Today, a guest blog post from my friend and Collective Shout colleague Melinda Liszewski, affectionately known as ‘The Other Melinda’. Melinda has been a long time campaigner against the objectification of women. She is fondly known as the young woman who took on Blokesworld in 2005 – an event celebrating everything men love, e.g. fast cars, alcohol and semi naked women – and through her dynamic grassroots activism – including getting sponsors to pull out – succeeded in having it shut down. Melinda turned up to the Brisbane showgrounds with her baby, some mates and a protest sign to find it boarded up. This was pre-Collective Shout days, but certainly a forerunner of actions to follow. Melinda’s actions inspired many other women to publicly protest and make their voices heard.
Why is it always up to women to prevent rape?
In what seems to be an admission and acceptance by the world that rape and men’s sport go hand in hand, the media has reported that a South African woman has unveiled what has been called the ‘anti-rape’ female condom “just in time for the world cup.”
The ‘Rape-aXe’ female condom is designed to be inserted into the woman’s vagina. If a man rapes her, tiny hooks on the inside of the condom will latch onto his penis causing him significant pain. If the man attempts to remove the condom, it will become tighter causing even more pain. Apparently, the condom can only be removed by a doctor. It is hoped that by the time a doctor is removing the condom, the authorities will be on the scene and able to make an arrest.
The premise behind this product is that it is the woman’s responsibility to prevent rape, a sentiment that is all too common in our society. Why was she wearing that? She shouldn’t have been walking alone, she was intoxicated, she went back to his home willingly. There is an endless list of ways in which men are absolved of responsibility for rape. It is accepted that rape is inevitable, so us women had better make sure we avoid being the target. Aside from having to take self-defense classes, avoid going out alone or at night, not drink alcohol, wearing clothes that are too tight, too short or otherwise ‘provocative,’ we now have the option of inserting a product with tiny hooks into our vaginas to further ‘deter’ men who rape. Is this what we’ve come to?
Would it not be more just and more effective to place the responsibility to stop rape where it belongs? With men?
The woman who created the product, seems to have genuine intentions. A South Africa doctor in a country where 1 in 4 men admit to having committed rape, Dr Sonnette Ehlers created the ‘Rape-aXe’ after having to treat a victim of rape four decades ago. Obviously this experience affected her deeply. She sold her belongings to fund the product’s development.
Critics have claimed the product is ‘medieval’ and Dr Ehlers agrees: “Yes my device is medieval, but it’s for a medieval deed that has been around for decades,” she told CNN. “I believe something’s got to be done, and this will make some men rethink before they assault a woman.”
She’s right about one thing, something does have to be done. Many things have to be done. The values and attitudes that lead to rape, that are perpetuated in our society are mediaeval and yet all too common. When will these be challenged?
Images of women who are objectified and desperate for sex wallpaper our society. Violence against women is eroticized; rape is something to joke about.
In 2009, Roger David came under fire for producing shirts with images that appeared to be of women who had experienced violence.
At the same time, it was revealed that a number of clothing retailers are selling shirts which make a joke out of rape.
Even clothing designed for little girls sends a message that they are sexually interesting.
Sometimes the eroticization of sexual violence is a little more obvious.
Then of course there are the magazines on display everywhere you shop, that send a message about what women are for.
Music videos on TV on Saturday mornings consistently portray women as half dressed and hyper-sexed.
These are just a few examples. It is little wonder then that rape myths abound – women always want sex, sometimes no means yes, women provoke rape, rape isn’t that big a deal.
One of the outcomes of rape myths is that rape goes grossly under-reported. Women don’t report rape because they don’t think the police will believe them, they fear being blamed or they don’t feel as though their case is serious enough for police.
We don’t need another way for women to avoid rape. We need men to stop raping women. We need to create an ‘anti-rape culture.’ A culture that acknowledges women as people and not ‘sex toys.’ A culture that holds men accountable for their choice to rape women.