It’s time to end the silence

At the pageant at the beginning of this month, in a room full of more than 53 women of all ages and cultures, I was reminded of how alive rape culture really is today.

As we each discussed our personal stories and then subsequently our platforms I was astounded: my story was an anomaly. Not a single other person broached the issue of rape culture for their platform – for me, this is the foundation of my social justice work.  Instead, mental health, anti-bullying, self- love and female entrepreneurship were the recurring themes.
Yet as the pageant went on, I realized that I wasn’t an anomaly. No,  we were all being affected by the silencing and isolating effects of rape culture. This is what it looked like in a room full of women: omission and silence. A silence regulated by fear of ostracism and scrutiny.
So what is rape culture and what am I going to do about it?

Author Emilie Buchwald’s definition of rape culture (and the one I often reference) articulates that it is:

“a complex of beliefs that encourage male sexual aggression and supports violence against women [and girls], a society where violence is seen as sexy and sexuality as violent, and a continuum of threatened violence that ranges from sexual remarks to sexual touching to rape itself. A rape culture condones physical and emotional terrorism against women [and girls] and presents it as the norm. The physical and emotional terror that stems from sexual violence, while often deemed as terrible, is usually dismissed as individual misfortune rather than understood as a cultural phenomenon” (Transforming a Rape Culture, 2005).

My platform will work to end rape culture through the promotion of inclusive feminism and the development of male allies. Through a movement I like to call “4th wave feminism,” I believe we can restore the status of women. First, however, we must stop viewing female power – and even words like feminism – as militant or adversarial. The issue isn’t in the social justice jargon; the issue is the rape culture vocabulary that includes words like “victim blaming” and “slut shaming” to diminish the severity of such systemic violence.

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