TW: sexual assault, rape culture, condoning of sexual assault
2012 was the year in which sexual assault, and particularly its gendered dimensions, became something everyone had to acknowledge. And I mean everyone.
There’s a lot of different issues that could be said to have defined the Republican Party during the US’s elections this year. From the racism to the classism, a constant refrain was that those with little deserved even less. Beyond those steps taken by the party, women, particularly if affected by sexual assault or other violence related to their gender, were subject to similarly stupid proposed policies. Jezebel’s Erin Gloria Ryan wrote excellently in August about the fatigue of beginning to lose track of how many horrifying statements about rape and sexual violence had floated around the Republican Party, at times translating into actually disgusting political proposals. The dangers were quite clear: electoral victories by the GOP would legitimize legal decisions that reflected these admitted beliefs. Women voters (especially when young or of color) by and large got that message and sent their own response back.
Blowback against these sort of attitudes was hardly an exclusively American or even first world phenomenon, this year. As allegations surfaced that the new government in Egypt had maintained the prior regime’s use of sexual violence against female protesters to discourage public dissent, there was a clear public outcry. Protesters have since embarked on a campaign to actively shame participants in sexual violence (Egyptian Arabic only, sorry) and to establish procedures to help anyone attacked by the police or others in the public places. Reports of sexual assault in Tahrir have declined since then, but whether a long term solution has been reached remains to be seen.
(One of the countless protests continuing throughout India since mid-December. From here.)
Most recently, however, an especially violent sexual assault in India has mobilized much of the country there. Protests and vigils have held everyone responsible – from parents to the police. New Years celebrations have been dampened or canceled out of some mixture of automatic respect and demanded contemplation of the issue at hand.
Across the world, 2012 seems to have been the year that women made themselves heard when they said that they weren’t going to take it anymore.