In Response To The Stanford Rape Case: Our Sisters' struggles start young

Written by Rachel Staples

 Graphic by  Katie O'Reilly .

Graphic by Katie O'Reilly.

 

When a girl is born and knows nothing of the world around her, she is branded— innocent, sweet, cute, and in need of total protection.

 

Which makes sense because she is a baby, who can't hold up her own neck.


As she becomes a child, she is taught what it is to be a lady. Dress to impress (the man), never curse (that's for men), be fond of “feminine” creatures, like cats or something with wings (not alligators or rhinos), play with dolls (trucks and cars are for boys), love pink or purple (blue is a boy’s color), don't play rough (leave that to the boys), and always be sweet, innocent, and cute.


As she grows even older she learns and relearns what it is to be a girl.

 

She knows now that for the foreseeable future she must bleed monthly so that eventually she can have a baby, she knows that if she kisses a boy it doesn't mean he loves you, she knows that if she kisses a few boys she will be labeled a slut, she knows that if she kisses a girl it could cause problems (apparently her sexuality is everyone's business). She is trying to find out who she is, but she must always remember to be sweet, innocent, and cute.


When this young woman graduates high school and gets ready for  college or to start an independent life, she is given the advice: always watch your drink, watch what you say, watch where you are going, don't walk alone at night (actually never be alone ever), always be aware of your surroundings, don't cause trouble, watch out for men, dress how you deserve to be treated, don't be a slut, but find a man to marry and support you, don't get pregnant, don't drink too much, get good grades, stay attractive (for the man), be yourself, learn to trust (but not too much), and most importantly remember to be sweet, innocent, and cute.  


This same woman is gifted pepper spray, "safety cats," and rape whistles when she graduates.

 

Her parents sign her up for self defense classes, where she is taught what areas to attack first. Gauge the eyeballs, knee the groin, clap the ears, kick the shins, stomp the toes, bite whatever you can, use your nails, punch, kick, scream, and do whatever it takes to protect yourself.


Interesting enough young men don't take classes on "how to defend themselves."

 

The advice they receive before independency is to not drink too much, focus on school, use protection, and don't knock up a girl unless you love her. They aren't taught to watch their drinks or to always have a friend at a party. Boys aren't taught to "not be a slut,” but rather are encouraged and pressured by their male peers to sleep around.
 

While the girls sat in a classroom listening to terrifying stories and facts of sexual abuse, assault, and rape, the boys got to play basketball.


Men and boys are not taught to ask for consent or that no means no. So in January 2015, when a young woman was attacked, sexually assaulted, and taken advantage of on Stanford University’s campus by a Stanford white male student and athlete, I was not surprised but I was incredibly heartbroken.

 

Another sister was a casualty of white male empowerment and carelessness. I understand that white males aren't the only ones who can be careless and empowered, so I guess I should say she was a casualty of male empowerment.

 

There, better?


Men have been the ruling majority for as long as you want to look back in time. They take what they want because they can. Of course there is the age-old phrase "not every guy…," and yet we live in a society where women are in need of protection from the day they emerge from their mother’s womb until the day they die. For boys that need disappears as they grow and become larger than their mothers.
 


It is a fact that in the United States one in six women will be a rape victim. I was taught this in self defense class my senior year of high school. It was a required part of physical education for all senior girls. While the girls sat in a classroom listening to terrifying stories and facts of sexual abuse, assault, and rape, the boys got to play basketball. They were not required to learn that one in five women will be sexually assaulted in college alone and of that number 90% of them will not speak a word of it because they are ashamed— because they failed what they were taught their entire lives: stay sweet, innocent, and cute. Rape and sexual assault are not cute. They are not committed out of innocence.
 


Women have an unspoken connection to almost any other woman they meet, because at one point or another she had been worried for her own safety in the presence of a male. This connection makes me hate Brock Allen Turner. He is supposedly a great swimmer, but that does not matter. He raped a sister behind a dumpster when she was in such a state that she couldn't even object. The men that stopped Turner from raping her thought she was dead.
 


As heinous as the act was, I once again was not surprised by his conviction and sentence of six months in jail. We live in a world where male feelings are held at a higher regard than justice for the sisters who are wronged. Even though he was found guilty of three accounts of sexual assault, he is being coddled and protected because the judge believes that jail time would have a severe impact on him. Not unlike his impact on the victim he made.
 


God forbid a young white male who has committed and been convicted of three felonies have a jail sentence long enough to put a severe impact on him, right? His father claimed he endears almost anyone he meets—  I suppose his victim is the exception? Oh, but his father also says he was struggling to fit in socially.

 

I hope for a future where we do not condition our daughters to be anything but themselves and our sons to understand the meaning of no and to always ask for consent.

So I guess Brock is one of those rare people that can be both ends of a spectrum.
 


Through all of this, I think the only positive outcome has been the letter the victim wrote to Turner. She showed that women are made of steel, disguised as porcelain. She addressed the privilege Turner was granted for his gender and race, and although she never should have had to be activist against rape, her letter has been read by millions of people and caused uproar about the injustice of her attacker’s sentencing.

 

She was not sweet, innocent, or cute in this letter For that, I applaud her.
 


More than anything, I wish that women did not have to suffer traumatizing and terrifying experiences in order for the issue of rape, sexual assault, and sexual abuse to be taken seriously. Until that day comes, I hope her words and story encourage women to be strong and know they deserve more.

 

I hope men and boys will hold Turner as an example of what not to be. I hope for a future where we do not condition our daughters to be anything but themselves and our sons to understand the meaning of no and to always ask for consent. I hope for a better society, where gender standards and privileges are a thing of the past.


I hope for justice and equality, and do not intend to give up that hope until it is fact.

 

Contact Rachel on Instagram at @rachel_staplez.