News of concrete demands from anonymous activists in #OpJustice4Rehtaeh is spreading quickly, all eyes on the Nova Scotia government and their response. The demands themselves are brilliant: inquiry, accountability, and public apology – with the added caveat that Justice Minister Ross Landry must learn a little something about rape culture before saying his “We’re sorry” for the world to see.
Unfortunately, even those of us involved in feminist activism to combat rape culture sometimes find ourselves confounded by a language in which this culture is deeply ingrained. In particular, one paragraph of text from the release veers into dangerous territory as the discussion about rape culture heats up.
This case is being heralded as the quintessential example of rape culture and its devastating effects on humanity. You [Premier Darrell Dexter] have an opportunity to determine the causes and potential solutions to one of the most troubling and complex subjects of our time.
quin·tes·sen·tial: Representing the most perfect or typical example of a quality or class.
Rehtaeh Parsons and the “Perfect” Rape
If the problem with representing rape in this language isn’t yet blatantly obvious, let’s delve a bit deeper.
This isn’t the first time that Darrell Dexter has been given the “opportunity to determine the causes and potential solutions to one of the most troubling and complex subjects of our time” by advocacy groups in Nova Scotia. On October 4th, 2012 while Rehtaeh Parsons was still alive and struggling with the aftermath of assault and cyberbullying, a collective of womens’ groups from across Nova Scotia gathered for a day of action in memory of the thousands of native women who have been raped, assaulted, beaten, been murdered or gone missing in the past 50 years without any response from the police.
Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association, Halifax Aboriginal People’s Network , Mi’kmaq Friendship Center will host a rally on October 4th, 2012 to call for public inquiries on missing and murdered indigenous women in Nova Scotia and Canada. More than 600 indigenous women in Canada have gone missing or been murdered in recent years. The slowness of governments to act and the lack of progress has spurred Nova Scotia aboriginal organizations to demand full-scale provincial and national inquiries.
What results did their request yield, do you think? Apologies for systemic injustice? Inquiries into processes as well as specific cases? A rally of support from communities around the country and the globe, pushing to name new laws and provide better support to marginalized groups?
Or what’s that you say? Empty promises to examine the issue further, followed by a complete and utter lack of response from either government or the public? BINGO! Ding ding ding ding ding!
How many #idlenomore protesters, chiefs, tribal leaders and concerned youth came to demand a presence from the Prime Minister in discussion about aboriginal rights, including the victimization and dismissal of First Nations women and girls? These concerned sovereign citizens of First Nations were utterly ignored.
And yet on Tuesday, Rethaeh Parsons’ parents sat down with, guess who? Not only did they have a private audience with the Justice Minister of Nova Scotia, but got a face-to-face with the one and only Stephen Harper.
What do Rehtaeh Parsons, Audrie Potts and the Steubenville trial victim all have in common? Young, white, teenaged girls with bright futures ahead of them, gleaming with the brilliance of their privilege until they were victimized by their own peers and humiliated for fun and games.
What exactly is it that happened to these girls that makes them so much more important, more worthy of justice, more deserving of public inquiry? To admit that all victims of sexual assault deserve to have a voice, if they so choose, and to have justice served… this isn’t controversial.
And yet, even without realizing it, the same culture we are fighting against is one that elevates these young women and their experiences above those of so many other people of all walks of life. Rape victims don’t come in categories. There is no “typical” rape.
Making a new cyber-bullying law to prevent the malicious dissemination of intimate images is all well and good – I am not arguing against its merits – but it doesn’t address the kind of rape culture which encourages hypermasculinity and humiliation as the only means of feeling power. It certainly doesn’t address the injustices done to hundreds of assaulted, murdered or missing aboriginal women and youth who weren’t quintessential enough to warrant public outcry, media attention, or a sit down with the Big Man in Ottawa.
If you ask me, Ross Landry shouldn’t be the only one spending the next week, and the next several years, reading up about rape culture. We aren’t going to fix this over night.
So, fellow readers, join me on a sometimes terrifying but nonetheless enlightening journey into the world of modern feminism and the reality of rape culture for all of us – men, women, transfolk, genderqueers, youth, adults, able and disabled, of all races and origins.
The big picture is horrible, I know, but we can’t change it if we can’t see it.