When I read the article on Salon: Dangers of traveling while female, I knew right away the author was a Caucasian when I read this:
I wanted to be a fearless adventurer like my male heroes, but a voice kept warning me: Don’t get yourself raped.
How is this possible? How was I able to peer through the words and arrive at a image of of the author that was in accord with reality? How I answer may have some shocking repercussions
My Male Heroes
Most of my heroes are not built off the explorer template but rather the martyr one. My male heroes are so because they gave their life to a cause that allows me to enjoy somethings today I couldn’t in their day. Rubin Carter aka the Hurricane was my hero. He was an American middleweight boxer who was wrongly convicted of murder and later freed via a petition after spending almost 20 years in prison. Steve Biko was another hero of mine. He was an anti-apartheid activist in South Africa in the 1960s and 70s who died in police custody. If I add Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr. to this list, you will notice a pattern. Many of my heroes unlike the author’s, didn’t travel for a formative period of time usually due to unfair incarceration, and it was never for intrepid exploration.. When they walk long distances it was to avoid that lynch mob or a life chained to dehumanizing suffering.
It’s interesting the significant difference between her heroes and mine. When comparing them I was blown away by the historical narrative that influence both our conceptualization of what a hero is. Here is a quote from the author herself
When I was younger, I wanted to travel like Patrick Leigh Fermor, who famously spent 1934 walking from the Hook of Holland to Istanbul. I envisioned myself sporting leather satchels and lace-up boots, doffing Panama hats, spouting demotic Greek. I fantasized about riding horses through the Caucasus and letting falcons loose upon the Black Sea, about “living up in the mountains, dressed as a shepherd,” as Fermor had done.
See What I’m Doing
I am demonstrating how wide a disparity there can be between people of different genders,races, classes when dealing with a something as simple as dreams and heroes. The point in all this to bring up the point that there isn’t this single unified social reality that we all experience. In our culture the social reality that serves as the background in so many news stories is a contrived one. Here is an example of what I mean:
About 40% of our country’s 4.9 million Native Americans live on reservations where the living conditions are “comparable to Third World.” 1 out 3 Native Women will be raped in her life of course there is the systematic failures of the judicial system both in and out the reservation.
In looking at these numbers I can say that there is a rape culture that Native American Women find themselves in being an ethnic minority kept in place through economic and legal policies. This rape culture is different than the one the author describes as she isn’t a historically oppressed minority.
How the term rape culture in the media is used obfuscates important contextual differences that will keep us from ever addressing the issue. Rape in the armed forces carries a much different subtext than prison rape, and the rape of Native Women on Reservations. There is an undeniable link between poverty and rape that the news and many writers do not talk about. I have taken the following from the Pennsylvania Coalition against Rape:
Perpetrators of sexual violence target individuals who seem vulnerable-whether due to gender, age, race, disability, sexual orientation, immigration status, income, or other reason; they exploit victims and survivors caught in Catch-22 situations created by poverty. Poverty is among the root causes of sexual violence and has a daily presence in the lives of many victims and survivors. Therefore, the thread of economic advocacy must be woven throughout the fabric of all intervention and prevention efforts.
In our country we do not want to address things such as inequality and poverty, especially when so many of our congressional and government representatives are millionaires. I don’t think rape can be eradicated for much the same way crime will never be eradicated. However we can limit the pervasiveness through addressing real issues like the growing disparity between the rich and poor, wealth distribution etc.
Anyways just my stream of thought today