Monday, November 02, 2009

Gang rape is a spectator sport.



Watch almost any movie these days and you become the spectator in the sexual victimization of women. It ain't about the love, nor is it about honest sexual desire, it's all about objectification. 'Baby, You ain't come a long way, yet.'
This is a cultural phenomena we all play a role in creating. This attack was not sexual in nature, this was a violent hate-crime using female sexuality as a weapon to dehumanize a 'representative' of an oppressed class.

The first step is to addressing this issue is to acknowledge the underlying value choices we all make. The more folks talk about the commodification of sexuality, the more we will be able to consciously decide whether this is what we most value.
I carefully use the words 'commodification of sexuality' rather than 'objectification of women' because people of all genders suffer when we deny our humanity to focus so intensely on our sexuality. Make-up, 'fashion', 'sexy' lingerie are simply the American/Western version of the burka -- sexual signifiers that overwhelm the power and integrity of the person within.

9 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the future it would be a good idea for you to do some research before you make posts like this.

You clearly have no understanding of the function of the burqa, other than what mainstream television has given you.

Your comparison of "Make-up, 'fashion', 'sexy' lingerie" as though they are the "American/Western version of the burka" is like trying to argue that paint and paint thinner have a similar function.

If your blogger profile didn't give up your age I would have thought this post to be written by a first year college student.

5:14 PM  
Blogger Fred Dodsworth said...

Anonymous (why are you anonymous?). I'm 58 and while I enjoy the nuance of your 'paint and paint thinner' analogy, I have a clear understanding of the purpose of the burqa and I'm saying the two modes of physical attire share a great deal. Both are sexual signifiers and both deliberately reduce the wearer to a sexualize being rather than focusing primarily on their other unique human qualities. Don't get me wrong, as a man, I'm quite happy to enjoy sexualized women with my 'masculine gaze' sexualized women. But don't kid yourself, the reason women 'universally' dress like that is because it's a part of our cultural conditioning and those who don't pay a high price. The occidental 'fashion' limits women no less than the oriental 'fashion' and there are many women in America who would prefer to be treated as individuals rather than as sexualized humans. You too should look it up. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burqa

7:11 PM  
Blogger Chuck said...

I didn't realize I posted anonymously.

I am fully aware of what the (user submitted/edited) wikipedia entry says about the Burqa. I would imagine anyone making a claim about a subject as complicated and potentially controversial as this, would do deeper research rather than post a link to the first generic entry found.

Yes, in certain ways make-up and fashion have the ability to eclipse the person within. Just as males that aren't perceived "macho" enough are also judged negatively. But your statement
"women 'universally' dress like that is because it's a part of our cultural conditioning and those who don't pay a high price. "
is very clumsy. There are other factors to this, and even positive ones.

Be careful when generalizing as well as claiming an idea or behavior is "universal". Few things truly are, and that goes back to the "first year college student" remark I made. The link to wikipedia didn't help either.

Aside from the sloppy comparison that "Make-up, 'fashion', 'sexy' lingerie are simply the American/Western version of the burka" I would like to know more (deeper) about why you think they are comparable.

Not only is it a gross generalization to say that these things "overwhelm the power and integrity of the person within." Your comparison also seems to look at these things as if they are not multi-faceted, when they truly are.

11:53 PM  
Blogger Fred Dodsworth said...

Chuck.
The purpose of my statement is not to engage in a scholarly debate comparing western make-up and eastern burqas, it is to ask the reader to consider how cultural conditioning dehumanizes us. I want the reader to consider how our cultural values have brought us to this place, and if this is a place we want to call ‘home.’
My original post was about a horrifying gang rape in Richmond and was responsive to a question I was asked on Facebook: “Has gang rape become a spectator sport?” Immediately there were posts from folks I know and respect insisting that anyone who might have been involved should be castrated, sodomized, smothered or worse. That response reminded me of what happened at Abu Ghraib and reaffirmed how quickly the veneer of civility is stripped away. I was also struck by how emotionally similar the response of these people was to the lack of values manifested in the original gang rape, to the lack of values manifested by our culture’s representatives at Abu Ghraib.
While torture and gang rapes are older then the Book of Exodus, as Westerners we tend to think what we do is good and what other cultures do as bad (yes, this is a generalization). Look no further then the uproar around the Ft. Hood murders, which is currently taking our attention. We are being told by many powerful and important figures in our culture that was not the work of a sick man, but that his actions were representative of the decadent values of the Muslim world, a sickness of Islamic origination.
I believe it is worth questioning how is it that our 'wonderful, educated, enlightened, modern’ world, our Western civilization allows horrors like gang rapes, like Abu Ghraib to happen.
Why did any of those boys and girls participate, actively or vicariously or numbly in the violent dehumanizing abasement of a person?
Why is it that we don't see the connection between the blood lust howling in our own veins and that coursing through the children involved in the gang rape in Richmond?
We're so smug as a culture, so self-satisfied that we rarely question our values. We rarely turn to look in the mirror to see what we have become.
“Has gang rape become a spectator sport?” Of course it has. Look no further than the blind blue eye in everyone’s home where network television offers us a relentless parade of victimized women, of rape, torture, death and despair which could be easily compared with the worst horror a Sharia Court judgment might serve up in Saudi Arabia.
While you might respond by saying it is fiction, just entertainment, I say it reflects us. The people (including children) who watch CSI, or Law and Order, or any of the dozens of corrupt and despairing programs, which fill our airwaves, are being inculcated to our values as a culture, values which dehumanize us.
Similarly I see the obsession our culture has with sexual identity to be deliberately dehumanizing. What is the first question asked when we meet someone or something whose gender is not immediately obvious? “Is it a boy or is it a girl?” The object in question can be your child or it can be your pet, but the question is the same. I’ll often humorously respond with
"We don’t have the kind of relationship," but I’m wrong. It does matter. Everything that follows is based on the answer. There is one set of expectations for males, another for females. Hence the burqa, hence the make-up, hence the comment I frequently overheard as a young man when my father’s generation rhetorically asked with disgust: “Is it a boy or is it a girl?”
It’s easy to condemn another culture for its values, for its burqa, for its make-up, for its hair length, for its religious beliefs. It’s much more difficult and painful to turn the gaze inward and ask: “How we did we get here?” “Who are we?” “Why do we value what we value?”
If I’ve stimulated one person to ask those questions, to question our implicit values, than I have accomplished a great deal with my poor written, ill-researched, naïve blog post.

10:46 AM  
Blogger Chuck said...

You might not want to have engaged in a scholarly debate, but whenever you (or anyone) posts things of a sensitive nature you are bound to attract some loonies, even scholarly loonies.

I can understand the urge to want get people to question the world around them. I think it is something that is severely lacking in this day and age. However, your original post didn't prompt the reader (seems to be only me so far) to ask questions, or at least the questions you were going for. It was too short, too muddled and too vague to bring someone to the point of pondering the ideas you are talking about. Which is why I commented in the first place.

This last reply of yours is what you should have wrote in the first place. It focuses in more on the idea rather than allowing the reader to fill in the blanks, such as me wondering how the burqa fits in the comparison.

I would have still replied had you wrote the original as you did the reply, but more to share what I feel about this culture and the psychology of those that allow and participate in atrocities such as the rape and Ft Worth incident.

So from this new perspective of what you were going for, I agree. It's a weird/scary world out there, which is what got me into psychology and anthropology in the first place, and what got me out of it as well.

2:12 PM  
Blogger Fred Dodsworth said...

Chuck.
Actually I just cut and pasted this to my blog from two or three responses I made on Facebook regarding the Richmond Gang Rape (colored by the Ft Hood Shootings and Abu Ghraib). You're right, it wasn't polished or finished but Facebook is such a transient medium I felt the need to put the ideas somewhere I could find them again. I so rarely get comments on my blog I don't consider it much of a public forum.
These issues disturb me and are issues I've been chewing on for a long time. I'm slowly and erratically working on a novel that attempts to address sexual identity, religious belief and situational morality in current times. We'll see if it ever gets finished. Thank you for the opportunity to share and develop these thoughts.

2:32 PM  
Blogger Fred Dodsworth said...

Just three months later and no one remembers, no one cares. The event has vanished from our gazing, sightless public eye.

11:38 PM  
Blogger Ideallyla said...

No Fred, it hasn't disappeared. The question is just a large one and my thoughts need to simmer in my mind for quite some time before I can put them together coherently. Some of us just think at a slower pace than others. It doesn't mean we aren't thinking just because we aren't ready to comment immediately.

10:34 PM  
Blogger Fred Dodsworth said...

Ideallyla,
At least you are thinking. I fear so many aren't. Yesterday I read the results of a recent poll of Americans. Fifty-nine percent thought we should attack Iran immediately. War, gang rape, economic violence, all are spectator sports to those sitting safely in their living rooms. Keep thinking.

11:38 PM  

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