August 7, 2014

Rape isn’t a Muse. {Adult/Trigger Warning}


“I think the greatest illusion we have is that denial protects us. It’s actually the biggest distortion and lie. In fact, staying asleep is what kills us.” ~ Eve Ensler 

Two years ago a 23-year-old woman was gang raped on a bus in New Delhi.

The incident incited rage, grief, horror…it was one of those moments when the realities of the world are so outrageous, so heinous, that we can’t ignore them. For at least a time, more people in India and across the world  talked about the persistent and seemingly endless issue of violence against women.

I have long believed it isn’t the big incidents—the ones that shake us from our slumber long enough to,  at the very least, feel something—that allow these types of acts to persist. I think it is the smaller ones. The quiet ones.

It is the ass-grab in a crowded bar.

The jokes men make about hookers without names over beers with their co-workers.

The wicked slip of the tongue when women call the girl across the room a slut for the way she leans, or for the cut of her blouse.

It is the seemingly benign drops in the bucket that overflow; then suddenly we realize we are caught in the current.

Beyond the social acceptability of making light of this issue, is the overwhelming presence of glamorized violence against women in media. The stories we tell. The symbols we use.

They are like a refrain.

Today this story appeared, and I read the headline more than once. It seemed implausible.

According to the Huffington Post‘s Raj Shetye, the photographer responsible for this campaign—a series of images disturbingly similar to the scene on the bus in New Delhi two years ago—made the images to bring awareness to the “issue of female safety in India.”

He is either covering his tracks or doesn’t get it.

Because this is it. This is the problem.


Rape isn’t a muse.

The horrendous assault to a 23-year-old woman on a public bus was never meant to be an artist’s device.

The name of the series, “Wrong Turn” evokes victim blaming. Her clothes are sensual, as if the hands reaching out can’t help but touch her.

In most of the images she looks like she is the one in control of the situation. She looks strong, poised.

The perpetrators of the violence are never depicted.

And perhaps worst of all she looks like she might be enjoying it.

Shetye took so many wrong turns.


For me, nothing is more offensive than making violence against women glamorous.

It is even worse when the creators of these images claim to do so as a form of “activism.”

And that is it. That is the problem. The suffering, the wrongdoing, it isn’t the storyteller’s device….it is so much more.

And instead of trying to end rape, we keep trying to redefine it in our words, our images, our stories, our casual conversations.

Drops falling in the bucket…and so few of us seem to be swimming upstream.


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Editor: Renée Picard

Images: Raj Shetye from Huffington Post Article, Featured Image by Meg Morris

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