Rape Culture and Patriarchy in Clay’s Ark

Clay’s Ark and Wednesday’s discussion made me think more about how desensitized our society is about violence against women. To give a bit of backstory, when I read the scene in Butler’s work (p.600-603) where the microbes in Rane’s body encouraged her to engage in sexual intercourse with one of her captors, I had to stop mid scene because it was so disturbing. What ensued could be argued as rape and at that point in my reading, I would have agreed that it was rape. Additionally, there were descriptions of the previous owners of the house, an older woman, a young girl and a young boy. They were tied up, dirty, bloody and abused. It came up in the class conversation that the description of the young boy’s torture was the more traumatic part of that scene. I agree that it was disturbing, the boy had his ears and genital cut off and he had bled to death. But why had that seemed more disturbing to people than the women treated that way? I think that feeling is a symptom of the combination of rape culture and patriarchy. Violence against women is normalized. Though boys and young men get abused, it is not talked about and it is rarely seen in media.  In an article on the feminist wire written by Shama Nathan titled, Elementary Feminisms: A Call to Young Women, Nathan talked about how rape culture has shaped our society. Nathan said in her article, “Being harassed or assaulted is something that most women have or will experience in their lifetime. Sexual violence too often is said to be the “realities of life” and therefore “normal.” I can attest to this occurrence. For example, before many women leave their homes, they think about if what they wear will illicit harassment.

This scene was really hard for me to read. I kept thinking that it was not fit for human consumption and asking why would Butler subject her readers to this. But then I membered that just because things are hard to digest does not mean that we should not talk about them. Maybe this was Butler’s intention. In her world in Clay’s Ark, the world has evolved in technology but had devolved in humanity. Brutal atrocities are happening on a high scale in this book. But is what is happening in that scene very far from what happens in our world? I do not think so. And the same reactions we had from the book, are the same ones we would’ve had in our real lives. In class a comment was made along the lines of, “what if that happened to someone I know?!”. This to me is the result of someone knowing that what they had read was disturbing and should not be something that happens in the world but it is misleading in that a woman should not have to be related to you in any way for you to care whether or not she is mistreated.

To go back to how rape culture and patriarchy are inter woven, I refer to a piece titled Masculinity as Homophobia , written by Michael S Kimmel. In the work Kimmel said, “Violence is often the single most evident marker of manhood. Rather it is the willingness to fight, the desire to fight”. It is not so much that violence is in man’s nature but they are socialized to be violent. So the violence inflicted by some men onto some women is brushed off as just another thing in life we have to deal with.  It takes a lot of unlearning societies unhealthy lessons to realize that this should not be the realities of life or considered normal.

Just for more interesting reading/watching you want: Tough Guise 2: Violence, Manhood, & American Culture

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