Downton Abbey’s Rape Scene in Bad Taste?

Image Courtesy: theguardian.com

Image Courtesy: theguardian.com

After the last episode of Downton Abbey, every one seems to be up in arms over the rape scene included in that episode. Whether it was done for the ratings or out of the need to tackle such a huge subject on national television, we will never truly know. What we do know is that people aren’t happy and I’d like to ask why?

According to an article on the Daily Mail, in the episode that aired on Sunday night, Joanna Froggatt’s character, Anna Bates, was attacked by Mr Green, played by actor Nigel Harman. It sparked more than 200 complaints from hardcore fans of the show to ITV and Ofcom with many saying it was too strong for a Sunday night.

Image Courtesy: telegraph.co.uk

Image Courtesy: telegraph.co.uk

The shows creator, Julian Fellowes has defended the episode by saying, “If we’d have wanted a sensational rape we could have stayed down in the kitchen with the camera during the whole thing and wrung it out.

The point of our handling is not that we’re interested in sensationalizing but we’re interested in exploring the mental damage and the emotional damage.”

Image Courtesy: dailymail.co.uk

Image Courtesy: dailymail.co.uk

Even the actress whose character was raped in the scene has come out to publicly defend the scene, claiming that the show should be respected for their bravery exemplified by tackling such a huge global issue.

“I think he’s done a beautiful job with hitting the right note with it. We all just felt a big responsibility to get it right,” she said.

What I find puzzling is why is every one up in arms about this? Firstly, it is a TV show and if you don’t like what you see you have the option to turn off your television and not watch. Secondly, Downton Abbey is far from the only drama series that has portrayed sexual violence against women in some way shape or form. Grey’s Anatomy, Law & Order (Special Vicitms Unit) and the BBC’s drama series: The Fall are just a few of the several series that portray sexual violence in some  or all of their episodes.

Furthermore, routine sexual abuse of domestic helpers during that era was commonplace, so claims that the producers and directors of the show were not being true to the era are misplaced. According to an article in The Guardian, “in terms of the way female servants were treated by those above and below stairs, it was accurate: many were raped, mistreated or subjected to abuse. This is part of our social history that cannot be ignored”.

So why the huge uproar? I think it’s largely because despite the prevalence of such violence against women all over the world, people are still largely uncomfortable with dealing with this issue when it is right in front of them.

Writing on Twitter, viewer Alexia Light also said that Downton Abbey’s creator Julian Fellowes owed viewers an apology over the “sick and sensationalist” scene.

Another viewer Caroline Farrow described the scenes of sexual violence as “very distressing”.

Sure, television probably gives us a distorted impression of what is truly happening around the world. But, shouldn’t we be acclimatised to crimes of such a nature because we all know it’s happening all around us. No – rape is still a rather hush-hush topic that people see or hear of but don’t speak about. It’s amazing to me how in the century of communication, such an important topic is seen as something we used fear and be unaware of. If we aren’t ready to deal with the harsh reality of rape and sexual violence entails, how can we ever hope for change?

This is not to say that I condone the use of rape and violence against women as a ploy to get ratings up. If this were truly the case – which we will never really know – it is undoubtedly despicable. I despise sexualized content for the sake of entertainment. However, I do believe that “Julian Fellowes has done a fine job of portraying many of the difficulties experienced by women in the early 20th century: death in childbirth, destitution due to illegitimacy, the impact wrought by the horror of war”.

It is extremely important that sexual violence is discussed openly, and if portraying it on television leads to a dialogue, then that can only be a good thing. Like the article in the The Guardian states, “we should not be analyzing the scene itself, but how it is dealt with in the coming weeks. That will reveal more about the writer’s motivations than a moment of high drama ever will”.

What are your views? Do you think the show went too far or are we still not comfortable enough to have an open dialogue about sexual violence?

We have a voice, lets use it.

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Is Social Media Ruining Teenage Girls?

Social media has become an all-consuming culture that people all over the world can’t get enough of. However, it seems to be doing much more harm than good. According to an outstanding expose by Vanity Fair entitled Friends Without Benefits, not only has social media distorted gender roles for young people but more importantly, it has given young boys “the right to expect everything from social submission to outright sex from their female peers”.

Image Courtesy: aboutourkids.org

Image Courtesy: aboutourkids.org

The twenty-first century generation of children are a generation like no other. Strapped with the latest gadgets and smartphones, majority of them hardly come up for air, let alone engagement with the world outside their social media reality. Instead of developing long-lasting friendships and relationships, kids these days are preoccupied with how many “likes” they get on Instagram and how many followers they have on Twitter.

While this may seem harmless to many people, a new generation of apps, readily available to kids as young as 13 can be threatening in more ways than one. Tinder, a mobile dating app is one of the most commonly used app for teens to “hook up”. No, not get to know each other but solely “hook up”. In fact, apps like Tinder and Grinder have been accused of being too “time-consuming”. The almost 5 minutes you take to analyse a person’s profile and decide whether he/she is good enough for you to “hook up” with is seen as a rather long time stamp when a new app called Pure, offers its subscribers sex in an instant.

If this isn’t astonishing enough for you, not to worry, it only gets worse.

Once you become a member and you decide you’d like to hook up, you submit a request. You say if you’re looking for a man or a woman, and if you can host or travel. The app then presents you with some optional matches. Your photos are only visible to your matches, and no nudity is allowed on your profile photos. If you like a match, you choose him or her. If you both choose each other, you get connected. From there, you can request more photos of your match’s face and body.  According to the application’s website, “If you want to see more pictures, just request them. No prior chat necessary”.

In fact, according to the Vanity Fair article, the reason for hooking up is less about pleasure and fun than performance and gossip—it’s being able to update (on social media) about it. “Social media is fostering a very unthinking and unfeeling culture. We’re raising our kids to be performers.”

Image Courtesy: examiner.com

Image Courtesy: examiner.com

To me, the fact that such young people willingly utilized or would be willing to utilize such apps was baffling. I simply could not wrap my head around the fact that young girls, fully aware of the dangers lurking online, would be more than happy to participate and engage in a social medium like this. Upon further reading, I started to understand that majority of the girls who actively participated in social media were looking for one main thing, approval and validation. The number of likes they got on pictures, or the number of requests they got to “hook up” in some sense not only validated their self-worth but, their social status. In fact, one of the questions posed to the girls interviewed for the article in Vanity Fair, was whether or not “they knew girls who posted provocative pictures of themselves”. They all answered yes.

“More provocative equals more likes,” said Greta.

“It attracts more guys and then it makes other girls think about doing it just for the attention. They’re attention whores,” said Padma, frowning.

“I think some girls post slutty pictures of themselves to show guys the side to them that guys want to see,” said Zoe. “It’s annoying.”

“Girls call them sluts. Boys call it hot,” said Padma.

Greta shrugged. “I call it hilarious.”

Firstly, when did  attracting men or boys become dependent on how provocatively you portrayed yourself? Secondly, if women themselves insist on perpetuating certain underhanded stereotypes of the female gender, how can we as women, expect men to not feed off this stereotype? And lastly, if these young women’s sense of their own agency is so detached, how can we expect young men to show the adequate respect that is due every woman?

Image Courtesy: self.com

Image Courtesy: self.com

This post is not to disregard the enormous good that social media has done in its attempts to discourage and eliminate sexual violence among the youth. In fact, the app Circle 6, the winner of the White House’s “Apps Against Abuse” technology challenge, allows users to reach a group of six trusted friends with clear messages for help in one to two clicks of a button. It is designed to help men and women create support networks and communities on whom they can rely for help in both immediately threatening situations and more entrenched, relationship-based ones.

However, the bigger and more important question we should ask ourselves is how effective will apps like this be in preventing sexual violence?

What do you guys think? What are the rewards for upholding our socially scripted roles, and what are the penalties and punishments doled out for those who transgress unintentionally or willingly? Can these penalties be dangerous?

We have a voice, lets use it.

Do note that every once in a while, I will explore issues outside the exclusive realm of sexual violence, that I feel deserve a great amount of attention. Do Check out “Hot Topics” for more prolific issues around the world.

Why Women May Be Perpetuating Rape Myths

As women, when issues of rape are brought to the table, we often point the finger whole-heartedly at men. However, in a recent survey, almost a third of the women surveyed claimed that there are varying degrees of rape. The same proportion also believe that if a woman does not fight back, the assault cannot amount to rape.

Image Courtesy: plus.google.com

Image Courtesy: plus.google.com

This implies that the problem could lie with women’s perception of what rape truly is, reducing the conviction rate of a crime that is evidently on the rise.

In fact, the latest figures from the UK’s Ministry of Justice, show an estimated 60,000 to 95,000 incidents of rape on average in the last three years. Only 15,670 of these were reported to police, of which 2,910 rape cases went to court. This resulted in a total of 1,070 rape prosecutions.

While the dismal conviction rate may have something to do with the UK’s judicial system, it also has something to do with the lack of knowledge among women in terms what really amounts to being raped. In the survey carried out by the Charity Rape Crisis, a quarter of the 1,000 women surveyed, incorrectly thought if someone was drunk it could not be classified as rape, while 60% thought it did not count if a woman does not say no.

What struck me the most was the fact that rape was so completely misunderstood. Rape is a subset of sexual violence, defined by the World Health Organization as any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, or other act directed against a person’s sexuality using coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting.

It is easy to doubt a victim’s story especially if she was intoxicated when the assault had taken place. However, it should be noted that no woman who was drinking or drunk, is inviting rape. Instead, the fact that a person was too drunk or was under the influence of alcohol should imply that they were probably incapable of consenting to sex or making a sound decision in the first place.

The bottom line still remains that sex without consent is rape, and trying to justify a sexual encounter by claiming that the woman provided consent despite the fact that she was heavily intoxicated, is an extremely flawed argument.

Myths like this need to be dispelled not only so that rape can be reported accurately, but more so that the victim feels safe and secure enough in their decision to come forward with a possible rape charge.

What are your thoughts, can situations exist where rape isn’t rape? Can rape ever have varying degrees to constitute it actually happening?

We have a voice, lets use it.

For more information on rape myths, do check out the Rape Crisis website where accurate and clear information about what does and does not constitute rape is provided.

It’s Our Fault

Aren’t we all sick of being told that rape is our- the woman’s – fault? This sarcastic video, courtesy of the All Indian Bakchod (AIB), went viral a couple of days ago and demonstrates everything society needs to forget in order to get rid of a rape culture and more importantly the rape epidemic, especially in India. Blaming the victim is something that has to be stopped. Have a look and together let’s help change society’s mentality toward women and sexual violence.

It’s NOT my fault.

We have a voice, let’s use it.

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‘No’ Should Mean No

In a new survey, almost a quarter of the men in  the Asia-Pacific region have admitted to committing the heinous of rape at some stage in their life.

 The study covering six countries – Bangladesh,China, Cambodia,  Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Sri Lanka – found that 10% of men admitted to raping at least once a woman who was not their partner. The figure rose to nearly 25% when rape of a partner was included.

Image Courtesy: weheartit.com

Image Courtesy: weheartit.com

What struck me as particularly odd was the fact that the men willingly admitted to raping women as they felt they were sexually entitled to such activity.  Almost 75% of the men surveyed admitted to this reasoning while the remainder cited entertainment as their main motive for rape.

Unsure of exactly what the word ‘entitlement’ meant, I decided to look it up. The definition for those of you wondering is –

An entitlement is a guarantee of access to something, based on established rights or by legislation.

Now, I do agree that by virtue of being alive we are all entitled to certain things, food, water, shelter, education, heath care and so on. I do not believe however, that men are entitled to sex. The difference, I hope, is plainly obvious: the things on the former list are all necessary for survival  (if not always, then at some point), while sex is not.

I was speaking with a few of my girlfriends and the broad consensus on the issue of sexual entitlement was that it is a “load of crap”. To some the whole concept was almost laughable and rightfully so. It’s almost as good as saying I’m entitled to kick you in the crotch, as my dear friend explicitly put it. We all know that no one is entitled to kick anyone, and by likening kicking someone in the crotch to sexual entitlement, the hope is that one can see how ludicrous the entire argument is.

Furthermore, as far as I know sexual entitlement is not enshrined by any international organization or national constitution (thankfully) and neither is it enshrined in the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As far as legislation goes, I could come up with nothing that guarantees it.

It can be argued that in some situations the story is not so black and white. However, by paying close attention to the countries surveyed in this report, it should be known that most, if not all, of them suffer from grave social inequalities. Women’s rights are barely noticed, let alone, guaranteed.

As such, 1 golden rule should always apply and be engrained into the mindsets of these people, so far removed form reality.

A person ALWAYS has the right to say ‘No’

What are your views? Do you guys believe there is an argument to be made for social entitlement?

We have a voice, use it.

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Does It Matter What Clothes I Wear?

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The way a woman dresses is often seen as an incitement to rape.

The basic premise of this argument is deeply flawed. It places a disproportionate blame on the victim. It simply means, if you are sexually assaulted, the way you were dressed at the time of the attack, makes it understandable and in some sense, justified. How many of you have a problem with this skewed logic? I do.

Firstly, rapists look for easy, vulnerable targets. Thinking that women provoke attacks against them by the way they dress transfers blame from the perpetrator to the victim. In India, the statistic is something like a female is raped every 20 minutes. Anyone who has visited India will see that other than the metropolitan cities like Mumbai, females are very seldom seen wearing anything other than the traditional Indian kurta or sari. In contrast, in more modern countries like Singapore, where often women are seen strolling around in shorts that barely cover their bottoms, the rape rate is much lower.

Secondly, if clothing were truly the main motive for rape then what explains the rampant rape of infants in India. 53% of children in the country have faced sexual abuse of some form and almost 50% of the abuses are carried out by persons known to the child or by people who are in a position of trust and responsibility.

In my opinion, clothes definitely do not cause rape, rapists do. This argument simply creates a social stigma – which badly needs to be crushed – that rape is OK as long as the victim was “asking for it” by the way she was dressed. It instigates that men cannot be held accountable for the ways in which women tempt them- nor should they be forced to.

It should be understood that I do not advocate that women wear provocative clothing. However, I do believe that no woman asks to be raped or deserves it. The main issue or rather the bigger problem is a social one. If society themselves believe that the victim bears responsibility in their own sexual assault, how can justice ever be achieved?

Society shouldn’t only teach us to not get raped, society should more importantly teach us not to rape.

What are your views? Should the victim assume some responsibility? Or should men learn to control their animalistic urges?

We have a voice, use it.