Warning: This post contains profanity and disturbing imagery. If this offends you, you may want to skip today’s post and I’ll see you next time around.
A couple of nights ago, I shared a link over on Facebook to an article over at RYOT. The piece references a project by Associated Press Chief Photographer for Spain and Portugal, Emilio Morenatti, which shares the equally horrific stories and images of women in Pakistan who refused forced or arranged marriages, and had acid thrown at them as punishment for their “crimes”.
It’s not just refusal to marry that’s punished – for some Pakistani women, just the fact their gender is “wrong” is reason enough to be punished, as highlighted by Najaf Sultana.
Now 16 years old, Najaf’s crime was to be born a girl to a father who didn’t want another female in the family. So, when she was just five years old her father burned her as she slept. Her parents then deserted her, and she’s been raised by relatives ever since.
The image of Najaf, and many more, can be found on Morenatti’s Flickr album Acid Attack Survivors. I urge you to visit and understand how some cultures see this as an acceptable practice.
As horrified as we in the West may be, these attacks are, tragically, a violent addition to the culture of women as second-class citizens that pervades even our “advanced culture”.
Men in the Loosest Sense of the Word
Recently, I wrote about how certain cultures have an endemic hatred towards women. Because hatred is exactly what it is when you think of how women continue to be “treated” by men. And, in the case of the men highlighted here, I use that term in the very loosest sense.
Despite there being very high profile movements like the #OneWoman hashtag on Twitter and Instagram, highlighting the issues that women face every single day, still the degradation and misogyny continues. And it’s not going to get any better while we make bullshit excuses for this treatment.
Take the recent “punishment” doled out to NFL running back Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens. Rice was accused of beating his then-fiancee (now wife) and knocking her unconscious in an elevator in an Atlantic City, New Jersey casino in February, after she allegedly spat in his face. Video surveillance caught him dragging her from the elevator.
Because Rice accepted a pre-trial intervention program, his plea of not guilty to aggravated assault was accepted and he avoided jail. However, while non-punishment sends out a questionable message, it’s the actions – or lack of – of Rice’s employers, the NFL, that speak the loudest: Rice received a two-game ban and was docked two weeks pay as well as a match day check.
TWO. FUCKING. GAMES.
To put that into some kind of perspective, Cleveland Browns receiver Josh Gordon received a year’s ban for marijuana abuse. So, a violent attack on a woman is valued less severe than smoking pot? Clearly the NFL think so, as evidenced by their defence of Rice’s punishment.
“… if you are any player and you think that based on this decision that it’s ok to go out and commit that kind of conduct… in terms of sending a message about what the league stands for, we’ve done that.” Adolpho Birch, senior vice president of labour policy for the NFL. Source.
It sends a message alright – it tells players that you’ll only miss a couple of games for hitting a woman, but a year of your career if you smoke pot. So go out and hit away, because that’s okay – just don’t be high when you’re doing it, or you’ll really be fucked.
Yet perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by this – after all, this is the NFL, purveyor of a sport that means so much to so many Americans. Just look at the recent Steubenville rape case.
Nothing More Important Than Our Game…
A 16-year old girl was raped by two players of the Steubenville school football team. The attack was filmed by several people and uploaded to Facebook and Twitter, with apparent celebration of the act (and the capture of it) by those involved.
When the attack eventually came to light, there was a huge backlash against the way the school had handled the case. There were examples of failure to report, alleged destruction of evidence, and more. The reasoning that came to light was endemic to all that’s wrong with how we treat women – the victim was so drunk she couldn’t look after herself, so essentially she brought it on herself.
Worse still, many people took to the web to “slut-shame” the victim and blame her for ruining two promising young stars of football. After all, their “lives were over”, as stated by one of the attackers. Yes, raping a girl and forcing her to live with that memory for the rest of her life clearly pales in comparison to your precious football career.
Ironically, Steubenville high school would seem to agree. One of the rapists, Ma’lik Richmond, is back on the school’s football team roster after serving just 10 months for his rape of a girl who clearly asked for it because she was drunk.
Like the Rice example above, to offer some context here, over in Broward County, South Florida, an 8-year old boy was banned from school for two years for taking a toy gun to school in his backpack. Now, in the light of recent tragedies like Newtown, the zero tolerance for guns policies that schools are enforcing are obvious paths to take.
But this was clearly a toy gun. This is a child – an 8-year old boy. Yet he gets a two-year ban, while a rapist that actually ruined a life gets back onto the football team and can aim for a scholarship in the big leagues after just 10 months?
Doesn’t that seem just a little fucked up to you?
Excuses are Bullshit Ways to a Clear Conscience
The thing is, we’re making excuses for the kind of mindset that encourages this second-rate view of women as property, and apportioning any blame directly onto them whenever a crime is committed.
Take the case of Seth Rudnitsky, who was tried for multiple sexual assaults on the University of Maryland campus in 2009. In the defence of his client, Rudnitsky’s lawyer, Mark Schamel, put the “intrusions” down to nothing more than a drunken mistake.
This is not a sexual assault case. You have a really good kid who has never been in trouble his entire life. It’s your typical freshman “I went out and had too much to drink and was being silly” kind of case. Source.
Right. Because sexual harassment and assault is always excusable when alcohol clouds judgement. After all, it’s not as Schamel is alone in that thinking. When there was a string of similar attacks at the George Washington University, the school’s paper, The Hatchet, is quoted as reporting,
…[the sexual assault] shows that students have a responsibility to keep themselves safe.
Not that the University has a responsibility to provide a safe environment. Not that the assailant has a responsibility to his fellow human beings to respect their fucking rights. No, the responsibility should be on the victim – of course.
Because that’s always the easiest way out, right? Place the blame on the victim, because clearly if they hadn’t been asking for whatever punishment they got, or attack they endured, they were clearly asking for it just by being them – women.
Silence Is the Biggest Enemy to Change
These examples, old and new, are just the continuation of how women around the world are being treated. From hate crimes in Pakistan to sexual crimes in America, and across the world – women are being forced into situations and a “way of life” that we can never comprehend.
After all, as a guy, when was the last time you,
- Heard a woman say,”He deserved it when I sucked his dick, he was so out of it”?
- Had acid thrown on you because you ditched your fiancee for another woman?
- Had women come up to you randomly and grab your crotch and ass, and say, “Come on, you know you want it”?
I am sickened by girls and women being treated as second rate. I am sickened by misogyny, whether in “milder forms” as in North America or in the more extreme forms we see in other parts of the world. And I am sickened by far too many women buying into the negative messages females receive when they dare to demand equal treatment.
There is a major issue at stake right now, and there has been for a very long time. And it’s never going to get better if we stay silent and accept excuses. But we can change that.
If a culture believes it is okay to burn women and disfigure them because they don’t want to marry someone they don’t love, then that culture is fucked.
If it’s not the widespread culture but individuals hiding behind the culture, then punish the individuals heavily and make the culture one that won’t allow these people to hide behind it, or stay silent for fear of bringing shame onto the culture.
If you truly believe that a women deserves molestation and abuse because of how she dresses, or how much she drinks, or the way she walks, and that “boys will be boys”, you are not a man. You are a fucking beast that deserves to be put in jail.
We all have a choice – we can either excuse this hatred and misogyny by way of cultural and gender behaviour, or we can shout out against it until we’re heard. Either with our political votes; our voices; or, more likely than not in this world where the mighty dollar still talks loudest, with our wallets.
Boycott countries where the culture of hate is commonplace. Boycott organizations where the culture of violence against women is deemed less criminal than smoking pot. And boycott educational facilities where the protection of students seems to be less the responsibility of the faculty and more about the victim should have known better.
At the very least, stand up and say something if you see a friend, or colleague, or family member say or do something that you know isn’t right, and is only fostering more hate and misogyny.
Maybe it’s a dumb idea. Maybe I’m being naive. But something has to change – and naivety has ways of turning into educated decisions and making real change.
For the sake of our mothers, sisters and daughters around the world, naivety is a better start than no start at all.
image: marsmet tallahassee