Tag Archives: rape culture

Why The Men’s Rights Movement Is Garbage

28 Mar

I need to take a moment here to talk about the Men’s Rights Movement, because there seems to be some confusion. Actually, there seems to be a whole lot of confusion.

Over the past little while, I’ve had a number of people challenge me on calling out men’s rights activists (hereafter referred to as MRAs). “But men are oppressed too,” people say. “Feminism is sexist, and it teaches men that masculinity is wrong.” “Straight, white men aren’t allowed to be proud of themselves anymore.” “If you believe in equality, then you should want men to have the same type of activism as women.” “Everyone is entitled to their opinion.”

First of all, yes, everyone is entitled to their opinion. But let’s not pretend that all opinions are created equal – some are based on fact, and some are total bullshit. Like, I could tell you that I believe that vaccines cause autism, and that would be my opinion, but it would also be demonstrably untrue. So let’s not pretend that all opinions should be given the same consideration, because we both know better than that.

Second of all, let’s get one thing straight: men, as a group, do not face systematic oppression because of their gender. Am I saying that literally no men out there are oppressed? No, I am for sure not saying that. Men can and do face oppression and marginalization for many reasons – because of race, class, sexuality, poverty, to name a few. Am I saying that every white cishet dude out there has an amazing life because of all his amassed privilege? Nope, I’m not saying that either. There are many circumstances that might lead to someone living a difficult life. But men do not face oppression because they are men. Misandry is not actually a thing, and pretending that it’s an oppressive force on par with or worse than misogyny is offensive, gross, and intellectually dishonest.

MRAs believe that feminists are to blame for basically everything that’s wrong with their lives. The Men’s Rights Movement is a reactionary movement created specifically to counter feminism, and most (if not all) of their time and resources go towards silencing and marginalizing women. They do things like starting the Don’t Be That Girl campaign, a campaign that accuses women of making false rape reports. They attend feminist events in order to bully and intimidate women, they flood online feminist spaces with threatening messages, and they regularly use smear campaigns and scare tactics to make the women who don’t back down afraid for their physical safety. They do literally nothing to actually resolve the problems that they claim to care about, and instead do everything they can to discredit the feminist movement.

There are certainly issues that disproportionately affect men – the suicide rate among men is higher, as is the rate of homelessness. Men are more likely to be injured or killed on the job or because of violence. Men who are the victims of domestic abuse or sexual assault are less likely to report these things. These are the issues that MRAs are purportedly working on, and by “working on” I mean “blaming feminism for.” The problem is that none of these things are caused by feminism, or equal rights for women, or anything like that. You know what’s actually to blame for a lot of these issues? Marginalizing forces like class and race, for one thing – I mean, it’s not rich white men who are grappling with homelessness or dangerous workplaces or gun violence. You know what else is to blame? Our patriarchal culture and its strictly enforced gender roles which, hey, happens to be exactly the same power structure that feminism is trying to take down. The patriarchy has some fucked up ideas about masculinity, ideas that make men less likely to seek help for issues that they perceive to be too feminine – such as being hurt or raped by a female partner, not being able to provide for themselves, or not seeking help for health issues like depression and anxiety. On a societal level, it means that resources are not as readily available for men who face these challenges, because patriarchal ideas tell our courts, our governments and our charitable organizations that men don’t ever need that kind of help. Yes, the patriarchy overwhelmingly privileges the interests of men, but it also hurts men. It hurts men in all the ways that MRAs are apparently so concerned about, which means that you would think that MRAs would be totally on board with dismantling the patriarchy, but they’re not. Instead, they would rather blame women for their problems.

See, the problem with the Men’s Rights Movement is that they are not doing anything concrete to resolve any of the above issues. They are not raising money to open shelters for homeless or abused men. They are not starting up suicide hotlines for men. They are not lobbying for safer workplaces or gun control. Instead, they are crying about feminism, pooh-poohing the idea of patriarchy and generally making the world a sadder, scarier, less safe place to live in. In fact, I would argue that their stupid antics are actually a detriment t0 the causes that they claim to espouse, because they’re creating an association between actual real issues that men face and their disgusting buffoonery. So good fucking job, MRAs. Way to fuck vulnerable men over in your quest to prove that feminism is evil. I hope you’re all really proud of yourselves.

The Men’s Rights Movement is not “feminism for men.” It’s not some kind of complimentary activism meant to help promote equal treatment of men and women. And it fucking most certainly  is not friendly towards women, unless we’re talking about women with crippling cases of internalized misogyny. I believe in equality for men and women, but I also believe that we’re not born with an even playing field. Women still face disenfranchisement, discrimination and a lack of basic freedoms and rights, and although feminism has done a lot of great work over the last century or so, we still haven’t undone several millennia’s worth of social programming and oppression. So that’s why it’s not “men’s turn” to have a social justice movement. That’s why we have the fem in feminism. That’s why fairness and equality involve promoting the empowerment of women, rather than promoting the empowerment of both genders in equal amounts. Because, to use a stupid analogy here, if one person starts out with no apples and another person starts out with five apples and then you give them both three apples each in the name of fairness, one person still has five more fucking apples.

So yes, let’s talk about issues that affect men. Let’s come up with solutions for problems that disproportionately hurt men, like suicide and homelessness and violent deaths (while at the same time recognizing that the fact that there are issues that affect more men than women does not mean that men are oppressed because of their gender). Let’s work on opening up shelters for abused men, let’s create campaigns bringing awareness to the fact that men are also the victims of rape, and let’s pressure the government to improve workplace safety. But let’s find a way to do this that’s not at the expense of women. Instead, let’s join together and fuck up the patriarchy real good, because that way everyone wins.

p.s. If you actually think that straight white men aren’t encouraged to be “proud” of themselves you need to check your privilege a million times over and then check it some more because seriously

How I Feel About MRAs

How I Feel About MRAs

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Tired of Talking To Men

15 Mar

I am tired of talking about feminism to men.

I know that I’m not supposed to say this. I know that as a good little third-wave feminist I’m supposed to sweetly explain to you how much I love and value men. I’m supposed to trot out my husband of nearly five years, my son, all of my male friends and relatives and display them as a sort of badge of honour, proof that I am not a man-hater. I’m supposed to hold out my own open palms, prove to you how harmless I am, how nice I am. Above all, I’m supposed to butter you up, you men, stroke your egos, tell you how very important you are in the fight for equality. This is the right way to go about it, or so I’ve been told. As my mother would say, you catch more flies with honey.

But still. I’m tired of talking about feminism to men.

I’m tired of explaining to men that the feminist movement will, in fact, benefit them as well as women. I’m tired of trying to hawk gender equality like I’m some kind of car salesman showing off a shiny new sedan, explaining all of its bells and whistles. I’m tired of smiling through a thousand thoughtless microaggressions, tired of providing countless pieces of evidence, tired of being questioned on every. single. damn. thing. I’m tired of proving that microaggressions exist, tired of proving that I’m unfairly questioned and asked for proof. For a movement that’s centered around the advancement and empowerment of women, why do I feel like I’m supposed to spend so damn much of my time carefully considering how what I say and do will be taken  by men?

I’m tired of men who insert themselves into feminist spaces with claims of hurt feelings. I’m tired of men who somehow manage to make every issue about them. I’m tired of men like the one who recently stopped by a friend’s Facebook thread in order to call feminism “cunty,” then lecture the women involved for being too “hostile” in their responses to him. I’m tired of men telling me that my understanding of feminism and rape culture are wrong, as if these aren’t things that I have studied intensely. I’m tired of men who claim to be feminist allies, then abuse that position to their own advantage. I’m so fucking exhausted by the fact that I know that I will have to, at some point in this piece, mention that I understand that not all men are like that. I will have to note that some men are good allies. And all of those things are true! And all of you good allies get cookies! But honestly I’m tired of handing out cookies to people just because they’re being decent fucking human beings.

I spoke today on a panel about rape culture, and while the whole experience was fucking fantastic, I was totally disheartened by how many of the other presenters went out of their way to convince the men in the room that rape culture affected them, too. The phrase “rape culture isn’t a women’s issue, it’s a everyone’s issue,” kept coming up, and though I understand why it could be valuable to frame it that way, the rationale behind that makes me kind of sick. Because what we’re really saying is that if rape culture is understood to only be a woman’s issue, then it won’t be as important to men.

Rape culture is something that men should care about not because it might affect them, but because it affects anyone at all. Men should care about women’s safety, full stop, without having the concept somehow relate back to them. Everyone should care about everyone else’s well-being – that’s what good people are supposed to do.

Is it really so hard to have compassion about something that might not directly affect you?

I find that the more that I engage in activism, the more men seem to think that my time belongs to them. There seems to be this idea that if I’ve set myself up as an educator about feminism and gender and women’s rights (and I know that I have, and by and large I enjoy that role), then  it’s somehow part of my job to take the time out of my busy day to explain basic feminist concepts to them. If I don’t, then I’m accused of all kinds of things – not properly backing up what I say with facts (though the facts are easily accessible to those who want them), not caring enough about “converting” men who might be on the fence (though they could convert themselves if they really wanted to), not being strong or smart enough to engage in a discussion (which we both know isn’t going to go anywhere). I used to burn myself out by patiently laying out my talking points over and over, directing people towards resources, never walking away from an arguments be it big or small. But I’m not doing that to myself anymore. This is my space; I get to decide what happens here. If I don’t want to reply to comments, then I won’t. If I don’t want to engage someone, then I’ll ignore them. Yes, I am here to educate and to explain, but I am not under any obligation to do anything that I don’t want to. That is not my job. If you want to learn more, then that’s your job.

I’m going to call on all the men out there who consider themselves to be allies and ask them to step up to the plate and walk their own talk. When you see a woman being mansplained, you be the one to step in and call him out. When you see a bunch of men making misogynistic jokes, you be the one to tell them to fuck off. When someone asks for “proof,” don’t wait for a woman to provide it – you be the one to offer resources. Show us what a good ally you are by standing in the line of fire for once, and when you do, don’t immediately turn around and ask us for praise.

I’m tired of talking to men about feminism, but it doesn’t have to be like this. The burden of this discussion doesn’t have to be on women; we don’t have to be the only ones fighting the good fight. So please, men who are reading this – instead of the usual knee-jerk reaction towards these types of posts, instead of rolling your eyes and saying, “great, another feminist shitting on men,” I’m asking you to instead get involved and do what you can to affect change. I’m not going to condescend to you and try to explain why that will make the world a better place; I trust that you’re all smart enough to figure that out by yourselves.

This image came up when I googled "mansplain" and I'm just going to run with it.

This image came up when I googled “mansplain” and I’m just going to run with it. ETA: this is apparently Milan Greer, a sort of cat whisperer from the 50s. Apparently he was pretty rad and feminist so why someone tagged his picture as “mansplain” I’m not sure. WELL YOU LEARN SOMETHING EVERY DAY AM I RIGHT?

 

Woman Files Sexual Harassment Complaint, Is Suspended From Work For Five Days

10 Mar

Trigger warning for talk of sexual assault

If a woman is sexually harassed or assaulted in the workplace, then she must have done something to cause it.

At least, that’s the message being put forth by the Toronto’s parks and recreation department, where late last month a woman was suspended from work for five days after accusing a male co-worker of unzipping his pants and rubbing his penis against her in the lunchroom.

Susan Rose was responding to a comment made by her colleague John Maynard with, “I will punch you in the dick.” Maynard then became, in her words, “aggressive,” saying, “Do you want to punch me in the dick?” while unzipping his pants and walking towards her. Rose turned away from him and grabbed onto another colleague’s arm, but felt Maynard pressing his body up against hers. She then heard a third colleague tell Maynard to wash his hands, which he did, finishing by wiping his hands dry on Rose’s back.

Rose filed a report on the incident, and an internal investigation found that there was “some merit” to Rose’s claims (the main contention seems to be over whether or not the accused actually pulled out his penis – since Rose was turned away from him, she cannot reliably say whether or not that part occurred). In a February 28th decision letter sent to Rose, parks general supervisor Jim McKay said that the claims of workplace harassment against Maynard had “been addressed,” though he didn’t mention whether any disciplinary action had been taken. In the same letter, Rose was told that her own comment – “I will punch you in the dick,” which she says was a joke typical of their workplace environment – was “inappropriate” and “in violation of the City of Toronto’s Human Rights and Anti-Harassment Policy.”

The letter then went on to say, “The city aims to create a climate of understanding and mutual respect. All employees are responsible for respecting the dignity and rights of their co-workers.”

The letter also says, ““By your own account, you regularly participated in banter and inappropriate workplace behaviour with Mr. Maynard.”

Rose was suspended for five days beginning on February 28th and will be required to take a course in human rights, anti-harrassment and discrimination.

I’m not going to argue that what Rose said was appropriate – obviously it wasn’t, a fact that she admitted in an interview with the Toronto Star. However can we just talk for a hot second about the fact that she was suspended for harassment and violation of human rights while Maynard seems to have gotten off scot-free? Can we take a moment to think about how absolutely fucked up that is?

Let’s review the facts here: a woman is made visibly uncomfortable by the sexual actions of a co-worker, she files a report about the incident, and she is basically told that she is at fault for having said, in jest, that she was going to punch him in the dick. Like saying “dick” is some kind of magic spell that charms penises right out of the pants that contain them. Like Maynard can’t be faulted at all for whipping his junk out, because she made a joke about his dick. Like making a joke inappropriate for the workplace is somehow on equal footing with physical act of pressing your genitals up against someone.

Suspending Rose and forcing her to take an anti-harassment course are the equivalent of saying, “she was asking for it.”

Telling Rose that she regularly engaged in “inappropriate” banter with Maynard is the equivalent of saying, “his actions are the predictable end result of all the sexual jokes both of you have engaged in.”

The decision not to suspend Maynard is the equivalent of saying, “boys will be boys and, honestly, what did you expect?”

How do we even live in a world where a woman reports an incident of sexual harassment and is then punished because her workplace decided that it was all her fault? Jesus Christ.

If you’ve ever needed proof of rape culture, if you’ve ever needed proof that we live in a society that downplays sexual vioelence while regularly shaming and blaming victims of sex crimes, well, here it is.

Still not convinced? The comments on The Star’s coverage of the story are even more enlightening:

‘She got what she deserved. She wants to be one of the boys when it suits her. Her comments caused this who situation to occur and now she cries foul.’

‘She wants him to be punished for things she did also.’

‘ … it was she who started it by threatening to assault his private parts.’

‘sounds like she was a willing participant in antics that got out of hand’

‘Sorry, but I don’t quite believe her side of the story. She lost me when she got into the standard dialogue of being traumatized, degraded, him being violent, etc. Assault? Please. She won’t be bullied? Give me a break. Why do I get the idea that she’s a problem employee?’

‘Why is everybody getting so uptight about anything remotely connected to sex? How long before society can shed its phony Victorian attitude.’

These are the kinds of things that victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault are used to hearing: you must have done something to deserve this, you started it, you wanted it, you liked it. I don’t believe you. It doesn’t sound that bad. It sounds like you’re the one with the problem. This is what you get for daring to be a girl who wants to be “just one of the boys.” This is what you get. This is what you get. This is what you get.

No. This isn’t what anyone “gets.” Sexual harassment is not the natural consequence of telling an off-colour joke. Sexual assault is not just a regrettable thing that happens when a woman spends too much time in the company of men. No one else has the right to tell a victim how they should or shouldn’t feel about being assaulted.

And people wonder why more victims of sexual assault don’t come forward.

Susan Rose

Susan Rose

Rape Culture at the University of Ottawa

28 Feb

On February 10th, Anne Marie Roy, president of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa, was sent screenshots of a chat that had taken place earlier in the month between two student federation board members and several other students who are either elected to or participate in various faculty associations. The chat had taken place during the student federation elections, and all five men involved were members of a campaign opposing Roy’s (Roy has been president of the student federation since May 2013, and was re-elected this month). The conversation was about Roy, and the portion she was given contained graphic sexual descriptions about what the men wanted to do to her, including a rape joke that could, potentially, be taken as a rape threat.

Below are the screenshots. The participants are as follows:

Bart Tremblay: a non-elected student involved with the association for the Arts faculty

Alexandre Giroux: On the board of directors of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa, and VP Social for the Science Student Association

Alex Larochelle: VP Social for the Criminology Student Association

Pat Marquis: VP Social of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa

Michel Fournier-Simard: VP Social for the Political Science and International developement Association

Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 1.56.05 PM

Bart Tremblay: Let me tell you something right now: the “tri-fluvienne” [nickname for someone from Trois-Rivières, Québec] president will suck me off in her office chair and after I will fuck her in the ass on Pat [Marquis]’s desk

Alexandre Giroux: Tri-fluvienne? Who’s that?

Alex Larochelle: PJ I believe?

Bart Tremblay: Anne-Marie Roy, you dipshits, she comes from Trois-Rivières

Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 1.56.45 PM

Alexandre Giroux: What? No. What a shit-eater. She says that she comes from somewhere in Ontario.

Alex Larochelle: Fuck yeah Anne Marie Roy

Bart Tremblay: She told me Trois-Rivières

Alexandre Giroux: Haha shiiit

Alex Larochelle: Someone punish her with their shaft

Alexandre Giroux: Well Christ, if you fuck Anne Marie I will definitely buy you a beer

Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 1.57.07 PM

Alex Larochelle: Hahah, I’d buy you a beer too

Bart Tremblay: Lol

Alexandre Giroux: BAHAHA

Pat Marquis: I’ll get a 24 for Bart if he does it

Bart Tremblay: [Thumbs up symbol]

Bart Tremblay: Yeeee

Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 1.57.41 PM

Michel Fournier-Simard: Dude she has chlamydia. And she told francophone students that she was from Trois-Rivières but she moved to Southern Ontario when she was five years old. It’s a super political strategy.

Alex Larochelle: Hahaha I heard she has syphilis

Alexandre Giroux: Well look hahhahahah

Alex Larochelle: But those get treated bro lol. Someone told Pat and I when we were in Boston. It’s such bull shit hahaha.

Someone punish her with their shaft. Someone punish her with their shaft. This is the type of thing that’s said about women in positions of power – not a critique of their policies, but a threat of sexual violence. Not a comment on how they do their job, but graphic fantasies about how they should be sexually degraded. Nothing about their intelligence or capability, just a string of jokes about how riddled with venereal disease they are. This is misogyny, pure and simple. This is slut-shaming. This is rape culture.

Can you imagine anything like this ever being said about a male leader? Try to picture, for a moment, a female candidate saying that her opponent is going to eat her out, or that she’s going to “punish” him with her vagina. Sounds pretty unlikely, doesn’t it? And yet, this is the kind of thing that women are subjected to all the time; the truth is that no matter how far we might think we’ve come, no matter how many female CEOs there might be, the belief that women are little more than a collection of fuck-holes persists. Oh sure, people might pay lip-service to the fact that women are equal to men in intelligence, talent, and capability, but at the end of the day we can’t escape the fact that a woman is still viewed as being less than a person. Because that conversation right there? That is not how you talk about a person.

What’s even worse is that events like these are nearly always downplayed. It’s just a joke, people say. They would never have said that if they’d thought you would hear it. In fact, three of the five men involved in the conversation are considering legal action against Roy on the grounds that it was a private conversation that should not have been made public. That’s right. They want to pursue legal action against her because she publicly called them out for making rape jokes about her. This is the fucked up culture we live in.

To make things even worse, these men are all in a position of leadership at the University of Ottawa. These are the people that the students look up to, that they use as a sort of moral compass to navigate university life. If these men face no consequences for their actions – indeed, if they are able to press charges against Roy for publicly addressing their comments – what are the students going to learn from this? They’ll learn that rape is a joke, that women can be terrorized into silence, and that it’s useless, maybe even dangerous, to speak up. Are these the lessons that we want our student leaders to be instilling in the heads of seventeen and eighteen year old kids?

Since this incident was first brought to light, Pat Marquis, the VP Social for the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa, has been in discussions with Roy about the accountability measures he can take for his role in this conversation. It is their hope that these measures can be a public conversation between Roy and Marquis, and could serve as a learning opportunity for the student body. Alex Larochelle has also contacted Roy and tentatively mentioned participating in this conversation as well. As for Bart Tremblay, Alexandre Giroux and Michel Fournier-Simard, they are continuing to attempt to pursue legal action against Roy.

I reached Roy this afternoon for a statement, and she had this to say:

“It’s definitely concerning because these are individuals who are responsible for putting on social events, many of which involve alcohol, and they are also responsible for the safety of membership at these events. On a personal level I feel that this is very misogynistic, I feel that this is a reaction that these men are having because I’m a woman in a position of leadership. My concerns on this are twofold: first, the issue of student safety in general, and second, that women are not going to feel safe running for positions of leadership on campus.”

I think she pretty much hits the nail on the head with that assessment.

ETA: comments are now closed on this post

High Tech Panties Won’t Stop Rape

28 Oct

There is currently an Indiegogo campaign created by AR Wear for a line that they call Anti-Rape Clothing. These garments, which include a pair of boy-cut brief-style panties, running shorts, leggings and “travelling shorts,” are allegedly designed and built to be unremovable except by the owner, who has some sort of key to release the locking mechanism on the waistband. Basically they act as a chastity belt, although of course we are not supposed to think of them as chastity belts. AR Wear wants us to believe that this is some sort of modern innovation, and not just a contemporary twist on an outdated garment meant to oppress and subjugate women. In fact, AR Wear wants us to believe that the opposite is true – that their anti-rape wear will actually empower women and offer them some sort of freedom that they might have been lacking.

Let’s get a few things straight:

Perpetuating the myth that rape is preventable or avoidable by anyone other than the rapist is not empowering.

Giving society one more reason to blame rape victims for their rape is not empowering.

Continuing to embrace the idea that rape has something to do with what kind of clothing you are wearing (or not wearing) is not empowering.

Nothing about this product is empowering, except maybe for rapists.

There is already a long list of things that women shouldn’t do if they don’t want to be raped – they shouldn’t wear revealing clothing, shouldn’t go out at night alone, shouldn’t drink, shouldn’t talk to strangers, shouldn’t trust men, any men, not even men they know. Really, the end game of all rape prevention advice is that women should stay at home, alone, in a locked house, but even that scheme isn’t 100% foolproof. There is no actual way for a woman to prevent being raped.

And yes, I’ve heard all the rhetoric about mitigating risks and being more careful, most of which boils down to telling women not to do one or all of the things listed above. One analogy that people often use is the seatbelt metaphor – that you wouldn’t drive without wearing a seatbelt, even if you are a good driver. The idea is that we all make choices every day to make our lives safer, and telling women not to indulge in risky behaviour like wearing a cute dress or going for a run alone is no different than telling someone to put on their seatbelt when they get in their car.

Except that car accidents are accidents. People don’t rear-end you on purpose. You don’t drive into a fence on purpose. You don’t skid off the road on purpose. These are things that happen by accident. Rape is not in any way comparable to a car crash. Rape is a violent crime committed by a rapist. Rape is done with the intention to rape.

I feel like I shouldn’t even have to say this, but I’ll say it anyway:

Rape is not an accident that happens to you because you didn’t take enough precautions or because you weren’t paying close enough attention. Rape is a deliberate choice for violence and harm made by another person.

AR Wear’s Anti-Rape clothing does little more than offer society one more reason to blame rape victims for their rape. It gives people the chance to say, “Well, if only she’d been wearing those special panties, this wouldn’t have happened.” This falls in line with the same old victim-blaming mentality of, “If only she’d been dressed differently, if only she hadn’t been drinking, if only she’d screamed or kicked or fought harder.” It’s all part of the same culture that still puts the responsibility on women not to be raped. It’s the same culture that says, “Of course rape is wrong, and of course what he did was terrible, but.”

There should never, ever be a but.

It also bears mentioning that idea behind this clothing operates off the assumption that most rapists are strangers, who attack women in dark alleys late at night, when actually the opposite is true – most rapists are acquaintances with, or even romantic partners of, the victim. So what would happen if a woman did have AR Wear’s Anti-Rape clothing on, removed said clothing of her own volition, and then was raped? It would be so unbelievably easy for a judge to rule that it couldn’t possibly have been rape, because the victim chose to take off her own protective clothing.

And what happens if a would-be rapist becomes frustrated trying to remove the Anti-Rape panties? Doesn’t it seem likely that rather than stopping a rapist cold, it might incite them to other forms of violence?

This clothing does not make women less vulnerable to the threat of rape. Not really. It just seeks to make a profit off of a deep and very legitimate fear that almost every woman has. And the reality of the situation is that this product does not, as the Indiegogo campaign claims, give women “more power to control the outcome of a sexual assault.” It is unbelievably damaging and ignorant to say that victims of sexual assault could have had more power to control the outcome of what happened to them. This is victim-blaming, pure and simple.

The only person who has the power to control the outcome of rape is the rapist.

The only person who can prevent rape is the rapist.

The only person responsible for rape is the rapist.

I don’t know how many more times this has to be said until it is properly understood.

AR Wear's Anti-Rape Clothing

AR Wear’s Anti-Rape Clothing

Slut-shaming, Suicide, and Mrs. Hall

6 Sep

Most of you have probably already seen Kim Hall’s post FYI (if you’re a teenage girl). Both the original and the many, many brilliant take-downs written in response have been circulating social media this week, so it’s been pretty hard to avoid. If by some chance you’ve managed to miss out on all the fun, I highly encourage you to take a moment to go read Mrs. Hall’s open letter to all girls everywhere. It sure is something.

A lot of really smart folks have written some incredible posts touching on Mrs. Hall’s contribution to societal problems like slut-shaming, rape culture and body image issues. I don’t have anything new or brilliant to say on those topics, but I do want to talk about an aspect of Mrs. Hall’s message that hasn’t really been touched on yet: the very real link between the ideas that she’s putting forward and the recent rise in cyber-bullying, online slut-shaming and teenage suicide.

When I read Mrs. Hall’s letter, the first people that I thought of were Amanda Todd, Retaeh Parsons, Audrie Pott, Cherice Morales. In each of these cases, photographs of the girls that showed them either in various states of undress, or else showed them being sexually assaulted, or in some instances both at the same time, were circulated on social media. In each of these cases, the girls became social pariahs. In each of these cases, the girls committed suicide after enduring bullying and slut-shaming both online and offline.

I am not saying that Mrs. Hall is consciously suggesting that her children should shame or bully their classmates, especially those who have been sexually assaulted. If you asked her, I’m sure that she would tell you that those ideas are so far from what she intended to communicate as to be almost laughable. But still. Slut-shaming, ostracizing and bullying are the end-game of everything she is teaching her children.

When she writes:

And now – big bummer – we have to block your posts. Because, the reason we have these (sometimes awkward) family conversations around the table is that we care about our sons, just as we know your parents care about you.”

And:

And so, in our house, there are no second chances with pics like that, ladies. We have a zero tolerance policy.  I know, so lame. But, if you want to stay friendly with our sons online, you’ll have to keep your clothes on, and your posts decent.  If you post a sexy selfie (we all know the kind), or an inappropriate YouTube video – even once – it’s curtains.

What she is really telling her children is that girls who do not conform to her particular ideas of “modesty” are bad. She is telling them that the girls who post sexy selfies are worth less than the girls who cover up. She is telling them that the girls who pose with an “extra-arched back” and a “sultry pout” are not good enough to associate with her children. Worst of all, Mrs. Hall is telling her sons and daughter that it is fine – in fact, actively encouraged  in their household – to shun and ostracize these girls.

By saying that these teenage girls do not respect themselves, Mrs. Hall is teaching her kids that they are undeserving of anyone’s love or respect.

And that’s a pretty fucking toxic message.

If you think that this is too much of a reach, think about it this way: when Mrs. Hall and her family sit around their dining room table and critique the selfies posted online by her sons’ female friends and Mrs. Hall announces that yet another girl needs to be blocked because she’s showing too much skin, what her children learn is that the way that those girls are behaving is shameful and they deserve to be shamed in a way that makes them face real-life consequences. And when a Hall boy goes to school and tells his friend that he’s not allowed to hang out with so-and-so because her pictures are too slutty, and that friend tells a friend, and that friend tells a friend – well, it’s not hard to imagine what those real-life consequences will be.

And, of course, in high school, as in the Hall household, there are very rarely second chances.

When Mrs. Hall advises her son’s female friends to, “take down the closed-door bedroom selfies that makes it too easy for friends to see you in only one dimension,” I can’t help but wonder how many dimensions her sons and her sons’ friends saw those girls in before they heard those comments. Probably they saw them in the same way that they saw all their other female friends: as girls who were funny, girls who were smart, girls who were good at sports or art or music. Probably the Hall boys saw them as brilliant, well-rounded individuals, each contributing in their own interesting way to their lives. Probably they saw them as people.

But now?

Well, now they likely only see them in, as Mrs. Hall says, one dimension. That dimension being, of course, their physical bodies. Mrs. Hall has successfully reduced these girls to little more than pretty, shiny, skin-baring objects. And it’s pretty fucking easy to treat an object badly. It’s pretty easy to treat it cruelly, sub-humanly, even, because objects don’t have feelings. Objects don’t have thoughts. Objects exist only for the pleasure of others.

Objects are not people.

And so I worry about those girls, the girls that have already been branded as impure and immodest. I worry about the other girls that her sons will meet and, armed with their mother’s opinion, brand on their own. I worry for them because of the teasing and humiliation that they might have to endure; I worry about them because of the ways that the Hall boys and their friends might other, might even dehumanize these girls. I worry that when these girls tell adults about how they are being treated, they will be made to feel as if it is entirely their own fault, as if they were asking for it. I worry that they will start to think that, as Mrs. Hall said, there are no second chances. I worry that these girls will feel like their worlds are closing in on them, that one stray picture has ruined everything forever, that there is no way out of the mess that they believe they’ve created.

I worry for these girls’ lives.

slut

Not That Girl

30 Jul

No, no, please don’t apologize. It was a good joke. Really funny.

Liquid panty remover. Hah. That’s great. I’ve never heard that one before! Oh man, that’s hilarious.

Don’t worry about telling jokes like that to me – I love those kinds of jokes. I’m not really the type to get offended, you know?

I mean, I’m not that kind of girl.

Like, I think that some people are just looking for things to get worked up over. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that, like, rape jokes are funny or anything. Not that I think your joke was a rape joke, because your joke was definitely funny, but, you know, rape-rape jokes for sure aren’t cool. On the other hand, people need to chill out. Like, there are so many things that are so much more degrading to women – I mean, look at the way that women are treated in the Middle East! If you’re gonna be outraged about something, you should be outraged about that, not a stupid joke.

I mean, do you really think that anyone hears a Daniel Tosh joke and goes out and rapes someone? No. That’s just not how it works.

I just don’t get why some people have to suck the joy out of everything. Like, I’m sorry if you don’t like that Robin Thicke song, but that’s you. I’m not going to apologize for listening to a fun pop song just because someone else doesn’t like the lyrics. I don’t see what’s wrong with the lyrics, anyway – people read way too much into everything.

Don’t get me wrong, I think that feminism is great and everything. I took women’s studies in college and I’m thankful for, like, Gloria Steinem or whatever, but isn’t it time we got past all that? I mean, all that negativity and bitterness and victimology – how are those things doing women any good? They’re not. Like, we have to live in the world with men, and that’s something you just can’t get away from. I think it’s better if we all just learn to get along, you know? That’s why I don’t call myself a feminist; that word is just so divisive. I don’t really like labels, but if I had to pick something I would say that I’m really more of a humanist. Because we’re all part of the human race, and we need to start acting like it.

I guess I just don’t feel like feminism does anything for me. Like, I feel way more empowered as a woman without it. I would rather think about how strong I am and all the things I can accomplish instead of blaming men or whatever for holding me back. Women are never going to get ahead if they’re stuck hating half their own species, you know?

And, I mean, I have friends that are feminist. I get where they’re coming from. I just think that some of these radical feminists go too far.

Like, I have friends who were raped. I used to volunteer in a rape crisis centre. I really do believe that rape culture is a thing. But I don’t think you can just wear whatever you want and drink a lot and flirt with guys and not see that as taking a risk. Of course no one deserves to be raped, but, well, rapists are out there and you have to protect yourself. Like even if you’re a good driver, you still wear a seatbelt, right? That’s just common sense. Because even if you drive safely, you can’t guarantee that everyone else will. You have to take precautions – we live in a dangerous world.

Oh.

I mean, I guess.

Yeah, that makes sense. Maybe rape culture is the wrong way to put it.

You’re right, I can see how that was a logical fallacy. Thanks for pointing that out.

No, seriously, thanks. I mean it. I’m not touchy like some girls – I don’t mind if anyone, guy or girl, lets me know when I’m wrong. How else am I going to learn, right?

Yeah, I totally get why you might have thought that I was being sarcastic. Lots of girls would probably get pretty worked up over being called out like that. I mean, Jesus, girls are crazy. I’m not embarrassed to say that, because it’s true. Especially during that time of the month. God, if you think it’s bad being a guy and having to deal with us, try being a girl surrounded by other girls. I mean, I love my girlfriends, but sometimes I just can’t deal with the crazy anymore.

Like, girls are so fucking catty. We’re just really fucking mean to each other. We tear each other down way more often than men do. Maybe feminists should start fixing how women treat each other before they worry about how men see us. I mean, charity begins at home, right?

No, yeah, you’re right. Charity was the wrong word. God I’m so stupid tonight.

Thanks for being so patient with me.

I guess I just meant that we need to fix our own problems first. I really think that that’s what feminists or whoever should be devoting their energy to. But they won’t, because they don’t want to admit that maybe not all of our problems are because of men.

I mean, I love men. Like, this, right now? Sitting with you? This is really great. We should get another drink, I’m really having a lot of fun just sitting here talking with you. Just one of the guys, right?

Yeah, sure, you can order for me. Go ahead and pick whatever, I can handle it.

No, whiskey is great! I love whiskey. On the rocks. Isn’t that what they say? On the rocks?

Aren’t they always drinking whiskey on Mad Men? God, I love that show. I wish I could live back then, you know? I mean, other than the racism or whatever, it looks like it was pretty great.

I just – I don’t get girls who think that things are so much better these days. Like, I guess it’s good to have options, but sometimes I think we have too many options now. I think it would be so much easier just to have to look good and marry someone nice. Imagine how great it would be to be a housewife! And always have men opening doors for you and being polite to you. And oh god the clothes – I could wear the shit out of those clothes.

I mean, I get that it was bad back in the early 1900s when women couldn’t vote or own property, but, like, after that things were pretty good for women. Sometimes I think that women in the 1960s or whatever didn’t know how good they had it.

I don’t think women will ever know how good they have it. Like, I think we’re just hardwired to be dissatisfied. We all just want to have our cake and eat it too. It’s crazy. I mean, you never hear men talking about how they want to “have it all”, you know?

Sorry, you’re right, air quotes are really corny. I have to remember to stop doing that.

No, yeah, you’ve got a good point. This is a pretty heavy topic for a Friday night. We should talk about something else. Tell me another joke!

That first joke was really funny, tell me another one like that.

Make it as offensive as you want, it won’t bother me.

Because I’m not like that. I’m not that kind of girl.

Don’t you think I’m a different kind of girl?

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