Does this television sequence sound familiar?
Night time. A woman brushing her teeth in the bathroom. A dark shadow appears behind her. A gloved hand clamps over her mouth. A struggle. A knife. Cut to morning. Bloodied body on the floor. Enter detective, with dumb ‘witticism’ along the lines of “Had a hard night.” Cut to commercials.
Prime-time television makes a fortune out of women being stalked, beaten, raped, tortured, and murdered. All in high-def detail, of course. Programs such as Law and Order’s sleazy ‘Special Victims Unit’ spinoff and the even sleazier Criminal Minds are huge money-making franchises, every episode sold on first to cable and then throughout the world.
Mandy Patinkin, one of my favorite actors, walked out on Criminal Minds after its first two years, calling it a huge mistake to have ever accepted a starring role on it. “I never thought they were going to kill and rape all these women every night, every day, week after week, year after year,” he said. “It was very destructive to my soul and my personality.”
It is very destructive to all our souls and personalities.
So why don‘t all the other actors walk out? (I know — money makes their world go round). Why in fact does anyone watch these programs? (I may not really want the answer to that.) Why do advertisers pay to be in those commercial breaks? (oh yes: because people watch.) And what exactly is going on in the minds of those who write and produce and air such programs? Doesn’t anyone in television-land realize that they‘re presenting violence against women as entertainment?
Or worse still, do they realize it very well?
No, I’m not saying that such programs create rapists and murderers, or that they present rape as okay. Their ostensible focus is on the horror of rape, and at least on the surface, they seem to be raising consciousness of how brutal a violation it is.
Beneath the surface, though, there’s a deeply creepy fascination with rape, one that feels darkly voyeuristic. So what I am saying is that such programs are a very visible part of a world-wide culture that still does not take rape with full seriousness — a culture that still doesn‘t register it for what it is: not “sexual assault” nor “sex crime,” but brutality. Rape is not about sex; it’s about brutalizing women.
There has to be someone out there who is as pissed as I am at this but with far better organizing skills. Someone who can get at those who make such programs where it really hurts: not in their balls, but in their pocketbooks. Someone who can create a campaign to pressure advertisers to stop supporting programs that use violence against women as entertainment.
Imagine a boycott of the goods and services of all such advertisers. Imagine stickers pasted on toilet paper and antacids and “feminine-care” products in supermarkets saying “This product pays for rape as entertainment.” Imagine the publicity, the “bad PR,” the panic this would induce among directors of marketing. They’d cave.
What Mandy Patinkin did, we all need to do. We all need to walk out on this sleaze.
In my inbox today, I received a Youtube video from the Campaign for Truth & Justice in Sri Lanka in support of their Stop Torture campaign, and I was very puzzled by their “public relations.”
In Sri Lanka, women and girls are raped and tortured with impunity by members of the military police, and they have no legal recourse.
Cara Delevingne, a very pretty, blond actress, performed a dramatic reading for the Campaign during which she read a Tamil woman’s actual account of her own torture and gang rape. There was a warning on the video stating it may be very upsetting to watch.
That she’s pale and blond while Tamil women are dark was a little disconcerting at first, but I figured this is about human rights, after all. Why discriminate against blonds?
But did she really have to be NUDE to make this reading persuasive?
No doubt, Levingne was sincerely trying to help Tamil women. But again, where do we draw the line between censorship and titillation?
Sad Lesley, that people like us who’d protest against the media projection of this atrocity, are termed ‘prudes’, here in India. As I mentioned in your previous post on this topic, respect to women is not being ingrained in our society at all.
I thought my country tops the list in this sphere, but it’s sad to see this atrocity being almost ‘glorified’ for public view all around the world.
A minister in our Parliament was ridiculed for asking to put a stop to such television serials, or films which can in a sense aggravate, rather than curb this spreading menace.
The most stringent of action is to be taken at all levels. And yes, the first step is to ban this ridiculous exposure of violence through visuals.
Two things about censorship, Nuzhat: first, it doesn’t work — it just drives things underground — and second, whoever does the censoring is liable to start censoring many other things.
Plus, I find the phrase “respect for women” problematic. It’s been co-opted by religious fundamentalists and conservative politicians, who take it for granted that women are somehow lesser and therefore need to be set apart as a matter of ‘honor,’ of men protecting “their” women. In other words, such professed respect is not respect at all. It still sees half the world’s population as a lesser class of humanity, and implies that respect is a gift instead of a basic human right. Try turning it around and advocating “respect for men” and you’ll see what I mean.
Sure, respect should come naturally, but it is eluding the warped and complicated Indian family system. Barring a few so called ‘literate’ of the society, the family ‘honour’ is the most protected of virtues here. Hence the differentiation between the male and female values, esp.in bringing up the girl child, is ingrained in the mindset. And the debased female sex remains so. There are so many aspects of it, that it can only leave you disillusioned.
Yes, there’s no defining the boundary of censorship, but at least our senses can be saved from the very explicit, to which these visuals resort to.
I hear you, Nuzhat. It’s a long battle that in many ways and many places has still only just begun. What encourages me is that fact: that it has indeed begun, however long it takes.
Hollywood uses women in every abusive way possible in my opinion Lesley. They show women as a sexual object to play with, beet up, sexually abused, tortured etc. this way they brain wash women that they are not valuable! They are powerless! Not to be respected since young age. Girls lose self respect as a result they become victim of predator style man. They accept the role Hollywood gives them in their life. Do you think after all this pre-conditioning there will be many women will be on the same page with you? I doubt it ! I feel that in this country girls are been wasted by this society.
Yes, Lesley — This abuse is under so many layers as we turn to the criminal shows as a way of relaxing. Hardly notice the reality that is being offered over and over. Thanks for bringing this glitzy darkness to the surface! Tamam
I think so many of these disturbing trends seen in our society come from how sexually repressed we are all made to feel. The more we silence natural human inclinations for contact with others, the more these same inclinations will begin to manifest themselves in darker ways, be that a fascination with rape and sexual abuse on television or with the increasingly extreme forms of pornography being made readily available online.