In the eleventh chapter of Page, Kel deals with the unpleasant truths of being a woman in the palace. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Page.
Chapter Eleven: Unpleasant Realities
Trigger Warning: We must discuss misogyny, rape/rape culture, and abuse in today’s review and comments.
This is an unpleasant chapter in one sense, as Vinson’s actions are revolting. I’m actually surprised I wasn’t triggered by this, as rape is one subject that it’s hard for me to talk about since I am a victim of rape. I think the fact that it didn’t actually happen helped, and Kel was there to act as the force of what should happen in case there is an attempted rape. So, in that sense, it was more comforting to read this than I would have normally expected it to be.
Even though this whole conversation might trigger some of you, I’m going to avoid going over the details of this too much. What I want to say is this: thank you. Thank you, Tamora Pierce, for writing a scene that describes how much rape is about power, not sexual attraction, that right places the blame on the man committing the act and the patriarchal culture that brought him up to believe that some women are his for the taking. Vinson truly believed that servant women are supposed to have sex with him, and it’s incomprehensible that one would reject his advances. Again, this is about power, because any reasonable person would view someone trying to scratch their eyes out as a sign that they’re not interested in your sexual advances. But Vinson physical positions himself to control Lalasa because that’s his goal: to overpower her.
Notice that when called on his shit, the first thing he defaults to is another form of power: the social power his family holds at court. This man knows what he’s doing, and he’s methodical and unnerving about it. It’s why I can’t feel a shred of sympathy for him. And why should I? Tamora Pierce does address the fact that there’s an entire culture of men who treat women as inferior, but she doesn’t use this to excuse their behavior. No, these men are still responsible for what they’ve done. And that is the strongest part of this: At no point does she blame Lalasa for what happened. Taking it further, Pierce also demonstrates that it’s also not easy to report such attacks. This builds off the earlier characterization we’d seen from Lalasa, and finally, Kel understands why Lalasa came to her as a meek and frightened women. Her own brother did something to her, and it’s implied that it was rape or some sort of sexual assault, and her own family didn’t believe her. This is the strongest line of that bit:
Lalasa’s own brother had hurt her, and her parents had done nothing? They’d as good as told their daughter that she didn’t matter!
It’s a stunning and necessary condemnation of rape culture. This is what we do when we ignore claims of rape and sexual assault. This is what we do when we victim blame, when we think that playing the Devil’s Advocate in discussions of rape is necessary, when we refuse to take this issue seriously. We are telling these people that they don’t matter. RAINN has been doing wonderful work for a long time, and they produced the following infographic about the terrifying reality of rape that I think visually gets the idea across well:
And that’s what I think Tamora Pierce examines here. Why does Lalasa’s rape go unreported? Why does she feel like she’d safer keeping the knowledge to herself? It’s because of the culture in the palace and in Tortall in general. She knows that her uncle could lose his job if they go public, and it’s the “unpleasant reality” referenced in the chapter title. Of course, this infuriates Kel. When she faced the culture of hazing and bullying, she got fed up with the idea that she had to accept its existence and just live with it. Eventually, she did what she could to eradicate the program of bullying as best as she could, so I’m curious if she’ll do something in the future to combat the rape culture in the palace. For now, though, she does something we should all do with victims of rape and sexual assault: respect the victim. She respects Lalasa’s desire, and she finally listens to her.
Kel, I love and respect you so much. And I am so thankful for this book, y’all. Thank you for getting me to read this.
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