WRITTEN BY CHARLES CALOIA
Dr. Emily Horowitz held her second lecture series of the semester this week with a screening of the documentary It Was Rape, which denounces the many facets of what’s considered “rape culture.”
Baumgardner is an avid writer, filmmaker, and activist with work spanning lengths in modern press: from five books, to magazines including Glamour, Harper’s Gazette, and Ms. to CUNY’s Feminist Press.
Through the interviews of eight women, the documentary became what the director Jennifer Baumgardner refers to as a film “about learning to listen.”
Each is a survivor of sexual assault in different contexts, with close-to-home stories tackling many underlying themes indicative of “rape culture:” academia, promiscuity, partying, privilege, the forcefulness behind such heinous acts and many more perceptions and misconceptions leading to them.
The interviewees ran the gamut of modern talent and education. Baumgardner’s sister Andrea detailed her high school experiences involving her assault leading to being shunned as a “slut,” among other derogatory terms.
Tony-nominated artist and LGBT activist Staceyann Chin, who described herself as “less a product of love” from being conceived through rape, recalls her experiences of embracing Lesbianism in Jamaica, coming to America after being gang-raped on campus.
New York-based performance artist Christen Clifford drew back to experiences in a cottage with older friends, having her assault documented on a mixtape which she then turned into a controversial term paper and a set piece in a one-woman show, ridding herself of the “hatred that I hate inside of me.”
Floridian educator Annie, nervously laughing throughout her interview, remembered her childhood with an abusive father forcing contact on her as early as age 4, eventually leading to his evasion from arrest and suicide.
Elle magazine film critic Karen Durbin drew from her homogenous upbringing in Pennsylvania to her days partying at Studio 54, all before a violent experience that was not legally rape in 1970’s NYC.
Wagatwe, as a strictly-brought-up student, had grown to the liberation of the college campus, all before three incidents with a violent boyfriend going unpunished led to her withdrawal and a distrust of authority, with depression and rejection. She concluded that the society around her was “not made for people like me, whatever that may mean.”
The half-Native American Lisa was the product of a domestically abusive relationship, having an unhappy childhood before being assaulted as a teenager, but turning to her indigenous community for healing and support in her current pursuits in activism.
Midwest educator Dena remembers her High School atmosphere also of hostility and women calling each other “sluts,” despite growing up to enjoy sex before an encounter led to her assault and subsequent fear of rejection if she spoke out, eventually being rallied by her family.
Words cannot be minced here. These are presented harsh, but are real cases of crimes gone undocumented from social stigmas, with their humanity being just as touching as it is terse. That these women moved onto great successes is a testament to these people and their conditions.
On criticism some viewers took issues with is the lack of male survivors: something that Baumgardner addressed the first time SFC screened the film in 2014.
As a point of contention, it’s understandable that no matter the gender, such an issue holds little weight in comparison to the crime, its prevention and deliberation. Baumgardner pulls no punches to make sure these issues are just as addressed in modern society as it is among It Was Rape’s viewers.