This past year, rape has dominated the headlines. From front-page coverage of the Penn State trials to Todd Akin's "legitimate rape" comment to international outcry about gang rape in India to national focus on Steubenville, talking about rape—a long-silenced topic—is finally a mainstream conversation. We are in a unique cultural moment where the ever-present epidemic of sexual violence is being recognized.
We need to not only recognize the reality of rape, but work to end it. We need a platform to honor survivors that will forever change the way the American public responds to their experiences. We need to create a national monument to survivors of rape and abuse.
It's hard to talk about and even harder to film. In this exclusive Bitch Q&A, feminist poet and writer Katha Pollitt talks with filmmaker Jennifer Baumgardner about her powerful new film, It Was Rape.
KATHA POLLITT: Your new film "It Was Rape" consists almost entirely of 8 women, telling the story of their rape and its aftermath in great detail. I found it simultaneously compelling and unbearable to watch. How did you find women willing to identify themselves as rape survivors?
JENNIFER BAUMGARDNER: Sadly, it was incredibly easy finding people who had been raped. I lecture frequently on college campuses and each time I mentioned that I was working on this film and project, at least two people would approach me after the talk to tell me about their story. I somewhat randomly chose the stories that ended up in the film. Going into the interviews, I didn't know the stories beyond the barest sketch.
Most of the women in the film were not out in public about being raped—often they had discussed it with just a few people in their lives—but they were hungry for a venue in which they could talk about this really huge, life-altering event and be listened to respectfully and openly. I had no problem getting people to talk. That said, many were scared to see their interviews when the film was finished. The prospect of being in the public opened up the possibility of being not believed (again) or blamed (again).
This tepid installation of the longest-running movie franchise in history still peddles woman's bodies as disposable, continues the tradition of white-valued imperialism, and features a mark of homophobia. Shocked? You shouldn't be.
Amid the debt ceiling debacle, Norway shooting, and fears about Europe's next default, a news story broke about Oregon Representative David Wu allegedly sexually assaulting a young woman. I'm calling it simply a news story because as we'll see, the reporting frames it strangely: "an unwanted sexual encounter," a "sex scandal," an "aggressive sexual encounter." Major journalism outlets like CBS, the Washington Post, and CNN all used similar language, and I began to wonder: Why aren't they calling it rape?
We're really bummed we're not at the Allied Media Conference in Detroit right now! You can keep up with the goings-on by checking out their LiveStream, following the #AMC2011 hashtag on Twitter, or by browsing their conference guide for more online interaction.
And you? What are your reactions? What have you been reading?
Now that word's spread about the assault she endured, Logan is being re-victimized by those who say that an attractive white woman with blonde hair should've known better than to make her way through a mob of brown, Muslim men. Why didn't Logan realize that all Arab men are misogynistic beasts who haven't the slightest respect for their own women, let alone Western women—all of whom they regard as whores? Yeah, that about sums up the message on sites from the Los Angeles Times to the New York Times to Salon.