Girraween High School student Raina Joseph knows what matters.
Her entry to The University of Western Sydney's Whitlam Institute's What Matters? annual essay competition. Asking for it, made her a finalist in the year 11 and 12 age category, and the overall winner. Read on to see why.
Asking for it
“Just a trim please”, Alison says to the young hairdresser, smiling.
The hairdresser begins working immediately, running his fingers through her beautiful waist-length
hair. He starts snipping away and small chunks of hair slowly accumulate on the floor.
“That’s enough, I like this length”, Alison says gratefully.
The hairdresser ignores her and continues slicing her hair. Alarmed, she asks him to stop. The other
people in the salon start frowning at Alison.
“I said stop!” Alison cries.
Rape culture is silence, the silence of the victims who are too afraid to speak up. It is the slut-shaming and the victim-blaming. It is society teaching people how not to get raped rather than teaching them not to rape in the first place. It is the sexual objectification of women by the media.
It is a culture so widespread, that both men and women of all ages frequently trivialise, eroticise and even condone rape unknowingly. Many individuals even deny the existence of a “rape culture”.
How can rape culture be a myth when someone gets raped every 2 minutes in the US? How can rape culture not exist when over 96% of perpetrators don’t even spend a day in jail?
The Steubenville Rape Case occurred in Ohio, in 2012. An inebriated 16 year-old girl was sexually assaulted by two high school football players. The numerous spectators laughed and “tweeted” pictures of the incident. The mainstream media responded with sympathy for the attackers after both convicted rapists tearfully apologised in court.
A reporter from CNN stated that it was:
“incredibly difficult to watch what happened as these two young men had such promising futures, star football players...their lives fell apart...” The public’s response on social media also suggests that many people believed that the girl was to blame for not “taking responsibility for her drunken actions”.
Everyone was too busy mollycoddling the boys and grieving the death of their football futures to ask, “What about her future?” No one mentioned the graveyard that was growing inside the girl’s body or the countless nights in which she will be torn from sleep, covered not only in sweat but with self-blame and hate.
Rape is rape and the rapists are not the victims. It should never be a matter of the sobriety or clothing of the victim. Getting drunk or wearing a short dress isn’t asking for it. No one is ever “asking for it”.
Rape culture can be combatted by educating adults and children on consent. Speaking out when hearing rape being joked about and thinking critically about the media’s portrayal of men, women and sexual violence is also a way to fight this culture.
Together, we need to recognise rape culture, stand up against it and defeat it!
The hair salon goes deathly quiet. The hairdresser stops cutting and looks at her, feigning concern.
Alison’s hair was only up to her ears now and she could taste the salt from her tears.
“Why did you keep cutting after I asked you to stop?”
“I’m sorry madam. I though you wanted it... besides, you did let me start cutting your hair didn’t you?”
“Yes but -”
“And you did say you liked it, remember?”
Alison’s lips tremble and she looks around for support.
The other customers simply shake their head and go back to what they were doing before.