ONE BILLION RISING. Rape culture has got to stop by Ruth-Eloise Lewis

Sometimes it’s easy to live in a bubble. You wake up, you get on with your day and the cycle spurs and spurns you on. I find that as every twenty-four hours pass by, the bubble sucks you in and keeps you contained.
Not long ago, six men held a 23-year-old woman and her male friend in a bus for hours in Dehli. They assaulted her so brutally that her intestines were removed as they tortured her with a rusty metal rod. After several surgeries to attempt to repair her insides, she sadly died. Sometimes it’s easy to live in a bubble. Sometimes that bubble has to burst.
The fact is that I felt anxious writing this article. What if I didn’t get all the facts right? Who am I, as a white middle-class woman, to write about the situation in India? I’ve never been to India. My judgment is surely just founded on what has been trickled down through the Western media, perpetuated and distorted. But let’s scrap that. I’d rather be speaking than silent. That way, discussion can get circulating and anyone can correct me if I’m wrong. On a humanist level, it’s impossible to ignore what is happening in the world. And let’s take a look at some hard facts: in Delhi, of 635 rape cases reported in the first 11 months of last year, only one ended in conviction. These issues should not automatically be unimportant because they are not close to home. And yet, this flux of sexual violence is not just apparent in India; let’s think about Jimmy Saville abusing hundreds of girls under the passive nose of the BBC, let’s not forget how women in the US military are being raped by their comrades, let’s take a moment to reflect about a group of boys allegedly raping a girl in Steubenville, Ohio. So what on earth is going on?

According to the activist Eve Ensler,

“There is a rape culture – a mindset that seems to have infected every aspect of our lives: the raping of the Earth through ecological destruction by the corporate powerful, pillaging resources for their own coffers with no concern for the Earth, or the indigenous peoples, or the notion of reciprocity; the rape of the poor through exploitation, land grabs, neglect; the rape of women’s bodies through physical violence and commodification, where a girl can be purchased for less than the cost of a mobile phone. The modelling and licensing of this rape culture is done by those protected by power and privilege – presidents, celebrities, sports stars, police officers, television executives, priests – with impunity.”

However, Ensler is aiming to create a direct uprising against this epidemic. On February the 14th the global campaign One Billion Rising will speak out for the one billion women who have been beaten or raped. Across 182 countries, communities are planning to rise, dance and speak their minds; becoming a part of what the Indian activist Kamla Bhasin calls a “feminist tsunami”:

“Now is the time. 14 February. Rise in the streets, in the schools, on the buses, in your homes, in the dark alleyways, in the offices and factories and fishing boats and fields. Let our rising reveal our understanding that, until women are equal, safe and free, no society can prosper and life is diminished. Let our rising announce our commitment to make ending violence against women and girls the central concern of our times.”

Others have responded to the horrors in India in different modes, aiming to disseminate the way we think about women and the effect this has on culture. Aswini Aswini Anburajan writes at Buzzfeed that much of India still imagines that the violation she endured was one against her chastity. The old myth about rape that a face is face with a depilating and overwhelming urge to possess a woman is still present; this is a degrading stand to both men and women, posing all men as sexual predators without any emotions or control. There are many commentaries that expose India’s culture of street violence against women, a violence that instills fear into women’s daily lives. And as they walk down the street, they feel every pore of their bodies being watched, analyzed and examined. This violence is all about threat and boundaries. Women are made to feel demoralized when they cross certain boundaries that others feel should not be crossed; the traditional boundary of role as a mother and a wife, the boundary of the home which they are bound too. The street, a space of modernist capitalist culture dominated by patriarchal systems, operates as a site of masculine inclusion. When women step into this bounded space, they become a target of anger. They are out of place. An anomaly. An aggregate.

At CNN Opinion, Lauren Wolfe writes that women are rising up against this brutal street harassment other parts of the world such as Egypt and Somalia. The terror women feel in India, and indeed, in many parts of the world can no longer be tolerated. You wake up, you get on with your day and the cycle spurs and spurns you on. On February the 14th, there is the potential to do something with that day. There is the possibility to take your bubble, your privilege and your fortune and to rise up with women from all over the world. Let our rising announce our commitment to make ending violence against women and girls the central concern of our times.

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