10.28.13 - NWL Guest Editorial: 'Rape culture' label ignores root cause

The following guest editorial by the Gainesville chapter of NWL appeared in the October 29, 2013 print edition of The Alligator:

In recent years, stories on rape have become increasingly formulaic. We’re given the same statistics with absolutely no analysis of the cause of rape or real solutions.

Recently, articles focusing on rape published by the Alligator contained the phrase “rape culture” in the title, which was repeatedly referenced and blamed without ever being defined. “Rape culture” is a culture that normalizes and allows rape in its society. Joking about rape, making excuses for rapists and street harassers, and scrutinizing a woman’s dress and behavior instead of the behavior of rapists and street harassers is rape culture. These conditions certainly exist and are a form of sexism, but lumping them together as “rape culture” ignores the cause of the problem. Men who rape women are the cause of the problem — not jokes or poor excuses.

In its series of articles on rape, the Alligator suggested UF require incoming freshmen to take a workshop on consent because lack of consent determines rape. But the problem is not defining consent once and for all, as if some men do not know the difference between yes, no and unconscious. The problem is men who are rapists do not hear or respect a woman when she gives any answer they do not want to hear. The problem is these men know how very unlikely it is that they will ever be accused of rape, let alone prosecuted and charged.

National Women’s Liberation believes that the frequency and threat of rape and the notion rape victims are to blame is not the result of a rape culture, but actually the direct result of male supremacy. “Male supremacy” is the inherent authority and legitimacy men enjoy simply by being male. It is what is at play when men are not afraid of committing a crime because the victim can easily be discredited not with evidence, but by dress or past behavior. It is what is at play when the victim’s past is more important than the crime committed. It is at play when men don’t think anyone will believe the victim and will without a doubt take his side.

This male supremacy is built directly into our political, economic and cultural institutions, and until we look at the bigger picture and dig out the root cause, rape and rape culture will always exist.

While no one can presume to know how to stop rape once and for all, we do know that progressive change begins with a strong women’s rights group who can organize, fight and demand for UF to recognize rape as a real issue on campus and to provide effective awareness and prevention strategies that respects all women. No more waiting and no more lip service. This can change, as long as we demand change together.