The Women's Crusade
Our future as women includes the potential for the ultimate end of male violence against women. But it starts with a unique educational campaign directed with the fervency of a “crusade” towards the ongoing culture of victim-blaming concerning female victims of male sexual violence. In this paper, Peprah explores the relationship between misogynistic philosophy about women, and the continuity of male violence to propose that if we truly want to see the eradication of male violence against women in our future, we need to re-educate male thought about sexual violence in a new way. What if an educational campaign was launched to challenge male perceptions of Violence Against Women (VAW) where we equip “the accuser” with new information that they are not seeing? Peprah explores what Marilyn French declared as “The War Against Women”, and offers academics, researchers, activists, and practitioners the opportunity to consider the call to join “a new crusade” of the future: warring against the “victim-blaming” rape culture ethos by re-educating the victim-blamer through a new presentation of the history of male perception’s towards rape, compared to women’s lived experiences with rape, to reorient critics about the heinous nature of male sexual violence towards women and its drastic repercussions in the lives of women who are unable to live past their trauma. Through a framework of Community Psychology, and a documentary analysis to provide a historical overview of the cultural perceptions of sexual assault in the era preceding #metoo, Peprah inspires readers to dream of a future where victims are empowered rather than shamed; and she posits that the only way for this to become a reality is through “a women’s crusade.”
In personal and public life, in kitchen, bedroom and halls of parliament, men wage an unremitting war against women" (French, 2003, p.196)
This is a manifesto written in essay form. It is a call to action and a sounding of the alarm. Women are dying in the male war against women and it is imperative that we produce an effective strategy to end this centuries-long assault once and for all. For as long as male violence towards women has existed, there have been female resistance to male tyranny throughout history. As a scholar-activist who refuses to participate within the cultural, social, legal, institutional, and systemic normalization of male violence towards women, I witness and perceive the grotesque nature of gender-based violence in astute horror.
In A Room of One’s Own, there is a section in the book where Virginia Woolf writes down “women and poverty” as a title on a sheet of paper and then lists all the causes of this situation (for namely white middle to upper-class British women). Well, in the same fashion, in thinking globally, I have always, for many years, possessed the same figurative piece of paper in my mind’s eye, which has expanded as I read and digested more research over the phrase “violence against women”. And when I consider sexual violence, I once saw it as solely an issue of rape, sexual assault, incest, and murder. But then sex trafficking came in, & slavery, bondage, and kidnapping arose--I thought of the causes of systemic poverty which inspire parents and communities to sell their daughters into sexual slavery, of forced pornography and forced prostitution. I considered, what is the hope of this world which normalizes women-beings into sexual commodities from infancy to death?
Picture Christopher Columbus arriving in North America. Largely ignorant, not understanding the Indigenous language that he encountered in the famed 1492 pillage expedition—the disconnect between his belief about the geographic location led him to incorrectly call Native Americans “Indians”—a name and reference which ongoingly persists today. Now follow my reasoning here: Columbus thought that he was in India based on his false assumption and he incorrectly identified and defined an entire population group. In the same manner, I contend that men, the victim-blamers in rape culture, incorrectly perceive rape victim-survivors experience(s) of rape based on a disconnect of language between the survivors with lived experience and the writers and creators of a language who were completely distanced from the lived experience(s) of gender-specific sexual violence.
I contend that the language barriers of man-made language continue to prolong and perpetuate the male war against women across the world. Our future as women includes the possibility of a future world without male violence against/towards women. But the only way for us to achieve this dream is to understand how the male-created vocabulary as we know it, was never intended for us, as women, to be used to our own benefit and improvement. I suggest that it was made to make men great in the public sphere and reduce women to marginal and liminal spaces locked away in the confines of the home to support the male system of the economy without pay or acknowledgment as homemakers within this system and agenda where men were the definers of truth. The experiences and conditions of women were never defined and written by women themselves until it was too late to overturn cultural, social, legal, religious, and political misconceptions about women and their experiences. When we consider this reasoning and rhetoric within rape culture we quickly begin to understand, the heinous consequences of this void of authoritative information concerning what rape is and its ultimate effect on women.
Despite the recent power of the #metoo movement, rape myths continue to persist, victim-blaming continues to work as a large backlash to the victories of #metoo, and while public discussions have risen and more accountability (at least on social media and the news outlets have manifested) the reality is that for the average male—rape culture persists, and we as women activists, advocates, and leaders continually find ourselves fighting, ideating, burning out and resisting frustration over the reality of male sexual violence against women and girls. What if the reason that rape continues is that the men who are complicit, and apathetic, and bystanders within rape culture, have been fed a centuries-old lie about rape? Not only so, but what if no men have actually yet to understand a proper definition of rape created by women because the language that women have tried to describe rape in does not possess the verbiage that they require to properly communicate what #metoo truly means to women-beings?
Is there a way that we can approach violence prevention education differently? Is there a way that we can proverbially “re-educate” the average male victim blamer in rape culture? Is there a particular method that we can adopt to revisit historical movements and methods that womanist and feminist educators who have come before us have attempted or implemented in part; and then add a more effective method on top of the foundations set before us? We must take it into our hands and stop wasting time trying to convince all enemies against women's safety and wellbeing that rape is wrong and [convince them to] help us to overthrow rape culture(s) around the world. Sadly, we are on our own. I propose that we need to start a war to end rape culture. I have named it The Women’s Crusade. So begins the start of my journey towards igniting the flames of this global crusade. Stay tuned.
Image: Serwaa Presenting on the Women's Crusade