Politics of Fear and Racialized Rape: Intersectional Reading of the Kempele Rape Case

  • Tuija SaresmaEmail author
Part of the Approaches to Social Inequality and Difference book series (ATSIAD)


Much of the anxiety, hatred, and fear felt toward asylum seekers as racialized others that had been aroused and incited during the summer and autumn of “the refugee crisis” of 2015 crystallized in the Kempele rape case. The case refers to the incident in which accusations were broadcast in the Finnish media that a suspected rape of a young girl by two refugees based at a newly established immigration detention center had occurred in the small town of Kempele in Northern Ostrobothnia on November 2015. It is an illuminating example of how race and ethnicity intertwine with gender in contemporary discussions that take place in both the traditional and social media. In this chapter I analyze the dual functions of racialized and gendered rape speech: it simultaneously poses a threat to and promises to “protect” (white) women. My aim is to show that racism and racialization are intertwined with sexism and misogyny. Besides analyzing the media discourse on racialized rape, I ask how Islamophobia and xenophobia are promoted by linking a certain racialized ethnic background and rape in the media. I also analyze the relationship between racialization and misogyny by using intersectionality as my methodological tool. Besides analyzing the construction of intersectional power hierarchies, I look at the affective logic and the rhetoric of the media texts. Whereas the affective politics of fear claims to protect women from the threat of potential Muslim/immigrant/refugee rapists, it simultaneously limits the freedom of women and girls to move within the public space, challenging the autonomy of the female body. Intersectional reading of the Kempele case illuminates that rape is not only a question of gender; the power hierarchies produced in the media texts are thoroughly racialized. Racialization is thus the active form of existing structural racism that is embedded in the media.


Gender equality Rape speech Misogyny Intersectionality Racialization 


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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of JyväskyläJyväskyläFinland

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