What We Missed: Racism, activism and the myth of ‘cultural’ rape

Vintage Pontiac Ad with the tagline 'Spread Your Legs'
Thanks to Matt for sending us this vintage Pontiac ad. Wowza.
Four Filipina nurses were fired in Baltimore for speaking in Tagalog. During their lunch break.
In NYC? The great organization Girls Educational Mentoring Service (GEMS) is hosting an anti-trafficking day.
Must read op-ed from The New York Times: No, Sexual Violence Is Not ‘Cultural’

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14 Comments

  1. mehitabel
    Posted June 25, 2010 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    The ad is likely [url=http://www.asylum.com/2010/04/19/readers-debate-authenticy-of-sexy-vintage-ad/]fake[/url]. I think even the most sexist of admen back in the 50s-60s would have drawn the line on that one, and it couldn’t have gotten past the censors. No way.

  2. middlechild
    Posted June 25, 2010 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    That NY Times op-ed was powerful and unsettling as hell. Kristoff’s columns similarly discuss the unbelievable sadism and cruelty victims suffer.
    (TRIGGERING)
    From the article: ‘”The media, aid workers and activists alike have consistently failed to tell the stories of Congolese men who were killed by fighters because they refused to commit rape. In interviews with hundreds of women, I heard countless stories of men who chose to take a bullet in the head, literally, rather than violate their child, sister or mother. In Baraka, one survivor recalled: “They tried to make my older brother rape me. He refused and was killed. So they raped me.”’ I did not know about either scenario (unless they’re actually describing on problem, that is, soldiers threatening male victims to rape their female family members in order to humiliate and physically/psychologically terrorize the whole family), but I’m not surprised.
    Has anyone read, “Long Way Gone,” from a former child soldier, Ismael Beah? I wonder how many of these rapists were children (or are minors currently). Are they victims? Are they war criminals?

  3. curiouslystrong
    Posted June 25, 2010 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

    While there are plenty of jaw-droppingly sexist vintage (hell, even modern) ads out there, this isn’t one of them. It’s a fake: http://my-retrospace.blogspot.com/2009/07/sexist-advertising-4.html

  4. Chris
    Posted June 25, 2010 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    Are you sure that ad is vintage? The fonts look questionably new.

  5. Chris
    Posted June 25, 2010 at 8:03 pm | Permalink
  6. Opheelia
    Posted June 26, 2010 at 1:45 am | Permalink

    That piece in the NYT was amazing. Last year, an 8 year old girl was gang raped by young boys (aged 9 to 14) in a refugee community in AZ. The comments on the news sites dismissed it as a “cultural” problem. Clearly, rape is normalized for “them.” But not “US!” USA! USA!
    At one point, the girl’s father made a comment that seemed to lay blame on the girl, though this was arguably based on multiple mistranslations. Everyone was up in arms about BLAMING A CHILD RAPE VICTIM OMG!!!!1111!!!!eleventy!
    The hypocrisy made me stop reading the stories, but did not stop me from calling people out on it in meetings and social gatherings. Teens and adults who were born in America rape 8 year olds. People born in America blame rape victims, almost without fail.
    I think there’s a defense mechanism at play. People want to distance themselves from rape so they don’t have to confront the fact that they definitely know victims, and they may know rapists. But fuck that. Too bad.

  7. Opheelia
    Posted June 26, 2010 at 1:46 am | Permalink

    Also, the juxtaposition of the GEMS story with the NYT editorial was all too apt.

  8. Hypatia
    Posted June 26, 2010 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    Its downright scary that there are places in this world where rape is being considered a norm

  9. EndersGames
    Posted June 26, 2010 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

    I don’t get what’s wrong with the ad, fake or vintage. There is sex, not sexual objectification, as far as I can see. It could be seen as appealing to both men and women. Seems like a great ad.. nice double entendre.

  10. middlechild
    Posted June 27, 2010 at 2:58 am | Permalink

    That piece in the NYT was amazing. Last year, an 8 year old girl was gang raped by young boys (aged 9 to 14) in a refugee community in AZ. The comments on the news sites dismissed it as a “cultural” problem. Clearly, rape is normalized for “them.” But not “US!” USA! USA!”
    The hypocrisy made me stop reading the stories, but did not stop me from calling people out on it in meetings and social gatherings. Teens and adults who were born in America rape 8 year olds. People born in America blame rape victims, almost without fail.”‘
    ….Are you trying to say that Americans are hypocritical for creating a dichotomy between African views of rape and their views of “us?”
    Honestly, I think there’s some truth to the idea that sexual assault is more difficult to deal with in some cultures (in part because of circumstances like war or indirectly related to colonialism/oppression/ethnic clashes, etc.) than here in the U.S. That’s why the op-ed writer actually mentioned in the her book that the DRC, the subject of her book, was the “worst place on earth to be a woman.” However high rape rates, street harassment, marital rape, and other forms of violence against women are in the West or in Western culture…I think it does a disservice to women of South Africa, the DRC, or any other place where women are brutally oppressed without recourse to say the U.S. is simply no better, that law enforcement and views towards sexual assault or no worse. (I don’t want to give the impression that the West is perfect–it isn’t, not by a long shot.)
    To the extent that sexual assault as a “culturally accepted practice” is used to PARDON it…that’s a problem. But if anything, despite the way that op-ed presented it, when I see the the extent to which “cultural” acceptance towards sexual assault exists (whether it’s in a documentary criticizing misogyny in popular music, or in it the documentary “Reporter” following Nicholas Kristof in the Congo), the concept is presented as something meant to horrify the audience, not an indication that the audience should shrug and think, “Oh well, that’s just what ‘THEY’ do, it’s not something other nations can burden themselves with.”
    That said–are you implying that being born in the U.S. is the same thing as being assimilated? I’m sure the comments you read were genuinely offensive. But you’re arguing that the commenters were hypocritical for “othering” people who were born here, and who thus who must have exactly the same views towards rape as I’m familiar with the case.
    The rapists WEREN’T born here. Unfortunately, due to that, it might make authenticating names of the parties more difficult (I’m not sure what’s happening in the investigation currently).
    http://www.azcentral.com/community/phoenix/articles/2009/07/22/20090722sexassault0722-ON.html
    What in the coverage of the case (there are many sources) discusses the assimilation or lack thereof of the rapists, the victim, or her family to mainstream “American” views of sexual assault or women/girls? (Flawed and wide-ranging as that “mainstream” American views toward rape and child molestation may be, I’m guessing in most cases the that often you’ll find the view of an assimilated American towards the the sexual assault of an eight year old is a little less harsh than the victims’ family, which “disowned” her due to their “shame”)? I’ve never seen an article that says the attackers were born in the U.S., either.
    I get the point of your complaint, there are plenty of people who are born in this country, would be accepted as typical “Americans”, and commit rape or abandonment, but this horrible case does not make the case that “we” (represented by commenters you refer to, who responded to the rape coverage) are hypocritical or foolish for suspecting a cultural divide in views towards rape at all. Especially considering the child’s parent’s disowned their 8 year old following the attack, instead of rallying around her, or at least, instead of being a little more supportive than sending her into foster care. (Again–not that abandonment or victim-blaming wrought by the people who are most obligated to support the victim is unheard of in the U.S., but I think popular condoning of parental or family blame of children following a trial like sexual assault or coming out is about equally matched–if not outmatched–by advocacy groups and individuals who call out such a reaction from the family as part of the problem.)

  11. middlechild
    Posted June 27, 2010 at 3:10 am | Permalink

    You know what? It’s late and I realize you made the point I only got to later and I misunderstood your point….that Americans and “others” (foreign born refugees) both victim-blame and commit rape. You’re right, there is some defensiveness at work. I can’t help but do it to, though, nor do I think it’s always a total disservice to human rights to realize that, however high rape rates or domestic violence is here…it could be worse. (What a low bar to set.)
    Maybe the cases citizens behaving similarly (indeed, I can think of some, but I still don’t think of the perpetrators or victim blamers as being part of “mainstream society” and I doubt the people you label hypocrites would react that differently, either) don’t receive as much coverage, but if I had to choose between being a woman or girl in America and South Africa or Liberia, I’d take my chances here. Depending on your social class or neighborhood it might not make much of a difference where you are, and maybe parts of Camden or the Bronx aren’t that different in terms of rates, acceptance, and police failure/unwillingness to help. I’d still take my chances here.
    The Arizonian teenage rapist was paroled. http://crimewatch.gaeatimes.com/2010/06/03/liberian-teen-gets-probation-in-gang-rape-of-8-year-old-girl-31340/

  12. Opheelia
    Posted June 27, 2010 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    This is going to be a little disjointed; I apologize in advance. Now that I reread my previous comment, I realized it was unclear in some respects.
    I’m certainly not saying that rape used as a war tactic is the same as the rape that occurs present day in the US. It’s not; the situation in the DRC IS different, and like the author pointed out, is not a result of “culture” but of war. Rape has been used as a weapon in conflicts throughout history. I think it’s disingenuous to ignore that, but it seems like the public is indeed content to separate this war from ones their own countries have participated in. The world should be horrified, and should take action in very tangible ways.
    Sorry to have thrown the AZ case without being able to actually quote any of the commenters; this isn’t necessarily going to be a fruitful discussion without direct examples. Suffice it to say that the case was discussed by (presumably) Americans in terms of culture, and basically revolved around a “Well, what did you expect?” theme, though it came out as righteous indignation. It was disgusting. (I’m also pretty jaded when it comes to any conversations about immigration in AZ, though.) I’m arguing that it’s hypocritical to “other” rape and act like this case is somehow isolated to the refugee community and “we” would never have done something like that. That “we” would never blame a rape victim. They didn’t use the culture idea to pardon it, but they definitely used it to ignore the fact that “we” do that shit all the time.
    And whether or not her parents disowned her is arguable. After that story broke, her father said that his comment was mistranslated, and that what he said was more a lamentation of “She shouldn’t have been out alone,” not that the rape was her fault. CPS took the child immediately, and it’s my understanding that she remains in their care based on an unrelated investigation of a caregiver. The community has rallied behind the girl, and the attack affected it deeply.
    I believe the three youngest boys were found incompetent to stand trial. Not too sure about the 14 year old.
    Anyhoo, I think you made some really good points and sorry if my OC was unclear! I didn’t really think it out before I posted, just ranted a little and hit submit. :)

  13. Cassius
    Posted June 27, 2010 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    Its the 1950s. If you wanted to do it, the choice was some lake at night or the car.

  14. Chris
    Posted June 29, 2010 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

    It’s just trashy, I’m assuming that the shock was that is was put forth as a corporate-sponsored ad with the tone of today’s advertising.

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