By: Zakkiyya Anderson
I got into a Twitter disagreement the other day – something I usually try to refrain from doing – because a young man tried to convince me that I was wrong in saying that men are not taught to not rape women. I tried, to no avail I believe, to explain to him that I was not talking about individual instances, but instead the culture of rape that pervades, not just this country, but even the world. Rape culture, as I understand it, goes beyond just the singular horrendous act of when a person sexually forces themselves on another person.
What rape culture is, is the overall mentality that makes rape, and dominance, specifically of women, normative. As I tried to explain to the gentlemen on Twitter, in our society, girls are more often taught to not dress a certain way, not act a certain way, or speak a certain way, so as to not attract negative attention.
As women, especially Black women, from a young age, our bodies are seen as hypersexual objects that must be monitored in very specific ways. Moreover, young Black girls learn at a very young age, what rape is, and what they should do to try and make sure that they are not victims. And these lessons go beyond just telling these girls to be aware of “strangers” , it is very specifically lessons in making sure that you do not welcome the unwanted attention. This kind of rhetoric places the blame on victims, before they even become victims.
The particular video that I was watching on Twitter that caused me to get so riled up, showcased a Black woman running for her life as a Black man chased after repeatedly referring to her physical attributes. The video was about 30 seconds, and towards the end as she is running to her car to get away from him, she nearly gets ran over.
The guy in the video says something like, “Damn girl it ain’t that serious.” Oh, but it gets worse. The caption he puts to the video reads: “ When you scared you going to get raped.” I can’t even begin to unpack how horrible this entire scenario is, and add that to the fact that he posted the video as entertainment- it makes my blood boil even now.But yes, it gets even worse.
Another Black guy commented on the tweet saying, “Well she should know better than to wear leggings in the hood.” Insert stale face emoji here. If that is not the perfect example of rape culture, then I don’t know what is. He uses the words, “she should know better”, as if she is the one who has made a mistake. And she’s wrong, not because she’s wearing a tight dress, or a mini skirt, or because she is flirting (which wouldn’t be viable excuses either) but because she is wearing leggings. Now, I don’ t even have to ask this question, but how many of us have just thrown on some leggings real quick to go to the store, or to get something to eat? Right. Errbody.
This is the same mentality that says that Black women should tailor what they choose to wear, so as to prevent being heckled by men. But wait, aren’t we missing something here? Shouldn’t we be teaching our men that this kind of behavior is unacceptable? Shouldn’t the conversation be focused on telling our young boys that they are not entitled to women?
But it’s not. Instead, we exist in a culture that allows, and accepts, a man heckling a woman, chasing her, and then having the audacity to record it AND post it to social media. What’s worse, if it even can get any more despicable, is that other Black men watched him do this. No one stopped him from bothering her. No one came to her defense.
There’s no doubt that he showed this off to his boys, and no one convinced him not to post it. There was no regard for the trauma that she faced, but why? Because that is what rape culture does. It makes things like this normal, so much so that we become desensitized to the horror of being a Black woman, “in the hood”.
Ask any Black woman if she’s ever had an experience similar to this, and she can probably think of at least 10 right at the top of her head. I’ve been heckled and cat called while in full baggy clothing, hood up and everything. So it’s not about the clothes – it’s about a culture that excuses this kind of behavior for males because, you know, “boys will be boys”.
In our society we place the burden on the women to, “save themselves for marriage” and to not be, “loose”. We count the number of partners a woman has had, and count each one as a mistake on her behalf, while encouraging our sons to, “sow their wild oats.” This is what rape culture looks like, this is how it feels, how it functions on a daily basis.
We live with it, work in it, and even party to it. But we have got to do better. We have to teach our Black daughters that they can be free, and it is on us to protect them from a culture that steals their innocence. And we have to be more direct with our sons. There are no excuses for objectifying women, and you are not entitled to anyone’s body just because they are dressed a certain way. We’ve got to start teaching our sons not to rape.