Monday, September 10, 2007

Reading about the unspeakable in fiction... and the shocking real-life news story about something even more unspeakable

After finishing Jonathan Franzen's emotional rollercoaster novel, "The Corrections" last night, I started fresh today reading Joyce Carol Oates' "Rape: A Love Story." I'm about half-way finished (it's relatively short). I've gotta tell ya, it's a tough but meaningful read. The Readers' Digest version of the story is that a woman in a small town in upstate New York is on her way home from a 4th of July party with her young daughter around midnight, and she gets brutally gang-raped, beaten and left for dead by a group of about 8 local guys. Her daughter gets beaten but manages to escape unseen and hides, still having to listen to her mother get raped. After the woman comes out of her coma and she and her daughter identify the rapists, the town turns against them, taking up the classic sexist argument that she "had it coming" and was "asking for it." Only the cop who found the women that night is willing to man-up and help them get justice.

Oates does a fantastic job of drawing the reader in to experience the story and to understand the quiet desperation of the position they were put in. I was thinking on my bus ride home today that it's all too easy for a he-said she-said story like this to turn its ugly double-standard face against the women, and how awful it must feel to be in a situation like that and to have nobody believe you, whether in a book or in real life... while all the men involved in the trial or the news-making or the news-watching or the news-ignoring go home and watch Hentai porn or hard-core porn that involves women getting ("non-consensually") raped. While they get off on it. (I'm not trying to single out the men. Rape just usually is performed by men, against women, and enjoyed as pornography by men. See horrific exception below. Also, I'm not saying all porn is bad. But the kind of porn I'm talking about here is. Sorry kids.)

So yeah. I get really involved in books, movies and tv shows, and I'm notorious for over-empathizing with the characters.

You can understand my shock, though, when I came home to this real-life news story tonight: "6 arrested in week-long attack on woman." Please read it for yourself. I can't get through it without feeling sick to my stomach. And this time it's not merely sexist (even performed by both men and women, rape is still sexist) -- but it's also overtly, disgustingly, passionately, unabashedly racist. I can't even take it. I don't have much to say on the matter, except that it makes me really sad. I hope these people get put away forever, and that their slimy lawyers don't make up some ridiculous alternative explanation that everyone believes (like they did in the book) and that nobody turns against the girl trapped in the house. As affronted as I am by this, I'm refusing to refuse to talk about it, because silence is betrayal. Everyone should read this article and be aware that small versions of this kind of abuse happen every day, whether it's rape or hate crimes or both, like this one. Racism and sexism live on. Don't just stand by and watch.


IrishGuy said...

Great work. I like it a lot.

- Dan Bodkin

Liz said...

I'll have to pick the book up. There is a book called "Our Guys" that is based on a true story that depicts the same thing. A group of high school jocks rape a mentally disabled girl and the town turns against the girl. It makes my stomach turn every time I think about it.

Taryn said...

I read this book awhile back. I loved it though it was really hard to make it through. Now that I work at a rape crisis center it has a lot more merit. I see this kind of thing on a daily basis and it makes me feel sad and angry that assault are happening more frequently now.

Lisa said...

I agree, it's so horrible. Working at a rape crisis center is something I used to want to do, but I don't know if I could handle it. I'm so sensitive, and I get so upset about these things. It's great that you are doing it!