This morning, I was bombarded with messages from Facebook friends about a Facebook page that has them outraged, and rightly so.
In the last few weeks I've posted a series of articles focusing on the status of women in America, the Equal Rights Amendment, and the ongoing pay inequity between the sexes, all urging women to get mad. Why? Because anger is often the first step toward action, and action is what this country sorely needs.
All the articles generated a great deal of discussion, which was my intent. But, while most comments were supportive of the points made, some -- mostly from men -- were negative, taunting, aggressive, and in a few unfortunate cases, vulgar. Most, of course, felt free to leave their comments directly on Huffington Post, where freedom of speech is alive and well. But, a few -- knowing that their choice of words would never pass muster with the moderators -- chose, instead, to connect via email. The venom that spouted from these messages still makes me wince.
Gaps in salary, lack of leadership roles in the public and private sectors, diminishing jobs for women (especially those over 50), and poor childcare options are just a few of the ongoing challenges we have in America.
But the biggest, widest-ranging problem is the "culture of rape" that we as a society have created, and continue to feed.
This past weekend, Washington DC was the scene of the most recent "SlutWalk," an international movement that started in Toronto this past spring but has quickly gone viral. According to founder Heather Jarvis, "Our goal is to shift the paradigm of mainstream rape culture, which believes focuses on analyzing the behavior of the victim rather than that of the perpetrator."
Even if you cringe at the word "slut," the goal of this organization is right and just. No girl or woman should be raped, ever. Nor should it ever be suggested that what she wore caused the rape to happen. That way of thinking feeds directly into the "culture of rape" we so desperately need to eradicate.
We should all be deeply concerned and vigilant about the statistics surrounding "date rape" especially on college campuses. According to an article by Amy Siskind:
The Department of Education acknowledges a grave threat to this generation: 20 percent of college women will be victims of rape or sexual assault.
Date rape drugs are easily acquired and used, and even if a young woman is drinking a soda, if she turns away for even a second the drugs can be dropped directly into her drink with devastating results.
In her article, Amy goes on to say:
We live in a civilized country, after all. Who is assaulting these young women? The answer, of course, is our college men! Ponder this: roughly 20 percent of our college men will rape or sexually assault a college woman before they graduate.
As a mother of two teenaged girls -- one of whom will attend college next year -- I am bearing witness to a war on women... a war that has all the components of other wars being waged in the world right now: psychological, physical, emotional, financial.
Which brings me back to the Facebook page that has enraged so many people.
Postings on Facebook and other social media often find themselves in the murky waters between "freedom of speech" and "despicable commentary" and that's exactly where this page is. The First Amendment is a right of the American people, the true purpose of which is often misused and abused. That is the case with this Facebook page (bad grammar and all) -- "You know shes playing hard to get when your chasing her down an alleyway." To date, it has generated almost 172,000 "likes" and continues to get "likes" and comments even though many people have petitioned Facebook to have it removed.
In a Facebook message, Tara Bell wrote,
The complaints are either unheard or ignored. Apparently Facebook believes breastfeeding is obscene and kissing one's same-sex partner is obscene, but rape is not. The page pretends to be humor, but rape is not funny - not in any way, shape or form.
Perhaps Facebook views this page as an example of social media users embracing it to air their views, as long as no one is being hurt. However, as Facebook friend Maureen Ardron wrote:
It makes you wonder how far we've really come from the cave man days when all a man needed to do was grab a woman by the hair and drag her to the cave. This is a very bleak commentary on American life . . . and very not funny!
I asked friends on Facebook if they felt this page condoned or supported a "culture of rape" and the answer was a unanimous yes.
Joyce Frazier Melanson wrote:
It implies rape, and also implies as acceptable the ignoring of protection orders, referring to them as challenges. This is not funny. It shows very poor judgment, a lack of respect and a degrading view of women.
Facebook friend Dawn Henry Walker put it into sharp perspective:
Unfortunately many types of media have encouraged people to objectify and sexualize others for their own "consumption" to be used for self-gratification. Until we learn to value others this will not change. This is just a symptom of a much bigger problem.
Rape culture is defined in an article on Helium as follows:
. . . a term used to describe a culture in which rape is common, and can be condoned through cultural attitudes and behaviors, including the way its victims are portrayed in the media, and the objectification of certain people (usually women) that seems to make their bodies open to violation.
What can we do? We can start by asking ourselves these questions:
Is America so lacking in a moral compass that we can't control the explosion of sexual violence depicted in movies, television, advertising, video games, music, and social media, which depict women and girls being abused, raped, tortured and murdered?
Have we so lost our way that we can't send our daughters to college without fear of having a pill dropped in their drink when they get momentarily distracted?
Are we, as a society, supporting a war on women by condoning a culture of rape?Lastly, what do you think Facebook should do?
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Follow Barbara Hannah Grufferman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/BGrufferman