punk phd / feminism / motherhood

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Rape, Parenthood and Loneliness...(or why everyone should be a feminist)

Last week I attended a local 'Reclaim the Night March' and made a poster detailing some of the claims made about who/what is to blame for rape (e.g. alcohol, clothing...women generally) with the point made that it's not any of these things, rapists are obviously to blame. I got into a conversation about this poster after the march and the point was made that rape was not a feminist issue, men were also raped and that, more broadly, feminism was basically pointless. I'm no idiot. I know that rape victims can be men as well as women. But concerning rape there's two issues which, for me, demonstrate why we need feminism:

1) the disproportionate amount of women being raped or sexually assaulted suggests that something about societal views towards women needs to change. For example, according to the ONS (2009/10, 2010/11 and 2011/12 average) the percentage of males who were a victim once or more of a sexual offence in the last 12 months stood at 0.4% and for females 2.5%. Statistics such as these lend weight to arguments which suggest that we increasingly live in a rape culture, a society in which the sexualisation of women dominates.

2) the under-reporting of rape when men are the victim (demonstrated by the difference when comparing police-reported statistics and victim surveys). Again, we might trace this issue to the issue more broadly of societal attitudes concerning women/men. It could be that men do not wish to come forward due to societal views concerning how men should be/be seen, therefore suggesting societal views need to change.

So, feminism, for me, is the fight against gender inequality, which men can also be disadvantaged by. I thought of this again when listening to Radio 4's Women's Hour yesterday when they were discussing motherhood and loneliness. Someone raised the point about fathers often being side-lined in such discussions because women are still predominantly the primary carer of children in the first year or so. Again, we have evidence of why feminism continues to be relevant. We live in a society where, despite some acceptance of alternatives, women are generally still socialised and stereotyped into the position of the primary care giver (regardless of whether they work or not). But this may in turn impact on the experiences of men who are the primary carer. What we need then is a move away from this gendering of roles which is where feminism becomes important.

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