Yesterday my 19 year old asked if I knew anything about April 24th – tomorrow – being national rape day. After googling, and talking with her, I was trying to figure out what to say. She suggested: Don’t make national rape day a thing thank u in advance
Let’s start by pointing out that it’s not a real day. This is an urban-legend-ish sort of thing that was created and passed around as a cruel and violent “joke” intended to cause fear. There is no such thing as national rape day.
Here are are few other points and perspectives from various friends and colleagues in no particular order:
- don’t feed the rumor mill,
- make sure to focus on the use of panic, fear, and the rumor mill to control women’s behavior,
- focus on ways to address this issue in a curriculum,
- people need to stop crafting stupid new urban legands that definitely cause fear and might cause actual violence,
- and the one that seems to be getting the most play time generally: WTF?
While TikTok’s most recent obsession with National Rape Day is new, the idea goes back at least a few years and maybe even a decade or more (and no one can say exactly where it began). Do you know what goes back even further? Using rape as a specific means of controlling women and a general means of waging war.
So what does all of this mean in our classrooms? In our daily interactions with our students, who may or may not be feeling personally attacked by this current TikTok trend – but are extremely likely to have seen it?
It means you have to talk about it. You have to talk about the fact that national rape day is not a thing, has never been a thing, and will never be a thing. And you have to talk about the ways that rape is about control over sexual gratification, that rape and the threat of rape have been used as intentional and specific violence against people of all genders, and about the fact that rape jokes (including national rape day) are violent because they are a threat of rape.
And then next week you talk about empathy, love, and compassion. You teach about how to hear when someone else rejects your romantic or sexual overtures. You stay present and engage in deep conversations that are real, human, and acknowledge a full range of emotions from utterly blissful to wrenchingly painful. You act as a human sign post towards making human connection accessible, important, and valuable. Ultimately it is these things that will move us in the direction we actually want to go.