Feminism | Posted by Brenna McCaffrey on 11/25/2011

Saying No To Rape Culture

boycotting Womens magazines is my way of saying no to rape culture

boycotting Women's magazines is my way of saying no to rape culture

My name is Brenna, I’m eighteen, and I’ve been glossy-magazine-free for nine months now. That’s right. Back at the advent of 2011, I decided to eschew Cosmo, Glamour, Seventeen, Vogue, Marie Claire, Lucky, etc., in hopes of escaping a culture that I continually noticed was telling me how to dress, how to look, how to act, and how to spend my money. I began to get more and more skeptical about this form of media which I had previously deemed as harmless.

I’ve had a handful of close encounters– an innocent trip to the magazine racks to find the latest issue of Ms. that quickly turns into a desire to peek and see some pretty picture of pretty clothes and pretty nail polish and pretty people. I haven’t caved, however, and I can personally attest to the wonders it has done to my self-esteem. It’s been nine months now. I no longer want to peek into the glossies. And now that I have established that distance from glossy magazine culture, I feel confident in my ability to criticize the way these magazines both act as a part of society’s sexuality police and teach women how to be the societal sexuality police.

Take, for example, this article, published on Cosmopolitan magazine’s website. The article is about female college freshmen and their vulnerability to sexual assault in the first few weeks on campus. The article makes the claim right under the headline: “Find out why rapists strike so frequently right now– and steps you can take to protect yourself.” It does not, however, give us any information on why rapists apparently strike so often in the first few weeks of college, even though that one bit of information is the most crucial for us to know to combat rape culture.

Women are always seen as the gatekeepers of sex. They are responsible for what happens and what doesn’t happen. They can say yes (but if they do, they’re sluts) and they can say no. But even in cases of rape, where clearly the person being attacked has already said no, we blame them for asking for it, for not taking the proper precautions, for walking at night in skirts, for drinking anything they haven’t brewed themselves, for trusting anyone. This culture of constantly being suspicious of everyone you meet is not a healthy way for anyone to live their life, and yet magazines like Cosmo, along with current rape culture, encourage that attitude. These magazines claim to represent the modern woman, but all they really do is enforce a culture of inferiority, sexual passivity, and blame. We need to hold rapists accountable and stop judging women for what they do and do not do with their bodies.

However, interestingly enough, all of the tips in that Cosmo article came straight from RAINN’s website (an organization that I like and respect very much). After realizing this, I explored RAINN’s website– their mission statement, statistics, and articles on sexual assault prevention. I was glad to see that gender-specific advice and gender-specific pronouns are missing from most of their materials. The organization gives the very clear message that victims are not to blame. The existence of this organization is very important due to the under-reported nature of sexual assault and the vague definitions of rape that can often leave victims afraid to report the crimes committed against them.

The happy fact is, however, I have never been raped or sexually assaulted. I run around with the idealist view that since I know what sexual assault and rape are, I will somehow be able to stop an assailant if I ever find myself in that situation. Many have told me that my views on life are idealistic, and I only recently began to understand why. It’s a product of the privilege that I grew up with. The privilege of having knowledge to combat the constant fear-mongering that is directed towards me as a woman in our culture.

However– if something ever happened to me, it would be because somebody raped me. It would not be because I was in the wrong place, or wearing the wrong thing, or walking by myself, or not carrying pepper-spray, or talking to someone, or not talking to someone, or drinking out of communal punch bowl, or out too late, or not carrying my keys in my hand. And I understand the logic that if it’s going to happen and you can’t control why or when or how, then at least you can take precautions to prevent it. But I am idealistic, and I stubbornly refuse to play that game.

I refuse to be victimized when I am not a victim. I refuse to be forced to live my everyday life in a way different from men simply for fear of potential attacks. It may be foolish, but I refuse. I refuse to prepare to be attacked. I should not have to think that way, and neither should you.

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Post Your Comment

  • Rebecca G @ at 11:44 am, November 25th, 2011

    Hmmm… it’s a difficult one. Of course, it is ABSOLUTELY the perpetrator’s fault WHATEVER the circumstances, but at the same time it can be argued that it’s similar to leaving all your windows open when you go out; of course you SHOULD be able to do this and it’s absolutely not your fault if you are burgled, but practically I think the kind of advice offered by RAINN and such is good stuff.

  • Anna @ at 2:33 pm, November 25th, 2011

    @ Rebecca G:
    The issue with comparing rape to leaving your house unlocked is that there truly is no way to “prepare” for rape.

    A woman was raped in my town 2 years ago at a bus stop on a busy street at 2 P.M.

    A woman on my campus was raped a month ago in her apartment (no, it wasn’t unlocked) in the middle of the afternoon on a Wednesday.

    Those are supposed to be safe spaces right? Those women were following the “don’t get raped” guidebook.

    Rape can happen anywhere, anytime.

    I see your point, but suggesting that one can prevent rape by “locking up the house” is actually perpetuating the idea that rape survivors where asking for it by being laissez-faire with their bodies.

  • Emma E @ at 6:13 pm, November 25th, 2011

    There’s pretty much nothing I can say about this article that isn’t your basic ‘I TOTALLY AGREE’, so I’m just going to comment on something I noticed on the accompanying picture: ‘Science validates correlation between hair length and relationship length?’ Is that actually a real article? Just WTF. Not only does it perpetuate sexist stereotypes, it’s just…dumb.

    Sorry for the off-topic comment, but it was bugging me.

  • Another Anna @ at 4:51 am, November 26th, 2011

    Exactly what Emma E wrote.

  • Sara @ at 10:08 pm, November 28th, 2011

    Emma and Another Anna, I’m pretty sure that entire spread is satiric. Every article listed on that cover is sexist to the extreme, thereby poking fun at the underlying sexism often found in real women’s magazines.

    Brenna, I agree with your ideals; unfortunately, we still do live in a world where we need to protect ourselves. Rape is never the victim’s fault, but I don’t think awareness and safety tips undercut that fact. While, yes, rape can happen any time, any place, it’s wise to take cautionary measures.

  • Noelle @ at 11:38 am, November 30th, 2011

    Check out our blog at
    http://societysexmedia.blogspot.com/

  • Vanessa M @ at 2:46 am, December 1st, 2011

    Try reminding yourself that the best look is the most comfy and efficient one. It works :)

  • Claire @ at 3:24 pm, December 2nd, 2011

    There is a lot that bothers me about these glossy magazines, from the inaccurate and unrealistic body image that it portrays to teens and women to the way they are supposed to behave as “nice girls”. It’s been years since I’ve purchased a fashion magazine such as InStyle.

    So much emphasis is placed on women not to dress as though they “ask for it” but there is never a mention that we can prevent this paranoia by instructing boys and men NOT to behave in this manner in the first place. Society needs to stop blaming the victims of rape and start proactively preventing both men and women from becoming rapists in the first place.

    This leads to that violence against anyone is bad, and purity is most valuable to women. I wrote an article on my blog useyourhooves.com/?p=181 about the importance of purity and its relation to rape in western culture.

    Thanks for a great article, Brenna!

  • Katie @ at 7:55 pm, December 19th, 2011

    I was raped when I was young, and although I have not had many immediate side effects, it did come back to haunt me later on and I had a hard time dealing with it. It was absolutely in no way my fault and it took me a long time to learn that. Any belief otherwise is preposterous. Nobody asks to be raped in fact they say no. That is asking NOT to be raped. How you dress should not be a factor.

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