It is well-known that women in Islamic countries are routinely treated like animals because of religious extremism, and it disgusts the civilized world; especially Americans. Islamic women are forced to wear head-to-toe garments that conceal every inch of their skin to prevent men from being tempted into raping them. If an Islamic woman is raped, she is stoned to death for enticing the man into a sexual frenzy and her family gets to throw the first stones. American women have earned the right to vote, drive cars, own property, and hold political office as long as they are quiet and accept lower wages than men. At least American women are afforded the privilege of dressing the way they please, but at their own peril.
For decades, in courtrooms around this country, rape victims have been ostracized, demeaned, and accused of provoking their rapists, and in most of the cases, the victim is found to be at fault and rapists are acquitted. The difference between Islamic countries and America is that rape victims are not stoned to death, but they are left with psychological scars and damaged reputations. There is an age-old, male-dominated mindset that if a woman is raped, she deserved it, wanted it, or encouraged it regardless of her age or socio-economic status. It has been 50 years since the Women’s Liberation Movement of the 1960s broke down barriers for equal pay and equal rights, but American women are still demonized for their choice of apparel and are again being accused of “asking to be raped” if they show their skin.
Last week, Dan Rottenberg wrote an article outlining what women can do to protect themselves from sexual assault and it reads like a page from a rapist’s defense lawyer. Rottenberg gave examples of women who put themselves in a position to be victimized by dressing “inappropriately,” trusting men, and not locking themselves inside their homes where hyper-sexual males can’t see them. Rottenberg appeared to excuse males for their actions by acknowledging that “the male animal craves drama as much as food, shelter and clothing,” and that “conquering an unwilling sex partner is about as much drama as a man can find without shooting a gun.” According to Rottenberg men can be excused for raping a woman because they crave drama, and it is no different than shooting a gun. It is little wonder that women are routinely raped with Rottenberg’s attitude permeating society.
It is true that some males are animals and crave conquering an unwilling sex partner, but Rottenberg is excusing sexual assault as a natural inclination and he is abjectly wrong. In his article, Rottenberg uses Lara Logan, the journalist who was savagely raped while covering the uprising in Egypt earlier this spring as an example of a woman who put herself in a situation that invited the assault. He did not claim Logan was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but that a publicity photo that showed her cleavage incited the gang-rape. There were Americans who blamed Logan for being raped in Egypt and it underscores the mindset prevalent in America that if a woman is sexually assaulted, it is her fault. Rottenberg did say that Logan had certain rights as a woman; “A woman journalist like Lara Logan should be able to celebrate herself as both a journalist and a woman, even a sexy woman. But the operative word in that sentence ‘should’ is the sticky point.” Rottenberg should just come out and say what he means; that women “should not” celebrate themselves or exercise their freedom to dress as they please. The photo in question was of Logan at an awards event in America, and not of her covering the uprising in Egypt.
Mr. Rottenberg gave some suggestions for women to follow if they want to avoid being victimized by males “craving the drama of conquering an unwilling sex partner.” In each of Rottenberg’s suggestions, his warning is aimed at women and he never addressed the animals who use any reason to excuse a sexual assault. It is part of the mindset among many men that women are little more than sexual objects who exist for a man’s pleasure. Some of Rottenberg’s suggestions to women to avoid being victimized are, “Don’t trust your male friends. Don’t go to a man’s home at night unless you’re prepared to have sex with him. Don’t disrobe in front of a male masseur. If you take a job as a masseuse, don’t be shocked if your male customers think you’re a prostitute. And if you want to be taken seriously as a journalist, don’t pose for pictures that emphasize your cleavage.”
There is no mention or proposal for harsh punishment for men who sexually assault women, or suggestions for how to isolate men who believe that if a woman’s clothing shows skin, she is asking to be raped. He even goes so far as to claim that if liberated women want to be protected from assault they will dress appropriately; he addresses women directly saying, “When you display legs, thighs or cleavage, most men will see it as a sign that you want to get laid.” Rottenberg’s comment expresses a common theme that defense lawyers use to influence juries in rape cases every day, except that instead of saying a woman wants to get laid, they say she wants to get raped.
It is unfortunate that Rottenberg did not spend his time addressing the issue from the perspective that males who rape women are pigs who need to be castrated. His assumptions reveal a mentality that permeates society and has found its way into Congress and states’ legislatures since Republicans swept into power in the 2010 midterm elections. It was reported here that in Georgia, a woman who is raped should be labeled as an accuser, and in Massachusetts a Republican legislator said that if ”a woman without legal immigration status was raped and beaten as she walked down the street, she should be afraid to go to the police.” In Congress, the Republicans’ HR3 attempted to redefine rape as forcible and puts the victim in the untenable position of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that she was raped by showing bruises and broken bones.
Women in America are not that far removed from women in Afghanistan and other Islamic countries. They are paid less than men for the same job description and education, unable to choose their own reproductive health, face gender inequality in health care, and are not protected by the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. Even though women make up half of the population, they only serve in limited numbers in government because many men feel women are inferior. There is no other reason, and it is endemic because of the biblical admonition that women exist to serve a man and must subject themselves to a man’s will. Now, it is not just Islamic extremists who say that women should not show their legs, thighs, or cleavage because a man craving drama will rape them.
The time has passed for leaders in this country to assign women the exact same protections and status as any man. However, many of our leaders are no different than sexual predators for putting savage rapists at ease and forcing women to prove they are victims instead of “accusers.” If it gets much worse, conservatives will pass legislation requiring women to wear Islamic-style head-to-toe coverings with the guise of protecting them from rapists. Some males may feel the urge to rape a woman who shows her legs or cleavage, but if they were summarily castrated and put in a prison cell, it would prove to be a good deterrent. Women deserve to dress as they please without worrying that some male animal will assault them, and it’s down to the misogynist male animals in positions of power to pass laws ensuring they are better off living in America than Afghanistan. Unfortunately, with religious extremists assuming more control of the government, it won’t be long before American women join their counterparts in Afghanistan, and long for the freedom and equality available in America…for men.