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Monthly Archives: July 2015

The Horror of Rape Culture: The “Sorrowful Sisterhood”

I began reading the NY Magazine article ‘I’m No Longer Afraid’: 35 Women Tell Their Stories About Being Assaulted by Bill Cosby, and the Culture That Wouldn’t Listen yesterday afternoon.  I had to stop.  I want to read all these women’s stories, and I plan to, but it was too much all at once.

First of all, to Noreen Malone, the writer who gave these women a voice, thank you.  Almost 50 women have come forward to say that Bill Cosby drugged and assaulted them.  Thirty five of them tell their stories in this article.  Their stories are blatantly similar and redundant.  They shine as a perfect example of a predatory rapist.

I have been on the job market since completing my doctorate in 2006 to no avail.  When I am fortunate enough to get an interview, I am often asked why I want to do something else.  I often tell them that doing sexual violence work is exhausting.  It is.  Hearing young women’s stories of sexual assault for the past 23 years can burn you out.  Like this article, the stories are always redundant.  There is nothing original or creative about alcohol facilitated sexual assault or using roofies to drug a woman.  It’s the same old misogynist story where the man runs the world and the women are silenced by oppression.

As someone who leans toward optimism, I am hopeful that this notion of “speaking out” about rape and sexual assault will begin to chip away at rape culture.  The old misogynist threat of “don’t tell anyone or . . .” seems to be slipping away, in some cases.  But until the power differential between women and men changes, this threat can still exist.  These women were afraid to lose their careers.  And many of my students are afraid to speak out and lose their circle of friends.

I want to believe young women, and now these brave women of the “sorrowful sisterhood” (Joan Tarshis) are starting to rip apart the seams that hold rape culture together.  We showed the film The Hunting Ground on campus this past spring.  The two “stars” of the film founded End Rape on Campus. There is also the student activist group Know Your IX , which has done radical and empowering work to raise awareness and provide resources for college undergraduates.

However, even The Hunting Ground can leave you despondent.  Jameis Winston, the number one NFL pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is featured in the movie as a young athlete protected by the Division One football culture that exists throughout our country.  That institution, which reinforces and supports rape culture, as spoofed in Amy Schumer’s Football Town Nightsis supported by not only rich donors but also the fans for whom college football is their sport of choice.  (Trust me, I went to grad school at The University of Alabama).

No matter how frustrating or sad confronting rape culture is, Noreen Malone has given voice to women who needed to speak their truths.  I hope this opportunity to speak their truth can bring these women some comfort and some peace.

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