Do women still endure the walk of shame today?
What will you teach your daughters?
What will you teach your sons?
If you are a Game of Thrones fan, the Season 5 finale left our jaws agape after witnessing some extremely provocative, disturbing yet epic scenes. Hail to Lena Headey (and her brave body double) for their willingness to strip her character, Cersei Lannister, (a once powerful, manipulative and hated queen now fallen from grace) down to literally nothing to drive the content of this powerful scene with all its physical and emotional brutality straight down our throats.
Cersei, having been abducted by a religious group, the Sparrows, is forced into a dank cell and left there to be broken of spirit, pride and dignity. Once willing to confess all her transgressions (far too many to mention here) to the High Sparrow, she is then forced to endure the cutting of her long, majestic, royal locks and watch her ego and last shred of self fall to the dungeon floor along with it.
She is granted freedom to return to her palace but to reach it, she must walk through the town, naked and shorn, as the people she ruled with such disdain are allowed to pummel her with crude remarks, gestures and objects ranging from fecal matter and urine to rocks and vegetables. Through it all she holds her head up and cries only once when her bloody feet cause her to stumble and fall.
It can easily be argued that Cersei has much to atone for, that she is, in this case, the perpetrator and deserves to brought to justice. Regardless of her crimes and guilt or innocence thereof, did she "deserve" her walk of shame?
What this scene so vividly portrays is what we now refer to as "slut-shaming".
Sadly, this scene parallels what women are subjected to once they have mustered the courage to accuse and face their rapist/abuser/attacker in court. Once on the stand, the victim is forced to undergo intense scrutiny and dissection of her sexual history, behavior, choices and decisions.
Not only does the victim have to deal with the emotional turmoil of reliving the assault, detail by nightmarish detail, she is then subjected to review of her medical records from the treating facility, results from her rape kit collection, review of pictures showing bruises and/or injuries she sustained along with any other related evidence in front of and along with the jury.
With her attacker just feet away from where she is seated, she then copes with the harsh reality that her choice of clothing, attitude, appearance and location prior to and when the rape/assault occurred are now the primary focus of the trial.
Was she drinking? Was she on drugs? Was she "asking for it"? Was she abused as a child? What was her home life like, past and present? Why was she where she was in the first place? It goes on endlessly.
This is her dungeon, her place to be broken and stripped of all dignity and self-worth which will, hopefully for the defense attorney and her perpetrator, slut-shame her into her first heavy footfalls on her walk of shame. It's a walk women have endured for centuries, the consequences of which often ended in their death and like today, at the very least, leave emotional and mental scars on an already battered body, spirit and soul.
Is it any wonder that only a small percentage of rapes and sexual assaults are ever reported to the authorities? Other women see the consequences of bringing charges and must ask themselves...
...can I endure another rape?
This episode conjures up harsh realities that women face every day of their lives. We are taught to walk in fear. We are taught what we cannot wear. We are taught how we cannot act. We are taught that we are guilty by gender and possess, and willfully use, our seductive powers to taunt and encourage men to rape.
It is our job to prevent rape -- after all, we cause it. We even go so far as to ask for it!
I remember well teaching my step-daughter things such as:
- Always check your surroundings before exiting your car and before you return to it after you are done with your errand. Take a good look around and be aware of who is near your vehicle, who is in the parking lot and who is behind you.
- Never park next to a van. The doors open, they grab you and go. Done deal.
- Always walk with your keys sticking out between your fingers. Aim for the eyes.
- Carry the Mace I purchased for you in your purse and have your hand on it walking to and from your destination.
- Never pull over for a policeman until you are in a public, lighted place where there are witnesses, even if you have to drive right to the police station. We lived in a rural area with long, desolate country roads separating us from town. I told her no police officer will reprimand her for continuing to drive to a place she feels safe pulling over.
- If you insist on going to parties where you know drugs and alcohol are being consumed, don't wear provocative clothing.
- Always use the "buddy system".
The "training" went on and on. Not only by me, the police came to the school each year to make sure all young women understood the rules.
In other words, be ever-vigilant, expect to get raped, and be prepared for it. It's your job to prevent it!
The police never spoke to the boys.
This was 15 years ago and if I had a young daughter today, I would teach her the same rules.
Because nothing has changed.
Lena Headey notes that such primal public violence against women isn't exactly something that's only a historical issue, either.
"They still do it now," Headey said. "They take women out and stone them to death."
When will boys and young men be taught not to rape, not to assault, that it is never acceptable, under any circumstances? Why are these basic cornerstones of decency, humanity, morality and legality not being taught to them?
What will you teach your sons about women? What will you teach your daughters about men?
What examples are you setting for them by your words, actions and attitudes?
The answers to these questions are difficult and their interpretation of them by our children has far reaching consequences.
I think progress is slowly being made with regard to these issues but in reality, should women feel more secure or any safer today than 15 years ago?
I don't think so.
Although Game of Thrones is fantasy based, so many topical issues are portrayed through its story and I, for one, am grateful the author, writers and actors are willing to not only tackle the hard storylines, but willing to do it all the way, no holds barred.
At the very least, it opens the doors to much needed discussion.
Hail, Lena Headey/Queen Cersei/Game of Thrones.