Thursday, December 27, 2012
The Politics of Rape
A report about a gang rape of an Indian woman, who was not only raped but bludgeoned and is currently dying came across NPR this morning. Just a week ago, a report in the New York Times about rape in Congo, by boys and men of the militias which terrorize the country side described, graphically, the prevalence of rape in that African country. In Haiti, a twenty something volunteer was raped and the head of the organization for whom she was working tried to press charges, but the Haitian government made that nearly impossible. The first step of simply having her examined, having specimens taken, giving her drugs to prevent pregnancy and HIV and syphilis and gonorrhea were delayed for days. During all this time she was not allowed to bath, because she might wash away the evidence of rape and the consistent refrain from the male officials was she was probably just asking for it.
The same act may well have different origins and meanings. The rape by invading armies of soldiers visited upon the vanquished people of a nation which has waged war on the comrades of the rapists may be an expression of a different rage than the rape committed by the boy soldiers of the Congo or by the village rapist in Haiti.
When the American female reporter covering the Egyptian revolution strayed into Tahir Square, where demonstrations were in full throat, she was raped. Why? Was this rage against a representative of the West? Was this rage against a Western woman who had the folly to stray into the province of the male Islamic ego?
Why do men of some cultures seem to fear women so? There must be some connection between insisting on covering women completely and the attitude that those who are not completely covered are inviting rape. As if, women are so seductive it gives them a power to corrupt men which is so potent they ought to be raped at the first indication they might exert that power over men. The idea of rape as self defense.
Apparently, if you are an Afghan woman and raped, the shame is yours.
Google rape, and politics and you see sites in Norway and England which claim Middle Eastern men do all the raping in Nordic countries. Just can't keep their hands off the white women. Right wing sites in Scandinavia say Scandinavian women are never raped by Scandinavian men, only by men of Middle Eastern origin.
Sounds a lot like what I used to hear growing up, from white men--those colored just can't keep their hands off white women. Got to string them up as a warning to the others. Of course, nobody mentioned the rape of black slaves by their slave owners, but looking at any black from the Carolinas, Georgia or Alabama and you see blue eyes, light hair: American Blacks resemble white slave owners more than they resemble the Africans from Africa.
And there was the case of the Central Park Jogger, where five Black boys were convicted of raping a white woman, wrongly, based on the familiar bias.
What of the men raping women of their own color--rape is what? A weapon? A form of torture? A terrorist tactic? But what strategic purpose does rape serve in the civil war in Congo?
How do we, as Americans, deal with stories of rape in cultures we do not understand?
Are we simply seeing the unleashing of restraint in the breakdown of law and order, like looting when the lights go out and the power fails? Is all that stands between women in our nation and rape, the power grid and armed force?
Are we seeing attitudes from distant cultures arriving here in the USA? Or are our rapists home grown and needing no inspiration from abroad?
The same act of violence against women likely has different origins in the minds of men, from an act of self assertion (the man who feels this is the only way he will have access to a woman who may otherwise reject him) to sheer hostility toward a woman because she is a member of a hated group, to an attempt to defile an entire nation, to a simple expression of power by men who fester in an underclass. The woman in India was a medical student. Did those men who rape her come from an uneducated underclass? This may be a semester course we are talking about.
All I know is I am mystified. Are these men who rape the same men who shoot school children? If not, why not?
We clearly cannot look to our politicians for answers--those enlightened souls who assure us that women who were "legitimately" raped shut down their bodies so they don't get pregnant, or that pregnancies resulting from rape are "God's will."
Who has answers on this which are dispassionate, reasoned, informed and useful?
Posted by the phantom speaks at 2:13 PM