Tag Archives: facebook

Is This Rape Culture?

24 Jun

rape_culture_shirt

I’d seen this image pop up a few times on my Facebook feed, but it wasn’t until the super-popular website PostSecret shared it on their page that I really sat up and took notice. Or rather, it wasn’t until someone commented saying that this shirt promoted rape culture, and a friend asked me if I agreed with that statement, that I really gave it much thought beyond the usual oh great, more “hilarious” misogyny.

But you know what? After taking some time to think about it, I realized that I agreed with the PostSecret commenter. This shirt is really pretty gross. This shirt promotes some very problematic ideas about women and how they relate to men. This shirt implies that male violence, both sexual and physical, is the societal norm.

This shirt is rape culture.

Now, I’m not saying that this shirt promotes rape, or is encouraging anyone to go out and commit sexual assault. In fact, at first glance, the shirt’s message is pretty benign, right? I mean, it’s all about a dad protecting his daughter, and even if that idea is badly executed, well, the sentiment behind it is still admirable, isn’t it?

Except that it’s not.

The problem is that the real, underlying sentiment here is that the daughter is a man’s possession, not a person. She’s either her father’s “princess” or her boyfriend’s “conquest.” It’s clear that the daughter’s wants and desires mean nothing to her father – he says that he will dislike anyone that she dates simply because they are dating his daughter. It doesn’t matter whether this boyfriend (since the shirt is operating off the assumption that the daughter is cisgender and heterosexual) is a nice guy, whether he treats the daughter well, or even whether the daughter loves him – the father will still dislike him, based on the simple fact that this teenage boy wants to be physically close to his daughter.

I know what you’re going to say – But he’s not being possessive, he’s just being protective of her! He doesn’t want her to get hurt! That’s a totally natural way to feel!

What do we mean, though, when we talk about the daughter being “hurt” by her boyfriend? Do we mean hurt feelings? That certainly doesn’t seem to be what other people get from this shirt, based on the comments left on PostSecret’s Facebook page:

“He’s just trying to protect his daughter! You must have no idea some of the terrible things that happen to women.”

“It sort of more implies that these people are minors and are under their parent’s care. And being that teenage boys tend to be these creepy-ass horndogs, this is a father’s reaction to that.”

“If you dislike this shirt, you are obviously not a father.”

“I have 2 daughters [and] I agree with Sabria.. as parents we are the first line of defense. Unfortunately we may teach our daughters how to defend themselves, my eldest does, and we may teach them that they are not objects but people, but the problem still exsists where not everyone cares enough about their kids to teach them the right way. So yes jokes like these are stupid but true at the same time. I told my daughter, after finding out a girl in her class was molested, that i would happily kill someone to protect her and her siblings. I am her first line of defense so yes if you hurt my child i will hurt you back with twice as much force. The sentiment in the joke is to protect your child, not to try and objectify them.”

“My dad has never viewed me as his property, but he says stuff like this all the time when my mom prompts him by bringing up the length of my skirt or likewise. I can see how people would take this as implying ownership, but it simply does not. It’s just a dad saying, she’s my baby girl and I will protect her no matter what.”

So it’s pretty obvious that what we’re talking about here isn’t emotional damage, but rather sexual violence. Which brings us to point number ten on the shirt – “Whatever you do to her, I will do to you.” In the light of the comments above and the way that most people seem to interpret this shirt, it’s pretty clear that item ten on this list is a rape joke. The father will rape the boyfriend if he sleeps with the daughter. And that’s where the fact that this shirt is participating in and furthering rape culture becomes especially apparent.

Rape culture is the normalization and trivialization of rape and sexual assault. It’s a culture in which sexual violence is made to be both invisible and inevitable. It’s a culture that teaches us that male sexual violence is both normal and desirable. It also teaches us that men are not able to control their actions when they are aroused.

And that’s what this shirt is really saying, isn’t it? That a teenage boy will, given the chance, commit some kind of sexual violence against his girlfriend, and that the only solution to that violence is more violence, this time on the part of the father. This shirt assumes that the rape (or attempted rape) of the daughter is inevitable, and the only solution is to remove the boyfriend from the scene. This shirt says that the blame (sidebar – why the need for blame?) for any sex had by the teenage couple will be put squarely on the shoulders of the male partner. Why? Because our culture teaches us that men want sex more than women, that they can’t help being physically aggressive when it comes to sex, and finally that all of these toxic messages are just sexual norms and there’s nothing that we can do to combat them beyond matching violence with violence.

Look, I’m sure that the person who created this shirt had some very good, humorous intentions. I’m sure that they didn’t think about the possibility of people interpreting their message as contributing to rape culture. And I’m especially sure that PostSecret shared this on their Facebook page in good faith, figuring that it was something that their readership would enjoy and hopefully get a laugh out of. But the fact that this shirt and its message are so seemingly innocent is really what makes them so dangerous – because that’s how these messages make their way most easily into our cultural consciousness, not through overtly offensive or misogynist material, but through the stuff that seems harmless at face value. If someone shares a terrible rape joke on Facebook, it’s easy to explain why that’s wrong, but something like this requires a somewhat more complex, carefully calibrated approach.

I guess that what I want people to get out of this post is that it’s important to listen when someone says that something is wrong, or offensive, or contributes to rape culture. You don’t ultimately have to agree with them, but it would mean a lot if you could reign in your knee-jerk reaction of it’s just a joke or stop being such a humourless bitch or some people just want to be offended by everythingΒ and actually took a moment to try to see what that other person is trying to get at. You might discover that they actually have a point, or you might learn to look at stuff like this from a new angle, but even if you don’t, at least that person will feel as if they’ve been heard. And if they feel that way, then they’re more likely to listen to you, and that’s how dialogue works. And out of dialogue comes change.

And change is good.

Advertisements

On Facebook and Validation

27 Feb

I deleted my Facebook account this morning.

Or rather, I deactivated it, because deleting is way more of a hassle and I’ll probably end up reactivating my account eventually. And can I just take a second to tell you how crazy hard it was to get myself off that motherfucker? It took me approximately ten years to find the “deactivate” section, and THEN they make you fill out this thing about why you’re leaving and blah blah blah, like, seriously, Zuckerberg? Everyone and their grandmothers are on Facebook. You can relax about the OCCASIONAL PERSON quitting your site.

But anyway. I digress.

I deactivated my account because I wasn’t really happy about how I was using Facebook. I felt like too often I was using it to seek attention or validation, and that felt really unhealthy. I feel like I have an OK relationship with Facebook when I’m in a good space mentally, but when I’m depressed I tend to make posts that are basically begging my friends to reassure me that they love me, that I’m a good person, that I’m doing a good job. And I don’t want to be that guy, you know?

But this is where it gets fucking tricky, because by posting this, aren’t I kind of, sort of being that guy? Aren’t I using this as a way of asking you for validation that I’m not constantly looking for validation? Or at least validation that this is just how we do it in the 21st century and everyone else (and their grandmothers) use Facebook for the same thing?

Let me tell you a little story.

One time, my ex-boyfriend and I were at the same Hallowe’en party, and then ended up going out to the same club. I was still in love with him and he knew it, but he went ahead and kissed me on the dance floor anyway. He was dressed as The Incredible Hulk and when he kissed me he got green paint on my face, and my best friend dragged me into the bathroom and yelled, WHAT THE FUCK IS HE DOING KISSING YOU AND GETTING GREEN PAINT ON YOUR FACE? THAT IS FUCKING UNACCEPTABLE.

So I tried to ask him why he’d kissed me, but instead he turned around and walked out of the bar. So I followed him, because I was angry, and hurt, and felt stupid and used. I chased him down the street, yelling his name and telling him to turn around and talk to me RIGHT NOW. And eventually he did, and we ended up sitting together on someone’s stoop in the middle of Halifax’s North End. It was midnight and really fucking cold outside, but I didn’t have a coat because I’d been in such a hurry to catch him and chew him out. So I sat there, trying to explain how hurt I was without actually admitting that I still wanted to be with him, and I was so cold that I started shivering. So he put his arms around me, and pulled me close, and I started crying.

We were both really drunk, and really young, and really serious. So we decided we were having this big adult conversation about ourselves and our relationship and our treatment of each other. Because, you know, that’s what you do when you’re sitting on some random North End stoop dressed as The Incredible Hulk and Jackie O on a freezing cold late-October night. That’s what grownups do. Right?

Anyway, at some point I said, “Tell me something that you know about me. Something true.”

And he looked at me and said, “Anne needs to stop relying on other people’s opinions of her.”

And I was actually shocked by how true and accurate that was. Like, even though he was a dick to me on the regular, he still knew me, somehow. And, weirdly, he still cared about me.

I guess I was also shocked because I’d thought that my need for other people’s validation was something that I’d managed to hide fairly well. But it became clear to me that if even my emotionally-stunted ex-boyfriend could see it, then everyone could see it.

And in that moment I felt exposed for the fraud I was: not the loud, brash, ass-kicking lady that I pretended to be, but a scared, lonely, kid with poor self-esteem.

I’ve worked hard in the year since then to have more faith in myself, to not let other people’s ideas shape who or what I am. I’ve tried to grow a thicker skin, tried not to care about what other people say, tried to learn how to stand my ground. And to some degree, I think I’ve been successful. I’ve at least become better at presenting myself as someone who is all of those things.

But when things get tough, I don’t feel like someone who has a strong core. I feel like someone who has layers and layers of gauze bandages wrapped around her midsection, and when you go to unwind them, it turns out that there’s nothing there, like, literally nothing. Just a giant, gaping hole that goes all the way through me. And then maybe all of my internal organs fall out and I get blood and guts on your nice new shoes and I’m crying for you to love me, please love me, and even though I can tell that you’re disgusted, I can’t stop.

So anyway, that’s what Facebook has been feeling like lately. Like I’m a big old vivisected loser who needs you to tell her over and over that she’s fine, she’s good, she’s lovely. And I don’t want to be that loser anymore. And I don’t want to drive you all away with my nonsense.

Thus: Facebook deactivation.

We can still interact here and on Twitter, and I’m happy to give you my email address so long as you promise that you’re not a creeper who wants to send me pictures of his dick. I’ll still be around. It’ll be fun, I promise!

Now if you excuse me, I have to go talk to my cats and make sure that they still think that I’m a worthy owner who feeds them on time and gives them enough cuddles.

IMG_2289

Facebook! Social Media! I have no idea what I’m doing but I’ll run with it!

31 Aug

Hey lovely readers!

I made a Facebook page for my blog – you can like it if you want to!

You can dislike it, too, but there’s no convenient button for that. I guess if you want to dislike it you will just have to do that from the privacy of your own home. Sorry.