Cartoons have evolved from the point of the family friendly Saturday morning entertainment that we grew up on.
The above cartoon is sick and sadistic. Not only does it have rape as subject to create a laugh; it also depicts bestiality. When I think of Garfield, I think of a snotty cat in love with lasagne, not of a violation that is damaging to the spirit.
I think it is important to talk about images like the above because clearly we have normalized the idea that rape can be funny. We may view this as harmless because the characters involved are not real and it is this very attitude that supports our rape culture.
Rape is not something we can be ironic about. It is not something that should be fodder for entertainment and yet often in our daily discourse we are encouraged to laugh at a violation. The scene from the Seth Rogan film entitled Observe and Report in which clearly a rape occurs is quickly apologized away. This is a clear example of how ready we are to deny that the images that we consume are filled with sexual violence.
SETH ROGEN: When we’re having sex and she’s unconscious like you can literally feel the audience thinking, like, how the fuck are they going to make this okay? Like, what can possibly be said or done that I’m not going to walk out of the movie theater in the next thirty seconds? . . . And then she says, like, the one thing that makes it all okay:
BRANDI: “Why are you stopping, motherfucker?”
There is always some excuse proffered regarding why a rape scene is funny. Oh, it’s not really rape, or it’s not really happening, and each one of these incidents devalues the experiences of real survivors. The idea that rape can be explained away or questioned is deeply problematic.
When discussing Polanski, Whoopie questioned whether or not what occurred was really “rape rape”, even though the testimony of the victim made it quite clear what had occurred. It is the small everyday slights that makes rape acceptable. When we laugh at depictions of assault or minimize the seriousness of the violation we are once again re-victimizing the survivor.
I have been very resistant to publicly speaking about what happened to me because each and everyday I see images like the Garfield cartoon, or hear the type of apologism uttered by Whoopie and I know that the world is not safe for survivors. Those who have never been assaulted cannot know what it is to walk through this world constantly triggered by images that not only devalue your experiences but you as a person.
We hear get over it, or you’re being too sensitive, or even a denial of our experiences. This is all meant to silence our voices. It is not in the best interest of our patriarchal society to validate women’s experiences, even when they are horrific in nature. Rape is about power and when a man rapes a woman, he is expressing what he believes is his right to her body. If women really mattered in this world, the everyday experiences that legitimize rape or reduce its damage would not be tolerated.
Each time we share our stories and they are denied or ridiculed, it makes it that much harder to stand up and keep fighting. I don’t know that I will ever fully share what happened to me because though my body has healed, I fear that my heart never will. I will continue to advocate for an elevation in the status of women in the belief that when women matter the violence will matter. I believe in women, I believe in love.