What I do want to tell you is that you need to stop using the “wives, sisters, daughters” argument when you are talking to people defending the Steubenville rapists. Or any rapists. Or anyone who commits any kind of crime, violent or otherwise, against a woman.
In case you’re unfamiliar with this line of rhetoric, it’s the one that goes like this:
You should stop defending the rapists and start caring about the victim. Imagine if she was your sister, or your daughter, or your wife. Imagine how badly you would feel if this happened to a woman that you cared about.
Framing the issue this way for rape apologists can seem useful. I totally get that. It feels like you’re humanizing the victim and making the event more relatable, more sympathetic to the person you’re arguing with.
You know what, though? Saying these things is not helpful; in fact, it’s not even helping to humanize the victim. What you are actually doing is perpetuating rape culture by advancing the idea that a woman is only valuable in so much as she is loved or valued by a man.
The Steubenville rape victim was certainly someone’s daughter. She may have been someone’s sister. Someday she might even be someone’s wife. But these are not the reasons why raping her was wrong. This rape, and any rape, was wrong because women are people. Women are people, rape is wrong, and no one should ever be raped. End of story.
I found this post from The Belle Jar, I Am Not Your Wife, Sister or Daughter. I Am A Person, a good example of why language matters when talking about the dominant shaming rhetoric produced from the Steubenville case and the depressing rape culture we so obviously operate within.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how rules and norms guide my movements, influence my understanding of choice, and how my desires are intimately linked to those who hold the power to define what is authentic or sanctioned. I wonder aloud, to no one in particular, if all those Slut Walks we bore witness to would have been more effective if we openly discussed how race and class are often the most silenced pivot points within the intersection of how we talk about sexuality.
I refer often to Dorothy Allison’s classic essay A Question of Class and still find this statement to ring heavy with truth: “Traditional feminist theory has had a limited understanding of class differences and of how sexuality and self are shaped by both desire and denial.”
I believe confessions do produce truth and through that process we have an opportunity to envision and implement new understandings of a more positive, and dare I say, enthusiastic concepts of our value as human beings.