We’ve become a nation of navel-gazers. The slightest mention of anything that resembled any small part of our childhood is met with either waves of approval or vicious defense. News of schlock auteur Michael Bay’s revamp of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” to give the characters a back story that makes sense, apparently involving them being aliens, lead to fan backlash for seemingly no reason.
Things were going expectedly until Robbie Rist, infamous for his portrayal of Cousin Oliver on The Brady Bunch, wrote on his Facebook wall, “the brutal rape of our childhood continues.”
That’s when I started to care.
We’ve reached the point in our culture where words have no meaning. People will say “literally” when they are talking about something that almost certainly didn’t happen, every member of the pseudo-intelligista say “irregardless” without acting like it’s a word and will use the most powerful words when with no regard for meaning. No word has suffered more from this phenomenon than the word “rape.”
Depending on who you ask, whether it’s Kim Novak who thinks it’s hearing your music in a movie, Tyler the Creator using it as an easy rhyme or Johnny Depp and Kristen Stewart who believe it’s being photographed, rape can mean anything now but it almost certainly doesn’t mean the brutal physical, sexual and emotional assault inflicted on millions of women a year.
I’m not trying to say that people should never use or talk about rape. In order to raise awareness and to be honest with the problems facing people throughout the world, we must be able to talk about the subject explicitly and without fear. Popular culture has been able to address issues of sexual assault effectively while being frank about the topic.
As a writer for multiple publications who has been writing for years, I understand that the meanings of words change. People move past the taboo and embrace something rather than let the meaning define their existence. That still doesn’t make it appropriate to say things like referring to being raped by assignments or that some director is sexually assaulting your childhood.
This isn’t about political correctness. This isn’t about stopping speech or impeding freedoms. This is about common decency, caring for people who are marginalized for being assaulted and reaching out to everyone who is in pain. There is no reason to compare the trivialities of your daily existence with the pain that so many people around the world are haunted by every day of their lives.