A few years ago, I did a google search on the term “rape culture”, not knowing what it meant. The few hours I spent reading about it left me in a general state of despair, not only for the very real problems it’s referencing (i.e. the flaws in mainstream culture that allow for the dehumanization of women in various ways) but also for those people who seem to like to throw the term around.
Since it’s right there in the title of the (very well-written and thought-provoking) article, I figure here’s as good a place as any to voice my confusion and ask for clarification or guidance.
Is the term “rape culture” actually useful? What is it useful for? Who does it help?
I am acutely aware that there are aspects to mainstream cultures, no matter how progressive, that are harmful to the cause of women. You’ll get no arguments from me there.
But some people’s approach is to call it “rape culture”? As in, an entire culture of rape? As if the vast and sprawling mess of social protocols, artistic endeavor and folk narrative we call culture was built from the ground up in service of a singular vile act?
It’s an absurdly dark picture of the world. It dismisses the human aspect of the problem. It inflames a sense of otherness, an unseen enemy, a force that cannot be negotiated with, only fought or raged against.
But my big problem with the term is this: It seems like a massive cop-out, a “fuck everything, I give up”.
Ideas that legitimize rape in its various forms can be singled out, exposed and corrected, but an entire “rape culture” is not something you can fix.
May as well just burn it all to the ground and start over, right?
I’m not here to mouth off or tell people they’re wrong. And if I offend anyone, I apologize in advance. I’m just trying to understand this term that gets used almost casually, and the reasoning behind its use.