We need to hold institutions accountable for reinforcing and perpetuating rape culture!

11 02 2009

We live in a culture in which rape is pervasive and sanctioned through sexist attitudes and beliefs that make violence against women seem like a normal, natural and inevitable part of society. Misogynist jokes, glamorized imagery of sexualized violence in the media, objectification of women, sexual harassment and the public / government dismissal of sexual violence as mere women’s issues help shape a rape culture and enable it to thrive.

The mainstream media is a strong arm of rape culture and frequently depicts violence against women in a way that sexualizes and glorifies it. Violence against women is so ubiquitous that we don’t see it because we see it everywhere which makes it so normalized and ingrained in our everyday lives that most people don’t even think twice about it. Paradoxical as that may seem, the oversaturation of violence in society has made us desensitized and numb to it. It makes us accept violence as a given part of life. The constant bombardment and oversaturation of these images in our society indoctrinates people into rape culture, degrade women, and eroticize violence against women.

Here are some examples of outrageous media advertisements that perpetuate rape culture. The images speak for themselves…

8 airbags. Really? Breasts as airbags?

8 airbags. Really? Breasts as airbags?


This woman looks like she is a Barbie doll in her original packaging.

This woman looks like she is a Barbie doll in her original packaging.


Tom Ford is notorious for having disturbing and incredibly misogynist ads. ...Just wow is all I have to say...

Tom Ford is notorious for having disturbing and incredibly misogynist ads. ...Just wow is all I have to say...


Again, this ad completely astounds me.

Again, this ad completely astounds me.


We need to hold the media accountable for their sexist representations and treatment of women and we need to hold the media accountable for perpetuating a rape culture. In order to do so we have to de-familiarize and de-normalize these offensive and toxic images and see them for what they really are – a misogynist vehicle that sustains our rape culture.

Rape is the most underreported crime on college campuses nationwide and is a silent epidemic that remains for the most part unaddressed and ignored. Most colleges discount sexual assaults on campus, prioritizing protecting their reputations instead of the safety and wellbeing of their students. They have flawed sexual assault policies that lack specific, concrete disciplinary procedures and re-victimize survivors. Further, many administrators and faculty members lack awareness about and training on how to deal with sexual assault on campus.

It is imperative that institutions of higher education assume leadership in ending sexual violence on their campuses by providing effective sexual assault education and implementing equitable sexual assault policies that enable survivors to pursue justice, thus ultimately working to transform a rape culture. In a rape culture, women especially live in fear and their freedoms are limited which prevents them from maximizing their productivity in society. Educational institutions have a moral responsibility in ensuring that this basic human right is realized and upheld, especially if they are committed to social justice and their goals are to prepare students for active civic engagement in society.

The Sexual Violence and Health Advisory Board is being launched to provide a direct way for students to provide feedback to the Tufts administration about the realities of sexual violence on campus and what resources, policies, and programming need to be updated or implemented in order to make Tufts a safer campus for everyone. The board’s first meeting is next Wednesday, February 18th at 7:30 pm in Room 202 of the Campus Center. Come for a chance to critique and help reform Tufts’ sexual assault policy and to start an important conversation that concerns everyone at Tufts.



4 responses

12 02 2009

Don’t forget the disturbing pictures and placement of mannequins in our very Tufts alum’s American Apparel stores.

What do you think of In the Sack? (It just took me several minutes to remember the name.)

13 02 2009

It’s interesting… with In the SACK what they used to do previously was have an alum who was a survivor from her Tufts years come back to share her story, and she doesn’t reveal that the attack occurred at Tufts until the very end. This usually shocks people the most and eventually they got rid of her piece because it was too disturbing for people.

In the SACK is a really important orientation program, and I was one of the facilitators this year. After we did our small group sessions a lot of women in my groups came up to me and thanked me for talking to them about sexual violence and doing In the SACK. Many of them said that no one has ever talked to them about that before.

Since sexual violence is a reality (unfortunately) on college campuses, it’s important to educate incoming students and continuing students. But In the SACK isn’t enough, especially since it occurs during orientation when people are bombarded with so much information and have to go from program to program. It can get overwhelming, especially since it’s such heavy information to take in all at once.

There are a lot of conversations going on about how to continue or extend In the SACK throughout the year / when is the best time to do sexual violence programming. PACT was born out of the desire for students to maintain sexual violence education throughout the school year, but it still needs to work a lot on outreach.

14 07 2009
Colleges and universities are legally responsible for preventing sexual assault « The Gender Blender Blog

[…] policies that actually work and are implemented before (see here, here, here, here, here, and here for a taste), so here’s some relevant news.  The National Association of College and […]

30 10 2009

I thought the whole idea of a ‘rape culture’ was a myth perpetuated by gender studies departments. I think most college age men are so afraid of doing anything that could be construed as aggressive that they are much more likely to be emasculated by an otherwise normal sexual encounter than they are to end up engaging in any behavior that is ethically questionable.

Of course many feminists find the prospect of this as unproblematic and not really deserving of serious attention. This is lamentable as it is clearly a form of harm. It seems we are now buying into a culture of treating all women as potential victims. It is unfortunate that men often internalize this message and then are ridiculed by women for not being ‘man enough’ when it influences their actions. It can’t be both ways.

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