Typically in society, when people experience tough situations, we tend to blame the victim. However, according to C. Wright Mills, it is important to be able to understand that just maybe someone’s private trouble is actually stemming from a public issue or a structural problem (Barkan, 2016). Imagine personal troubles being the fruit on a tree while public issues are the root system of the tree itself. Sure, we can pick off the fruit until it is bare, but if we do not deal with the root itself, the fruit will keep coming back until the tree is uprooted. Likewise, once we become comfortable with using our sociological imagination, we are able to understand that many private troubles are actually the fruit of the bigger tree; public issues and structural problems.
One example of a private issue that may actually be stemming from a social problem is the issue of rape. According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one in five women and one in seventy one men have disclosed they have experienced rape at some time in their lives (CDC, 2012). This has resulted in worldwide controversy, with some believing rape can be prevented if women, in particular, would modify their clothing or other behavior, while others believe rape to be a culture in itself perpetuated by society’s tendency to blame the victims of rape while normalizing predominately male sexual violence .
For instance, according to Valerie Jarret, Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement, if a woman becomes a rape victim, she is likely to hear comments like, “Why were you out so late? Why were you wearing such provocative clothing? Why did you get so intoxicated?” Likewise, if a man is raped, he is likely to hear criticism such as, “Couldn’t you fight them off? You were raped by a woman? You should be happy you got laid.” The issue with these examples of victim blaming is that these types of comments perpetuate the root causes of rape. Those root causes being society’s history of doubting rape victim’s stories, consistently giving out light sentences to those accused of rape, and asking victims to modify their behavior rather than demanding the offender to modify or “pay” for theirs (Jarret, 2014).
This is merely one example of how a personal trouble could actually be a bigger structural problem. When one in five women deal with the same issue, that is a clear sign that this particular private trouble is something much more than that. Some ways we can help exterminate rape culture from continuing to be a public issue while eventually decreasing the statistic of sexual assaults, is educating women and men on what mutual consent actually means, defining when a person is able to consent to sex and when they are not able to consent, and making it clear that a rape victim was never “asking for it” regardless of their lifestyle choices. Once we begin dealing with the root of the structural problem by using our sociological imagination, rather than believing the public issue is merely a private trouble, we will begin to see progress in the movement to end rape culture and other structural problems in our society.
Barkan, S.E. (2013). (Vol.1). Retrieved September 19, 2016, fromhttp://catalog.flatworldknowledge.com/bookhub/study/3064….
Jarret, V. (2014, January 22). A Renewed Call to Action to End Rape and Sexual Assault. Retrieved September 19, 2016, fromhttps://www.whitehouse.gov/…/renewed-call-action-end-rape-a….
Center of Disease Control and Prevention. (2012). Sexual Violence. Retrieved September 19, 2016, fromhttps://www.cdc.gov/violencepreventi…/pdf/sv-datasheet-a.pdf.