Before I begin, I want to confess I feel ineffectual regarding the following issue. It is humbling to be writing about my point of view on such a serious topic, and for one that my gender is the offending party. I cannot really empathize with women on the subject either. I basically would only fear rape if I went to prison. I find it a disturbing comfort that I don’t have the same kind of terror in my imagination or memories that half my friends do. I know that men get raped, but I don’t live with the same fear that mabye all women do. I don’t think any women say, “I am not at risk.” Sex workers are more at risk for being forced into unwanted sexual acts than non-sex workers perhaps, but I don’t believe that we should think it is more acceptable for a prostitute or a porn actor to be forced to do something they don’t want to do, that will scar them emotionally. I don’t believe there are circumstances in which we should view rape as somewhat justifiable. I believe that will be the dominating opinion of the American people eventually.
Sadly, this is a global crisis for women. Even if we changed America into an enlightened population, relatively free from violence against women, there are still nations of men zealously defending the integrity of the rape culture we feminists despise so intensely. Take this disgusting example: According to BBC via the Saudi daily newspaper al-Eqtisadiah, “Saudi Arabia’s religious police stopped schoolgirls from leaving a blazing building because they were not wearing correct Islamic dress.” You can read details courtesy of BBC News, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/1874471.stm
Most of us have come to learn recently how much the Taliban is threatened by girls’ education. This opposition keeps young women from learning that there is more to know outside the role of wife and mother, or that there is a world outside their home that applies to them. But clearly it isn’t only the Taliban bent on keeping women down below what we consider to be human dignity. “The mutaween – or Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice – are widely feared in Saudi Arabia.” per another BBC article on the story regarding safety of girls’ schools ( http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/1893349.stm) They basically patrol everyday life, like hall monitors, and they have corporal punishment authority.
What a nightmare that is! That humans are forced into clothing in the first place is an oppressive concept, but to have a gang of deputized \men beating women with sticks is just unfathomable to me. Americans wouldn’t tolerate that inside a religious school, let alone in public. This is something done by law enforcement in a country that is our ally, no less.
Even young women fleeing for their lives are not safe from rebuke. “One witness said he saw three policemen ‘beating young girls to prevent them from leaving the school because they were not wearing the abaya.’ ” Girls beaten back into a burning building. Because? Because they could encite men to lust, so they musn”t be allowed in public uncovered. Is that not complete justification for men who cannot control themselves sexually around women? How can greater blame for sexual violence be placed on women? This story highlights the perfect example of rape culture mentality at the height of its influence.
The existence of cultural differences is not contested, but does the average American really know this is goes on? When Saddam Hussein was accused of employing corporal rape on his own people, it energized the opposition to the Iraqi regime in our political process. And he was a secular dictator; Saudi Arabia has an unapologetic theocracy where religious law and law of land are hardly differentiated. Do we somehow feel it is no longer our business when a religion is behind it? When the religion is oppressive to one gender, while granting complete power to other, I don’t think cultural reasons can be cited in the court of world opion. It should not be forgiven, but we look the other way.
Since 9/11, Afghanistan has been considered a terrorist state and Saudi Arabia hasn’t. Both are treated very differently by the U.S. Yet, in either country, and in much of the Middle East, gender inequity has great historical roots. We consider aforementioned tactics barbaric, to say the least. So how do Middle Eastern moralists view us and our Hollywood image in the United States of Kick Your Ass with Missles? I would guess they feel scorn. I would also say it makes their leaders very nervous.
Look at the steps taken by women of the Western World in the last century. Aside from high political office, we hold actresses in sexy dresses on the red carpet in high esteem for their physical beauty. Women are encouraged to contribute to mathematics, arts, science and education alongside men, all the while not being forced to cover their bodies. We are even discussing if recent WNBA draftee Brittney Griner should be competing in the NBA.
I wonder, just how much does fundamentalist terrorist plots have to do with us pushing women into the driver’s seat with men, and allowing them to be sexually liberated and economically empowered? Yes, terrorists want our military presence to disappear from their regions. It is obvious that fuels the fire, but they make no secret of their hatred for ‘the Great Satan.’ That is a moral judgement. George W. Bush said that they “Hate our Freedom.” I love to snicker at GW and how he would over-simplify our nation’s problems with colloquialisms, but it’s not like he is wrong about that either. Is it mostly our women’s freedom? If so, are feminists the polar opposites of al-Queda? Can we then consider rape terrorism?
We are going after terrorists on our own soil, for sure. We consider them a critical threat to our well-being, and believe they are motivated by cultural agendas. It would not be difficult to argue that rapists do the same thing. Talk about a threat to our fundamental way of life through violent acts that encite fear. Rape is also a strategy that is employed in corporal fashion by religious extremists and even government entities in the Middle East. So don’t consider calling rape a terrorist activity a stretch.
The lines are pretty blurry between cultural battles in the Middle East, and the motivation behind the horrific feud their terrorists are bringing to American citizens. If they harm their own women for perceived sexual inpropriety (by a much different definition than ours), how must they feel about our cultural values? They put raped women in jail. That’s thinking like a rapist, putting the blame on her body. That gives the men greater control than even their religion dictates. So at what lengths do they go to stop their women from thinking like liberated women? Will they stike at us with violence whether our military is present or not? And should we consider rape to sympathetic to terrorist cultural values?