Standing up to Sexual Violence

Sexual violence has been an issue for a long time. Bring in technology and social media, and the problem escalates. This is evident through sexually explicit hate messages that many people experience far too often (and by far too often, I mean no one should ever experience this type of harassment). As so very truthfully put by actress Ashley Judd; people take anything, no matter what it is or if it is even remotely related to anything sexual, and run with it as a way to sexually harass and promote sexual violence.

Typically, it is women who experience this type of hatred, but that is not to say that men do not experience it as well. However, a misogynistic attitude tends to be a driving force behind these acts of hate and sexual violence. Gender and race are often used as a basis for hate and discrimination- women are generally considered inferior to men, and white people are considered superior to all other races- meaning women of colour are discriminated against on both fronts. These power structures are what drive hatred in Western societies and those who are at an advantage use this to assert power and control over others through malicious or violent means.

Why is it that men seem to have the freedom to say what they want, how they want and where they want with little or no consequence but when a women says something that isn’t necessarily harmful or offensive, for example, Judd’s tweet that is discussed in the article, they are subjected to so much hatred? The concepts of emphasized femininity and hegemonic masculinity are often so far exaggerated to the point that women do not feel safe to express themselves in whatever way they see fit due to not wanting to experience the consequences of not being seen as acting how a woman should. The same goes for males in the sense that so many feel as though they have to live up to expectations and follow the idea that men have to be overly manly, tending to lead to aggressive and misogynistic attitudes.

Ashley Judd put it in perspective by stating that any little thing can be used as an excuse to deliver rage through any means possible towards women- rage that is always there, oftentimes hidden, waiting for one small slip up so it can come out. But even still, despite Judd having her own experiences and story to tell, she is using her status as a powerful white woman, potentially a white savior in a sense, to address an issue that affects women around the world, and even more greatly affects women of colour and of minorities.

Social constructions tell us that men are strong and women are weak. We’re told that men have power over women, and that women are supposed to surrender themselves to that control that men have. When women stand up for themselves in situations such as the disturbing one that Judd was put in, we’re told to suck it up, to deal with it, that “boys will be boys”. This mentality is teaching women that despite all the feminist movements throughout history and all of the fights we’ve had to fight in order to obtain the basic human rights that we deserve to have, we will never be seen as equal to men. There is no “women will be women” mentality; a saying that could be used in a positive sense to reiterate the fact that women should be able to stand up and defend themselves and express their thoughts and feelings without being attacked.

When women are made subject to sexual violence and hatred and discrimination against their gender, we are being told that we should be ashamed of who we were. We are being told that women have no power and that we have no position to have an opinion. On the other hand, men have the freedom to express their opinion and gender binaries have us believing that men can deliver sexual hate towards women because they are the more “aggressive” sex, but while women are meant to be fragile and dainty, we are supposed to also be strong enough to deal with this hatred.

Although the concept of white saviours is not beneficial to the big picture of discrimination, is it not better to have white women standing up to defend women around the world than no women at all?

-mp.

Reference: Alter, Charlotte. “Ashley Judd Speaks Out About Twitter Abuse and Rape.” Time. Time, 19 Mar. 2015. Web. 2 Apr. 2015. <http://time.com/3750788/ashley-judd-speaks-out-about-twitter-abuse-and-rape/&gt;.

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4 thoughts on “Standing up to Sexual Violence

  1. I appreciated how you incorporated both the experiences of women as well as men into your discussion. I think it’s important that it is recognized hegemonic masculinity is harmful for everyone, not just women.

    You also raise the point that while Ashely Judd is saying very meaningful and important things, she is still ultimately a powerful white woman. I agree with you, there are obvious benefits to having some figure defending women rather than women’s experiences remaining silenced. I also think that the way that Ashley Judd constructed her argument was well thought out and raised some key points. What do you think the biggest risks are with having a figure like Ashley Judd represent big issues like this? I think a central argument that should be considered is that many of the women who have experienced this type of online sexual violence do not have access (financially, socially) to the many support systems and resources that she does, and that their stories are rarely ever heard or discussed.
    -kt22

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  2. This is well written, nice job. I really like that you emphasized the concepts of emphasized femininity and hegemonic masculinity, with social constructions because think that is really the root of the problem. Males are for the most part given the freedom to do as they choose within society which will always have a negative effect on both sexes. I also agree with you that its going to take all women and by all I all races to standup and show support against this type of abuse.

    – 12sdt

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  3. Firstly, I think you very eloquently described power structures and how they intersect with gender and race.

    Second, I don’t think that there is necessarily a problem with Ashley Judd standing up (and potentially becoming a figurehead for the issue) against sexual violence, however it would probably be beneficial for her to explicitly raise her positionality and maybe point out that the violence she speaks about is experienced disproportionately amongst different races.
    There was an excellent open letter to Angelina Jolie that I read recently that highlights celebrity privilege (it was a response to an op-ed authored by Jolie). I think it is sometimes difficult for both women and men of celebrity status to advocate for an issue they feel passionately about while simultaneously keeping in mind that they have certain privileges afforded to them that many do not (like katie pointed out these privileges may include support systems, resources, etc.). However, I also think that they are genuinely attempting to use their status to highlight important issues, like sexual violence against women.
    (I’ll leave the article here because I think it is a really interesting read- http://www.opnlttr.com/letter/open-letter-angelina-jolie-pitt)

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  4. I found it really interesting how you incorporated the “boys will boys’ mentality. This mentality really ties into rape culture which I think also has strong ties in this article. While you brought into your post the boys will boys mentality you also included the sexual oppression that is also experienced by men which provided a really good balance to your post.

    I found a blog post talking about the danger of the low expectations associated with this boys will be boys mentality which discussed how it is embedded at a such a young age. I think this blog post illustrates just how this mentality has stemmed through our culture from innocent beginnings to become the building blocks of rape cultures and cultures of harm

    http://driftingthrough.com/2014/09/05/boys-will-be-boys-the-danger-of-low-expectations/

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