Power Imbalance

Featured Image: “Don’t Rape – D7K 9862 ep” by Eric Parker is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0. Link to the license deed. 

This poem is aimed at a culture that is founded on a lack of respect and a power imbalance that is instilled from a young age. This poem attacks a system that excuses, tolerates and even encourages rape through everyday actions undertaken by all of us. Rape and sexual assault do not discriminate based on gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity or religion. In this poem and article I am primarily focusing on gender inequality in society in terms of the age-old power imbalance that is still very much present today for women when it comes to women as sexual beings and the rights a woman has over her own body. 

To be a girl is to be asked to be afraid

to wake up every day

made to feel it’s not your place to say

to feel intimidated,

forced to back away,

*

because you’re laughed at for taking a stand

against something they don’t understand,

like trying to ignore an unwanted hand,

to conform to societal standards

so deeply ingrained we automatically obey

to feel like you can’t trust a man

unless you’re prepared to pay

with your body not your brain

is the validation worth the pain?

*

tell yourself you aren’t worthless,

tell yourself that you deserved it,

convince yourself it was worth it,

that he didn’t do it on purpose,

*

expected to allow yourself to be objectified

lad culture that fakes being rectified

because of the idea that no means yes,

means “how about convince me instead”

but you don’t belong inside my head,

*

rape isn’t about sex,

it’s about power and violence

failed education

a need to remain silent

because of an existence of tolerance

a subject that is trivialised,

joked about with slander,

catastrophically undermined.

*

Don’t rate me, we are people not hotels

on the contrary to archaic, yet relevant, opinion,

I do have a brain and feelings as well,

so don’t call me a bitch, forget the word slut

don’t decide whether I am worthy

based on my boobs or my butt,

I am not a prize or a possession

going to say something crude?

then please just be quiet

I hear you judge girls so loudly

and I’m so sick and tired,

*

Your indifference isn’t powerful or cool,

it’s narrow-minded and it’s cruel,

don’t tell me I’m on my period when I challenge your views

don’t dismiss what I’m saying,

or assume that I’ll lose,

if  you feel uncomfortable,

if you think this is unnecessary

that women don’t battle every day

that we don’t walk alone at night

paranoid that we’re being chased

then maybe you should break your mould,

hurry home in her shoes, think a different way, 

*

realise that we still live in a society

that judges a girl for what her body has to offer

mostly in the way a girl looks, will she prosper

my worth is attributed to my physical appearance,

dependent on rib shattering corsets in the clearance

*

an ‘equal’ society where girls aren’t even aware

that in relationships, in jobs,

they don’t get their share,

a generation obscured by the illusion

that everything nowadays is equal and fair,

ladies, this is still a fight for our rights

being catcalled,

being inappropriately touched because it’s “flirting”

should not be a normal part of every day life

*

It’s a removal of autonomy,

taking away my right to decide

what happens to my own body,

to strip me of my dignity, my pride,

*

A question triggered by rape culture:

when you make a sexist joke,

or objectify with something vulgar

when dehumanising remarks are excused

with “boys will be boys”

does that mean all I am as a woman

is simply a man’s toy?

*

We teach little girls that if a boy hits them

it’s because he likes her

that if a boy is mean to you

it’s just because he wants to be with you,

so what did we expect to happen next

when that same boy becomes a teenager

and he abuses a girl and has no respect,

because he was taught that’s how to connect,

to mistreat her and touch her like she’s his pet.

*

On the flip side girls are taught to allow it to happen

the idea it’s normal and it’s because he loves her

instilled in her when he forces himself above her,

then, society labels her a pushover

people don’t have to say it, they think it’s her fault

after all…“she allowed him to control her”

*

it’s a vicious cycle of slut shaming

of “banter”, bets and victim blaming

this leads to normalisation

this creates a society that condones degradation,

because of our horrific inability to hold a conversation,

to call people out on sickening comments,

to talk to them about how their mind-set

is the catalyst for a system

that breeds harassment and rape,

that covers a woman’s mouth with tape,

*

whistling and making lewd comments,

acting as though you are superior

only ever focused on the exterior

exerting dominance and power,

it’s an age-old imbalance

of girl as the unwilling, delicate flower

*

sexual coercion, threats and groping,

your pathetic response is that you were only joking,

but tell me whether you’re still laughing

when your own little girl can’t walk alone at night

for fear of being violated again,

unable to tell anyone

a rapist tells her to stop overreacting

that it was just a bit of “fun”,

*

she would be slated

so it won’t be reported

she feels it would be disregarded, labelled unimportant

thrown out of court, she’d be told that

she wanted it, told that it’s a grey area

with no deterrence, walking alone’s even scarier

*

a justice system that allows rapists to walk free

a justice system that doesn’t bring women peace.

Molestation can make girls feel dirty and weak,

they feel they don’t have a right to speak

because she’s a slut and she’s a liar,

because she was drunk and vulnerable

and you somehow mistook that for desire.

*

Encouraged through a sense of normality

if a girl’s skirt is too short

“she’s clearly asking for it”

making a girl change her clothes

rather making a boy change his mindset

attitudes like this are not uncommon

in fact they’re so typical

you won’t even realise it’s a problem

*

a romanticised portrayal

of sex without consent, of controlling abuse,

of fantasised relationships where women

are on a lead, can’t be let loose,

*

welcome to a world that can successfully market

irrelevant products with a half-naked woman

welcome to a world that places a target

on the backs, on the bodies of young girls,

making it seem right

like a girl shouldn’t put up a fight

because their bodies are exploited

constantly sexualised,

in television, in music, in the media

this is what marketing is feeding us

*

capitalising on a woman’s insecurities

picking out appearance-based flaws rather than making her believe

teaching young boys that girls are meek

that they’re main purpose is to look pretty,

to give you pleasure

definitely not to stand up, to speak,

because if they do then they must “hate all men”…

get over yourself, we just want it to end.

*

Being progressive isn’t just not expecting girls to play

with barbies and dolls and princesses

when, to social media influenced standard beauty conventions,

young girls are defenceless

*

growing up being told you aren’t good enough

that if you aren’t pretty then you won’t be loved

cutthroat comments revolving around appearance

the shape of her body prioritised over achievements,

female celebrities are scrutinised

make the front cover of magazines

because they have cellulite on their thighs

and wait, god forbid they should have stretch marks

acne, a bloated stomach, blemishes and scars

*

when society and media dissect a woman

and tear her apart,

all that is natural, normal and wonderful

has been ridiculed and deemed repulsive,

an unspoken acceptance,

both men and women are the ones who condone this

*

forcing a woman to look a certain way

disregarding what she has to say,

because she’s a “man hater who’s just annoyed

that nobody wants to sleep with her and she can’t get boys”

*

why is a woman’s duty to please others?

to satisfy and pleasure a man,

to raise a child, to forget her own plans.

*

Girls are taught they are not sexual beings

love is the only thing a girl should be feeling

and if not she’s humiliated, she’s called a “slag”

while boys are congratulated, clapped on the back

*

why is it that girls are always sexualised

feminists are vilified

young girls are victimised?

*

but it’s not just boys belittling girls

girls putting down each other

hell bent on trying to make each other suffer,

ridiculing, bitching, judging, alienating

not sticking together as one

being divided by internalised misogyny and aiming the gun

*

let’s instead unite and destroy rape culture

because I would love to live in a world

where I feel comfortable and safe on my own

where I don’t walk the streets with my only comfort

being I have the emergency number already dialled on my phone.

*

So finally, if you ever look at me and

probably subconsciously

think that I am not strong

that I can be hurt and pushed around

that you can force me into backing down

simply because I’m a woman,

well, take your best shot,

patronise me, dismiss me, call me a “thot”

my sexuality and my body are mine

*

sexual assault isn’t just wrong because it’s a crime

it’s wrong because it’s the sickening silencing of a person’s voice,

the evil theft of a human being’s choice,

an abominable and monstrously violent act

that is excused and normalised and that’s a fact,

but you can’t take my power or make me shut up

so maybe you should back down

because your time is up.

Rape culture is the normalisation of sexual violence such as assault and abuse, it often involves the idea that the victim is in some way culpable for the actions taken by their aggressor. Unfortunately rape is viewed as something that is inevitable, it is systematic and encouraged through jokes, music, advertising, everyday language and images we are exposed to. Small actions can reinforce and excuse more detrimental actions such as sexual harassment and rape. In our society there exists a trivialisation of sexual harassment as seemingly harmless actions, such as a man putting his hand on a girl’s thigh when the touch is unwanted, making inappropriate or lewd comments on someone’s appearance, catcalling, making sexist jokes These actions are not compliments, they are threats,  although this may not be apparent, what you have to think of it as is one human being exerting power over another, degrading them perhaps without meaning to and potentially making them feel vulnerable or uncomfortable and unsafe.

Some girls do not mind being catcalled, as it is commonly perceived to be a compliment. Being praised for the way one looks can make a person feel good about themselves. Taking pride in yourself and feeling self-confident is a wonderful and important thing – being objectified and made to feel uncomfortable is not. This permanent focus and expectation on a girl’s physical appearance is extremely damaging, it teaches young girls that all that really matters is the way they look, that this is how they can validate themselves, in gaining the approval of men. It prioritises looking good for others over being comfortable within yourself and loving yourself. Equally there are far more socially acceptable and polite, respectful ways to go about complimenting a girl than whistling at her, she is a human beingnot a dog and treating her in this degrading way has a knock on effect, excusing far more extreme actions because degradation becomes normal and tolerated. While I am sure that many boys do not catcall with the intention of humiliating a girl, unfortunately that is not far from what this is, catcalling or calling out an obscene comment relating to a woman’s body as she walks by is an example of a man exercising his power over a woman, it is said for no reason other than to comment on a woman’s body as though it is public property and there is nothing a woman can do in response to this. This means that no matter how inappropriate the comment is and how uncomfortable it makes the woman feel the man is in control because he feels he has the right to make this remark to a woman he does not know and will likely never see again, which is why such crude comments and actions are for no other reason than because he can, the man expects no outcome, and although it seems innocent enough it is actually a reassertion of dominance that continues to reinforce this power imbalance for women in society.

Recently with many allegations of rape and sexual assault coming to light in Hollywood, it seems as though some people have entirely misinterpreted the positive and brave message of the Time’s Up movement, instead complaining that girls are overreacting and that flirting and friendly touches are not sexual assault, I agree, no they are not intended to be, but that choice is an individual one, it is not about simply patting someone’s shoulder playfully and wondering what the big deal is, it is about judging a situation. If a woman is clearly uncomfortable with being touched then don’t do it again, I do not understand why it seems to be so difficult to comprehend. You cannot just assume that a woman is perfectly fine with being touched, but then again maybe she might be, either way it is her choice and that is important to remember to remove the power imbalance and ensure the choice a woman has over her body is her own. It is all about reading a situation and making sure that boundaries are not being inappropriately crossed. This is not about women “overreacting”, it is about finally eradicating a culture of women being sexual objects, of fighting against this judgement instilled in so many people that if a girl is inappropriately touched or raped she is in some way “asking for it”.

It is so easy to sit and read this and think that you would never ever follow that train of thought and victim blame but it is something that is ingrained in our society, when something happens we question what a girl was wearing or whether she had been drinking and that in itself is taking focus away from the fact that rape is rape and rape is always inexcusable, it cannot be “slightly excused” or made to seem like less of an issue by challenging the victim’s part in it because THE VICTIM HAS NO PART IN RAPE, THE FAULT ONLY EVER LIES WITH THE RAPIST. I accept that people have responsibilities and that girls should be aware of the dangers they could  potentially face, when walking alone at night for example, but how sad is it that it has to be that way, if only we lived in a society that could teach humans not to rape as well as it teaches girls that they should compete for male attention.

Victims can feel unable to do anything to stop what they are experiencing, resulting in feelings of helplessness and creating an obvious power imbalance within society between men and women. This behaviour is still completely unacceptable, regardless of how small or irrelevant it appears making victims feel as though they have lost the rights over their own body or humiliated and objectified is never acceptable. Failure to address this as an issue can be seen in something known as  “lad culture” casual comments that degrade others, words such as “slut” and “slag” are thrown around a lot, usually in reference to a female, this makes women feel shame, they are told they are not allowed to be sexual beings yet girls are sexualised constantly by men, this means that a girl does not have power over her own sexuality but instead a man has this power that should belong to her. We are making it socially acceptable to label and dehumanise another person, and this can result in people not respecting the rights an individual has over their own bodies, exploiting, controlling and harassing them out of a lack of understanding and normality. 

Women are told from a young age not to dress “provocatively”, not to walk alone at night and to watch how much alcohol they consume. We teach girls to not get raped rather than teaching boys not to rape. Girls are frowned upon for being sexual beings but are sexualised every single day, the problem is not with a girl’s clothing, a girl has the right to wear whatever she wants, the problem is with a society that has sexualised the bodies of young girls and all women, implying they are public property, that they exist to appease men and although this is an indirect and subliminal message, it is a troubling one that goes hand in hand with rape culture. We are all completely aware that rape itself is wrong, but the little things like unwanted touch and degrading words make rape seem that bit less serious and makes it much more understandable as to why it happens so much more often than anyone would expect, people do not realise that what they are doing is wrong because it seems so normal. It’s the “grey” area surrounding rape that needs to be considered, for example a man who excuses rape because he was drunk can allow him to escape jail time or receive a much shorter sentence however a woman being drunk at the time of rape is blamed for her actions and made to feel ashamed and as though she is to blame for not being “more sensible”.  Alcohol, being on streets at night, provocative clothing are not at all causes of rape. The cause is always, the rapists themselves. A culture has been created where rapists and offenders do not even realise they are taking advantage of another person. These perceptions must be changed.

85,000 women and 12,000 men (aged 16-59) are raped each year in England and Wales alone, that’s roughly 11 adults raped an hour, an enormous and terrifying number, however only around 15% of these cases get reported. This is a startling figure and the reasons behind the low percentage of reports are even more disturbing. People do not feel comfortable coming forward and reporting rape, 20% fear retaliation from people who may blame them in some way for the rape, while many also believe the police would not do anything to help or that it was not important enough to report, these feelings are all a product of rape culture which acts to silence victims and encourage the normality of actions that condone sex crimes.

9 thoughts on “Power Imbalance

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words and for commenting, I am so happy you liked it. It is SUCH an important message to spread because unfortunately little is being done to combat rape culture and I’m not sure people are even aware of how their actions are contributing to it. #TIMESUP

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I am so happy that you liked it and I really appreciate you taking the time to read it. Thank you so much for the support, especially as it is such an important message🤗

      Like

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