Rape Culture: It’s Almost Everywhere // Renee Hangartner, M.A.

Maybe there’s a theme; but I again found my inspiration for this blog from the magic that is Shonda Rhimes.  Here’s some necessary background.  The last several weeks have been stressful and rewarding. I coordinated a successful SPW event to raise awareness about sexual violence against women on November 18th and 10 days later I successfully proposed my dissertation, which is on sexual harassment. Unfortunately, I’ve fallen behind on my favorite shows, like Grey’s Anatomy. My reward for a successful proposal defense was to play hooky and catch up on my favorite show. Okay, I only played hooky for 2 hours, it still counts.  Anyway, episode 2 of season 13 included two strong statements to counteract rape culture, and I know a light bulb went off above my head despite any empirical evidence to support such a claim.
  First, in a neurotic rant about a guy between Meredith Grey and Maggie (her half-sister), Meredith boldly points out that the qualifier of “gross” is unnecessary when describing sexual harassment as there is “only [one] kind of sexual harassment”. I say “thank you Meredith and thank you Shonda”. If you watch Grey’s Anatomy and missed that tidbit, it might be worth your time to go back and feel that sense of pride I felt. Later, when a couple of surgeons are excited about removing a tumor that a patient has named after her husband’s mistress Wilma, violent language is used to get everyone pumped up about the procedure. An intern (Wilson) is clearly triggered by the enthusiasm about violence against “Wilma”, because while everyone is excited to remove the tumor, they are using a women’s name in conjunction with such violent language. This is an excellent example of how violence against women is normalized.  She points that out to her superior, another female surgeon. Side-bar-did I mention that one of the reasons I love this show is the abundance of strong female characters and persons of color playing DOCTORS? Anyway, that entire scene is another display of saying something when you see something.
Perhaps I’m primed because of my research and activism activities to attend to scenes like this in popular culture; but I feel it’s also my responsibility to point them out when I see them.  There are so many normalized interactions and phrases that promote rape culture in our everyday lives that make scenes like these, on prime time TV, precious.

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