Redefining Rape: Sexual Violence in the Era of Suffrage and Segregation

Estelle B. Freedman ’69

Estelle Freedman

In her new book, Redefining Rape, Estelle Freedman ’69, professor of history at Stanford University and longtime friend of BCRW, explores not only the ways in which rape has defined citizenship throughout American history, but also how aspiring citizens have tried, repeatedly, to redefine rape. Long before second-wave feminists adopted an anti-rape platform, generations of women’s rights and racial-justice advocates rejected the narrow understanding of rape as a brutal attack on a chaste, unmarried, white woman by a stranger. In this lecture, Freedman examines how such critiques exposed the fact that white men’s freedom to be sexually violent lay at the heart of their political power, but did so in the face of intense external resistance and often-contradictory internal politics, forces that continue to influence modern anti-rape movements.

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