Last weekend my sister-in-law came over for dinner and decided to go for a run in the late evening. As she was leaving she asked if it was “okay” to be going for a run so late at night in our area.
You have to understand that my sister-in-law is the strongest woman I know. Spiritually, physically and mentally. She coaches boxing, has amazing clarity and concentration and is the type of athlete to keep pushing long after she’s hit the wall. When I help her train I am sore for days afterward — not because of any new physical exertion on my part, but because of her intense power. She is not the type of person you want to back into a corner.
But she has to ask if it’s safe for her to run because that’s what we’ve been taught.
And in reply, I half-joked, “Sure. Just stick to the lighted path and keep your keys or a fork in your hand” — half implying that if anything were to happen, at least she could quickly attempt to defend herself with a sharp object. She gave me a wane smile and said, “I have my hands. They’re weapons on their own.”
Long after she left, I couldn’t help but think how much I hated our quick exchange. I hate how my gut reaction is to caution someone when running outside at night. I hate how the little hairs at the nape of my neck stand up and I walk more quickly when I’m alone in an underground parking garage. I hate how I feel like I have to tell Eryn to keep her legs together on Eid day when I realize her dress is too short for climbing and there are a lot of strangers watching her. I REALLY hate it when hijab is promoted as a defence against sexual assault.
I hate the entire “rape culture” and societal institutions teaching women and men that sexual assault and rape can be prevented by dressing modestly — that women should not impair their judgement by taking substances, shouldn’t speak with strangers, or behave in a manner that would attract the “wrong type” of attention. That men are taught sex is a conquest and that they can’t be sexually assaulted. When fault lies with the attacker, not the survivor. When women are more likely to be attacked by a person they know — as opposed to a stranger. When people should be taught NOT to rape instead of teaching women not to BE raped.
Femifesto is a collection of truly inspiring and amazing women committed to ending rape culture, survivor shaming and blaming, and creating safer community spaces. And they are working on an extremely important project to help provide mainstream Canadian media with language and frameworks to responsibly report on rape and sexual violence:
Recognizing the power of mainstream media to shape stories on sexual violence, we wanted to create an opportunity for our communities to talk back. In November femifesto will launch Reporting on Rape and Sexual Violence: A Canadian Media Toolkit.
What they’re looking for are voices that are often misrepresented or spoken for by the media. If you are a consumer of Canadian media and wish to add your opinion to help change the way sexual violence is portrayed, then I urge you to take 20 minutes and fill out this survey to help them inform this toolkit. Do it today because the survey will close on October 23rd!
The media often relies on stereotyping Muslim men as sexual savages and Muslim women as oppressed and voiceless. Cases of abuse are sensationalized — with broad generalizations about Islam or references to sexual violence statistics taken from Muslim-majority countries when discussing sexual violence in the Canadian Muslim context. As if to argue that Muslims are inherently violent and misogynistic, and helping perpetuate the xenophobic fear that honour killings or high rates of sexual assault in Muslim-majority countries will be imported into Canada. Muslim women survivors of sexual abuse are sexualized and are blamed for their assaults because they are Muslim.
There is a media culture which demonizes Muslims and Muslim cultures — and this unfortunately helps further a culture of silence within Muslim communities when it comes to discussing sexual abuse. So please, add your voice to help enrich this important project.