Patriarchy? I think it’s gone well beyond patriarchy.
“He can now look forward to a productive life without being burdened with the stigma of having to register as a sex offender,” said attorney Thomas Rooke, who represented Becker in court. “The goal of this sentence was not to impede this individual from graduating high school and to go onto the next step of his life, which is a college experience.”
No conviction will appear on Becker’s record if he serves his probation without issue. His probation mandates he remain drug- and alcohol-free, submit to an evaluation for sex offender treatment and stay away from the two 18-year old victims.[http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/national/article97320267.html#storylink=cpy]
People on the internet are talking a lot about *this* rapist walking. There are rapists walking. Plural. Numerous. Always have been. And that people continue to blame the victims for their presence, reaction, location, apparel or whatever else is so much of the reason why.
Rape is just one facet of a bigger problem:
Our. Entire. Cultural. Notion. Of. Fairness. Is. Broken.
That a woman can’t breastfeed in public, but can be shown, headless and practically naked, for the purpose of selling a product, is a part of the same problem.
That there are people still arguing, still arguing, that people of color deserve execution without trial because of prior records, or misdemeanor offenses, is a part of the same problem.
That there is even a debate, anywhere, about whether or not people are allowed to have their authentic gender and sexual orientation, rather than assuming their absolute right to live in their own body as they see fit, is a part of the same problem.
That there is even a debate, anywhere, about whether or not a person should be allowed to wear a hijab (or their own cultural equivalent), rather than assuming their absolute right to display or not display their own body, is a part of the same problem.
That we discuss whether or not it is appropriate for one person to use shame to control another person’s health decisions is a part of the same problem.
That we laugh, rather than cry, when we see a frat boy passed out on a couch with sharpie all over his naked body, is part of the same problem.
It is the notion –which comes in many forms– that only the powerful can or should truly belong to themselves. It is the notion that everyone else belongs to the powerful and privileged.
It is the notion that the fat belong to the slender, and are fair game for bullying. That women belong to men, and are fair game for catcalling, sexual assault and worse. Our facial expressions are public property, our regalia the subject of political debate, our health choices available for the public to openly protest. Minority religion individuals belong to majority religion individuals, existing for educational purposes, bolstering certain narratives, and subjecting ourselves to constant scrutiny. The poor belong to the rich — for them to banish from park benches, force slave wages upon, or to use as a prop in moral pageantry. And it goes on. Our culture implicitly views all of the above as appropriate. And it crops up in our theologies.
It is the notion that we deserve whatever we can take by force, and if we can’t stop someone else from taking it, we deserve to have it taken. Sadder still is that a lot of people can’t even imagine that it is possible to have rights and power without taking them from someone else. That’s why you have so many people up in arms about social progress — there were literally people who thought that gay marriage could not become legal without banning heterosexual marriage.
It is the notion that “we can’t stop them” — and the “we” speaking is so very often a “we” with the self-same privilege as the perpetrators. “Boys will be boys.”
This ridiculous bullshit is a part of the problem. The very division of people living in the same country into “us” versus “them” — and it’s inevitable consequence of suddenly convenient scapegoats and a moral inability to give a fuck when something bad happens to “them” — is a part of the problem. In this matter, history is a far more impressive lecturer than I am.
That we have people whose religions lead them to cruelty toward the marginalized is but an illustration. That anyone could look at a being that -present tense- forces themselves on someone and utter the word “sacred” is a part of the problem.
And this atrocity, and the silence of those in power regarding corporate greed and the repeated attempts to victimize Native Americans for profit, it goes without saying, is a part of the problem. [Edit: Thanks Obama! Hope is not dead!]
The problem is so much broader than “patriarchy.” It is so much broader than anything having to do with maleness. It’s a pecking order of privilege. Those participating behave as though they are entitled to use the person directly beneath them as they see fit, or — if they are strong enough — climb that ladder by tearing down the people above them.
Because all of these problems, all of them, fundamentally stem from a staggering lack of empathy on a broad cultural level.
There are a thousand ways in which confronting the problem starts with looking in the mirror. It starts with challenging our ideas about power and authority — where it comes from, who deserves it and what they should be entitled to do with it. It starts with waking up and realizing the ten thousand ways in which we treat ourselves and others as public property, or commodities. It starts with realizing that no one, in heaven or on earth, ever has the right to someone else’s body unless that someone else has given free and informed consent to that kind of power exchange.
So if the next words out of your mouth with regard to a rape victim are going to be anything about their appearance, location, sanity, moral content, sexual history or anything similar, do the world a favor and just stop. Because the statistic is one in four, and if that is going to change, it has to start with empathy for the victim. From society at large.
We might not be able to stop rapists with a single law or effort, or game plan. But if we teach empathy, I believe that all of these problems, every type of ism, exploitation, aggression, persecution and violation, will shrink. In order to teach empathy, we must first learn it. And that’s got very little to do with smashing.