Public Diplomacy and Global Communication 2014c

Changing or enabling the rape culture?

The term ‘Rape Culture’ has been flashing around us in recent years and it is a popular subject in conversations, social media and pressed media. A report made by Marshall University Women’s Center defines rape culture as a term as follows: “Rape Culture is an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalised and excused in the media and pop culture […] it is perpetuated throug the use of misogynistic language, objectification of womens’s bodies and the glamorisation of sexual violence, therefore creating a society that disregards women’s rights and safety”. (http://laverne.edu) You can read more about it here.

In social media rape culture shows in very various ways and it is argued that social media makes todays rapes even more unbearable than they already are. There was a case in 2011 in Steubenville, Ohio, where two high school students, stars of their football team, raped a 16-year-old girl whilst she was intoxicated and unable to respond to the act. The act lasted for several hours and had viewers who did not intervene, but photographed and videoed the act and later on published these horrific images in online platforms such as Twitter and Instagram using words like “rape” and “drunk girl” in their postings. (www.nytimes.com)

The boys were charged by the jury for minimum sentences, but the comments and discussions online were the other kind. Media outlets started to pour with sympathy towards the rapists, and not the victim, saying for example that it was her fault to get raped as it was her choice to get so drunk that she could not say no. ( http://laverne.edu) This is a perfect example on how the media and especially social media acts when it comes to rape, seeking wrongdoers and victims. The rape culture enables comments like “well she should not have worn those clothes” or “she should not have been walking home by herself if intoxicated”, but it clearly states that the victim was wrong and that boys will be boys. Of course it needs to be acknowledged that not all sexual assaults are towards women, and that it happens the other way around as well.

Is social media enabling or changing the culture of rape? On the other hand, these occasions, like in Steubenville, have gotten worse because of the humiliation of the victim through social media, but it has made detecting the rapists easier. There are also many anti-rape culture communities online posting about these issues such like @StandtoEndRape and organisation called People Against Rape Culture, but how can we make sure the information reaches the people who might be needing it the most? The social media platform allows individuals to post about rape and its horrors, but then there lies the danger that many are offended, as these videos and lists are conducted so that it refers all men to be rapist. You can find these kind of publications here and here.

One thing everyone does agree on, is that rape culture can be changed. Culture in general is ever changing, and always evolving to fit the present, so if we have successfully created a rape culture, we sure can evolve away from it. It just takes time, patience and a tremendous amount of effort from communities, private and public to bring up a generation that does not have to live in this kind of culture.

References:

MACUR, J. and SCHWEBER, N. (2012). Rape Case Unfolds Online and Divides Steubenville. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/17/sports/high-school-football-rape-case-unfolds-online-and-divides-steubenville-ohio.html [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].

MACUR, J. and SCHWEBER, N. (2012). Rape Case Unfolds Online and Divides Steubenville. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/17/sports/high-school-football-rape-case-unfolds-online-and-divides-steubenville-ohio.html [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].

Madden, K. (2015). Campus Times » Rape Culture: The media’s role in normalizing assault. [online] Laverne.edu. Available at: http://laverne.edu/campus-times/2014/05/rape-culture-the-medias-role-in-normalizing-assault/ [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].

Marshall.edu, (2015). Rape Culture | Women’s Center. [online] Available at: http://www.marshall.edu/wcenter/sexual-assault/rape-culture/ [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].

People Against Rape Culture, (2015). People Against Rape Culture. [online] Available at: http://www.peopleagainstrapeculture.org/ [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].

Storify, (2015). Changing The Culture of Rape via Social Media #SMWEndRape (with tweets) · StandToEndRape. [online] Available at: https://storify.com/StandToEndRape/changing-the-culture-of-rape-via-social-media-smwe [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].

Twitter, (2015). Sarah Silverman on Twitter. [online] Available at: https://twitter.com/SarahKSilverman/status/579172363222282240/photo/1 [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].

YouTube, (2015). How to Not Get Raped. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86ST_suvc9I [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].

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