Thursday, November 12, 2015

Mini-Reviews on a Theme (Rape Culture): Missoula and Asking for It

From Goodreads:
In Missoula, Krakauer chronicles the searing experiences of several women in Missoula — the nights when they were raped; their fear and self-doubt in the aftermath; the way they were treated by the police, prosecutors, defense attorneys; the public vilification and private anguish; their bravery in pushing forward and what it cost them...
Krakauer’s dispassionate, carefully documented account of what these women endured cuts through the abstract ideological debate about campus rape. College-age women are not raped because they are promiscuous, or drunk, or send mixed signals, or feel guilty about casual sex, or seek attention. They are the victims of a terrible crime and deserving of compassion from society and fairness from a justice system that is clearly broken. 
Jon Krakauer is an automatic read for me, regardless of what he publishes.  That said, I was thrilled when his latest book took on a topic that's also of interest to me in general.  I work in a college setting and the issue of college rape is undeniable in our culture.  Krakauer examines a particular city and specific college, but he also brings to light the issue of why women don't report sexual assault on a nationwide scale as well.

For the most part, I think this book is a complete success.  Krakauer is obviously a skilled journalist and has done mountains of research into his subject.  I trust his reporting completely.  He manages to illuminate every aspect of the issue, from the way campus security works with police, to the police procedures for sexual assault investigation, to the trials themselves.  My one complaint is that I felt like the last quarter or so of the book was a bit repetitive.  In my opinion, it could have done with some editing and been a bit shorter, but my overall impression is that this is a book that needs to be read and is as readable as a novel, but obviously well-researched.

 From Goodreads:
Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s arrest. Congressman Todd Akin’s “legitimate” gaffe. The alleged rape crew of Steubenville, Ohio. Sexual violence has been so prominent in recent years that the feminist term “rape culture” has finally entered the mainstream. But what, exactly, is it? And how do we change it? 

In Asking for It, Kate Harding answers those questions in the same blunt, bullshit-free voice that’s made her a powerhouse feminist blogger. Combining in-depth research with practical knowledge, Asking for Itmakes the case that twenty-first century America—where it’s estimated that out of every 100 rapes only 5 result in felony convictions—supports rapists more effectively than victims. Harding offers ideas and suggestions for addressing how we as a culture can take rape much more seriously without compromising the rights of the accused.
I expected to be blown away by Missoula, but this one really surprised me.  I didn't plan on reading the two at the same time, but it wound up working out that way.  If you're interested in figuring out exactly what rape culture is and how it affects women both on and off campuses, I might even suggest this one over Missoula.  Rather than focusing on a detailed account of a few specific cases, Asking for It covers the entire issue using stories from many different women across many situations.  It also addresses the issues women face on campus, but goes deeper into other places where women must face rape culture, particularly in media depictions and on the internet.  I sped through this one and plan to add it to my permanent collection because it's one that I think I would refer back to frequently.

Overall
Both of these books are certainly worth reading, particularly if you have any interaction with young women on either high school or college campuses.  Beyond that, I think both cover topics that are important to women of all ages and will be of interest to anyone who cares about the issues women face living in a rape culture.  I highly recommend both.

Thanks to my work library and to Netgalley for providing me with copies of these.

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