Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Dismantling Rape Culture


Last week, I was approached by a Globe and Mail books section editor to contribute reviews of three books that delve into rape culture from a feminist perspective. This invitation was spurred by the recent Steubenville rape case. The Ms. Foundation circulated this infographic last week that sums up much of the media coverage:


In the interest of responding to and fighting rape culture through media, it's important to create and circulate resources for folks to draw upon--resources that debunk myths about rape, offer sex-positive feminist perspectives on sex and sexualities, and link interpersonal and state/institutional violences.  

I’ve included the short reviews, here, for those interested in further reading. The original version is in the March 23 print edition of the Globe.

Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti, eds. Yes Means Yes! Visions of Female Sexual Power
            and a World Without Rape. Forward by Margaret Cho. Berkeley, CA: Seal Press, 2008.

This collection of essays responds to rape culture by advocating for women’s rights to joyful sexual lives. The essays dismantle the victim-blaming discourses of rape culture and the notion that it’s women’s responsibility to not get raped, and instead advocate for holding perpetrators accountable for their actions. Readers will find essays, grouped thematically, that promote healthy sexual identities for youth; critique institutions regulate and violate women’s sexual autonomy; analyze the impact of rape culture on people of colour; and explore what sexual consent really means. The collection looks at male sexuality and presents queer-positive perspectives that reject sexual shaming. Written from a perspective that honours sexual healing and survival.


Jane Doe The Story of Jane Doe: A Book About Rape. Toronto, ON: Vintage Canada, 2005.

A woman known as Jane Doe tells her story of surviving rape and the high-profile battle she fought when suing the Toronto police for failing to alert the public of a serial rapist in her neighbourhood. This failure, Doe successfully argued in court, essentially used her as “bait” to attract the rapist. Doe uses her story to respond to and debunk common myths about rape and rape survivors. Doe satirizes the list of things that women are told to do to prevent being raped (e.g. don’t walk alone at night), arguing that these messages reinforce the myth that women who don’t act “perfectly” are responsible for their own rapes.

Andrea Smith Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide. Forward by Winona
            LaDuke. Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2005.

Women of colour are disproportionately targeted by sexual violence. Smith explores the links between interpersonal violence and state violence. She argues that we need to understand rape as a tool of not only patriarchal control, but also of racism and colonialism. Smith focuses on the effects of rape culture on native women and connects rape culture with the colonialist histories of residential schools and medical experimentation. The final part of the book focuses on alternative, community-based anti-violence strategies.

2 comments:

  1. Liz, I saw that in the paper this weekend, and I read all the reviews before I noticed who had written them -- I was **incredibly** proud to be able to shout out to my husband, "HEY! That's Liz! She writes for Hook and Eye!"

    Kick ass, my friend. Kick ass.

    The Steubenville case and others like it recently are causing me a lot of pain. We talked about the social media aspects of it for over an hour in my grad class this week. Super intense and very difficult. I'm so glad to have you participating in the public discussion. One small set of book reviews, one great big national paper, one more small step for the truth.

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