Several months ago when the rape in Steubenville, Ohio went viral, it sent shockwaves throughout the country. People were left with their mouths hanging open as a teenage girl was publically violated while onlookers (her peers) took photos and shared the images of her rape on social media. It wasn’t until the group Anonymous began to publically shame the police for the handling of the case did the horrific incident head to court where justice could be served.
The media was left to wonder aloud “how could these kids let this happen”? “How could they not know that a rape was happening right in front of them?” And for a little while we opened up a very important dialogue around rape culture in this country—that is until this week.
During a performance for her Mrs. Carter tour in Denmark, Beyoncé was slapped on the butt by an extremely rude “fan, who thought he was well within his right to place his hand on her body without invitation. Instead of the press being outraged by this violation of her body and space, the coverage of this incident has been laughed off and turned into a joke.
Rape culture isn’t a laughing matter.
What’s even more disturbing than the coverage of this incident, are the comments being left by men on social media sites that have written “if you dress like a ho, you get treated like one”. So, a female gymnast or a swimmer that is performing a floor routine or a competing in a race deserves to be groped because of their costume or uniform? A woman’s attire isn’t an invitation for sexual assault or harassment.
The very fact that the anchors of the TODAY show were laughing at the Beyoncé incident on air, instead of condemning this behavior, is exactly why the kids in Steubenville didn’t think anything wrong was happening, when their peer was being raped right in front of them. The teenage girl who was assaulted was drunk, right? So, that means she asking to be assaulted, right? This was a just high school boys being boys, right? WRONG. By our very actions and reactions to sexual harassment and assault we teach girls how to value themselves and boys how to objectify them.
When we laugh off a woman being touched, violated and entered without her permission we are giving license to perpetrators of sexual assault, that a woman’s body is not her own. And that it’s not only appropriate to objectify her, but you should be celebrated like the man in Denmark for your “masculinity and daring behavior”. Think about the message this sends to young woman and girls that if they respond to such inappropriate behavior, as an unwanted slap on the behind, that they are “overreacting and can’t take a joke”.
We need to set a better example and let our girls know that their bodies are theirs alone, and no one has the right to touch them without their permission. There is Steubenville’s happening all over this country and those with the microphones have an opportunity to send a message, rape culture isn’t a punch line.