Last Wednesday was “Women’s Equality Day,” but not all cries of gender discrimination are created equal.
In her article commemorating the special day (“7 Things To Know If You Think Women Are Equal To Men”), Huffington Post Deputy Editor Nina Bahadur wrote:
According to the CDC, an estimated 1 in 5 women in the United States has been raped in their lifetime, compared to 1 in 71 men. We need to put an end to all sexual assault — and understanding the gender discrepancy in the victims is one step towards elimination. (Emphasis added.)
Bahadur’s blanket call to end “all sexual assault” on both genders is a welcome reminder that equality means equality and not, say, toplessness, as so many women in Times Square construe.
But how is “understanding the gender discrepancy in the victims” a step toward eliminating sexual assault, as Bahadur claims?
Bahadur implies that there are swaths of Americans out there who remain disengaged on the issue of rape because they don’t realize most rape victims are female.
She seems to think many Americans might read her cited CDC statistic and say, “What? I had no idea more women than men are being raped. I could live with it when I thought more rape victims were male. But this is just unfair.”
Abusing ‘Rape’ Issue to Plug Women’s Equality Day
There are two red flags here, both of which suggest that the author inappropriately leveraged a tragic issue in order to play into the Women’s Equality Day hype.
First of all, let’s test her theory. Does anyone really think some Americans are walking around under the misconception that men are sexually assaulted more than women? Was anyone reading HuffPo shocked to learn that far more women than men are rape victims? Does the American man even exist who thinks that because he is not being raped, women aren’t?
All doubtful. Most–in fact this might be a rare case when we could say literally all–Americans comprehend that men are more likely to commit sexual assault than women, and that most men are heterosexual. Ergo, most rape victims are women.
Obviously these women’s rapists, who objectify them before plundering their bodies and ruining their lives, degrade women beneath not only male, but human, status.
But to suggest that one reason these monsters keep it up is that large pockets of Americans mistakenly think men and women are being raped at equal rates–and, therefore, are more or less cool with it? I doubt that is accurate.
The second red flag here is that supposing (by a far stretch) that such misinformed Americans do exist, they are indeed sexist–but against men, not women. To be passive on the issue of sexual assault when you think men are being raped, only to spring to action once Bahadur and the CDC blow your mind by revealing that women are much likelier rape victims, would be to admit sexism against male victims.
Let’s Have a Discussion That Actually Helps Victims
The problem with Bahadur’s peculiar cry of rape on Women’s Equality Day is that she conflates two serious concerns, and risks confusing others as to resolving them.
That women are raped more often than men does not reflect widespread national bias against women, such as Women’s Equality Day exists to eradicate. It does reflect extreme sexism, even sadism, in the isolated anomaly of a woman’s rapist. An oft-cited study by the University of Boston’s David Lisak pegs that number at 6.5 percent of men. That number is roughly the same on college campuses, as Slate reported in a 2014 article titled “Rape Victims are Common. Rapists Are Not.”
To spin the disparity between female and male victims of sexual assault as yet another example of America’s allegedly widespread war on women is to distract from meaningful education about rape victims and rape prevention.
The CDC report Bahadur cites, for instance, contains pages of mortifying statistics on which more Americans should educate themselves. Most are unlikely to do so. But maybe they will take two minutes to read this gut-wrenching list of “50 Actual Facts About Rape,” also from HuffPo.
Confusing the issue of rape with en masse gender discrimination commits one more foul: it tees up the argument that a victim pool consisting of more men and less women would somehow count as improvement. Anyone, regardless of the numbers, who would argue as much is sexist indeed.
Bahadur’s intentions seem pure, but she should stop changing lanes. That’s dangerous with so many topless women about.