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Transcript: Your Vagina is Not a Car by Clementine Ford at TEDxSouthBankWomen

Clementine Ford

Australian writer and feminist Clementine Ford’s TEDx Talk: Your Vagina is Not a Car at TEDxSouthBankWomen (Transcript)

Listen to the MP3 Audio here: Your vagina is not a car by Clementine Ford at TEDxSouthBankWomen


What is rape culture? If you haven’t heard the term before, rape culture is basically acknowledging that we live in a society that normalizes or diminishes rape through the bombardment of images, language, laws and social attitudes. It’s a culture in which victim blaming is just not present but common — and caveats like: What did she expect going home with him? And “She was drunk, wasn’t she?” And “She slept with him before, look at that skirt she was wearing”, are routinely invoked to excuse perpetrators as having just done what everyone would’ve expected them to do. Done what a red-blooded Aussie man would do. I can’t say it clearer than that, she did go home with him.

It’s that kind of language. It’s the language of lawmakers who use words like: honest rape and forcible rape and legitimate rape. To portray the fact that they believe there are actually two kinds of rape: there is the very, very small incidents of real rape and then there are all the overwhelming incidents of rape where women are actually just lying about it, because they are so embarrassed by the fact they’ve allowed something to enter their shame cave – other than the Holy Spirit. So that’s rape culture.

I am just going to talk you through a series of examples now of what I think rape culture looks like. Some of them are local and some of them are international – yeah, because rape culture exists everywhere. We can all share it. So rape culture is Peter “Spida” Everitt after the 2010 AFL Grand Final responding to allegations. And it’s very important this word “allegedly”. You’ll speak to people who don’t believe that rape culture exists. You’ll speak to people who don’t believe that men can ever be charged with rape because, of course, women are always lying. Very very intent on protecting the due process of the legal system — only in case of sexual assault when they remind you consistently that “this just happened allegedly”.

So, Peter “Spida” Everitt — responding to the allegations after the 2010 AFL Grand Final — that, sexual assault had occurred in the home of one of Collingwood players. Now, that has since been resolved — and if you do have a chance do read Anna Krien’s “Night games”, because it’s a brilliant exploration of sex, power, and culture.

But him responding to that with the following tweet: “GIRLS!! When will you learn that at 3:00 am when you go home drunk with a guy that is not for a cup of Milo?” “Allegedly”. It’s Kerrie-Anne Kennerley responding to that tweet — by inviting Peter “Spida” Everitt onto her show and sympathizing with him over the poor fate of footballers who have “strays” throw themselves at them all the time and get them in trouble.

It’s Channel 9 responding to the dismay and outrage — and I’m grateful that it was given — because not everyone wants to talk out about rape culture. But Channel 9 responding to that outrage by issuing a statement that said: “In regards to the segment on Kerrie-Anne’s show this morning, what she was talking about when she talked about “strays” was alcohol-fueled situations in which both, girls and guys, must take the blame.” Rape culture is reducing rape to an “alcohol fueled situation.”

Rape Culture is Channel 9, responding to these things with such a dismissive tone — that it reinforces to people that it’s an alcohol-fueled situation and not an actual assault on their bodies.

Looking further abroad, rape culture is Daniel Tosh. He is a comedian, standing in front of a live audience and responding to a woman who had taken umbrage at one of his jokes about rape, by saying: “Wouldn’t it be funny if like five guys just came down and raped this woman right now? Wouldn’t that be hilarious?” Rape culture is also his comedy mates then defending him. Because comedy is sacred, and women’s bodies aren’t.

Rape culture is raising boys in an environment and a society that teaches them they have an entitlement to women’s bodies. And that is how things like Steubenville, Ohio happens. That is how things like the Roast Busters in Auckland happens. Where boys think that it’s so much their right to treat a woman’s body as they please — that not only would they do it in front of all of their friends, rape an unconscious woman repeatedly but they’ll film it. They’ll actually document the evidence and put it on the Internet for everyone to see what a big man they are.

In Auckland, it’s the police not doing anything about it for years, even though they knew about it because they said: “We couldn’t do anything about it”. Rape culture is reinforcing to young girls that they don’t have the right to feel safe. Rape culture is people telling women that protecting themselves from rape is like property theft. That, well, you know it’s not that I believe that rape is OK, but if you’re going to leave your car parked on the street with the keys in the ignition and walk away, can you really expect that someone is not going to come along and steal it?

And I say to that, the two things that I think when I think, you know — people calling “property theft” into account for this, is that: One, my vagina isn’t a car. And if it was, I would have saved a lot more money in taxis over the years, and then I’d be able to fix its brake pads. But secondly, we are not disembodied from our bodies. Our vaginas aren’t cars that we can walk away from and leave. The only way that analogy works is if I am sitting in the car and you come and you open the car and you drag me out of it and you steal my fucking car.

Your vagina is not a vehicle. But this is what rape culture looks like. Rape culture is pretending rape culture doesn’t exist. It’s people preferring to believe that the women in their lives are potential victims rather than accepting that the men in their lives are potential predators. Because people like to talk about rapists as these evil monsters who lurk in the streets and shadows. And we, the women, have to protect ourselves against them. “I am not saying that rape is good, girls I’m just saying, can’t you just learn to take care of yourselves? Girls, when will you learn that the world is full of evil monsters and you have to protect yourselves?”

Rape culture is assuming that we haven’t been raised protecting ourselves, believing in the state of our own vulnerability since the very days that we were first walking out away from our parents. And on that note, actually and the evil monsters — rape culture denies the reality of rape that most of it doesn’t happen on the streets, most of it happens in the home. It’s done to us by men we know, men we love, men we may even be related to. That’s what rape culture looks like.

So, that’s a very sort of somber view of the world that we live in. But the world that people don’t want to talk about because rape is not nice. We don’t really talk about it, it’s not nice. It’s a hemorrhoid removal operation on the television. I was pretty scared coming here to do this talk today because it’s quite daunting standing in front of a room full of people and sharing your ideas on things. Had a couple of nervous poos. Sorry, I forgot that women aren’t supposed to shit! See, I’m shaking. We all get nervous. But this is the thing.

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