Shaping Rape Culture

Smoking was once the epitome of cool, at least by Hollywood and advertising standards. Mid century idols displayed a sense of sophistication with that white stick dangling from hands, mouths, or the even more glamorously, a cigarette holder. Smoking was normal, socially acceptable behavior – in homes, schools, hospitals, and most influentially, in the neon allure of the media. Cut to 2014 and let’s replace that imagery: the vision of smoking, with misogyny, sexism and even rape.

Rape Culture – a ghastly sounding term originating with second wave feminists of the 1970’s – is still prevalent. The phrase itself describes a culture that normalizes rape based on its attitudes towards gender and sexuality, and that culture is one we have embraced, wittingly or not. It can’t be denied that the conversation – the dialogue on misogyny, sexism and rape – has become less taboo than decades past, but the sexualization of women has also become more brazen than ever before. It’s in our music, on our televisions, at the movies, in our video games, and enacted in the institutions built to protect us.

It would be unwise to assume that the media is the root cause for these atrocities, as there are many consumers who would rather chew off their left arm than succumb to reflecting the imagery presented before them. Nonetheless, it would be equally ignorant, and even dangerous, to disregard the impact the media has on what culture and society deem normal.

For example, Robin Thicke’s dance anthem, Blurred Lines, has been described as ‘rape-y’ by many, with it’s suggestive lyrics, and shameless accompanying video, and yet it tops the charts. Kate Upton evocatively groans and disrobes at a drive-in to sell a Carl’s Jr. burger, and she continues to be lauded as a standard of beauty. Players can elect to batter, abuse, and even kill prostitutes while playing Grand Theft Auto, however age restrictions are not enforced. And toddlers are put on display and dressed in the likes of Pretty Women and a Hooters waitress for the amusement of reality television viewers, but the pedophilic grey area is dismissed.

The objectification of women in our media is nothing short of abhorrent, and yet we are surprised by the sexual harassment and assaults played out on our streets, campuses and even in our military. Some go insofar as to condemn those that attempt to dissuade assaults, particularly those on campuses, claiming new rules and regulations place a burden on male students.

In the article The Escalating War on Campus Rape, Margarette Wente of The Globe and Mail chastises North American campuses for rooting out “sexual harassment and misconduct, however slight…”, which only further devalues the issue. Bloomberg’s John Lauerman and Jennifer Surane use the theft of an unlocked bike to justify victim blaming and continue by empathizing with college men over their burden of hesitancy in pursuing women. While additionally suggesting female students need to avoid “drunkenness and other risky behaviors”.

While being incapacitated could be dangerous for a multitude of reasons, the onus of rape should not fall of the victim’s shoulders – your clothing, your level of sobriety, your gender, creed, or religion should not define an unwanted invitation, in public or private sectors. The mismanagement, or blatant indifference to sexual misconduct in education and military institutions only perpetuates rape myths and condones the culture in which it breeds.

The New York Times reported in May 2014, that a case study done by the U.S. Pentagon found that out of 26,000 reported cases of rape in the American military, only 376 resulted in a conviction – a result that is difficult to swallow. While statistics for North American post secondary campuses vary, 64 campuses are currently being investigated for violating Title IX – a public law that protects equal opportunity in education. And though government attempts are being made to implement concise sexual assault protocols, even Time Magazine’s Christina Hoff Sommers scoffs, “rape culture” to be “a panic, where paranoia, censorship and false accusations flourish”.

In days past, smoking was a socially acceptable behavior, and even known to be recommended by some doctors as a means to manage stress. But through social pressure and awareness, we have come to see it as harmful and even deadly – no longer does it carry the glamour it once did. I wait with baited breath for society to have the same level of concern for a women’s right to consent. And for the media to acknowledge its role in shaping it.

-Parry

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Mad As Hell

I got up this morning to a fog rolling into the city. It’s not from rain, or from temperature change or any other natural reason for a hazy day. It’s because I live in Beijing, and the pollution levels are on the rise today. Jumping a few dozen points between 8:00 and 9:00am. The AQI is 249 at the time of writing this.

I made tea, and watched the latest episode of VICE, which only further disgruntled me with its expose on the scrapers working legally and illegally in America’s industrial towns, taking apart once booming factories to sell the metal to China – not only have our jobs gone there, our buildings are being sold to China piece by piece.

I have been awake for just over an hour.

We are killing each other with video game warfare, poisoning our selves to buy poorly made products, dehumanizing the disenfranchised by way of forced labour, and bankrupting our once great nations so the 1% can buy another yacht.

Any words I could muster through the rage that is burning in my belly, would not do justice in articulating the total shit show going on outside my door, your door, and the doors of anyone, everywhere. So instead I’ll leave you with the words of Network’s (1976) Howard, as I think it is more poignant now than ever before.

– Parry

“I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel’s worth. Banks are going bust. Shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there’s no one anywhere that seems to know what to do with us. Now into it. We know the air is unfit to breathe, our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TVs while some local newscaster tells us that today we had 15 homicides and 63 violent crimes as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be. We know things are bad. Worse than bad. They’re crazy. It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy so we don’t go out anymore. We sit in a house as slowly the world we’re living in is getting smaller and all we say is, “Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster, and TV, and my steel belted radials and I won’t say anything.” Well I’m not going to leave you alone. I want you to get mad. I don’t want you to protest. I don’t want you to riot. I don’t want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn’t know what to tell you to write. I don’t know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crying in the streets. All I know is first you’ve got to get mad. You’ve got to say, “I’m a human being. God Dammit, my life has value.” So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out, and yell, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” I want you to get up right now. Get up. Go to your windows, open your windows, and stick your head out, and yell, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” Things have got to change my friends. You’ve got to get mad. You’ve got to say, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” Then we’ll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first get up out of your chairs, open your window, stick your head out and yell, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

– Network 1976

Guilty Indifference

This world is going up in flames, and nobody wanna take the blame.

– Charles Bradley

This years Oscars have come and gone, and each year becomes more forgettable in nearly the time it takes to broadcast, at least for me. But this year, one notable moment held my attention. Steve McQueen accepted the best picture award for his bio-pic 12 Years a Slave – a story that is all too familiar if you’ve lived outside a box for the last century – which he accepted on behalf of the 21 million people enslaved worldwide. In case you didn’t pick that up, let’s look at that number again, 21 MILLION! And if you haven’t seen the film, watch it! If it were up to me, it would be required viewing (and reading) for every first world high school student. But since its not currently up to me, lets talk about modern slavery.

The days of people shackled and sold at legal auction are gone, but human beings are currently being sold the world over. Human trafficking has become big business, close to exceeding revenues from the illegal drug trade. Now I’m sure the average person is not participating in this horrendous business – you are not selling or buying human beings for your own use. But do you buy produce, electronics, clothing, footwear, jewellery or anything else from Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, or the Philippines? How about China? Well these are just a few of the countries that currently use Child and Forced Labor. Whether you want to call it modern or contemporary, the fact remains that this is slavery.

Wealth has been made on the backs of the impoverished for centuries. The pyramids were built by the hands of slaves. Kings taxed their subjects into starvation and depravity. And ‘Old Money’ was often made through dehumanizing values. But we neglect to see that we have continued this tradition of greed through the exploitation of the helpless. We are detached from the enslaved in distant lands, and ignorant to those in our own nation.

I am part of the 99%. My personal income is just above the Canadian poverty line. The cost of living rises and the income levels dip. I cant afford most Canadian Made products, though there are few left to purchase. It has become a vicious cycle. Poverty breeds more poverty and too few have all the money. The more I buy MADE-IN-EVERY-OTHER-COUNTRY-BUT-MY-OWN, the fewer high paying jobs are available, the less money I make, the greater the economy suffers and the need for cheaper labor rises. But who do we hold accountable? The government? The outsourcing corporations? Or we, the consuming public? Answer: all of the above.

Now I’m not implying that everything you buy is made by way of forced or child labour, but how would you know? There’s no label to indicate that the items we buy were made by age of majority free persons. But I can guarantee that something in your home, your car, your purse, or the purse itself, was made by someone who is starving, overworked and abused. It is our neglect to question our purchases, our failure to demand fair trade goods, and our apathetic response to governments that protect big money makers. We are responsible for every person, child or adult, forced to work against their will in deplorable and inhumane conditions. Why? Because it is our indifference that makes us guilty.

–    Parry

For more information on the products made by illegal labor practices, and offending countries, check out this PDF from the U.S. Department of Labour:  http://www.dol.gov/ilab/programs/ocft/pdf/2010TVPRA.pdf