The video is chaotic. It shows a woman being stripped, tossed around, hit, kicked, held down, penetrated, beaten into unconsciousness by a mob in Cairo. It’s described in this New York Times report, which avoids any link to the video itself. In fact the original YouTube upload has been deleted. Deleting it, however, is just another way of trying to cover it up. As I write, this one is still active. And yes, you are warned, it’s brutal. As all rape is.
I know that those who read this blog, men and women alike, will be incapable of watching these couple of minutes with anything but horror. But I also know that part of the reason it went viral when first posted is that there are men out there who are turned on by it.
Just the thought of that makes me want to gag. As does the boys-will-be-boys response to it from an Egyptian TV host, who said, with a stupid giggle: “They are happy. The people are having fun.”
This isn’t “just” an Egyptian problem. Or a Nigerian or Somali or Brazilian or Turkish or Italian or Swedish or Indian or Pakistani one. My first association was with last year’s photo of an unconscious near-naked girl being lugged around by wrists and ankles, like a carcass, by high-school rapists in apple-pie Steubenville, Ohio.
This sickness infects some men, but affects every woman. Yes, all women. The Twitter hashtag #YesAllWomen took off in response to the misogynistic shooting rampage in Santa Barbara, California two weeks ago, and here’s the formidably intelligent Rebecca Solnit on what it means.
Solnit was in Seattle last week talking about her new book, Men Explain Things To Me, and when she mentioned her unease at finding herself alone on an elevator at night with a strange man, there was a lone weird laugh from a man behind me in the audience. It wasn’t clear what he found so funny. Perhaps he simply couldn’t understand this kind of unease. But every woman can. It’s the year 2014, and yet it’s still not “wise” for a woman to go down a dark street at night, or ride in an empty subway car, or walk in the woods. What was most remarkable about Wild, Cheryl Strayed’s account of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, was not the length or the difficulty of the hike, but the fact that she was a woman walking alone. If she had been male, there would have been no book to be written.
It’s absurd that the onus is still on women to avoid being subjected to violence. One way and another, we are told to avoid this, avoid that, take care, take karate classes, be on the alert, be afraid. Don’t go out at night, say some. Stay home, lock yourselves in, adopt the behavioral equivalent of a chador. (Don’t go out at night? An equally rational ‘solution’ would instead be to tell men not to go out at night.)
But there’s an antidote. And it comes from men — men who really do respect women, and who know that to remain silent in the face of woman-hatred is only to give it free rein. As former president Jimmy Carter put it in A Call to Action, violence against women is not only a woman’s issue; it affects us all, and the only way to win this battle is to work together. I take heart from this photo that artist D.K.Pan posted on his Facebook page after the Santa Barbara massacre. Women are finally speaking out; we need more men like Jimmy Carter and D.K.Pan to speak out with us.