Feminist and Queer Writing on Sexual Violence: VIPIRG Summer Reading Group Invites you to Join!

VIPIRG will carry out a research project that focuses on sexual violence and rape culture. The term “rape culture” is coined by feminists in the US in the 1970s to describe the ways in which “society blamed victims of sexual assault and normalized sexual violence”.[1] Feminist scholar and activist Emily Buchwald, the author of Transforming a Rape Culture, defines rape culture as “a complex set of beliefs that encourage male sexual aggression and supports violence against women…it is a society where violence is seen as sexy and sexuality as violent.”[2] In other words, rape culture does not only refer to sexual assault—albeit that sexual assault is the venomous product of rape culture. Rape culture not only produces sexual assault and sexual violence as accepted and pervasive practices but also silences and discredits survivors’ accounts and further traumatizes them. In rape culture, many survivors blame themselves for what happened to them, thus do not report the incidents. Thus the collected date is highly under-representative of the actual prevalence of sexual assault. And with the rise of feminist consciousness and solidarity against rape culture, we see an increasing number of survivors report the incidents, yet they are discredited, dismissed, and not believed.[3][4] Even when ample evidence is presented, perpetrators’ interests are often taken into account at the expense of survivors. On the other hand, rape culture refers to a set of structural practices that reify and objectify female bodies and by doing so render female bodies vulnerable to violence. Prevalent practices such as male gaze and cat calling, bathroom bullying, and body shaming are just a few examples. Moreover, as a gendered form of oppression, rape culture also operates in conjunction with colonial, racial, and heteronormative norms and rules and together the matrix of power people of colour, and queer people more vulnerable to violence and less likely to gain public exposure and attention.

In short, rape culture is historical and has different manifestations and forms in different historical, cultural and political contexts. Rape culture and sexual violence have been perpetrated and implicated in systematic practices such as slavery, genocide of indigenous peoples, as well as compulsory heterosexuality. These systematic and macro-level practices in turn intimately constitute, shape, and influence individual lives throughout history. Writing has been a pivotal tool to record and attend to such entanglement and critique such oppressive and violent structures.

VIPIRG would like to invite you to join us to read three powerful accounts this summer. Each of them evokes a theme that we intend to explore in our project. The first one is Beloved by Toni Morrison. Set in the post Civil War United States, Beloved powerfully narrates how black women were impacted by slavery and deep-rooted racism, and how they struggled for their lives. The second one is Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide, by indigenous activist and academic Andrea Smith. The last book is Well of Loneliness, one of the most important queer narratives in 20th century by British queer author Radclyffe Hall. It tells the story of a lesbian couple and the everyday violence they encounter in their daily life because of their sexuality.

The reading group will meet every Thursday night at 6, at VIPIRG office located at B122 in the Student Union Building at University of Victoria. Bring your passion, favourite plot, passage, thoughts, reflections, or just come to listen! There will be food and beverages and everyone is welcome to come and discuss! You are welcome to buy your own copies or find pdfs online. There would also be several copies of each book available at VIPIRG library (the same room in SUB) and you are welcome to drop by to either take it out to photocopy or read in the office with us.

If you are interested in the reading group but the schedule does not work for you, or you find the reading load too demanding, please let us know either by commenting on the facebook post or email us at vipirgresearch@gmail.com, and we would do our best to accommodate you.

We really hope to see you there!

Tentative reading schedule:

July 21st : Beloved p1-p135

July 28th: Beloved p136-275

Aug 4thth& August 11th& August 18th& August 25th



The Well of Loneliness

[1] “What is Rape Culture?” Women Against Violence Against Women, accessed at http://www.wavaw.ca/what-is-rape-culture/.

[2] See Emilie Buchwald, Pamela Fletcher, and Martha Roth, ed(s), Transforming a Rape Culture (Minneapolis: Milkweed, 1994).

[3] Nedelsky, Jennifer. “Embodied Diversity and the Challenges to Law.” McGill Law Journal, Vol. 42, No.1, 1997.

[4] “Ghomeshi Acquitted,” The Globe and Mail, March 28, 2016. Accessed at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/…/jian-ghom…/article28476713/