Tag Archives: rape

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

How To Undermine A Rape Victim 101

3 Feb

Trigger warning for talk of rape 

Preface the victim’s open letter about the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her father with a statement saying that he deserves the presumption of innocence. Always approach situations like this with the thought that the victim might be lying; remind yourself and others that the burden of proof is on her.

Insist on referring to the victim as the rapist’s “adopted daughter,” as if that mitigates what he has done. Using subtle language cues like this, imply that though it might be rape, it’s not really incest because the the rapist is not the victim’s biological father. Pretend that adoptive parents somehow feel differently about their children than biological parents do.

Like the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, insist on your ability to differentiate between an artist and their art. As a spokesperson for the organization said, “The Academy honors achievement in film, not the personal lives of filmmakers and artists.” Tell yourself that many great artists have been problematic – for example, Picasso was an abusive womanizer, but you can still enjoy his paintings – and that a person’s behaviour should not influence whether or not we view their art as great. Perhaps you could even take this a step further and insist to yourself that a perpetrator of such violence could never make such wonderful art. Let the rapist’s popularly beloved films stand as a sort of character witness, proving that there is no way he could ever have harmed his own child.

If you have worked closely with the rapist, take a page from Cate Blanchett’s book and distance yourself from the accusations, pretend that it has nothing to do with you. Tell yourself that it’s a private family matter; your willingness to be friends with the rapist is certainly not a public statement either condoning his actions or dismissing the victim’s accusations. Make a statement similar to Blanchett’s, something like: “It’s obviously been a long and painful situation for the family and I hope they find some resolution and peace.” This type of conflict is not at all convenient for your career or the image you’re trying to build for yourself.

Blame everything on the only parent the rape victim is able to love and trust. Accuse her of being the truly abusive parent; say that she was and is crazy with jealousy. Insist that she orchestrated the entire thing as an elaborate revenge plot. Paint the rapist as a victim who has had his relationship with his children destroyed by their monster of a mother. Pretend to be sympathetic to the victim, the poor girl whose mother has planted terrible ideas in her head. After all, this certainly worked for Woody Allen and his lawyer, who issued a statement saying: “It is tragic that after 20 years a story engineered by a vengeful lover resurfaces after it was fully vetted and rejected by independent authorities. The one to blame for Dylan’s distress is neither Dylan nor Woody Allen.

Write a lengthy article about how we don’t know the other side, the rapist’s side, of the story. Construct an elaborate argument explaining why the victim is a liar, knowing or not. Use a multitude of circumstantial evidence not even a little bit directly related to the actual assault described by the victim to discredit her. For example, insinuate that the victim’s mother is a hypocrite because she testified on Roman Polanski’s behalf when he was accused of rape; pretend that that has any bearing on whether or not Woody Allen raped his daughter. Using every anecdote and half-truth that comes your way to cast doubt in your readers’ minds. This won’t be hard; they are looking for a reason, any reason, to doubt anyway.

Or, like Diane Keaton, you could refuse to issue a statement, hide your head in the sand, and hope that this will all blow over.

Do not treat the victim as if they are a person with agency and thoughts and feelings – instead, treat them as an intellectual exercise, their life a puzzle to be solved, their words an argument to be defeated. Do not imagine yourself in their place, what it must be like to write a letter about the abuse they’ve suffered at their rich and powerful father’s hands. Do not try to think about what it must be like to have the entirety of the Hollywood machine working against you, swaying the minds of the population against what you are saying. Do not picture the anguish you might feel at seeing scores upon scores of people trying to discredit you, trying to trip you up, trying to defend the man who raped you, the man they all love so very much.

Do not think about the message that this, your willingness to doubt, is sending to all of the people you know who have also been victims of rape. They almost certainly number far more than  you know, but try not to think about how your reaction might further convince them that sharing their story will only be met with derision and disbelief.

Tell yourself that this is not rape culture. Tell yourself that a knee-jerk reaction of you must be lying or remembering it wrong when faced with a victim’s accusations of rape is not a sign that our society is so very, very fucked up. Tell yourself that it’s rational and logical to want to know all sides of the story, though you never want to know the other side, the perpetrator’s side, when your house is broken into or your wallet is stolen or your child is hit by a car. Tell yourself that we can never know for sure what happened and since a man’s life can be destroyed by accusations of rape, it’s best to err on the side of caution. Do not think about the girl whose life was destroyed when she was seven.

Above all, never, ever, ever think about the ways that you might be complicit in this.

dylan-farrow-blog480-v3

I stand with Dylan Farrow.

Virginity Is A Social Construct

19 Dec

Jezebel published a piece today with the title “Nearly 1% Of Women Claim They Were Virgins When They Gave Birth,” and, because this is Jezebel we’re talking about here, they used this as an opportunity to shame and belittle the women who say that they became pregnant while still virgins. And just so we all understand what author Erin Gloria Ryan means by virgins, she writes that they are women who,

“… were unpenetrated by the peen of a man when they became pregnant.”

She further explains,

“This doesn’t include women who became pregnant via in vitro fertilization or artificial insemination; these are women who gave birth the old fashioned way and were like *shrug! SERIOUSLY GUYS I DON’T EVEN KNOW HOW THIS HAPPENED!”

Then (incorrectly) asserts,

“Getting pregnant without sex is virtually scientifically impossible, yet dozens of women in the study (who were teens when the research began) swear up and down that their babies happened sans man. This is the biological equivalent of claiming that your glass of drinking water spontaneously began boiling itself without the presence of heat. I mean, maybe it’s Unsolved Mysteries-possible, but it’s highly doubtful that 0.8% of all glasses of water boil themselves. Come on.”

Also, just so that we’re really super clear on how Jezebel views these women, the article was posted to their Facebook page with the following header:

Nearly 1% of women insist they were virgins when they gave birth, which means that nearly 1% of women are delusional.

Oh, Jezebel. Jezebel. I know all the cool kids have already said it, but damn. You sure do suck at feminism.

First of all, it is definitely scientifically possible to become pregnant without having penetrative vaginal sex. It’s unlikely to happen, but it’s possible – all you need is for a someone to ejaculate on or in close proximity to the vagina, or else have some other thing with sperm on it – a finger, say, or a sex toy – penetrate the vagina. Yes, these are unlikely ways in which to become pregnant, but they’re not within the same realm as water spontaneously boiling.

Second of all, can we not have this discussion without calling women stupid or crazy or just flat out accuse them of lying?

Third of all, can we please stop talking about virginity as if it is a real, measurable thing?

Virginity is not a thing. Not really. It is a social construct meant to make people, especially women, feel badly about their sexuality and sexual experience. It is a way of policing other people’s bodies and passing judgment on how they use them. It is, at its very core, a way of controlling and subjugating women.

One problem with the idea of virginity is that there’s no hard and fast way of deciding who’s a virgin and who isn’t. Many people would define loss of virginity in a very heteronormative sense – a sexual act where the penis penetrates the vagina. But does that mean, then, that a queer woman who has only ever been with other women is a virgin? Is a gay man, who has only ever had anal sex, a virgin? Most people, when pressed, would agree that no, those folks aren’t really virgins, even if they’ve never had penis-in-vagina-style intercourse. The flip side of this is that many rape victims don’t feel as if they have lost their virginity even if they’ve had penetrative intercourse forced on them. They consider themselves to be virgins because they don’t consider what happened to them to be sex. So taking all of that into consideration, how do we then define virginity?

Some people have said that performing any sexual act constitutes losing one’s virginity, but that seems like much too broad of a definition. Kids start experimenting with sexual play and experimentation at a fairly young age, so does it then follow that anyone who’s kissed someone of the opposite sex or shown them their genitals has de facto lost their virginity? I’m not sure that this idea makes any more sense than saying that virginity can only be lost through one very specific sexual act.

Another problem is that there is literally no way of knowing if someone is a virgin or not. Oh, people will tell you that you can check if a woman’s hymen is broken, but that’s not a reliable indicator at all. A hymen can be broken without any kind of sexual intercourse, through sports or through some kind of injury. Not all women are born with hymens. Not all hymens tear during penetrative sex. And yet we’ve all been sold this idea of torn flesh and blood on sheets as some kind of definite rite of passage for women. This idea – that you can somehow tell if a woman has been sexually active – has contributed to the oppression and subjugation of women for pretty much all of recorded history. It’s given men a way to control women, to make them ashamed of their bodies their sexuality. It’s led to a double standard where it’s fine – even encouraged – for boys to gain sexual experience, but women who are sexually active before marriage or have sex with too many people are considered to be slutty or damaged goods.

Finally, why is virginity so damn important to us? We don’t have nouns for who or what we were before we hit any other life milestones – there’s no term to refer to a person before they can walk or talk or read and write – all of which I would argue are more important achievements than getting laid – and yet it’s the sex that we focus on. Why do we put so much more weight on this one small facet of human life than we do on any of the others? Why are we still making a big deal out of who is a virgin and who isn’t?

This is the discussion that we should be having – not about whether women are lying or delusional about their virginity, but about why we still use this damaging term. We need to talk about why the idea of virginity continues to hold such sway over our cultural consciousness, and why so-called feminist websites a perpetuating the thought that virginity is a tangible, definable thing. Most of all, we need to figure out a better way to talk to kids about their bodies and their sexuality, because the way that we’re doing it now clearly isn’t working.

Even Mary agrees - virginity is bullshit

Even Mary agrees – virginity is bullshit

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

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?

1930sdallasymcagirlsbasketball

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 everything 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.