Trigger warning: description of rape, rape culture, misogyny, bullying, suicide
Something I didn’t really get into in my last post about Amanda Todd’s suicide is the misogyny, sexism, and clear and present rape culture apparent in the details of the case. I did originally write about it in my post, but decided I wanted to focus on suicide and not misogyny in that post, and that I could write a follow-up post later.
This is that follow-up post.
Most of the posts about Amanda attribute her suicide to bullying and tend to ignore the fact that it was more than bullying. It was sexual harassment. It was assault based on slut-shaming.
She was convinced to flash a guy on webcam. We don’t know if she was coerced or not, but it’s likely. Regardless, she regretted doing it.
Then she was stalked and harassed by a guy who had gotten a hold of a screenshot of that flash, who told her to “give him a show” or he’d distribute the picture to all her friends.
That’s rape culture.
The idea that men are entitled to women’s bodies, and that if they don’t get what they want they can force the issue — that’s rape culture. The idea that stalking and harassing a girl because she flashed someone once online is acceptable — that’s rape culture. The idea that she got what she deserved because she slept with someone who was involved with another person — that’s rape culture. The framing of the story by certain news agencies to moralize about how girls shouldn’t show their breasts on webcam because, oh, look what happens — that’s rape culture. The fact that no one is really talking about the misogyny, sexism, and slut-shaming present in her case — that’s rape culture. The comments on various sites by “trolls” — rape culture.
And social media has made rape culture more pervasive and more dangerous.
This bullying that Amanda received was based on fundamental beliefs that people hold about women, their sexuality, and whether or not they own their own bodies — and all those ideas come from rape culture.
And the bullying, the harassment, of Amanda Todd is continuing even after her death. This story has become big, internationally, and the people who are bullying her still are not limited to people in British Columbia. I witnessed a few people come into one of the threads on the Facebook page dedicated to remembering her — RIP Amanda Todd — and start to talk about how no one actually knew her like they did, and that she’d “asked for it”, that she’d “brought it upon herself”.
Before I ask you if that wording sounds familiar at all, I’d like to point out that these people weren’t even Canadian. They were from various places in the States. They’d obviously never met Amanda Todd and didn’t know her or anyone in this town. Yet they felt compelled to lie in order to continue to harass a girl who’d committed suicide over the bullying she received.
The phrases “she asked for it” and “she brought it upon herself” should sound familiar. We hear it every day when we hear news about a woman who’s been sexually assaulted. Raped. Molested. Abused. Murdered. Gone missing.
Bullied to the point of committing suicide.
And in the wake of this tragedy, BC and Canada are looking at ways of stopping bullying. Which is admirable, but fucking useless. Anti-bullying laws won’t stop the underlying problem: misogyny and rape culture. It’s putting a bandaid on a bullet wound.
What needs to be addressed is the belief that a woman who shows her breasts is somehow less of a person because of it. What needs to be addressed is this feeling in young girls that they must be accepted, that they would do anything to be liked, even if it means being convinced to do things they’re less than comfortable with — things that can come back to haunt them. I didn’t know Amanda Todd, and I don’t know if that’s what happened to her — but I remember being around that age. I remember being coerced into having sex against my will when I was ten years old, because I was so desperate for my step-brother to stop treating me like shit. I remember not wanting it, but convincing myself that he’d like me better if I did it. I remember doing a host of other sexual activities that he asked for, because all I wanted was for my step-family to treat me like a human being instead of some sick animal that had crawled into their house to die that no one wanted to touch or feed or show any affection.
I remember exactly what it was like to be 12 years old in a world that told me I was only worth anything as a sexual object.
I remember feeling wanted when I agreed to do sexual things I wasn’t comfortable with. I remember being coerced into doing sexual acts online with people I didn’t know, and in meatspace with people I did know. I remember blaming myself for years, and never telling anyone until I was twenty.
If I’d had a webcam when I was 12, I probably would have flashed someone too. Not realizing that once something is on the internet, it’s out there forever. Not realizing it would be really unsafe for me to do that as an underage kid (I did a lot of things unsafely online when I was underage). Not realizing that the same society that wants me to be a sexual object because that’s the only way I’m worth something will also punish me for showing any sexuality.
This is rape culture. It’s a culture that demands ownership over women’s bodies and sexualities; it’s a culture that tells women that their only worth is as a sexual object; it’s a culture that punishes women for their sexuality. It’s what I grew up in, and it’s what Amanda Todd grew up in. And it’s what drove her to suicide.
Not simple bullying. Bullying based in rape culture.
And no one is talking about it. Because rape culture encourages silence.