Sometimes the lack of actual thought in this world seriously baffles me. Yesterday the Huffington Post published an article about former MP Ujjal Dosanjh, who tweeted about the horrific gang rape in India. Dosanjh tweeted the following:
"Absurd 2blame female dress 4 rape. If men unable 2control penises, they shud have them removed #delhigangrape"
He went on to say (the Huff Post didn't cite where he said this) that "Obviously this issue is much broader and wider than the Indian case. Usually men blame women for the way they dress and I just wanted to put it succinctly to show the absurdity of the position."
I agree with half of what Dosanjh says, the half about women not being responsible for their assaults. What I don't agree with, and what makes me incredibly angry, is that people are having emotional knee-jerk reactions to this rape and they're saying things that are not only untrue but completely dangerous to the progress women and men have made when it comes to perceptions of sexual assault. The Huffington Post's tweet about their own article called Dosanjh's statement "bold" and I saw multiple retweets that applauded his sentiment. I understand the impulse to wish harm upon rapists, I think it's natural and can be a really helpful coping mechanism. This is not what Dosanjh has done. This is not a bold tweet, it is an incredibly stupid and incredibly revealing tweet about how ignorant people can be.
He, like many others(especially those who have no been exposed to the daily and often extreme violence which victims of sexual assault survive), has decided to take a "stand" against sexual assault in the worst way possible. In an attempt to be "supportive" without educating himself about the issues of assault he has attributed the gang rape of the Delhi student, and all rape and sexual assault, to lust. It doesn't matter how many penises you castrate, rape and sexual assault have absolutely nothing to do with sexual desire, sexual impulses, or controlling either of those things. Rape and sexual assault are always about power and control. You can only be an ally, you can only be part of the solution, if you know what it is you're fighting against. We aren't fighting against men who can't control their dicks. We're fighting against the GLOBAL inequality of women that leads to men feeling entitled to the control and denigration of women's bodies. It's a fight against people wielding power and control over women, men, and children not for bodily pleasure but because they feel entitled to the position that inflicting that kind of hurt puts them in. Castrating a rapist doesn't address systemic inequality. Castrating a rapist doesn't take into account that his penis has nothing to do with the crime.
This specific instance of idiocy is a great example of the way reactions have been pouring out in the media, facebook, twitter etc about this case of rape.It is a horrible crime, unimaginable to some. But the fact is that for some people it is all too imaginable, and not just in India. The Huffington Post article goes on to say that it in India it is "common for women to be blamed for sexual assaults, which in turns means few report it to authorities. Those who do find police often do not take their cases seriously. Politicians and decision makers in India regularly suggest that women should not go out at night or wear "provocative" clothes."
This statement could be said for any country in the world, at any time. Remember how Slutwalk started? When a Toronto Police Officer told women not to dress like sluts if they didn't want to be raped? This isn't an uncommon sentiment and the idea that women "ask for it" is not a rare response to sexual assault. Not so long ago it was legal to rape your wife in Canada because the law recognized a woman's husband as her master. What about the Christie Pits groper this summer? What did the police tell us? They told us to be alert, dress a certain way, don't go out after a certain hour etc etc. Mayor Rob Ford's niece tweeted that women should not dress like a slut if they don't want to be groped. All things women need to do to protect themselves and "not ask for it." Women in Canada and the U.S also don't report their rapes and assaults because, guess what? Cops often don't believe them and the trauma of having to try to get police to believe you is sometimes too much for someone to bear. It isn't as easy as going to the police station, reporting your rape, and the bad person goes away. You have to give statement after statement, you have to describe what you were wearing, how they took it off, how they hurt you. Then you have to do it all over again in court. Then your rapist gets like two years in prison. In a perfect world where racism, sexism, and classism didn't exist everyone would report their assaults. In a world where there is so much inequality and so much discrimination it makes perfect sense to me that people choose to keep their assaults out of the justice system. The justice system in Canada, the U.S, and India all have one thing in common: they are not designed for the comfort and security of victims of assault and rape and they have all been built on sexist assumptions and stereotypes.
After the Delhi rape a woman was gang raped in Thunder Bay and left for dead. So where are the tweets about that from our politicians? Where is the outrage? How dare a former MP of BC tweet something so ill-informed about rape when he used to represent a province famous for the murder and rape of indigenous women, which was essentially allowed to continue for years because authorities didn't care about the victims? This is not support for rape victims. This is not support for progressive legislation. This is emotion unfocused and set upon a world that doesn't need any more muddled ideas about sexual violence.
So let's just stop it with the "things are so bad in India" thing because we all know things are just as bad here. Let's also stop going with our gut reaction: you may wish your rapist had his penis cut off to punish him, but the idea that castration could stop rape perpetuates misconceptions we can no longer afford. Let's stop applauding every man or politician who turns their noses up at the Indian Gang Rape and calls for change while they totally ignore all other violence against women, all over the world.