my husband from work. I do this. We share only one car, and since he leaves it for me to run errands, or whatever during my day, it seems like the right thing to do.  He gets in the car, and I give him the driver’s seat, allowing me time to return some text messages. As he starts our vehicle headed toward home, and he asked me the following question:

“So, I am sure you hear what John Koster said today.”

“Koster?”

“Ya, The the Tea Party dude from our lovely state.”

“Yes, so what did he say?”

“Well we have another republican spouting about rape and abortion ….”

At that point I went off. I’m sure this did not surprise my husband, but I had not heard about the news: Congressman Koster calling rape “that rape thing” and then following up this unfortunate turn of phrase with his declaration that women who get pregnant from rape do not deserve the right to an abortion.  As Laura Bassett from the the Huffington Post cited:

“Incest is so rare, I mean, it’s so rare,” he said. “But the rape thing– you know, I know a woman who was raped and kept the child, gave it up for adoption, and she doesn’t regret it.” He added, “On the rape thing, it’s like, how does putting more violence onto a woman’s body and taking the life of an innocent child that’s a consequence of this crime — how does that make it better? You know what I mean?” (Koster as cited by Bassett)

If I can borrow Tina Fay’s lovely rant about republican men spouting BS about rape:

“If I have to listen to one more gray-faced man with a two-dollar haircut explain to me what rape is, I’m gonna lose my mind. I watch these guys and I’m like: what is happening? Am I a secretary on Mad Men?”

Seriously, I’m done. I am done listening to people tell me how I should feel about being raped. I would like to wager a guess that none of these republicans with their expert reflections on sexually assault have ever been raped. I suspect they’ve never been held down, tied up, felt a knife stuck to their neck by another individual… I don’t have the words. Because I have been raped – and incest is not that rare. I know what it feels like.

But besides the fact that these men have not experienced rape, and so therefore can’t really speak to the experience of being rape, let me address their stance regarding how women who get pregnant from rape should be denied the right to abortion.

The man walks away. 

They never think of that…do they?  Indeed, why would the father, the rapist, stay around? Rape is an act of violence, an act of power domination over another human being. A rapist doesn’t care about the child, the offspring, the result. Where does this all leave the woman raped and pregnant?  I’ll tell you where – without any support, financial and/or emotional, and without any help either. Further, because many republicans and tea party folks feel that social programs are waste of money, these same politicians write off programs to help the woman raped and abandoned.  Why?  The claim of the “individual” and the need to be absolutely self-reliant in all things.  Indeed, don’t we all get what we deserve, even god endorsed rape … she brought it on herself somehow.

“What do you mean rapist father left you after you got pregnant from the rape?  What did YOU do wrong?”

My problem with these men is this: They NEVER speak to the consequences of what happens to these women and children.  It’s all well and good to sit on your high unmoving moral horse, but when it comes down to it, if you don’t bother to actually back up your high morals with a good old plan, what we can do to help and make things right, you’re just full of crap.

None of these politicians have a plan.  They get rid of social programs (oh now work houses and orphanages) to help those who have been harmed via circumstances that were out of their hands, and, in the same breath, condemn the person to live with the reality because?  Because they seem to believe in some form of predestination – Either “God intended it” or, somehow, “you made this happens, so deal with it.”

Come up with a plan. Decide what will happen to the child after the birth when there is nobody there to take care of it. Even if the mother is there, and she’s happy to of had her rape child, what if she can’t mentally and/or financially take care of the child because the rapist, Daddy dearest, took off after the rape.

Come up with a plan. That’s the problem, all these folks want to make grand claims about what is wrong and what is right, but they offer not proof, no backup to their claims.  If these guys were in my Comp class, they would all fail for a poorly composed argument.

We have to consider what happens not only to the victim, but the offspring. Our laws have devolved over time. In today’s world, we take little pains to even go after the rapist, let alone make the rapist responsible for the fact that he or she raped.  In my first book, The origins of the Magdalene Laundries, I discuss the ancient Brehon Laws of Ireland and how they actually legislated for cases of rape.  These laws covered all different kinds of sexual unions between men and women (sadly they were not enlightened enough to apply to same sex unions), the Brehons, Law Givers, including the crime of rape: Not only was the rapist held responsible and punished for the violence offered to the woman, including a breach of honor, he was responsible for all children born from the illicit union. Under these law, there was no such thing as an illegitimate child. All children were cared for by the community, and the rapist had to support the children born as well as pay restitution to the woman assaulted (108-109).

It’s mind-boggling isn’t it? In our society, we  spend a great deal of time letting the victim know that he or she is at fault: You got raped because of the way you dressed.  You got raped because of your belief system.  You got raped because you were in the wrong place at the wrong time. You got raped because you had a glass of wine.  you got rapped because you went to the wrong party.  You got raped because your “no” sounded more like a “yes” to me.

We spend so much time blaming the victim that we don’t remember to take equal time at really punishing and holding the perpetrator responsible.

So enough. I would like to educate these men spouting off about rape. Please, make an office appointment. Come have tea, or cup of coffee, or a beer even, I know this great sexiest pizza joint that rejects feminist poetry but serves the best pizza in town.  But, let’s talk. Let me explain to you the reality of being raped, and ethics, and consequences. Let me educate you – I be happy to do it. By the way, you need it.

Rebecca