There Are Wolves in the Woods
When it comes to the idea of rape culture, there are certain things everyone, including myself, can agree on. Everyone agrees that women shouldn't be raped. Everyone agrees that women are raped far too often. Everyone agrees that rape is never an acceptable consequence for not doing the "right" thing or acting the "right" way. Everyone agrees that often women are told that they deserved to be raped because they were "asking for it", and that that's a terrible thing to say. And everyone agrees that rape culture has far-ranging, awful consequences that make the reality of being a woman something that is often fraught and almost always degrading. Being a woman means living in a world where you know that there is a one in six chance you will be sexually assaulted at some point in your lifetime. Being a woman means growing up constantly being a bitch, no matter what you do. Being a woman means that it is not a question of if, but when and how often, that you will be verbally harassed, or objectified, and that you will always, always be found to be somehow lacking or wrong. And I think everyone can agree that that's just not okay. Rape culture is about blaming women, about hanging the ultimate consequence of rape over their heads to keep them in line, about finding fault in women for no other reason than because they are women, and pretty much everyone agrees that that's a terrible thing to do.
What people often either don't realize or cannot agree on is why that's a bad thing to do. It isn't just that there are, of course, people who believe that there is a "right" way to be a woman, and that the "right" way usually involves a set of impossibly high standards that leads to constant disappointment and judgment. It's that there then develops a reactionary strain of thought that says that women are judged too harshly and therefore should never be judged at all. And this, quite frankly, is just as equally ridiculous and problematic as the first way of thinking.
In an ideal world, it would, of course, be completely unnecessary to judge anything, because everything would be perfect. But women, just like everything and everyone else, are not perfect. Feminism does not mean that I, or any other woman, deserve special treatment as some sort of cosmic reparation for how badly the world treats me. It means I recognize that in order for any human being to be considered equal to any other, they must all be allowed an equal capacity for failure. It means that I am strong enough to be held accountable for and bear the consequences of my actions, and furthermore, I deserve to be.
"Little Red Riding Hood" is often cited as a prime example of rape culture - little girl strays off the right path, gets eaten by a wolf, and needs a man to save her. I've always had trouble seeing that, partially because being consumed by a fearsome beast seems like a really ineffective sexual metaphor, and partially because it always seemed to fit so neatly into the classic fairytale subgenre of "listen to your elders, or terrible things will happen to you", which is a method parents have been employing since the beginning of time.
No matter how you read it, though, Little Red objectively makes a mistake. She's told the woods are dangerous and not to go into them, and she does it anyway. And, as a consequence, the wolf eats her. To me, what's important about the changes hitRECord has made to the "Little Red Riding Hood" story is not that Little Red doesn't make a mistake, but that instead of needing a man to save her from the consequences of her actions, she saves herself.
At one point in our lives, every single one of us will stray off the path and end up consumed by the large, scary repercussions of that mistake. And it is important that in this version of "Little Red Riding Hood", while feminist friendly, does not ever try to gloss over Little Red's mistake, it simply gives her the power to overcome it on her own terms. What Little Red teaches us is not that we should be ashamed when we fall prey to wolves, or that we should sit in the wolf's belly feeling sorry for ourselves and wishing there were no wolves in the first place, but that we have it within our power to cut ourselves out of them, that failure is not failure until we allow it to swallow us whole.
Created: Mar 21, 2012