1- What are three main pointsbrought up in the documentary you watched? Be specific and
include any relevant examples from the film as evidence for your points. You may
respond based on The Hunting Ground ORThe Mask You Live In. Each of your main
points should be at least 100 words.
2- What are two specific connections between the documentary you watched (The Hunting
Ground or The Mask You Live In) and the articles for Unit 5 (Gillian Greensite’s “Rape
Culture,” Julia Serano’s “Why Nice Guys Finish Last,” or Michael Kimmel’s
“Masculinity as Homophobia”?
3- According to Michael Kimmel, what are the connections
between masculinity and homophobia? Give one example from mainstream media
and one example from your own experience that helps us understand this concept more
4- Define the concept of a rape culture, as Gillian Greensite explains it. What are its main
components? Who does it affect and in what ways? In addition, describe two specific
ways that the media perpetuates the likelihood of sexual assault and rape.
5- What does it mean to “blame the victim”? What are examples and where do you see it
happening in your own life? How might we resist instances of blaming the victim?
Finally, how might you link the concept of victim-blaming with “consent”?
6- What are three ways women can resist street harassment? In your response, make sure
to define what street harassment is, who it affects, and how often. (Hint: the powerpoint
for Unit 5 has a section on street harassment).
7- What are five specific things you can do to resist rape culture and support survivors of
sexual assault? If you have examples from your own life, where you have done
something to resist rape culture and support survivors, feel free to document your
Gender Violence, Rape Culture,
and Survivor Support
What does it mean to be a “real man” in our culture?
What are the tenets of masculinity? Let’s make some connections
between masculinity and advertising…
Masculinity & Violence
Masculinity and manhood are connected
with dominance, power, and control.
Masculinity is linked with
dominance. Dominance is
often linked (visually) with
sexuality. Violence is thus
eroticized or romanticized.
What is a Rape Culture?
• Rape culture: a culture in which rape, sexual
violence, and gender-based violence are
common and in which prevalent attitudes,
norms, practices, and media normalize, excuse,
or even condone this type of violence.
• Examples of behaviors commonly associated
with a rape culture include victim blaming,
sexual objectification in media, and trivializing
“Any act of gender-based violence that results in or is likely to result in physical,
sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such
acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or
in private life” – UN definition
• Physical, sexual and psychological abuse are included, including threats of
abuse and coercion
Under this definition, what acts can we include as gender-based violence?
• Rape, sexual assault
• Sexual coercion
• Harassment (on the street, at work)
• Sexist jokes
Women deal with incidents of gendered violence on a daily basis. Much of this
violence is sexual.
Another Definition of Violence
“Violence is any relation, process, or condition by which an
individual or group violates the physical, social, and/or
psychological integrity of another person or group. From this
perspective, violence inhibits human growth, negates inherent
potential, limits productive living, and causes death” Hussein Bulhan, psychologist
• This definition is more all-encompassing than just genderbased violence
• It speaks more to the macro-level inequalities rather than
just individual experiences
• Looks at more than just harm, but also decreased potential
I prefer this definition because of its macro, all-encompassing
What We Can Do
• Believe people when they say they have experienced an assault.
Listen, don’t judge or question their explanation.
• Shift the focus from victim blaming to perpetrator blaming. Ask,
“how could this have happened? How could he/she have done
this?” rather than questioning the survivor’s lack of consent.
• Allow the survivor to choose whether or not to report. If they
decide to report, go with them or find resources to help.
• Call out your female friends who are attracted to sexually
aggressive men, and call out your male friends who prefer women
who fulfill the sexual object stereotype. Explicitly express your
• Practice bystander intervention and enthusiastic consent!
A conservative estimate is that men
rape a third of a
million women each
year in the United
States. This statistic
suggests that larger
forces than individual behavior are
of activism and education about rape, a conservative estimate is that men rape a third of a million women each year in the United States.1
This statistic suggests that larger forces than individual behavior are at work.
This section explores how all aspects of our society work to create a rape culture. It covers the origins of men raping women, connects the rape of women with the oppression
of all groups of people without power, and explores the many ways in which rape is
encouraged, excused, and maintained throughout the whole fabric of society.
Studies in anthropology such as those described in The Chalice and the Blade by Riane
Eisler suggest that there was a time in human history when men and women lived in harmony.2 This social arrangement had its last expression in Minoan Crete approximately
3,500 to 5,000 years ago. From pieces of pottery and figurines, it is possible to conclude
that this was a culture in which women were respected. Women participated in public
life and seemed to have been strong physical equals to their male counterparts, as illustrated in The Toreador Fresco.3 Nature and fertility were apparently sacred, as evidenced
by the abundance of images of the Neolithic mother goddess. That their cities were built
without walls and fortifications suggests no aggression and no war. The reasons for the
disappearance of this and other similar civilizations have been lost in the mists of time.
The significance of this prehistory is that it suggests that masculine violence toward
women is not inevitable. It points to the fact that women are not biologically programmed to be second-class, passive, dependent, and concerned only with childbearing
and child-rearing. It is a clear indication that masculine dominance and violence is a
political-social arrangement, not a biological destiny. As R. W. Connell has noted, even in
early societies that had all-male armies, such as Sumer and Egypt, there is a good deal of
evidence of women’s prestige and authority, with women owning property and engaging
in trade. The myths of these societies depict active and powerful goddesses.4
Though the evidence is relatively sparse, the fact that there were periods of history in
which women shared power far more equally with men, and in which violence against
women was relatively rare, or at least harshly punished, gives hope for the future. What
is current and destructive in gender relations can be changed.
Recorded history in the last 500 years is essentially the history of patriarchy and, in
particular, the dominance of men of property and wealth. It is the history of empires controlled from western Europe. It is the history of the construction of the ideology of
racism to justify the plundering of Africa and the enslavement of African people and
eventually the domination of all indigenous peoples. It is a history of the division of peoples into rigid social and economic classes to ensure a concentration of wealth in the
hands of the few and the enforced availability of cheap labor. It is a history in which
women are reduced to the status of property, either their fathers’ or their husbands’, and
their sexuality and reproductive capacities strictly controlled to ensure the passing of
property to the male heirs. It is the history of the rise of the nation-state. It is the history
of masculine violence against women.
ESPITE MANY YEARS
We are exploring
the oppression of
women and its particular expression in
the form of sexual
assault. It is important to keep in mind
all forms of oppression are connected.
C A LC A S A ◆ S U P P O R T F O R S U RV I VO R S
This system of patriarchy, in stark contrast to earlier collective societies, relies on
force and/or ideological control to maintain the status quo. People are encouraged to see
this social arrangement as natural rather than political. First religion, and then science,
reinforce the notion of the natural superiority of the male, particularly the white male, and
the “proper” role of women as wife and mother, nurturer and caregiver. Meanwhile, very
little status is given to the feminine role, while the masculine role is elevated in importance. Any dissent or threat to the “natural order” is met with violence, as in the persecution of gay men and lesbians, Jews, religious minorities, indigenous peoples and people of
color in general, gypsies, witches, political dissidents, and artists—all of whom challenge
the status quo.
Each form of oppression has its own particular history. Here, we are exploring the
oppression of women and its particular expression in the form of sexual assault. It is
important to keep in mind that fundamentally all forms of oppression are connected.
Efforts to end any form of oppression will be met with resistance by those who are in
control and who benefit from the subordination of others. Therefore, those who are
working toward the liberation of people of color, the liberation of gays and lesbians, and
the liberation of the working class should also be concerned with the liberation of
women. Similarly, those of us who are confronting violence against women and working
for the equality of women need to be concerned with other liberation struggles, especially because many women face multiple forms of oppression. We all share a common goal:
the right to live our lives free from violence, contributing and sharing as equals with a
concern for the well-being of all, including our precious natural environment.
We cannot say for certain when or where rape first became a common practice, except
that it was many centuries ago. It is important to recall that throughout history rape has
not been a practice in all societies. In trying to understand the complexities of rape and
other forms of masculine violence, it is important to note under what conditions and
social arrangements men raping women is a common practice and under what conditions and social practices it is absent or rare.
Rape tended to be a common practice historically where women were treated as the
property of their fathers before marriage and the property of their husbands after marriage. As Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “Women are our property … they belong to us,
just as a tree that bears fruit belongs to a gardener.”5 Women as male property became
the norm as collective societies were gradually replaced by patriarchal societies, such as
classical Greece and Rome. Patriarchy was an economic and social system of male domination, supported by the state, in which property was passed down through male heirs.
Ensuring the identity of the male heir necessitated strict controls on women’s sexuality.
Adultery by women was punished by stoning to death. A woman’s job was to ensure her
chastity before marriage and protect her sexuality at all cost. Her fidelity and fertility to
bear male children after marriage were all-important. If she failed in her task, for example, if she was raped and a virgin, the crime was seen as a crime against her father. Any
damages or compensations for the crime went to him. The fact that a man might rape a
woman was assumed. It was her actions to prevent this from happening that were closely
examined. The guilt and self-blame felt by so many rape survivors has its historical
beginnings here. The punishment for the rapist, if he was caught, would be to pay monetary damages to the father and to marry the daughter. Because she was no longer a virgin,
she was worthless property and a burden on the family.
This scenario was, of course, most typical of the wealthy, property-owning classes.
Peasants and serfs, slaves, and domestics were not regarded as fully human and were
viewed as without morals. This is an attitude that persists today toward the working class
with distinct racist overtones.
V I O L E N C E AG A I N S T WO M E N ◆ R A P E C U LT U R E
Meanwhile, wars were being fought to secure or defend territories and so males were
encouraged to identify masculinity with violence and aggression. Raping the women
(read, property) of the conquered lands became a common practice both to destroy the
social fabric of the losing side and to display masculine aggression. For example, at least
200,000 Bengali women were raped by the conquering Pakistani army in the Bangladesh
war of 1970, as revealed by brave women journalists at the time. The women who were
raped were subsequently shunned by their communities because they were no longer virgins. Rape, sanctioned by the state, is the common practice in all wars.
The exploitation and oppression of women reflect women’s second-class status, not
only social but also political and economic. We cannot look at violence against women
without considering all aspects of women’s status. On a global level, women perform the
vast majority of the world’s work, receive a small percentage of the world’s wages, and
own a tiny fraction of the world’s property. The labor of women of color, in particular in
developing nations, is exploited by multinational corporations, and the trend toward a
global division of labor will only increase this exploitation. On a political level, women
hold very few significant political positions. On a social level, a rape culture reveals itself
in all aspects of our lives: within families, in child-rearing, in schooling, in relationships,
in the media. This reality can be very depressing. However, before we can change society
we have to understand what is happening in society. There are always possibilities for
hope and change for the better, even in the grimmest of circumstances. Who would have
thought that the racist system of apartheid in South Africa would be dismantled in our
Rape as a Form of Social Control
The vast majority
of women admit
to shaping and
the fear of rape.
To be an equal in society, one needs to be able to go where one chooses, feel free to speak
up when needed, be taken seriously by others, and be free from the fear of violence.
Rape and the fear of rape are effective at keeping women from sharing the public world
equally with men, an effective means of socially controlling women’s lives. When women
are asked if they tend to avoid certain activities, such as going for a walk at night, going
on a solo camping trip, being in an all-male environment, or going alone to a club
because at the back of their minds is the awareness of the possibility and the danger of
rape, the vast majority admit to shaping and adjusting their activities around the fear of
rape, even though they may not acknowledge it at the time. When men are asked the
same question, the vast majority admit to never thinking about rape. To make matters
worse, women routinely look to men for protection, frequently feeling safe only in the
company of men. Golda Meier, past prime minister of Israel, called this the biggest protection racket in history! When the Israeli Parliament suggested a curfew for women following a rise in the incidence of rape, Prime Minister Meier sharply retorted that because
it was men who were doing the raping, the curfew should be for men!
The psychological effects of this ever-present fear of rape for women are vastly understated. Lives are restricted, self-defense classes recommended, and girls warned to be
careful without the source of the danger ever being fully acknowledged. We have all
adjusted to a rape culture as though it were as natural as breathing.
This adjustment to a rape culture is reinforced by the myths about rape. The notion
that men can’t help themselves, “it’s just biology,” and that women are really the source of
the problem, “she was dressed provocatively” or “she really wanted it,” resign us to accepting lives limited by masculine violence. Despite the passing of centuries, the patriarchal
view is that it is a woman’s task to guard her sexuality. If she fails, well, she has failed in
her feminine role. Of course, this role is reserved for middle-class white women. Workingclass women and women of color are viewed as promiscuous and therefore not worthy of
C A LC A S A ◆ S U P P O R T F O R S U RV I VO R S
t is easy to start looking
at all men as the enemy.
I try to remind myself not
all men are the enemy. I
appreciate the good men
I know and talk with my
friends and other advocates about this issue.
concern, an attitude that is reflected in a lack of response when they are
raped. This arrangement serves to reinforce male power and privilege
(more for some men than others) and white power and privilege. It
ensures that women will look inward for explanations, in the form of
self-blame, rather than outward, in the form of holding men accountable
for their actions. This way of looking at the world is reflected and reinforced throughout all levels of the media, both classical and popular.
The Media and Rape
In a scene from what is considered a classic (read white, middle-class)
romantic film, Gone with the Wind, released in 1939, Scarlett O’Hara at
first strongly rejects Rhett Butler’s sexual advances. In response to her
rejection of him, he becomes aggressive and sweeps her up in his arms,
easily overcoming her attempts to defend herself by beating on his chest
MONICA NEECE ,
(not a useful self-defense option; try lower down). She is shown strugCOALITION TO END DOMESTIC
gling against him as he carries her up the long flight of stairs. The very
AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE
next frame of the film depicts the next morning. Scarlett is waking up,
stretching luxuriously under her satin sheets, apparently a sexually satisfied woman! The message is clear. Women will resist sexual advances,
but the resistance isn’t serious. Women really want a man to exert his
power and strength, demonstrating that he is a “real man” so she can remain a virtuous
woman. Her reputation depends on her not revealing her sexual desires until she is taken
by force. Only then can she show her pleasure. Thus her innocence is guaranteed, his
masculinity confirmed, and the gender relations kept intact. It is not always simply false
innocence when a man accused of acquaintance rape exclaims he has done nothing
wrong—not to excuse or justify such a response, only to try to understand the origins of
such a response to know where changes need to be made.
Another good example of the same theme is a scene from a more recent film, 1985’s
Year of the Dragon. The tough male lead has just insulted the female lead on her class and
race (she is upper-class Chinese American, he is working-class Irish American), after
unsuccessfully trying to have sex with her. She slaps him hard, which leads him to (here
we go again) sweep her up in his arms, throw her on the bed, and rip off her blouse. At
this point she submits to his charms and responds to him sexually.
This theme is expressed in both English-language and Spanish-language soap operas,
romance novels, modern films, fairy tales ...
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