A lot of things stand out about Miami University: its educational status, which is among some of the most prestigious schools in the nation, and its famous aesthetic are just a few. Other aspects of Miami include its wide variety of majors and minors to choose from, its thorough list of required courses and the fact that, for each month of this semester, a girl has reported being sexually assaulted on campus.
At the root of the problems that sexual assault and rape pose is rape culture, a popular phrase nowadays. It is used to describe an environment where society normalizes rape based on attitudes about gender and sexuality. It includes thing such as victim-blaming, slut-shaming and trivializing sexual assault (by, for instance, making a rape joke).
Some say that the term “rape culture” is overused; more specifically, Wendy McElroy, author of “Rape Culture Hysteria: Fixing the Damage Done to Men and Women” writes that “social justice warriors are creating hysteria about a non-existent rape culture in order to impose a specific ideology.” This might apply if we were only evaluating the United States.
But if we expand our line of vision to the rest of the world, we can begin to understand why our population needs to be educated on rape culture and what our reality would be like if it wasn’t a well-known term across our country.
An example is Azerbaijan: the birthplace of my parents and grandparents before them, it was something of a tropical paradise. Baku, the city that they lived in, contained everything a person desired, from swaying palms to bustling market squares where locals haggled over prices. But it was also seriously deregulated, which created the perfect climate for rape culture to fester and grow.
In a time where there was still shame in being Armenian (see: the Armenian Genocide), danger thrived everywhere, especially for young Christian Armenians. The percentage of young girls and women that were molested and raped daily was likely much higher than that in the U.S. The contrast, I’m sure, is largely due to the amount of attention the term “rape culture” is getting here versus in other countries.
Grateful as I am to live in a place where most people draw attention to these issues and decrease the risk of rape for me, I am far from brushing off rape as less of a problem simply because it is less prominent in the U.S.
Take this quote from an anonymous Pakistani woman: “You know how first-world feminists are told that they don’t need feminism? They’re told that they should be glad they’re not ‘really oppressed’ like the women in third-world countries. That things could always be worse.
“You know what my mother tells me? She says I don’t need feminism because I should be glad I’m born in an urban city…at least I wasn’t born in a rural area where girls are married off to men twice their age. That things could always be worse.
And our house maid, Shabana, who was married to her uncle at 15 and, at 18, has two children, doesn’t even know what feminism is. She was told by her father that she should be glad her husband doesn’t beat her and hasn’t thrown acid at her. That things could always be worse. Am I the only one seeing a very disturbing pattern here?”
In fact, it is a disturbing pattern: teaching young people that their issues don’t matter, especially when their bodies are involved, is detrimental to their emotional and mental health. That statement can also apply to all cases where sexual assault has been treated as a cultural norm or “not that big of a deal.” Rape is not trivial.
We as a student body need to start treating rape and sexual assault as serious offenses and eradicate sexual assault in our surrounding environment; our college campus is a good place to start, mainly because of the limited mileage we have to cover. Our first initiative should begin with something small, like halting the rape jokes.
Still, it seems like a Herculean task. But collectively, we can work towards a solution to take back our campus and feel safe in our surroundings again.