Consent, Violation, and Indigenous Peoples

February 8, 2010

I spend a lot of time thinking about rape and sexual violence.  These are topics that I am particularly interested in as a feminist and an activist.  Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot of talk about the use of the word “rape” to mean something other than, well, actual rape, and I haven’t been quite sure where I come down on it.  I just read something, though, that parallels this discussion, and I think is particularly relevant when we’re thinking about how to conceptualize rape and, more broadly, consent and violation.

In her book, Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide, Andrea Smith talks about the many (many, many) ways native people in North America have been seriously fucked over by colonialism and modern (especially U.S.) government policy.  She includes a quote from a Native woman who belongs to a tribe that the government non-consensually experimented on by placing a nuclear reactor on tribal lands to see how much environmental radiation people can safely take in through “food, water, milk, and air.”  The woman describes the harm to her people, principally in the form of cancer cases, and then says “Is this what it feels like to be raped?”

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An Amusing Turn-Around on Sexual Assault Prevention Tips

September 23, 2009

About a year ago, when I was still a law student at the University of Iowa, I received an infuriating e-mail in my inbox from the university’s Department of Public Safety.  The department sends out regular “Crime Prevention News” e-mails, all of which you can see on their website here.  I get the feeling someone else must have complained, since the most recent update on safety in downtown Iowa City specifically says that both males and females should follow their tips, but it’s still gendered, referring to male-on-male violence (which in my opinion makes it sound like men are the only one who need to be concerned about non-sexual violence downtown).

The e-mail that I received while I was in attendance is the April 2008 newsletter, focusing on “Personal and Residence Safety.”  Though the newsletter isn’t as bad as it could be at targeting women, the header makes it clear who the target audience is.  “Over the past two years there have been several assaults on women in the Iowa City area. Please remember the following safety tips from the University of Iowa Police.”

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