An Open Letter to the Myriad Anti-Rape Devices Marketed Toward Women That Is So Not Going to Go Viral:
Dear Anti-Rape Devices Marketed to Women,
We don’t mean to be impersonal, Anti-Rape Devices (ARDs). But there are just so many of you, we don’t want to leave anyone out. Where to start? The Anti-Rape Gloves? The Anti-Rape Underwear? Rape-aXe, the Anti-Rape Condom? Hairy Legs Tights? (Because everyone knows, only women with smooth legs get raped.) I know there are others of you out there, but it’s like the Golden Globes: if we try to mention all of you, the music will start playing, and we’ll never get to finish. So please know, this is for all of you.
We know you mean well – you don’t women to get raped, and we don’t either. But as fashion-forward and entertaining as many of you are (what shade of Anti-Rape Nail Polish will go best with my Anti-Molestation Jacket that can deliver 110 volts of electric shock to the asshole trying to feel me up?), we must point out that you are missing a critical point, as you drape, adorn, and hide the bodies of the women you intend to protect: those bodies themselves, the actual bodies of girls and women, can be powerful tools of resistance. And when you don’t say that, you contribute to the cultural discourse that says women and girls HAVE to have these things, because if they don’t, there is NOTHING THEY CAN DO to stop a rape or an assault from occurring.
Not true, ARDs. Not true.
Your goal is the same as ours, ARDs. We want men, and others, to stop raping, and we don’t want anyone to ever be raped or assaulted ever again, ever. Here is where it seems we disagree: we know that women and girls are capable of fighting back against sexual assault, and we know that training women and girls in self-defense techniques reminds them of that, and teaches them how to do that.
But for many people, ARDs, you seem so much easier, so much more logical, so much more realistic, so much prettier. Because many, many, MANY people don’t believe that women and girls are capable of thwarting an attack. Here’s the good news – they are! Women and girls can defend themselves, and they do. But that’s not as catchy a headline as “Will Jagged Teeth Deter World Cup Sexual Assaults?” or “Japanese Anti-Rape/Anti-Mugging Dress Transforms Into Vending Machine Disguise”.
We don’t know how to make self-defense and self-defense training “catchy”. Listen, if Miss USA gets slammed for even suggesting it should be an option, we know we’ve got an uphill battle. But here’s what we do know:
- Responsibility for rape always lies with the perpetrator
- Women and girls can effectively fight back and thwart rape and sexual assault (data! There’s data!)
- Self-defense and resistance, broadly defined, are options we want women and girls to have at their disposal, not requirements that make women and girls responsible for the violence perpetrated against them
- ARDs can be options available to women, but they should be real options that increase women’s and girls’ safety, not the just the Next Cool/Hip/Fun/Pink Thing that perpetuates one of the underlying tenets of rape culture: that women are weak, helpless, and inherently rapeable unless men or products are available to save the day.
We’ll make a deal with you, ARDs. You stop making promises about safety that have no data behind them, and stop perpetuating the myths that say women are incapable of resistance, and start promoting women’s and girls’ rights to and capacity for self-defense, and we’ll follow the 15-step instructions for the Anti-Rape Gloves (Step 1: 2 pieces of marine grade stainless 12mm wide (half inch) 120mm long (about 5 inch) 2mm Thick (5/64 inch)? Check!) and post a picture of how it turns out on BuzzFeed: Nailed It, for sure.
Jill Cermele and Martha McCaughey
P.S. By the way, how DO you go to the bathroom while wearing the anti-rape underwear? Maturing women want – nay, NEED – to know.
Dear Ms. Rosenkranz,
We have seen multiple stories now – first in the Ramapo News from Ramapo College, but then in Jezebel, in Addicting Info, in the Telegraph – about how you recommended that female students practice their “anti-rape faces in the mirror”. Or words to that effect.
That’s not prevention, Ms. Rosenkranz. That’s victim-blaming. We don’t need to practice our anti-rape faces. Any face we make is an anti-rape face.
Prevention is focusing on changing a rape culture that perpetuates the myth that men’s rape of women as inevitable. Prevention is acting to change social norms about men’s beliefs about their entitlement to women’s bodies, and the eliminating the behaviors that follow those beliefs. And prevention is teaching women how to physically and verbally thwart an attempted sexual assault.
Women do not invite rape by how they look, or what they wear, or the expression on their faces. Or by their perceived attractiveness, or their relationship status, or their sexual orientation, or the color of their skin. Or anything else.
We want to reduce women’s risk for assault, Ms. Rosenkranz. We assume you do, too. But if you want to make women safer, empower them – don’t blame them. Encourage your campus to offer self-defense classes that, as the data show, actually reduce the chance that they will be raped and increase women’s feelings of confidence and empowerment.
We assume your goal is to reduce sexual assault on your campus, Ms. Rosenkranz. But making faces doesn’t make people stop raping. Action does. And that’s why we are writing to you, rather than making a “we don’t like what you’re saying” face.
Women’s faces/bodies/clothes/words/behaviors DO NOT invite rape, and rape prevention is not about withdrawing an invitation. So please – check the data, and get your facts straight.
Jill Cermele and Martha McCaughey