How many of us can recall a time that someone reminded us of how ungrateful we are?
“At least you got a job!”
At least you got a roof over your head!”
At least you got food on the table!”
Because clearly we forgot how fortunate we are to have the bare necessities of life. It’s not to say that we shouldn’t be grateful for having our basic needs met but being too grateful for the minimum can lead to feeling ungrateful for wanting more. Those feelings of ingratitude can be intensified when you have people around you that are reminding you to stop wanting more and start being grateful.
What it does is place value on the things you have instead of how you feel about it. Your employment is what matters, not whether you like it. Your ability to pay rent is what matters, not the inequality in your career field. So if these things have a higher value than you, it opens the door for other things to have more value than you as well. What other things are more valuable than you? Are other people more valuable than you? Just how low in value are you really? Where do you fall in this hierarchy?
I hate to break it to you but that is a part of rape culture. It certainly feeds into some other toxic cultures we battle in society but rape culture is one of them. Once a person is convinced that their value is less than something else, it starts to diminish their self-worth. This makes them a target for predators. Predators are not cave men that walk up to someone, club them over the head, and drag them by their hair back to the cave. They strategically look for people that have a shattered perception of self, use the vulnerability to gain trust, and eventually turn that person into a victim.
I reluctantly watched the Surviving R. Kelly docuseries and was extremely disturbed. I was more disturbed than I thought I would be. I initially decided not to watch it worried that it might be too much for me to handle. Would it trigger some emotions from my own past that I haven’t worked through completely? Then I realized that I can’t hide from myself or the happenings of the world – so I watched it.
It did leave me feeling compelled to talk about rape culture. I saw way too many recurring themes in this docuseries. I want to touch on just three things in this post that feed into rape culture that we encounter almost every day that give predators a growing number of targets and society the scapegoats necessary to avoid addressing the issue.
I’m not talking about trolling social media and leaving mean comments on someone’s post. I’m talking about the things we say to people we care about that make them feel bad. The “at least” mentality is definitely one example of shaming. We are trying to convince someone that they should feel grateful for what they have. Instead, it can feed into the larger idea that they don’t deserve more than what they have. They are not worthy of more and how they feel about it doesn’t matter. We see this with teenagers and parents sometimes. A teen may go to a parent and share something that is really bothering them. If the parent trivializes the issues making the problems seem unimportant or insignificant, the teen can feel like the parent doesn’t care. Inside, their problem feels big but now they are ashamed of themselves for bothering someone with their feelings. What if no one is willing the hear this teen out? He or she can start to feel like no one cares and they don’t matter. If a predator gets wind of this, they can step in as the person “that cares”. They will swoop in under the guise that “No one else cares, but I do.” This is all the teen needs – someone to care. Even when the situation turns unhealthy and abusive, they will hold onto the idea that this is still the only person that’s ever cared. Although the parent meant no harm or malice whatsoever, it’s a practice that could become detrimental. We are not going to relate to everyone’s struggle at any age, but we don’t have to shame them for their feelings about it either.
Taking Away Another’s Rights
We understand on a larger scale how denying rights to anyone oppresses them. They don’t feel like a part of the majority and the denial of rights leaves them in a position of inferiority. It implies they are less valuable. Telling a group of people that they can’t vote is implying that their voice doesn’t matter. It has no value. So what rights do we take away every day that feed into rape culture? Sometimes it’s something as simple as the right for a woman to dress how she would like. Even the debate on whether it’s ok to touch a pregnant woman’s belly is feeding into rape culture. How? I’m glad you asked!
If a woman is pregnant, she will hopefully be surrounded by friends and family that are happy right along with her. As a sign of excitement and admiration they will want to connect with her by rubbing her belly. What a sentimental gesture! But what if the woman doesn’t want her belly rubbed? I watched a segment of a very popular talk show where a panel of women discussed when it’s appropriate to touch pregnant women. It was very disturbing! How about when the woman wants you to? When did it become acceptable to touch people whether they like it or not? It’s a very degrading experience to not have no say in who gets to invade your personal space. Rubbing a pregnant belly seems so innocent and harmless, but it leaves a person feeling that they don’t have a right to say so. They don’t get to decide who touches them. They don’t get to decide who violates them. This widely accepted practice of taking away rights feeds into the rape culture, whether the right seems like a small thing or not.
Discomfort is Offensive
Unfortunately, I think a great deal of women have experienced being greeted by a man and being scoffed at or scolded when they don’t greet them back.
“I was just trying to be nice!”
“You could at least speak back!”
“Everybody ain’t trying to get you!”
And I’m sure some of us have heard much worse in our day. The idea is that the woman offended the man. He took the time to greet her and she wouldn’t even acknowledge him. How dare she! She was greeted with a “Hello” or a “Hey Beautiful” or a “Good Morning Gorgeous” and her ungrateful ass can’t even speak back!
As a woman that speaks to every person, man or woman, that speaks to me, replying to men has been one of the biggest time wasters in my life. Most of the men that do speak to me want more time than just those few seconds. Most of those men don’t want to hear that I’m not interested, or I have a boyfriend. Most of those men don’t plan to take no for an answer, and a simple hello turns into a 5-minute rejection/rebuttal exchange.
But what if I’m just uncomfortable? What if I’m just uncomfortable engaging with a man I don’t know? Does that not count? Most people don’t stop to think about the comfort level of the other person, and we’ve become conditioned to suppress our discomfort because it offends others.
Think about the situation with small children encountering an adult they are unfamiliar with. They may not want to hug or kiss them. They may not want to sit on their laps. They are uncomfortable. However, they are told by an adult that they must hug and kiss Uncle Jimmy or Aunt Betty. These could be two of the nicest people alive, but the lesson instilled in the child is that their discomfort is offensive and irrelevant. They are taught to suppress it and let this person in a position of authority do what they are requesting. This is a lesson that is taught so early that it’s second nature. You let people who want to touch you do it and you engage with people even when you don’t want to.
We are not malicious by nature. Even some of these practices are not malicious in nature. However, they allow the broken people that prey on these misguided individuals to step in and take advantage of them.
And of course, this short list is not all encompassing so please include your additions to this list as well as takeaways from this list in the comments section. Let's keep this discussion going.
After spending a year in grief counseling, I started to see that my life needed a major overhaul. Yes, my boyfriend died making me the single mom of our infant twins, but I was still grieving my loss of innocence from decades of abuse. I decided to turn my pain into a new purpose and to share this journey with others that may need some motivation.