One of the significant benefits of working from home is that I can do whatever the hell I want while I'm writing. Eat peanut butter crackers, have conversations with myself or my cat, or...watch TV. I love television, and I often watch television on DVD with commentary on while I'm working. Typically, this ends up being "Lost", but lately it's been Mad Men. I love the commentary on Mad Men because there are two for every episodes, and all of those commenting - actors, set designers, show runners, writers - are articulate and insightful.
Today I was watching Christina Hendricks' and Robert Morse's commentary on the penultimate episode of season two, in which Joan is raped by her doctor fiance. It's a very careful and well-constructed scene, and difficult to watch, and in the commentary and in this interview, Hendricks is articulate:
The rape was a shocker—but the audience reactions were perhaps more disturbing. “What’s astounding is when people say things like, ‘Well, you know that episode where Joan sort of got raped?’ Or they say rape and use quotation marks with their fingers,” says Hendricks. “I’m like, ‘What is that you are doing? Joan got raped!’ It illustrates how similar people are today, because we’re still questioning whether it’s a rape. It’s almost like, ‘Why didn’t you just say bad date?'”Let me say something as a disclaimer - I am not criticizing Hendricks here. I'm rather showing how people how are articulately and actively anti-rape use problematic language.
Here's the thing:
We really need to stop saying that people "got raped".
People were raped. Joan was raped.
No one "gets raped". Rape victims are raped by other people. There is no "getting" involved.
To get involves agency. To get means it is welcome. To get means something is sought.
You get presents for Christmas.
You get or don't get the job you want.
I get to go to a concert tomorrow.
I try to "get it" when thinking about cis, het, white, able, thin privilege.
I usually don't use the dictionary to make arguments, but I think it's valuable in establishing what get means and why it's not the same as using verbs of being and doing (was and were). Get means:
1. to receive or come to have possession, use, or enjoyment of: to get a birthday present; to get a pension.This is where the verbal construction "get raped" comes from. But it's a specific context of getting something that is enjoyed or wanted - not something awful, not something you do not, do not, do not, want, not something that will haunt you.
2. to cause to be in one's possession or succeed in having available for one's use or enjoyment; obtain; acquire: to get a good price after bargaining; to get oil by drilling; to get information.Already, get means "to seek". Women don't look to acquire rape. Men don't succeed in being raped.
3. to go after, take hold of, and bring (something) for one's own or for another's purposes; fetch: Would you get the milk from the refrigerator for me?Again, rape is never pursued or wanted. It's not fetched - it's forced.
4. to cause or cause to become, to do, to move, etc., as specified; effect: to get one's hair cut; to get a person drunk; to get a fire to burn; to get a dog out of a room.See what I'm talking about? Being raped is not getting drunk. Victims don't take their accuser into their body past their comfort level - their bodies are forced into.
We must stop using passive language when talking about rape victims. When we say that women and men "get raped", our language is constructed as such that we are saying that men and women who are raped are asking for it, that it was their responsibility to not be raped. "Get raped" implies they looked for it, wanted it. It implies complicity, and never violence. It's a victim-blaming construction, and it needs to stop. "Get raped" constructs the victim as the gatekeeper towards sexual violence, and not the victim.
And this applies to other forms of violence - they are not sought or requested - they're done to a victim. People don't get shot, or get murdered. They are shot and are murdered.
Now, listen. Please don't take this personally. I'm not saying that you think rape is awesome or blame victims if you have said that women "get raped". This is an ingrained and socially constructed phrase that we've been taught is okay to use. Even while I was writing this very piece, I wrote: "People don't succeed in getting raped." I'm asking you to think about your language in the future, and the implications of this phrase.
The next time you talk about rape, use your verbs to place the onus for rape on the perpetrator. Don't implicate the victim. Use the active language of "were" and "was" to make sure the person you're speaking to understand who's responsible for rape - and who is not.
Rape is not sex: framing and language in assault
Porn & Rape (via Ariel of Feministing on Twitter)