The Longest War, by Rebecca Solnit, details the ways that physical violence against women and political hostility toward women are part of the same epidemic of gendered violence and control, leveled almost entirely by men. Women are beaten, raped, killed, harassed, controlled and abused by men at astounding rates. We write these incidents off as isolated or personal, tragic but certainly not epidemic. On other pages of the newspaper we talk about conservative encroachment on women’s bodily autonomy as if that’s totally separate from violence, as if it’s a “social issue” or a difference of political opinion. But all of it — the violence, the domestic abuse, the street harassment, the online harassment, the gang-rapes, the abortion debates, the contraception battles — comes down to a desire to control women, and rage when that control isn’t maintained.
Here in the United States, where there is a reported rape every 6.2 minutes, and one in five women will be raped in her lifetime, the rape and gruesome murder of a young woman on a bus in New Delhi on December 16th was treated as an exceptional incident. The story of the alleged rape of an unconscious teenager by members of the Steubenville High School football team was still unfolding, and gang rapes aren’t that unusual here either. Take your pick: some of the 20 men who gang-raped an 11-year-old in Cleveland, Texas, were sentenced in November, while the instigator of the gang rape of a 16-year-old in Richmond, California, was sentenced in October, and four men who gang-raped a 15-year-old near New Orleans were sentenced in April, though the six men who gang-raped a 14-year-old in Chicago last fall are still at large. Not that I actually went out looking for incidents: they’re everywhere in the news, though no one adds them up and indicates that there might actually be a pattern.
We have an abundance of rape and violence against women in this country and on this Earth, though it’s almost never treated as a civil rights or human rights issue, or a crisis, or even a pattern. Violence doesn’t have a race, a class, a religion, or a nationality, but it does have a gender.
There’s too much good stuff to excerpt, so just read the whole thing here.