I read this as part of a bookclub discussion. The book was selected by a lovely woman who fled Iran 24 years ago, and had lived through the revolution, war and economic sanctions against her country. She said she started reading it a year ago but it was just too emotional and so she thought with the support of the bookclub she could get through it. I was grateful for her choice as this was interesting, informative and a unique perspective on the topic. Instead of a classic 'book report' I have decided to share the bookclub discussion experience.
So, the group met yesterday evening, 9 women and 5 men. The group on the whole is well educated, well informed, well read and generally progressive. After everyone has takes a turn to give their impression of the book, open discussion follows. And guess what followed? MANSPLAINING! The book was about women in Islamic middle eastern cultures, told through very personal stories. Some were positive, but many very illustrative of how women are subjugated, abused and repressed. While political and economic policy are relevant to such a book, this wasn't a book about politics or policy. Nevertheless, a subset of the men in the room hijacked the discussion into that. When the woman from Iran (who lived through the revolution) explained that Iranian revolution in 1979 was not entirely rooted in the rise Islamic fundamentalism, she was corrected. When she described the economic disparity in Iran (no middle class) she was corrected. When I brought up my opinion that it's not the Islamic faith that leads to repression of women, but rather patriarchal cultural practices, I was corrected. The irony of the whole situation was not lost on me, nor was it lost on many of the other women in the room.
To be fair, these men aren't misogynists and they are probably sympathetic to feminist causes. But they have also been raised to be more assertive and are better skilled at inserting their opinions into the discussion. They may not consciously discount a woman' s opinion, but they probably are oblivious to their subconscious biases. Even in 'so called' enlightened western culture, in one of the most liberal cities in America, you can find micro aggressions against women in the context of a book discussion about the oppression of Islamic women. ¯_(ツ)_/¯
Now, turn a subconscious bias against women into one that is culturally sanctioned through religious interpretation and you have the plight of many many Islamic women in the Middle East. Even though this book is 20+ years old and not without flaws, it is informative a worth a read.
5 stars for the message, but come closer, I don't want to say this too loudly... it felt like garden variety investigative reporting, nothing that transcended the subject matter in a profound way. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't great book either. So 3 stars for the book.
Now that I got that out of the way, let's discuss the subject matter. It's about rape and how these crimes are prosecuted (or more often not). It about how the victims of these crimes (mostly women) are treated both in context of the formal justice system, the college/university disciplinary system, and in the court of popular opinion. It's about myths that are propagated and used as tools to blame the victim. Anyone reading this book should become angry. Even though there are several reviews here on goodreads that spell out these myths and facts, they are worth stating.
Myths about rape
* A woman will physically fight their rapist
* A woman will scream for help when being raped
* A woman will go through the pain and humiliation of reporting a rape just to ruin a man's reputation
Facts about rape https://rainn.org/statistics
While it seems like poor Missoula Montana is being singled out, it only serves as a microcosm of what is happening all over college campuses in the US. Especially ones where male athletes are revered and their bright futures are fetishized so much that anyone who dares to knock them off their pedestal must surely has a grudge to bear.
Worst of all, deeply seeded biases in law enforcement and the judicial system make it so women who report rape are met with skepticism. Are you sure you were raped? Just because he didn't cuddle with you afterwards doesn't mean he raped you. Sady, the rape apologist people who need to read this the most are probably the ones who will never read it. For the rest of you, if you don't have time to read a 300+ page book about rape culture, I do recommend this article, the one that seemed to be the catalyst for the author's investigations into the rape culture.
Whether you read this book or not, please make sure you call people out on their BS when they are perpetuating the rape culture. While there are many genuine asshats out there (George Will, I'm looking at you) who will be impervious to criticism, there are many people who haven't really thought about what the rape culture means and some gentle recalibration will help everyone.