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Carrie A. Rentschler

Young feminists use social media in order to respond to rape culture and to hold accountable the purveyors of its practices and ways of thinking when mainstream news media, police and school authorities do not. This article analyzes how social networks identified with young feminists take shape via social media responses to sexual violence, and how those networks are organized around the conceptual framework of rape culture. Drawing on the concept of response-ability, the article analyzes how recent social media responses to rape culture evidence the affective and technocultural nature of current feminist network building and the ways this online criticism re-imagines the position of feminist witnesses to rape culture.

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Tradition's Desire

The Politics of Culture in the Rape Trial of Jacob Zuma

Thembisa Waetjen and Gerhard Maré

This article examines the recent trial of ANC president Jacob Zuma, and how gender power was framed in respect to, and within, the politics of culture. The trial centred on allegations of rape by Zuma of an HIV positive woman many years his junior, who was also the daughter of a former anti-apartheid struggle comrade. All of these details were considered pertinent, not only to the legal debates about whether a crime had been committed, but also to the political debates raging around the nation's key challenges of high rates of sexual violence and the 'denialist' state response to devastating levels of HIV infection. Many Zuma supporters saw the accusation of rape as politically motivated and as evidence of an anti-Zuma conspiracy. In visibly smaller numbers, women's rights groups were present on the streets as well, trying to draw attention to the general problem of the nation's extraordinarily high rates of sexual violence and the general failure of the justice system to address cases of rape. The article argues that the fervour surrounding this trial, the burning political question of women's status was continually cast as a private matter: debates about relations between men and women came to be focused on issues of propriety, behaviour and etiquette rather than on questions about rights and power. In short, the privatisation of gender was effected through the politics of culture. As culture is politicised as a legal and secular 'right', gender is de-politicised to become a normatively 'private' and 'customary' domain. This is not merely a South African dilemma, but a dilemma which is con-concomitant to the social conditions of modernity itself.

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Chloe Krystyna Garcia and Ayesha Vemuri

Sexual violence continues to be normalized in modern society through heterosexist jokes and problematic portrayals of female sexuality. A number of young female activists use YouTube as a technology of nonviolence to share their thoughts about rape culture and how it can be transformed. We performed a thematic analysis of 10 videos produced by young women and girls to investigate what they identify as rape culture and how they use videos to communicate their messages. We argue that they offer meaningful insight into the institutions that contribute to the normalization of sexual violence, including schools and universities, the media, and legal and political systems. We believe that stakeholders interested in dismantling rape culture can use these videos to educate themselves and others about the concerns voiced by women and girls, who are, arguably, the population most affected by sexual violence.

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Richard Bessel

The argument put forward by Steven Pinker that violence has been in decline and that “we have been getting kinder and gentler” rests to a considerable degree upon data concerning violent events, in particular homicide and deaths on the battlefield. In discussing such data for the modern period, this article questions their reliability and, in particular, their comparability over time. Pinker’s argument may be stronger with respect to a growing public sensitivity toward many forms of violence, not least sexual violence, for which there is considerable evidence. However, the relationship between changing public sensibilities and changing levels of actual violent acts remains difficult to determine.

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“Moi quand on dit qu’une femme ment, eh bien, elle ment”

The Administration of Rape in Twenty-First Century France and England & Wales

Nicole Fayard and Yvette Rocheron

In France and England & Wales rape is now understood as a diverse social phenomenon. It is reported, counted, categorized, and dealt with by the authorities as a serious crime. Yet, despite notable initiatives intended to improve the conviction of alleged perpetrators, major hurdles for alleged victims remain. We show how rape is defined and prosecuted in France and England & Wales, and we use statistical analyzes to understand the scale of the problem, still largely unknown. We also discuss recent controversies (attrition rate;loicadre), exploring a culture of scepticism among police and judiciary that causes complaints to be dropped or downgraded to lesser crimes. Our interview material from France explores two difficulties: When is rape not rape? Did the alleged victim consent to the penetration? Finally we analyze the paradoxical role played by voluntary victim support groups that resist but also collude with a complex regulatory system that fails those who do not speak in legitimate codes.

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Silence against Political Rape

Arab Women's Subalterniy During Political Struggles

Ola Abdalkafor

Arab Spring movements in many Arab countries revealed a gap at the heart of Arab society and politics: the large-scale subalternity of Arab women in such movements. In this essay, I hypothesize that, with few exceptions, Arab women have always avoided participation in social and political activism because of their fear of political rape – raping women as punishment during political turmoil. The essay traces the history of political rape through different stages of Arab history. The examples are taken from history, literature and international reports and they mainly cover three countries: Syria, Egypt, and Libya. These examples prove that vulnerable women’s horror at any possibility of their being sexually abused and then rejected by their families and society has always haunted them, preventing them from struggling or protesting. The essay concludes that subalternity is the only stance from which Arab women can encounter political rape. Then, the essay discusses the subalternity of Arab women in the light of the thought of the postcolonial critic Gayatri Spivak. This argument leads to the contention that the silence of Arab women vulnerable to political rape should not be considered passive and that feminist theories and actions cannot be successful in supporting subaltern Arab women without the ethical responsibility theorized by Spivak as the most appropriate approach to the subaltern female. This approach entails respecting subaltern Arab women’s culture and fears and avoiding any attempt to make them copies of the European feminist self. Subaltern Arab women who are afraid of being sexually abused have the right to protect their bodies and stick to their culture while still participating in public life.