by Rayanne Nowak
It will never be easy for me to read personal accounts of trauma. These stories agitate a wounded place in my heart. In order to write about this collection, I had to feel pain. At times, I was uncomfortable; however, rape culture itself is uncomfortable. I read every single essay, and every piece wove in different nuances about the same topic. I often put the book down because I was furious or heartbroken. It reinforced my desire to be kind to others because you never know what secrets and traumas they themselves hold. Anthologies are a discussion in the form of a literary collection. This anthology revealed the suffering and anger of many different people. And by doing so, Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture is an important addition to the discourse on rape culture.
I consider Not That Bad a part of the ongoing MeToo movement as well. Originally established to support survivors of sexual violence, MeToo grew to be a viral topic and part of a long overdue national dialogue. As more people eagerly join the conversation, the message now is, “You are not alone.” One of the authors, So Mayer, said in her essay Floccinaucinihilipilification, “Rape was and is a cultural and political act: it attempts to remove a person with agency, autonomy, and belonging from their community, to secrete them and separate them, to depoliticize their body by rendering it detachable, violable, nothing.” Rape culture isolates people through victim blaming and gender roles, two topics that MeToo heavily addresses.
Appropriately, these essays focused on how trauma and rape culture affect relationships. They remind us that every person plays a valuable role in their community: they interact with others in whatever way they know how. Part of healing is finding new and healthy relationshipsㅡa process inevitably influenced by past traumas. These essays also tell us how relationships are convoluted, especially when it comes to physical intimacy. But no one should settle for suffering with the intention of pleasing someone else. This is easy to forget, considering how media and pornography characterize gender and sexuality. Sometimes, healing involves discomfort and redefining limits. While trauma and pain may be in the past, it takes time to let go and that’s okay.
As a literary discussion, Not That Bad demonstrates how extensively society integrates rape culture. It touches all aspects of lifeㅡfrom gender to immigration, media and relationships. The most necessary of conversations are drawn out, painful affairs. Yet we must continue this conversation no matter how ugly and uncomfortable it may seem. We must reclaim community members, tell stories, own trauma, and love ourselves. And always remember that we are not alone.