Abuse of Women Discussed

Panel Charges Pop Culture of Perpetuating Violence

A Take Back the Night panel of speakers urged greater awareness of the violence perpetrated against women and of society's role in contributing to the problem.

More than 50 people attended last night's panel, entitled "Popular Culture and Violence Against Women", at the Lyman Common Room.

Panelist Mary M. Steedly, assistant professor of anthropology, said the media tends to send mixed messages which "simultaneously condemn and applaud violence against women."

Steedly referred to a Time-Life television commercial, in which "carnivores are shown ripping out the throats of their victims," she said. "It's practically pornographic."

She said messages such as these help to enforce the notion that "nature is raw and insatiable," which she said serves to exonerate violence acts as "understandable."


Steedly said these images of the "masculine, aggressive monster" lend legitimacy to the alleged actions of such public figures as Clarence Thomas, Michael Tyson and William Kennedy Smith.

Contradictory Messages

Leslie Liebowitz, a scholar from the University of Massachusetts at Boston, also touched on society's contradictory messages to women.

"On the one hand, women are told that they can be smart, free, autonomous and in control, yet when they are raped, this schema no longer seems to fit," Liebowitz said. "Instead, being raped is more consonant with the schema of women as sub-human beings."

Debra Robbin, former director of the New Bedford Women's Center, said a woman is raped every six minutes.

She spoke about then problems of domestic abuse and said that the availability of services to help battered women is deplorable. Robbin also made an appeal for better provision of resources for the women who need them-adding that of the 5000 women who come to battered women shelters each, 2000 are turned away because of limited capacity.

Panelist Jackson Katz, co-founder of Real Men and Harvard Anti-Sexist Men, said that in rape cases, the media focuses on the female victim rather than the male perpetrator.

"[T]he active agent, the man committing the act, is often missing from the language," said Jackson, a graduate student at the Harvard School of Education.

In addition, Jackson decried the impact of popular culture on the mentalities of young adolescent boys, alluding to teenage "slasher" movies such as Friday the 13th and Night-mare on Elm St.

All the speakers called for the increased awareness of these issues. In addition, Liebowitz suggested that those who are victims of rape and other abuses "work around cultural myths so that they don't trap you."