The victim is often held accountable for the aggression that is the responsibility of the assaulter. When a woman is subjected to sexual violence, she is the one who is held at gunpoint. It’s needless to say that this is how patriarchy works: its entire structure is framed to discount atrocities imposed by men. Rape culture has been here since the beginning of time. The media we consume is of no help, most times. But we have literature. Nothing changes preconceived notions and fixes our misinformed brains like books. So, here is a list of amazing reads that I feel will be of great help to anyone trying to better understand rape culture.
Room by Emma Donoghue
This book is narrated from the point of view of a 5-year-old boy named Jack. His ‘Ma’ was abducted and held in captivity for years. Her rapist felt entitled to her body and every time he came to pay her his customary visit she locked Jack inside a wardrobe. Men’s apathy towards women never fails to amaze me. What’s commendable is how she didn’t lose her will to fight and hope that someday she might be able to get away from the toxicity she was a victim of.
An Untamed State by Roxane Gay
Roxane Gay has a way of making words come to life, thus making her readers feel everything she means to convey intensely. This is a novel about Mireille Duval Jameson, who was abducted in front of her father’s Port au Prince estate. It’s a tale of power and what steps people take when others’ privilege adversely impacts their well being. However, the main point to note here is how women are made into scapegoats: how their bodies are used by men as if they are theirs for the taking, and how they are used to satiate ego struggles. When did legit human beings become objects of exchange? Oh wait, women getting treated as humans and not objects is an alien concept in our world.
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Melinda lapsed into emotional anesthesia after an upperclassman raped her. Her classmates misunderstood her for calling the cops at the party where she was raped. To top it off, she became a social outcast. No one tried to comprehend what she was going through. Her only solace was her art class, through which she would eventually learn how to speak up for herself. Silence never protects us. It only amplifies our mental wreckage. This book is very educational for everyone as it talks about why having a vocabulary to understand and vocalize sexual abuse is imperative.
The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
Here, I would like to elaborate on how Mindy McGinnis portrayed women’s fear of aging and how we often equate that with physical unattractiveness. Pretty is literally the price women have to pay to keep existing. Fitting into the male fantasy of an ideal female body is the only way of proving your worth. Thus, girls like Branley use sex as a currency to get what they want. They don’t know how else to survive as they are also viewing themselves from the lens of patriarchy. Naomi Woolf would be very disappointed in all of us. For me, the best part of this book was how the author made all her female characters flawed, and thus human. One of the mind-blowing women who normalized female unlikability and made us all not just own it but also revel in it was Phoebe Waller-Bridge, with her iconic TV show Fleabag. I’m just glad that McGinnis played by the same rules.