Patriarchy, Modesty, and Rape Culture

When You’re Too Fatigued to Feel Violated

In the blog post above, a colleague of mine (who is also a fellow Patheos blogger) shares her distressing account of a recent experience.

I recently visited with an immigrant community in the United States that perpetuates the notion that women need to conform to some notion of modest dress, because men are apparently unable to control themselves. Ironically, they were obsessed with the sexualizing of women in relation to clothing that didn’t seem to me at all provocative, with a pastor choosing to berate his own daughter publicly, at a wedding he was performing, for her choice of clothing!

It is the combination of the objectification of women and the blaming of women for inappropriate male behavior that is at the heart of patriarchal rape culture, and I am glad I took the opportunity to speak out against it, when it would have been much more comfortable to simply stay quiet about things I was hearing, perhaps justifying my silence in terms of respecting cultural differences. But precisely because this is a culture that I feel I know well, and because in addition this is a community living within the broader context of my own national culture, I felt that saying something was appropriate.

I also wanted to say something about the matter because of something that continues to dismay me. A group of students brought to my university’s faculty senate a list of things they want to see change on campus when it comes to policies and the dissemination of information about sexual assault. The group of students consisted entirely of women. As a white male, I want to seize as many opportunities as I can to show that it should not be those who are most commonly the victims of violence or discrimination who have to be their own advocates pretty much on their own.

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  • John MacDonald

    It’s interesting the, for the most part, men aren’t even attracted to the natural state of adult women due to our sexualizing culture. In this way, we find hairy legs/armpits/vaginal area on women “gross,” even though this is the natural state of adult women.