A ranty, funny, dead-serious intersectional feminist blog.

Rape Culture

Letter to 97.1 St. Louis: Drop Allman

Screen Shot 2018-04-08 at 10.51.16 PM

Jamie Allman, left, recently threatened Parkland survivor David Hogg in a tweet.

Trigger warning for threat of r*pe

At least three advertisers have pulled their ad buys from Jamie Allman’s show on FM NewsTalk 97.1 in St. Louis, Missouri after the radio and tv host came under fire for a threat he made against David Hogg, a survivor of the Parkland mass shooting, in a tweet I won’t post here but is not difficult to find. Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, The Gellman Team, and Palm Health have announced they will no longer be advertising on Allman’s show and TGT went so far as to say they will no longer spend their money at 91.7. Their statement:

We have immediately suspended all spending related to Jaime Allman indefinitely. We will not be deploying those dollars back into the station. We want to make a clear point, that this behavior is unacceptable. –@TheGellmanTeam

Below is the letter I sent toFM NewsTalk 97.1’s program manager, Jeff Allen, cc’ing James Modglin, the assistant program manager, and Annie Frey, the Digital Brand Manager at FM NewsTalk 97.1, who apparently also receives comment emails from the website at her address.

Again, I’m not posting or quoting the tweet, but I do describe Allman’s threat graphically below.


Dear Folks,

I’m writing to ask what you plan to do in response to the fact that one of your hosts has threatened a Parkland shooting survivor with violence. No matter what you think of David Hogg and even if you don’t believe that Jamie Allman’s threat was “credible” (i.e. that he would actually “ram a red hot poker” into a person’s—a minor’s—anus), I can’t believe that you think that this is an acceptable way for a person with a large public platform (or any halfway decent person) to behave.

Parkland students have endured harassment and threats from conservative adults since the day of the shooting. I’m not talking about criticism. I’m talking about the kind of vile, threatening, dehumanizing language Jamie Allman used in his tweet. I know because I have seen it with my own eyes. And this isn’t about harsh language. I curse like a sailor, people, and I believe in freedom of speech. But freedom of speech does not equal freedom from consequences and it does not entitle one to a particular platform. What Allman said was foul and legally may very well qualify as a threat, regardless of whether he actually meant to follow through. If I were David Hogg’s parents, I expect I’d be looking into my legal options at this point.

The consequences of Laura Ingraham’s recent nastiness was that many advertisers distanced themselves from her almost immediately. Whatever you may think of boycotts, they are an important avenue for citizens like me to express and tangibly enforce our unwillingness to support—with our attention or with our dollars—those who abuse and those who would treat abusive behavior as acceptable in a civil society. Especially abuse by an adult directed at a minor. Especially intentional abuse of a minor who has just survived a horribly traumatic event.

I hope you will consider the fact that giving this man a platform lends him not only a microphone but an extra layer of credibility and validation. If you let this pass without consequence, you will be enabling his abusive behavior and validating it in a very public way. Endorsing it, even.

I’m not a listener, but word is getting out on social media. I imagine you’ll be getting a lot of emails like mine. I appreciate your attention and energy and I hope to hear from you. I’ll leave you with this question: if this isn’t enough for you to not want this man broadcasting on your station, what exactly would it take for you to draw the line?


This is a right-wing talk station so I don’t expect a friendly response if I get one at all. I’ll update this post with anything they send. If you’d like to contact them, the emails are below. You can also sign a petition to their advertisers or tweet them.

The longer Trump is in office, the more leeway these people think they have to spew their hate—while simultaneously accusing the people they’re spewing at of spewing hate like the proverbial pigeon on the chess board, just shitting and shitting and stomping around in it and declaring victory.

We can’t let this become the norm in public discourse. Fight it. I am.


You can tweet at the businesses supporting Allman with their ad dollars and their microphones/cameras and/or use the contact info below:

Update: Jamie Allman has “resigned” from his show on ABC 30 St. Louis.

Contact 97.1 FM:

Jeff.Allen@entercom.com – program manager

James.Modglin@entercom.com – asst. program manager

Annie.Frey@entercom.com – digital brand manager

http://entercom.com/contact/ – corporate

Contact ABC Channel 30

Update: Jamie Allman has “resigned” from his ABC 30 show.

info@abcstlouis.com

Contact Sinclair Broadcasting

comments@sbgi.net

Contact Advertisers

info@360ira.com

generalinfo@amcoranger.com

https://arrowheadbuildingsupply.com/contactus/

https://www.chesterfieldfence.com/contact.php

http://claytonsleep.com/contact-clayton-sleep-institute/

https://www.libertynational.com/contact

http://www.michaelsflooringoutlet.com/contact

http://neputewellnesscenter.com/contact/

http://www.proctordrapery.com/contact/

https://www.throttlenet.com/contact

http://www.bannerconstruction.com/contact-banner-construction-st-louis (They even have a Jamie Allman endorsement video!)


PSA: Abusive commenters will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)


Regarding Grace

Photo/art by Make Me a Sammich

Trigger warning: Sexual assault and rape

Photo/art by Make Me a Sammich

Photo/art by Make Me a Sammich

Let me start by saying that I believe and support Grace and I think Aziz Ansari has some important self-reflection to do regarding his decision to wear a “TimesUp” pin to the Golden Globes in light of his behavior (which, while he hasn’t denied it, he hasn’t exactly taken responsibility, either). He’s certainly not alone in needing to reflect on performative allyship without accompanying action, but unlike some who sported the badge—and yet very much like fellow #MeToo revelation Louis C.K.—he’s also chosen to center an apparently significant amount of his recent work around relationships and a “feminist ally” persona (and, also like C.K, even tackled sexual harassment in a recent episode of his popular tv show, Master of None).

I have lived a life punctuated by abuse starting when I was barely more than a toddler and culminating, hopefully, some time in the past decade. I have been “molested,” sexually harassed, assaulted, and raped. I have experienced abuse so many times, at so many junctures of my life, that when I’ve written about it here in detail, some people have found it difficult or even impossible to believe. Believe it or you might as well stop reading right now—and please believe that there are people out there who have experienced much worse. But that’s not the point because abuse is abuse and most of us fight for all of us when it comes to abuse. Which is the point. Sort of.

I can’t imagine how terrified I’d be if a man shoved his fingers into my mouth and down my throat, gagging me repeatedly—the way Aziz Ansari did to Grace—during a date. I can imagine what I’d be thinking: Oh fuck it’s happening again. Reading about that, it feels like a violent act to me. Who does that as a preamble to sex? Finger-sucking I get, but what Grace described feels to me like a power move of some kind. As a survivor of multiple assaults, I know that this act alone, never mind the insistence that I touch his penis and the suggestion that I suck his dick RIGHT AFTER I JUST TOLD HIM I DON’T WANT TO FEEL FORCED and he said we should just chill, would very likely bring up familiar feelings.

I can’t imagine how I’d react because the truth is you just don’t know until it happens and then you don’t know until it happens the next time. I always thought I’d react differently when it happened to me and then I thought I’d react differently if it happened again. I mean, the Public Defender pointed out that I didn’t use the hammer at my disposal when I was 12, so why didn’t I use the knife I carried when I was 16? Why didn’t I pound the fuck out of the dude who raped me when I passed out on his couch at 34 instead of fleeing his apartment in shame? Why didn’t I push my “friend” off me instead of lying there in blurry paralysis when I was 46? Why didn’t I do the things I—and all the people who think it’s ok to judge what we do in these situations who aren’t us—think I should have done? 

coercionisnotconsent

I don’t have answers for these questions. But I do have more questions. 

Why do we have to keep explaining why we don’t behave the way you think we ought to? Why do we have to keep telling you that abuse is abuse and what *we* do should not be your focus, but rather what our abusers do or don’t do? And why do I feel like I’m writing this not just because Usual Suspects need to hear it again, but because some of the people I thought already knew seem to have forgotten? 

I can’t be certain what I’d do if it was me, but I can’t even begin to imagine how I’d feel or act in Grace’s shoes because I’m not Grace, who was in her early 20s and describes this as the worst experience with a man she’s ever had. I have wondered if this is the problem people have with her story, especially when I see people using the phrases “real #MeToo” and “real victims” and “real assault.” Is Grace “lucky” because she hasn’t experienced what some of us have? Is she “privileged” because this is the worst night she ever experienced with a man?

Should she just shut up, then, and not talk about how a man’s extremely bad behavior traumatized her? Do we not understand by now how this thinking silences victims of abuse?

Do I really need to list all of the ways that people in the #MeToo movement have been mistreated? Shall we, as survivors—because everyone else really ought to take a seat anyway—attempt to create a spectrum of abuse from sexist jokes to dick-exposure to public masturbation to various shades of assault, or would someone like to assign some kind of number value to each of them and tell me where Grace fits in—or more importantly, why on Earth she doesn’t?

Why are some of the same people who usually fight for survivors of sexual harassment and abuse and against victim blaming excluding Grace from the #MeToo club as though she’s somehow cheapened our stories by choosing to tell hers? When did we start requiring a litmus test to determine what “degree” of harassment or assault rates the #MeToo stamp? Who determines which of us—and which of our abuses—are worthy of inclusion in a movement to create change in the power dynamic that allows powerful men to abuse the less powerful? Who approves #MeToo membership? And what is it about the consequences Ansari is facing—a dose of public shame cut with plenty of public defense—that is so dire that it makes a mockery of a movement?

Who decides who gets to tell their story? Who decides who gets to name names?

Because right now the rules seem arbitrary. I can’t figure out what it is about Grace’s story that has people who otherwise understand that abuse is abuse suddenly willing to defend a guy who behaved really badly—arguably worse than others outed in the #MeToo movement, if we are assigning scores—while trotting out all the usual rape-culture reasons to disbelieve a woman reporting on her experience of a man’s shitty behavior.

Part of the argument seems to be that when people claim to have been abused when *I* don’t recognize their abuse because *my* abuse was worse, their claim of abuse somehow detracts from *my* abuse. But…how? Or maybe they think Grace’s “less bad than mine” story gives “ammunition” to people on “the other side”…who are going to make spurious claims about our credibility regardless? I confess I’m baffled.

As others have pointed out, there are power dynamics at work here, as well. A famous celebrity in his mid-30s asked out a young female fan and tried to rush her into sex on the first date (h/t to Ella Dawson for highlighting this point, which has been lost in the controversy over whether Grace was actually abused—whether Ansari acted as an abuser). And again, the fact that Ansari has literally positioned himself as an aware, feminist man fighting the good fight makes his behavior all that much more appalling (and certainly more shocking and confusing in the moment).

Defaulting to rape culture is part of our conditioning. But please let’s recognize it for what it is and fight it. If abuse is abuse; if Louis C.K. masturbating to completion in a potted plant is abuse; if actresses feeling pressured to give Harvey Weinstein back rubs in his bathrobe is abuse? Then Aziz Ansari shoving his fingers down a woman’s throat, pushing her hand repeatedly onto his penis every time she moved it away, or continuing to push for sexual gratification even after she told him she wasn’t into it WAS ABUSE. It may not have qualified as legal assault, but it was most certainly harassment and it was definitely coercion and the fact that this is at all controversial among feminists is mystifying to me. 

I believe Grace was abused. I believe Azis Ansari was abusive. And most survivors and other feminists I know agree with me. I have heard some describe the ideological split as between people who want punitive action and people who want change, though I’m not sure I agree. From what I can see, the hyperbolic worries that temporarily powerful survivors of abuse want to round all men up and jail them because you can’t even “come on” to a woman anymore without it being called assault are just that: hyperbole employed by people unwilling (or unable) to examine their own behavior and/or experiences. I personally just want us to acknowledge that the fact that what he did—what a lot of men have done—was abusive. I want Ansari to hold himself accountable and use his considerable platform to create real change. I want people like Grace to feel as though they can tell their stories and not have people who call themselves feminists do and say the very things that anti-feminists do and say to us whenever we tell our stories.

We don’t have to accept that all abuse is the same in order to accept that all abuse is abuse. And if we accept and agree that abuse is abuse (which seems to me to be pretty foundational to #MeToo), we don’t require a litmus test for acceptance into the club. Obviously, all abusers don’t have to face the same consequences, and I don’t think anyone is suggesting that. But can we agree that all abuse victims deserve to be heard, their abuse acknowledged, and their abusers held accountable to some degree—particularly the powerful ones? And can we agree that silencing survivors of abuse is a bad thing?

It’s clear that survivors on all sides of this are hurting, but my concern right now is less for those of my sibling survivors who are angry because Grace told her story and more for the ones who will now feel that they can’t tell theirs. 

If you’re reading this and you have experienced sexual harassment and/or abuse, even if you didn’t recognize it as such in the moment but do now—even if you think it wasn’t as severe as what others have faced—you can be in my club. And while this very necessary storm rages, I hope you’ll take good care of yourselves and each other. 

#UsToo💗


Note: As is often the case, this post has undergone some post-publication edits for clarity.


PSA: Abusive commenters will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)


Related:

I went on a date with Aziz Ansari. It turned into the worst night of my life (babe.net)

Stop Waiting For The Real Aziz Ansari (Andrea Grimes on Medium)

Not That Bad (katykatikate.com )

The Fake Feminism Of The #MeToo Backlash (Claire Fallon on HuffPo)

Aziz Ansari and the Struggle to Trust the “Feminist” Men of Hollywood (Cate Young on Cosmopolitan)


The Rape Culture Candidate

trumpkissface3

Trigger warning: rape, rape apologism, and all associated awfulness. 

For some of us, it’s been obvious—and ignored by the mainstream—for far too long: Donald J. Trump is rape culture incarnate. His overt misogyny and objectification of women, and the fact that he has a well-documented history of abusing women both verbally and physically, meant that many of us, while disgusted, were not even surprised to hear the GOP candidate bragging to Billy Bush that he forces himself on women he thinks are attractive and they “let him” because he’s a powerful man. My local weekly, The Stranger, recently wrote that Rape Culture is Running for President. I couldn’t agree more.

When anti-feminist men tell us (feminists) that rape culture doesn’t exist, they invoke the following “facts”: 1. Everyone knows rape is wrong. 2. No one treats rape as acceptable, and 3. We jail rapists. The facts of this election should prove the existence of rape culture to these folks beyond the shadow of a doubt by illustrating that points 1 and 2 above are simply not true, and the facts of reality tell us that point 3 is a fantasy. The facts should put it all to rest, but they won’t. And yet, I’m going to break it down anyway because it’s been eating my brain from the inside out.

1. Everyone Knows Rape is Wrong

Rape and sexual assault are certainly things most people would tell you are “wrong” were you to walk up to them on the street and ask them what they thought of these things using the exact words “rape” and “sexual assault.” But studies and recent events have shown that consent is a cloudy issue, that many believe women owe men sex in return for dinner and drinks, and that people who coerce others into sex or fail to obtain consent before engaging in sexual acts or use the bodies of drunk or unconscious people do not always believe what they are doing is wrong and are happy to soak up validation from those who cloud the issue by talking about what the victim wore, drank, or did before or after the event. In other words, when rapists hear the people around them blaming victims and making excuses for perpetrators and laughing at rape jokes, they eat that shit up. And many (if not most) are serial perpetrators, like the GOP candidate for president, if you choose to believe the dozen or so women who have come forward since the Trump Tapes revelation—y’know, the guy who brags about assaulting women to men like Billy Bush, who laugh and egg him on by pimping women for hugs. So give all this some thought the next time you assume that “everyone knows rape is wrong.”

2. No One Treats Rape As Acceptable

Contrary to the ubiquitous Twitter and Facebook apologism from anti-feminists and probably rapists, most voters surveyed said they believe Donald Trump is guilty of most or all of the acts of which women have accused him.

Forty-two percent of Republican voters and 35 percent of Trump’s own supporters think the accusations are probably true. Men and women are about equally likely to think so. -AP

If you’ve been paying attention to the polls, you know that too many of these same voters (68% of Republicans, according to the survey above) are willing to vote for him regardless because he’s not Hillary Clinton or maybe because they think he’s “pro-life.” These people have signaled their willingness to vote for a serial predator for president.

For leader of the free world.

That is the very definition of accepting rape and sexual assault.

No one treats rape and sexual assault as acceptable except the people who believe Roman Polanski and Woody Allen raped children but are willing to work with them and watch their films anyway. No one treats rape and sexual assault as acceptable except the people who ignore the Jane Does of the world while lamenting the impacts of rape accusations and convictions on rapists. No one treats rape and sexual assault as acceptable except the people who believe Donald Trump is a serial predator and are willing to vote for him for President of these United States of America regardless.

3. We Jail Rapists

No, we don’t. Statistics tell us that only 3% of rapists ever do jail time. Most rapes are not reported and among those that are, most are never investigated much less prosecuted (in the best cases this happens because rape is notoriously hard to prove in court unless there are witnesses or evidence of violence, and often even then). The Bureau of Justice Statistics believes at least 200,000 rapes went unreported between 2006 and 2010, and I can tell you from experience and from my discussions with and readings of dozens of other survivors that many of us are victims of multiple assaults and many of us do not bother reporting most of them. It’s just not worth what we go through when we report, and if you’re like me and you reported and endured that painful process twice with zero justice both times, why would you choose to go through it again?

I chose not to. And when I was a child, my parents chose not to put me through the trauma that would have resulted from the incidents of abuse I told them about. And there are many I didn’t. When I do the math, that’s a hell of a lot of predators out there walking free doing what they do to other victims who in turn must make their choices, endure the scrutiny and shame, stay silent, or simply find other ways to work through it. We are legion and no, society does not punish those who harm us.

This is a good time to mention that if you think you don’t know anyone who is a survivor of sexual assault, you are very likely wrong and should examine the possible reasons why the survivors in your life haven’t trusted you with this information.

Oh, and though Donald Trump was, until Friday, facing a civil charge that he raped a 13-year-old girl, his accuser has dropped her case after receiving death threats resulting from an announced—and later cancelled—press conference where she planned to finally break her anonymity. Despite over a dozen accusers, he will never see the inside of a jail cell or very likely any legal consequences.

***

Of course, not all of Trump’s supporters believe his accusers. Some of them have questions. Why did these women wait to come forward? Why speak right before an election? The timing seems “off.” Another tenet of rape culture: assuming the victim is lying if they don’t behave the way we’ve been taught victims behave. But really, let’s look at this question.

Imagine a person has harmed you in some major way (please take a moment to apply this to your experience, if you will), and imagine that this is a person with power over you. Now imagine this guy goes on TV and says he does stuff like that all the time. Brags about it. Laughs about it. You feel vindicated! LOOK! He’s admitting to the world that he’s exactly the person you knew he was!

Then a couple of days later, he goes on TV again and says he never did it. It never happened. Not even once. Not even the time he did it to you.

Now imagine he makes this statement during a presidential debate. Imagine that after getting caught admitting what he did, he now lies about it on national television in a presidential debate. Imagine that he might become your president. Imagine that you never felt like you had any power in the situation (maybe you even felt unsafe speaking up), but now people are talking about it, other people he wronged are coming forward, and maybe someone will listen.

Now ask yourself. What the hell would you do?

Listen. False rape allegations are rare (and did you know that if a victim withdraws their statement due to coercion by police or others or because they’re afraid or for any other reason, that incident goes into the “false” or “unfounded” column, i.e. the 2-10% of “false” rape allegations?) and they generally don’t occur in clusters. (In fact, I’d be very interested to know about any cases where a large number of victims accused a perpetrator and that perpetrator was cleared and the accusers proved liars, but I don’t think there are any.) But that brings us to another tenet of rape culture: the fact that when women are the victims of rape and sexual assault and they give sworn testimony regarding what happened to them, it is not seen by society in general as “evidence” even though it legally is exactly that. So it doesn’t matter if one accuser comes forward or 12 (Trump) or 20 (Jian Gomeshi) or 60 (Bill Cosby), too many will never see that as “evidence” that a crime was committed and will cite “absolutely no evidence” as their reason for dismissing a clear pattern of abuse on the part of a powerful man. Women are simply not seen as credible witnesses to our own experiences.

Listen. There are thousands if not millions of people out there who have been abused by rich, powerful men and who have not seen justice and never will because they’ll never have a safe situation in which to come forward and expect the kind of legal and emotional support one needs to get through something like that. In a case like this, when a victim does overcome the fear and break her silence, and then another one, the damn breaks, just like with Cosby and Gomeshi. That’s why it’s happening now, just before an election. Because this man who is running for president is happy to lie about anything and everything including something he’s already admitted to: the fact that he feels entitled to sexually assault women and has successfully avoided consequences because of his position of power.

As a survivor of multiple sexual assaults who did not see justice even once despite reporting twice, I know how hard justice is to come by. I know that most rapists walk free while victims suffer the consequences. I know the toll that rape culture—the culture that calls Trump’s bragging about sexual assault “locker room talk”—takes on us. As a victim who was not believed when it mattered, it’s frankly heartbreaking to see people behaving as though these women are lying and just in it for some kind of glory. Trust me, there is no glory in being the woman who “cried rape.” These women have made targets of themselves, and one of them has already left the country because of the death threats she received. I believe them, and I believe Donald Trump is a serial predator.

Donald Trump’s history of sexually abusing women has brought this subject to the forefront of the national conversation and for that, I’m grateful. He will walk away with whatever power he has left after this election and his sycophants will continue to believe that he’s innocent while those who held their noses and voted for a man they knew in their hearts to be a serial assaulter of women will have shown us that some people don’t actually understand that rape and sexual assault are wrong; indeed, a large percentage of people in this country treat it as acceptable.

Donald J. Trump is the Rape Culture Candidate—proof that rape culture is alive and thriving in the United States of America.

So vote.


Note: As is often the case, this post has undergone some post-publication edits for clarity.

PSA: Abusive commenters will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)


Related:

Why I Won’t Publish Your Comments About False Rape Accusations (Rethink the Rant)

Most Believe Allegations About Trump and Women
(AP/GfKPoll)

The Four Women Who’ve Accused Donald Trump of Rape (FOCUS)

An Unbelievable Story of Rape (Propublica)

I Am A False Rape Allegation Statistic (The Orbit)

Lots of Men Don’t Think Rape is Rape (NY Mag)

Not All Men, But These Ones (Make Me a Sammich)

A Brief History (the Bad Parts Version) (Make Me a Sammich)

 


Not All Men, But These Ones

SAYNOTALLMENAGAIN

Trigger Warning for the many ways we experience violence at the hands of (not all) men, including CSA, SA, rape, VAWG.

I saw a quote a while back that hit home for me. I can’t find it now, but it went something like this:

The issue is not that all men are violent. The issue is that nearly all women have experienced violence at the hands of men.

The sad but true fact is that while not all men are violent, men do commit violence against women and non-binary people (and other men—in fact, according to the FBI, most violent crimes are committed by men).

I have told parts of my story before here and there. And I suspect that I will do so again. In this case, I’m reprising my tale now in order to join others who have shared their litanies of violence as a counter to the superfluous yet oh-so-ubiquitous cries of “not all men.” Because FFS, dudes. Enough already.

derail“Not all men” is a derailing tactic and serves literally no other purpose than to focus attention away from male violence and center it on the man decrying the unfairness of it all.

When people who are not men say “men do this,” we’re reporting that our experience is that enough men do this that it stands out that men do this. The fact that men do this contributes to an overall feeling of oppression. Men do engage in behaviors that perpetuate patriarchy. Men do engage in behaviors that perpetuate sexism and misogyny. Men do these things without even thinking about them because the men who came before them did it and because too often no one does so much as turn away in disapproval when it happens.

Not all men did these things to me, but these men did.

The man who sucked my tongue, fondled my genitals, and taught me to give him a blow job when I was three.

The man who was my uncle by marriage and came in my mouth when I was six, then spent hours trying to get into my underwear as we camped out in the yard.

The man who fondled my nipples when I was seven or eight during a nighttime hide-and-go-seek game at my cousin’s house.

The man who flexed his exposed erection at me and my friend when we were 9 via the leg of his shorts.

The man—a trusted family friend—who gave me music lessons when I was 9 and performed oral sex on me while my parents weren’t home.

The man who used a finger cot to make his penis small enough to fit inside me when I was 10. Who also gave me a cigar tube to practice with at home.

The man who pulled his truck over as I walked down the street, opened his door, stepped out naked and masturbated while staring at me.

The 14-year-old boy who violently raped me when I was 12 and smoking weed with him in a fort behind my neighbor’s house.

The man who had sex with me in his van knowing that I was a 12-year-old rape victim (but probably not really believing that second part).

The boys and men who repeatedly “pantsed” me over my loud objections and ridiculed me when I was angry.

The two men who took turns raping me while I was passed out drunk at my first kegger when I was 14.

The many, many men—adults—who gave me alcohol and drugs and got their rocks off on me when I was a troubled teen.

The man who exposed his genitals to me in a grocery store parking lot when I was 16.

The man who spent a drunken night trying to coerce me into sleeping with him when I was 16.

The man who raped me when I was 16 because I said no after a night of partying with him and his friend.

The man who attempted to grab me on a dark street as I rode my bike to a friend’s house, 16 and pregnant, and only stopped because I scared him with my primal and guttural GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME.

The man who beat the shit out of me in front of my 2-year-old for leaving a party when I was 18.

The man who decided that the fact that I was unconscious on his sofa meant he could go ahead and rape me.

The man who thought because we were friends and had been sexual in the past, it was ok to straddle my drunken body and ejaculate on my chest after I said no to sex.

The many men who have wished me harm here on my blog and on social media.

How many men is enough? How many men must commit violence upon my person before it’s ok if I just say “men did this”?

Men did these things. Not all men. But enough of them that this list is not even complete. Men did these things. And every time some dude Kool-Aid-Mans into a thread where people who are not men discuss male violence to declare that not all men did these things, the only thing he makes clear is that he is utterly ignorant and unwilling to listen to people who are not just like him.

Not all men. Just dozens of men in my case. Hundreds if you count my circle of friends and relatives. Thousands if you count their friends and the people they love.

And that’s enough.


PSA: Abusive commenters will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)


Related on MMAS:

 


10 Reasons We Need to #StopWoody

Trigger warning for discussion of childhood sexual abuse (CSA)

As many of you know, I launched the #StopWoody campaign over a month ago when I learned that Amazon Studios was teaming up with Woody Allen to create a new TV show. Here are ten good reasons to join over 600 supporters and sign the petition asking Amazon to reconsider this partnership.

Click to sign.

10.  Because Woody Allen’s contributions to the arts are not more important than his victim(s).

9.  Because for our society to continue celebrating predators like Allen, Cosby, and Polanski is a message to all sexual abuse survivors that if an abuser is powerful enough, he can do whatever he wants to us and no one will hold him accountable. It sends a message to other powerful abusers that they can continue abusing with impunity.

8. Because a search of photos of Dylan with Woody Allen show a heartbreakingly miserable child. Because photos of Woody Allen with his and Soon-Yi’s children show more unhappy girls with body language that reads like they’d rather be anywhere else.

Note: I haven’t included childhood photos of Dylan or of Soon-Yi or her daughters because I don’t want to be part of victimizing them in any way.

7. Because the judge in Allen’s 1993 custody case found no evidence Dylan had been coached and had this to say after hearing all the evidence:

StopWoodyWilkQuote

6. Because while Soon-Yi is now a grown woman who makes her own choices, at the time she and Woody’s relationship began she was a very young woman (possibly even an underaged girl) involved with a man who had been an authority figure in her life, regardless of legalities. Woody Allen was in a position of power over Soon-Yi and that dynamic cannot be ignored when evaluating their relationship. The sad fact is that some people marry their childhood abusers, but that does not change the fact of abuse.

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5. Because the state attorney found probable cause to file charges against Allen but chose not to proceed because he believed (and her mother agreed) that it would further traumatize “the child victim.”

4. Because like Mia Farrow, many parents of CSA victims choose not to pursue criminal charges against their child’s abuser in order to spare them further trauma. (This was even more often the case when Dylan was a child.) This means that many child predators have never been charged with or convicted of a crime and that presumed innocence in the court of public opinion—i.e., demanding “proof of guilt” in order to believe and support survivors—actually favors the abuser and leaves survivors out in the cold.

3. Because Allen’s films and plays are full of everything from blithe references to jokes about child molestation and fantasies about older men played by him having “relationships” with underage girls. Because Woody Allen is a predator who very likely has harmed multiple victims and who, like Bill Cosby, feels so confident in his position of power that he says things like this and we’re supposed to take the “joke”:

StopWoodyHeader3med

2. Because when I was nine, I watched my dad shake the hand of one of my abusers and never forgot that image, and other CSA survivors carry similar memories of times when they felt unprotected, unsupported, disbelieved. Because there’s a good chance that not only will Allen get a tv show, but that actors we like will work with him, people will talk about how great the show is on our social media feeds, Allen will win awards, and Hollywood and society will continue to treat him as though he’s too important to face consequences, and whenever I think of those things, I feel the way I did that day when I was nine years old: like the world keeps shaking Woody’s hand instead of telling him to get the hell out of here and never come back. Because so many CSA survivors know what it’s like to tell their stories and be treated like liars or worse by the people who should be protecting and supporting them.

Because survivors deserve better.

1. Because Dylan had nothing to gain from telling her story, and she knowingly risked—and endured—public abuse as a result. Because as some of us know from life experience that what Dylan describes in her account is an accurate portrait of childhood sexual abuse. Because false CSA allegations are rare.

Because believing survivors means you’ll be right nearly 100% of the time.

I think that’s more than enough reason. So let’s do this.


sign

Please stand with Dylan and me and all CSA survivors. Sign the petition. Tweet on the #StopWoody hashtag and at @RoyPrice, @Amazon, @Amazon_Studios. Help us fight this culture that uplifts powerful predators at the expense of their victims. Help us #StopWoody.


PSA: Abusive commenters will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)


Why #StopWoody Is Important to Me

A girl very much like I was.

A girl very much like I was.

*Trigger warning for CSA*

Some of you will know that I’m a survivor of childhood sexual abuse (CSA). When I heard that Amazon has signed Woody Allen to create a new TV show for them, it reminded me of this story:

When I was nine years old, a family friend was sexually abusing me. This was unfortunately not my first experience with CSA, but it was my first experience with ongoing abuse. I was utterly terrified my mom would find out what was going on and *I* would be in trouble. When I say “terrified” please understand that I lived my life in fear. When I finally, in a screaming fit of terror, confessed “my” crimes to my mother, she did her best to help me understand it wasn’t my fault.

Soon after, as we got in the car as a family to go somewhere together, my abuser pulled up in his car behind us and my stomach lurched as my mom told my dad he needed to go deal with it. I had no idea what to expect, but a confrontation of some sort seemed to be on the menu. I watched in the rearview window as my dad smiled, shook my abuser’s hand, and got back into the car.

The feeling I have when I think of that moment is the feeling that keeps coming back to me whenever I think of this—whenever I think of scrolling through my Amazon options and coming across a thumbnail of Woody’s latest offering. It’s that feeling that my abuse doesn’t count—that my abuser is “acceptable” to the society I live in.

I’m not alone in this, I know.

And can you even imagine how Dylan will feel?

THIS IS NOT OK WITH ME. None of it.

I am fighting for the kids who can’t fight for themselves. I am fighting for the kid I was—the kid my dad didn’t fight for.

This is why I started #StopWoody and wrote this petition to ask Amazon to drop him.

Please stand with Dylan and me and all CSA survivors. Sign the petition. Tweet on the hashtag and at @RoyPrice, @Amazon, @Amazon_Studios. Help us fight this culture that uplifts powerful predators at the expense of their victims.

Click to sign.

Click to sign.

Love,
Rosie


PSA: Abusive commenters will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)


Related:


Amazon Studios: Stand With CSA Survivors and #StopWoody

Today I learned that Amazon Studios has signed child predator Woody Allen to create a new TV show. That’s all I wanted to know about that, so I don’t have any other details. I’ve been tweeting in protest today on the hashtag #StopWoody along with other survivors and allies, and have also worked up a petition at Change.org. The text is below.

Here is a post explaining why #StopWoody is important to me.

Please, if you can, stand with me as I fight for the kids who can’t fight for themselves. For the kid I was.

Please sign and share the petition.

StopWoody

Click to sign!

We, the undersigned, are survivors of childhood sexual abuse and people who love and support survivors. We stand together against Amazon Studio’s decision to contract with Woody Allen, accused of sexually abusing Dylan Farrow, to create a television show.

While Woody Allen has not been convicted of a crime, the judge in Allen’s custody suit expressed deep concerns about Allen’s behavior toward Dylan:

In his 33-page decision, Judge Wilk found that Mr. Allen’s behavior toward Dylan was “grossly inappropriate and that measures must be taken to protect her.” The judge also recounts Farrow’s misgivings regarding Allen’s behavior toward Dylan from the time she was between two and three years old. According to the judge’s decision, Farrow told Allen, “You look at her [Dylan] in a sexual way. You fondled her . . . You don’t give her any breathing room. You look at her when she’s naked.” (Vanity Fair)

StopWoodyWilkQuote

After the judge denied Allen visitation rights, the state attorney decided to drop the case in order to spare Dylan from further trauma:

The state attorney, Maco, said publicly he did have probable cause to press charges against Allen but declined, due to the fragility of the “child victim.” Maco told me that he refused to put Dylan through an exhausting trial, and without her on the stand, he could not prosecute Allen. (Vanity Fair)

What is clear from the facts is that we have every reason to believe Dylan and none to stand with and protect her abuser. By partnering with Allen, Amazon and Amazon Studios sends the message to survivors that you don’t believe Dylan Farrow’s account of her abuse at his hands. This is a tragically common reaction to children and adults reporting sexual abuse. We often contend with disbelief from the moment we ask for help, a fact that is not lost on victims currently weighing whether to report their abuse—nor is it lost on predators rationalizing their own behavior. When Amazon sends the message that you don’t believe Dylan, you tell us that you don’t believe us, either. You contribute to a culture that protects and supports and validates predators while treating victims like liars and criminals.

StopWoodyWilkQuote3

You make it harder for victims to report their abuse.

We must make it clear to Allen and other predators that what they do is in no way acceptable. And to do that, we must deny Woody Allen access to a platform. We must deny him and his actions our approval as a society or we are complicit in those actions and in the harm they do. To continue to reward people like Allen, Cosby, and Polanski is to betray every child who has ever been a victim of sexual abuse.

Childhood sexual abuse destroys lives.

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, over 62,000 children were sexually abused in the US in 2012. The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) revealed in 2010 that 42% of female rape
victims were raped before they turned 18 and 28% of male victims were first raped before age ten. The impact on victims ranges from short-term anxiety to long-term depression to adulthood sexual dysfunction to suicide, and there are millions of us living in the United States.

Click to sign.

Click to sign.

We deserve better.

StopWoodyWilkQuote2Dylan deserves better than to see her abuser rewarded yet again. All survivors of childhood sexual abuse deserve better than this continued culture of acceptance for predators and dismissal of victims.

As survivors of childhood sexual abuse and people who love them, we the undersigned are asking Amazon and Amazon Studios to stand with survivors and take a stand against childhood sexual abuse. Because make no mistake—if you move forward with this partnership, the statement you make will be “We support child predators—not CSA survivors.”

sign


PSA: Abusive commenters will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)


Related:


My Birthday Wish

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 11.57.25 AMIn a few days, I will celebrate my 50th year on this planet. I haven’t done as much as I guess I hoped I would by now. I have, on the other hand, survived a lot. And that’s why it’s especially important to me to make a big deal out of this nice, round number. It reminds me that I’ve reached an age my depression and anxiety made me fear I’d never see. It is a way of giving myself some credit for making it through and not giving up—for continuing to strive for wellness and to reach for a place where I will once again feel satisfaction with the way I am using the days I have on the earth. I’m not there yet, but I know that I deserve that, so I’m celebrating the fact that I can celebrate myself. And not insignificantly, I’m celebrating the fact that two years after a major trauma, I am able to celebrate my birthday again. This time of year will likely carry some weight of grief for some years, but I am taking this day back.

My birthday wish is honestly too big for words to encompass. The only word that remotely comes close to the thing I would most like to see in this world is LOVE. I have no wish for romantic love in my life—another thing to celebrate, I suppose, since every year up until age 41, I wished for that on every star and birthday candle and dandelion seed and though it was trauma that brought me to this place, I can focus my wishes elsewhere. The love I’m talking about is a more universal thing: THE thing that so many prophets and philosophers and poets have been trying to tell us all along. The thing that is very likely our only hope.

lovecropped

Big, right? It feels unattainable, but I don’t think it is. I believe that if we keep this word in our minds like a mantra, then it can’t help but make bad situations better. So my wish is that everyone reading this remember that word when anger and frustration flares up, not as a reminder to love your enemies necessarily, just as a reminder of what’s inside you that needs expressing out into the world and of what’s important—really important.

This is not the post I set out to write. I came here (inspired by a friend—thanks Britni!) to tell you about a few people and organizations I care about and suggest that you consider them in your holiday giving. But I asked myself what I truly wished for and wanted to answer authentically, so here we are, as close as I could come to putting my wish in a word: LOVE. A big wish, but a small ask. Keep it in your mind and in your heart.

AND if you could show some love to these people and organizations, I would be grateful. Let me know in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter, and I’ll thank you publicly. (Do let me know if you don’t want that!) Give whatever you can afford, though I do like the numbers $5 and $50, for some reason. And if you can’t give, please consider sharing this post.

egarnerfamilyEric Garner Family

Eric Garner’s family lost a father and a husband when a police officer used an illegal chokehold, killing Garner on video as he told officers again and again, “I can’t breathe.” The Garner family’s lives have been shattered.  You can help ease the financial burden on the family by donating to this fundraiser (I have committed to $5 a month for 2015):

Donate to Eric Garner Family


Ferguson Organizers Johnetta Elzie & DeRay McKesson

Johnetta and DeRay are Ferguson organizers, publishers of the Ferguson newsletter, and all-around badasses. You can help them stay fed and housed and support the work they do by donating to their PayPal account.

Donate to Ferguson Organizers


Brianna Wu is Making Games

Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 9.28.42 AMBrianna Wu is one of several women in the video games industry that has been targeted for relentless harassment by the scum that is GamerGate (all together now: “Actually, it’s about ethics in video games journalism!”). From her Patreon page:

I got into videogames to make video games – but right now the majority of my workweek is wasted on fending off BS from people harassing me.

Wu goes on to describe some of this harassment, which continues to be brutal. These people used her dead dog as a prop with which to torture her and her husband, Frank Wu. Brianna Wu is asking for help:

If you appreciate what I do, please chip in so I can hire some help with the Women in Tech advocacy I do. I need someone to help me with the medial parts of dealing with my attackers so I can focus on my work, making and shipping games.

Donate to Brianna Wu


Joyful Heart Foundation

*Trigger Warning for discussion of rape and sexual assault*

As some of you know, I’m pursuing closure in a thirty-year-old rape case. I have contacted a number of organizations that purport to help people like me, and Joyful Heart Foundation is the only one that reached out and offered to speak with me, hear my story, and provide knowledge and assistance as I navigate the legal system. I’m so grateful for that support.

Joyful Heart began as a dream of helping sexual assault survivors heal and reclaim a sense of hope, possibility and joy in their lives. We have evolved into a national organization that is paving the way for integrating holistic approaches in treating trauma, transforming the way people think about, talk about and behave around the issues of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse, and advancing public policies to ensure justice for survivors.”

Donate to Joyful Heart Foundation


Thanks for reading and helping me celebrate my 50th birthday.

Love,

Rosie


Make Me a Sammich: The Comic #1

Trigger warning for discussion of rape and rape culture.

I’ve been participating in some rape-related hashtags on Twitter over the past several days, including #WhenIWasRaped and #SolidarityIsForRapists, both created by Mikki Kendall (@Karnythia). As is nearly always the case, participation meant dealing with clueless dudes with comments like…well, like the one that inspired me to make my first (and probably not last, because fun!) BitStrips comic. Then I had to make a pretty frame to put it in (later changed to pretty header). Here it is.

MMASCOMICheader

BusStopped

Apologies to Joss Whedon. —Rosie

Make Me a Sammich: The Comic #2 – Tone Cop


They Are Not Trolls. They Are Men.

Oliver Rawlings

Oliver Rawlings

Trigger warning for discussion of the various types of abuse perpetrated by those humans known as “trolls” incuding rape and death threats and suicide.

Back in July, during Netroots Nation 2014, Zerlina Maxwell spoke on a panel about online harassment. I wasn’t there, but someone tweeted a quote that stayed with me:

“Don’t call them trolls. They’re assholes.”

I think this is important. By calling these people “trolls,” we are basically letting them off the hook. It’s a lot like the “boys will be boys” mentality that helps to keep rape culture thriving, but it’s also different, because boys are expected to be human. By calling these people “trolls,” we relegate them to non-human status, and we make it clear that we don’t expect them to live up to the same behavioral standards as human beings.

So, who are these assholes? Well, the subset of the population we refer to as “trolls” is mostly (almost exclusively, in my personal experience) made up of men who—for reasons that range from angry entitlement to I-don’t-know-what—make it their business to perpetrate harassment and abuse on targets who are mostly not men.

As a woman online, I’ve dealt with and watched others deal with all of these things and more:

Michael Brutsch

Michael Brutsch

Men who insist that we engage them because they disagree with something we’ve said.

Men who keep tweeting at us or commenting when we’ve asked them to stop.

Men who keep tweeting at us after we’ve told them in no uncertain terms we’re done and have blocked them.

Men who create sock-puppet accounts pretending to be women and use them to harass us, gaslight us, threaten us.

Sean Duffy

Sean Duffy

Men who haunt hashtags they disagree with so they can harass people who are not men who speak out about issues that matter to them.

Men who haunt hashtags about gender violence, sexual assault, and other painful topics and target the people there telling their stories.

Men who band together to create armies of sock-puppet accounts to harass us and discredit the work we do.

Men who reply to our stories of rape to tell us that it wasn’t rape. (And who are very likely defending their own behavior.)

Men who play devil’s advocate on issues that disproportionately affect people who are not men.*

Men who chime into conversations about sexual & domestic violence to speculate on what the victim should have done differently.

Neil Law

Neil Law

Men who attack those of us dedicated to fighting for equality simply because we fight for equality.

Men who call us “feminazis” and “white knights” because we identify as feminists and talk about feminist issues.

Men who use racist and sexist and transphobic slurs to attack marginalized people, often for months on end, with no consequence.

Men who send us graphic photos of everything from sex acts to gaping wounds in order to punish us for talking back.

Men who tell us all we need is a good fucking to set us straight.

Wesley Meredith

Wesley Meredith

Men who tell us we should get raped.

Men who tell us they hope we kill ourselves.

Men who tell us how they hope we die.

And of course, all of this is in hopes that we will simply STFU, or better yet, cease to exist.

I think Zerlina’s right: we need to start calling them what they are. Assholes, yes. But also, men who choose to harass and abuse others online, sometimes to the point of driving their victims off the Internet, out of their homes, and even to suicide. So, when you talk about these men, consider using words that describe what they actually do and are, such as “harassers” and “abusive assholes.”

These men are human beings who treat others as less than human—who purposely cause pain and suffering and sometimes even death. It is time we stopped letting them off the hook.


Note: This post has been updated to include the suggested term “harassers” per my friend Mandaray.

*Post pub note: The idea that I would include “playing devil’s advocate” in a list like this seems to have confused some folks, so I want to be clear about what I mean, here: There are people who innocently wonder about the other side of an equation and there are dudes who use “I’m just playing devil’s advocate” as an excuse to argue with women and other marginalize people simply for the entertainment value of engaging us and wasting our time and energy (and even when there’s no ill intent, it’s often really unhelpful and can even be harmful, such as when “devil’s advocates” engage in victim-blaming). Yes, there are degrees of trolling, and this is the least of what anti-feminist trolls do, but feminists—especially those of us who engage in online activism—must, on a daily basis, deal with a barrage of people who are primarily cis white males telling us what feminism really is or isn’t, what misogyny really is or isn’t, what street harassment really is or isn’t, what rape really is or isn’t, and “devil’s advocate” is one of the flags they wave when they’re reminded that they are being part of the problem, as though it excuses them. I hope this clarifies my meaning. Also, if you’re pulling this one item out of the list and ignoring everything else, you may be missing at least part of the point.

Oh, and just for good measure:

scut farkas-nAm


PSA: Trolls Harassers and abusive assholes who comment here will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)


The Time My “Friend” Sexually Assaulted Me

Bureau of Justice Statistics
Bureau of Justice Statistics

Bureau of Justice Statistics

Trigger warning for discussion of rape and sexual assault.

I met A in the early 1990s at a science fiction convention. I’d seen him around and…damn. The man was fine. When we finally came together, sex was a forgone conclusion. We spent a wild weekend together, and I fell in love with him. And he broke my heart, and I basically moved on. Except that almost every time I saw A after that, we ended up having sex. A was…persuasive. But he didn’t have to try very hard—I had a thing for him for years.

In 2000 or so, I went out drinking in my neighborhood, went back to a guy’s apartment to smoke some pot, and woke up on his couch with his penis inside me. I only remembered feeling really woozy and telling him I needed to lie down on his couch. I don’t know if he drugged me or if I was just really drunk, but I never consented to sex. The next day I IM’d with A about it, and he made excuses for the guy. “Maybe he was just really drunk and didn’t know what he was doing,” he said, or something very like it.

Fast forward to the late aughts, and I’m in A’s town on business. He’s happily married, and I’m in what I believe at the time is the relationship I’ve waited my whole life for. A & I make plans to get together and have a drink at my hotel. There is—in my mind and probably in his—no question of sex. We are committed to our partners. It seriously never enters my thoughts.

I have several Martinis and somehow end up in his car on the freeway. A says something about a bar he wants to take me to, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to vomit, so he takes me back to my hotel.

Most of what came after is blurry. There is a good chance I stripped my clothes off the moment we got to my room, as I was drunk and with someone I trusted, and when I’m drunk and on my way to bed, my clothes end up all over the house. I remember getting into bed, under the covers, and I remember him lying on the bed saying things like, “What they don’t know won’t hurt them.” I remember laughing and saying, “No.” I remember that I had no intention of cheating on my boyfriend. I remember that I kissed A at one point and my boyfriend’s face popped into my head and I was like, “Whoa, no!” A continued trying to talk me into having sex with him and I continued to decline.

I remember that speaking was becoming really difficult. I remember A climbing on top of me, on top of the covers, as I tried to form words or even coherent thoughts. I remember that he masturbated on my chest and that I had absolutely no say in the matter. I remember that I got up and washed it off.

I remember that the next day when he picked me up to drive me to the airport, he asked me if I was angry with him. I could tell he felt like shit, but what exactly he felt like shit about, I still don’t know. I think I said something about being angry with myself (and I was—I blamed myself and told no one for years), but then I said something that made him defensive, because his next words were, “Come on, now, you were complicit…”

I was complicit in exactly one thing: I kissed him.

I know he felt “bad” about what he’d done—I just don’t think he knows that what he did was sexual assault. Because I kissed him. Because I took my clothes off. Because of our history. Even though I said no.

via ThinkProgress

via ThinkProgress

I understand that not everyone who commits sexual assault thinks of himself (or herself) as a sex offender. I understand that people make really bad decisions under the influence of alcohol that they might not make otherwise. But neither of these things changes the fact that sexual contact must be consensual or it is sexual assault. It doesn’t matter what someone does before the “no.” If you don’t hear an emphatic “yes,” or “do it,” or “fuck me,” etc., you are simply not cleared for take-off.

That was the end of my friendship with A. It took me a couple of years to remember that it was he who had made excuses for the man who raped me all those years ago. And then I realized that when a man makes excuses for another man’s bad behavior, there’s a good chance he’s defending his own. I was probably not the first woman to get drunk with A and end up being assaulted.

I just hope like hell that I’m the last.


If you need to talk to someone about sexual assault/rape, RAINN can help. You can also contact me via my Facebook page.

Related on MMAS:


PSA: Abusive commenters will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)


The Choice to Be Silent

Trigger warning: discussion of rape.

Note: This post has been updated since its original publication. I just kept having more to say on the subject. Also, I’d like to amend “silent” in the title because while many survivors choose not to report, we are often far from silent about our rapes. This is about the choice not to report a rape to the police.

I am a multiple rape survivor. I have experienced what it’s like to report rape and I have chosen not to report rape. And although I want all rapists caught and punished, I fully support every survivor’s right to choose whether to report rape and I do not question any survivor’s choice no matter what. For me—and for most of the feminists I know—this is fundamental.

A recent post on Fiending for Hope discussed the choice not to report a rape as an act of self-care and something to be respected. She went so far as to suggest that survivors who choose not to report are courageous:

People that do choose to report their rapes are incredibly courageous and I support them so freaking hard. But those of us that don’t choose to report are no less courageous.

She didn’t claim that the choice not to report required the same amount of courage as choosing to report and face the consequences which will likely include being grilled about every choice she made leading up to the rape and immediately after. She merely stated that choosing not to report doesn’t make you less courageous. I agree with her (on all counts—read the piece if you haven’t) and will take it a step further: I believe that choosing not to report requires courage (of perhaps a different kind), and I don’t think that there’s a mathematical formula you can apply that will determine which survivor must display more courage. It’s not a contest, and every survivor must be courageous—sometimes just to get up in the morning and live our lives. But while choosing to report a rape may require the courage to deal with systemic abuse of rape survivors, choosing not to report—choosing instead to take care of yourself first and foremost—requires the courage to deal with the fallout when people hold you responsible for the rapist’s future actions.

Because there are still those who believe that a rape survivor owes it to society to report rape—as though by doing that we are protecting society from a rapist—and hold survivors who don’t report responsible for rapists running free. I saw some of this in the reaction to the piece in question—and to the quote above. The idea that a survivor might choose not to report a rape is, to some, not a courageous act but a cowardly one—one that leaves a rapist at large, and so, endangers others.

Fun fact: 97% of rapists never serve time. It’s estimated that about 46% of rapes get reported, only 12% of rapists ever get arrested, and only 3% go to jail. So how, exactly, am I protecting society by reporting my rape when the odds are the rapist will never see the inside of a prison cell? When, in fact, there’s a good chance that my rape kit will sit untested on a shelf for years—possibly decades?* How the fuck do you take a rapist to trial without testing a rape kit? You don’t. (Hence the 9% of rapists who get prosecuted.)

via RAINN

via RAINN

I don’t know the percentage of female rape survivors who report and are subsequently treated like criminals and interrogated about their clothing choices, how much they had to drink, how many sexual partners they’ve had and whether their attacker was one of them, whether the “sex” was actually consensual but they regretted it later…but I’m guessing the percentage high based on pretty much every survivor I’ve read or talked to. So when people say that a survivor owes it to the rest of us to endure this scrutiny and shaming even knowing that the rapist is going to walk free almost every single time, they are basically saying, “If you don’t run the gauntlet, you’re responsible for all future rapes this perp commits.”

A rape survivor is never, ever responsible for future rapes perpetrated by his or her rapist. I mean, the fact that I actually have to say that… But you know, I do. And for anyone out there who questions a survivor’s choice not to report, I’d like you to think about the following:

Would you support a rape survivor’s choice not to report a rape because…

…he feared for his life?

…she was drunk and can’t identify her attacker?

…his attacker threatened his family?

…her attacker is already on trial for another rape?

…his attacker was a family member dying of cancer?

…her attacker got hit by a truck right after the rape and so will never be able to rape again?

If you answered yes to any of these questions (or can conceive of any possible circumstance under which you would be ok with not reporting), then you support a rape survivor’s right to choose whether to report. And so, to question any survivor’s choice to report a rape is bullshit because you have no idea why they are choosing not to report and IT’S NONE OF YOUR GODDAMNED BUSINESS.

Out of three rapes, I reported the first two. I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about whether to report the first time, but the second time I was afraid it wasn’t rape because I didn’t fight, and a police officer convinced me that it was indeed rape and took my report. Neither of these times did it ever occur to me not to file a report, so no particular courage was required for me to do so. I wasn’t out to save anyone—I was a mess and I did what people told me to do. What required courage was dealing with the aftermath of having reported—the disbelief, the betrayals, the trial in the first case where a public defender sputtered accusations at me, the 12-year-old victim, as I sat on the stand after months of build up. The third time circumstances were complicated enough that reporting seemed utterly futile based on my experience with the system. I did not display courage in choosing not to report; I just did what I had to do. But I wasn’t *more* courageous when I reported the previous rapes than someone who chooses not to simply by virtue of filing a report, and to say I was is bullshit. And furthermore, I can’t conceive for one second of holding a prior victim of any of the men who raped me responsible for my rapes.

Like Britni says:

We all have our own stories and our own reasons for making the choices that we make. It’s important to remember that survivors make the choices that are best for them– not the choices YOU think are best for them. And all of those choices are valid. All of them.

Rape survivors don’t owe anyone anything. They certainly don’t owe us their continued pain and suffering so that we as a society can blame them for their rapes and lament the ruination of their rapists’ lives and ultimately let the rapist go free most of the time. They don’t owe us that.

I am a multiple rape survivor. I have reported rape and I have chosen not to report rape. Both choices ultimately required courage and still do. Every fucking day of my life.

*True story: To the best of my knowledge, one of my rape kits has been sitting untested on a shelf in Texas since 1981.

UPDATE: The #WhyIDidntReport hashtag on Twitter, which was started by @ethiopiennesays soon after I posted this piece, saw tens of thousands of tweets from survivors sharing their stories of why they chose not to report their rapes. If you can read their stories and walk away believing survivors have a duty to report or that reporting somehow equals justice, then there’s very likely nothing anyone can say that will change your mind.


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Rape Culture at UofO: Come at Me, Bros

Trigger warning for discussion of rape and rape culture.

Screen shot 2014-03-03 at 2.59.43 PMMy friend Anne Thériault of The Belle Jar wrote a post a few days ago about an incident at University of Ottawa wherein several male members of student leadership gathered to chat about Anne Marie Roy, president of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa. Ms. Roy had apparently beaten a dude for the office, and these dudes were not happy. They went on for several screens talking about how someone should “punish her with their shaft,” speculating about what venereal diseases she might have, and offering to buy beers for a guy who says he’s going to “fuck her in the ass” on someone’s desk. You’ll find the whole disgusting mess over on The Belle Jar. Here’s an excerpt from Anne’s article, which you should go read right now.

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.

As I’m sure you can imagine, Anne was immediately subjected to verbal abuse of the sort women who dare to speak out on the Internet will be familiar with. But then Anne Marie Roy received a cease-and-desist letter. From CTV News in Canada:

The letter — which identifies the four participants as Michel Fournier-Simard, Alexandre Giroux, Alexandre Larochelle and Robert-Marc Tremblay — threatened legal action against Roy if she did not “destroy” her copy of the online conversation and stop sharing it with others.

It wasn’t long before Anne Thériault received a similar letter. These individuals have now withdrawn their threats with regard to Ms. Roy. Anne is still waiting to learn whether she will be sued for her blog post.

Every single day, women are silenced when they try to speak out about rape culture. Every day we are told that “it’s not rape culture” or “it’s just how guys are,” which sound to me like conflicting statements. Why are guys just “like that”? Duh, because of rape culture, which Matthew G. P. Coe defines thusly in his follow-up at the Good Men Project:

Rape culture is the gradual normalisation, through, for example, jokes, commentary, and apologia, of the exertion of one person’s will over another, through the use of coerced or forced sex acts, such that such exertions become acceptable or justifiable as either hypothetical or practical actions.

Every time a conversation like the one Anne Marie Roy and Anne Thériault have helped bring to light takes place, it reinforces this culture of rape as acceptable. It reinforces a culture that treats women as objects, as products for men’s consumption, as sex toys, as less than human. And it reinforces a culture where women remain silent when things like this happen. Or as Anne says,

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?

I’d like to ask each of you to think about how you can help shine a light on this bullshit and show the world that we will not be silent. As for me, I’m looking forward to my cease-and-desist letter. Oh! I probably won’t get one unless I include at least part of the conversation, so here you go, bros:

screen-shot-2014-02-28-at-1-57-41-pm

And here’s my call to action:

Join me by writing your own post, reblogging/sharing Anne’s post or this one or Matt Coe’s or all of them, and tweeting on #UofOrapeculture. Let’s shine a frakking Klieg light on these assholes.

Update: All four members of student leadership involved in this conversation have resigned their positions. (I missed this article previously. Apologies.) No word on whether legal actions will continue.

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#IStandWithDylan – My Story of Childhood Sexual Abuse

Trigger warning for discussion of childhood sexual abuse and rape.

Me, age 2

Me, age 2

(February 4, 2014) This week, Dylan Farrow published an open letter in the New York Times detailing her story of abuse at the hands of recent Golden Globe honoree, Woody Allen. Immediately, the debate began, as I knew it would before I even finished reading: should we believe her?

As I often do, I took to Twitter to show support and talk about my experiences with abuse and the disbelief that often follows under the hashtag #IStandWithDylan. Lots of other people joined me and over the past few days, we’ve talked a lot about the culture that tells childhood sexual abuse victims they are probably lying or maybe they really do believe what they are saying, but it’s still not true.

I have spoken in the past about my history of abuse and alluded to multiple instances of childhood sexual abuse. I was one of the fortunate ones in that when I finally broke down (and I do mean that literally) and “confessed” my abuse to my mother, she believed me without hesitation. I wouldn’t experience the incredulity rape culture demands until I was raped at age 12 and again at 16, and then for the rest of my life at random times.

I have alluded to my childhood abuse, but I haven’t talked about it in detail. But given the conversation I’ve been having on Twitter (and to a lesser degree, on Facebook) the past three days, I feel like it’s time to tell the story of my childhood abuse, partly because I haven’t, partly because people need to understand that predators can be anyone, and partly because, as Andrea Grimes says in her (amazing) RH Reality Check article,

The more stories survivors tell, the less aberrant we will be—though I contend this is an imagined aberrance. If we can tell our stories, and if those stories can be heard, we may someday stop this relentless “he said, she said” tug-of-war where no victim is ever perfect enough, no accused ever quite guilty enough.

This is not going to be pretty. If you’re likely to be triggered, this is the place where you want to stop reading.


The Maintenance Man

It started at four or five. We lived in an Army housing development in Southern California. It was a tight-knit, seemingly safe little community of soldiers and their families. My dad was away a lot and my mom was mostly a single parent with two small kids and possibly another on the way by then. Kids ran around the neighborhood freely in those days (the late 1960s) and we often played in the park at the end of our cul-de-sac, right next-door to my house. One day a friend and I met a park maintenance guy and chatted with him for a bit. I don’t remember anything about that visit except that he stood there and whacked off in front of us. I think he asked if we wanted to see a “trick.” I remember it in almost cartoonish terms, the rapid movement of his hand (in my mind the motions are big and wide) and then the spurting of semen. It was bizarre, but at that age, we had no idea that it was anything else.

I have only vague memories of how I came to spend more time with “the maintenance man,” but vivid ones of him fondling me in his truck, teaching me to suck his tongue, and once behind the fence where the machines that powered the housing development buzzed, I remember his penis in my mouth. The taste of it remains with me to this day.

That was about the time I told my mom (just the tongue-sucking part, as I remember), and she believed me. She told me in no uncertain terms to stay away from that man. The next time I saw him he strolled past where me and my friends were sitting (away from the park, because I’d seen his truck and experienced the first of what would be a lifetime of prickly, sick sensations in my gut). He chuckled. “You told, didn’t you?” he said, in a way that made it clear he was an old hand at this. I like to think he died soon after in horrible agony.

The Uncle

About a year later, my aunt and uncle and cousins came to visit, and I made the mistake of walking in on my uncle while he was napping. That day I ended up performing my second blowjob, and sometime soon after while we were camped out in the front yard, I spent the whole night with my panties bunched around my hand, the elastic cutting into my legs and waist and fingers, while he quietly tried to get into them. I was six.

The Family Friend

A few years later, after we’d moved to Northern California, an old family friend came to visit. He made everyone laugh, and he doted on me. He brought me an accordion and taught me to play it. He took me on outings and let me bring a friend. But it wasn’t long before things started to get gross. He wanted to watch us put our bathing suits on—acted like it was no big deal, so we felt like we were being weird if we didn’t let him. Then one day when my parents weren’t at home he took me into my bedroom to “show” me something that he and his daughters used to do together. He asked me to lie down on the bed and he took my pants off and performed oral sex on me. I was nine years old.

(It will not surprise you to know that oral sex is kind of an issue for me. It’s difficult to enjoy because it often triggers memories of this event.)

I only remember this happening once, but I have a feeling of this as being an ongoing thing. What was definitely ongoing was the growing anxiety inside me. I was absolutely terrified at almost every moment of the day that somehow my mom would find out. (My dad was a salesman by this time and still spent very little time at home. That was pretty much his M.O.) My anxiety intensified when my mom and my aunt went to visit a psychic. I knew for certain she was going to come home knowing everything, and I dreaded seeing her car pull up that day, but she came in smiling and I had my reprieve. And the anxiety continued to build.

Then one afternoon as my brother and I were sitting out on the lawn with some neighborhood kids, she came out angry, yelling for us, and I just knew that was it. We went inside, and I sat on the couch, and panic rose, and after a moment it burst out of me in screaming sobs that must have been utterly horrifying for my mother. But not as horrifying as what she finally got out of me, seated on the toilet lid, me on her lap gasping and sobbing and apologizing. She believed me, and she told my dad, and the next time that guy came over we were in the car on our way somewhere and my gut started doing that thing again. My mom and dad conferred, and my dad got out of the car. I thought he was going to punch they guy or something, but my dad shook his hand and the guy got in his car and left. I was relieved that it was over. My dad had sent him away. But years later I would realize how angry I still was at that handshake.

The Clay Man

You’d think that by now I’d avoid pedophiles instinctively, but instead, I seemed to gravitate toward them, or them to me. The next time I met one (about a year later) I was a willing participant in my abuse. The man around the corner—the one with the workshop and the kiln who taught me how to make a vase out of red clay—saw me coming a mile off. He fondled me and then—Jesus, I almost forgot this part—he gave me a cigar tube to use as a dildo to widen my vaginal opening so he could penetrate me. I don’t remember whether this was before or after he attempted to do so by sheathing his penis in a finger cot to make it small enough, but I suspect it was after. I was ten.

The Rest

Somewhere in there was the man who fondled my nipple during an evening game of outdoor hide-and-seek at my cousins’ house and the guy in shorts and no underwear who, when he realized me and my friend could see his dick, flexed it at us a few times. And my friend’s dad who took naked pics of us so he could masturbate to them. And the guy who pulled over on the side of the road naked and opened his truck door so he could masturbate at me. And, and, and.


This is my story, and I have heard far too many like it from women I know. I’m sharing it in hopes that it will help promote greater understanding and empathy for survivors, that it will help other survivors of childhood sexual abuse know that they are not alone, and finally, in hopes that those who doubt survivors will take a moment to think about whether they truly need to express that doubt out loud. Every time you call a survivor a liar, other survivors hear you and decide it’s not safe to tell their story. And God forbid a child should hear you—a child who needs desperately to tell his or hers.

If you need support for sexual abuse, you can find it here: 1-800-656-HOPE (1-800-656-4673)


PSA: Abusive commenters will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)


Texas Students Aren’t Buying “Datable” or Justin Lookadoo

What the kids are calling him these days.

What the kids are calling him these days. (image via lookadoo.com)

This is one of those stories that warms my heart and makes me proud of the state I was born in (neither of which happens often enough these days). I missed the whole thing, and I couldn’t let that happen to you.

So, in case you missed it…

Yesterday, Richardson High School in Texas hosted an assembly (sponsored by the PTA) wherein a “motivational speaker” named Justin Lookadoo presented his philosophies (ostensibly on dating violence) to the student body.* For a little background regarding his expertise as a teen dating guru, here are some “cool rules” from Lookadoo’s website, “R U Dateable.” (If you need to go vomit now, I’ll wait.)

For girls:

  • Dateable girls know how to shut up. They don’t monopolize the conversation. They don’t tell everyone everything about themselves. They save some for later. They listen more than they gab.
  • God made guys as leaders. Dateable girls get that and let him do guy things, get a door, open a ketchup bottle. They relax and let guys be guys. Which means they don’t ask him out!!!

For guys:

  • Dateable guys know they aren’t as sensitive as girls and that’s okay. They know they are stronger, more dangerous, and more adventurous and that’s okay. Dateable guys are real men who aren’t afraid to be guys.
  • Dateable guys aren’t tamed. They don’t live by the rules of the opposite sex. They fight battles, conquer lands, and stand up for the oppressed.

(If you didn’t vomit before, but need to now, feel free.)

Justin Lookadoo is the author of a book titled (not surprisingly) Dateable. Here’s a sample:

(Ok, one more vomit break. Ready, set, BLORF.)

How this guy gets speaking engagements at high schools is anyone’s guess. (Though it might have something to do with the fact that he claims to be a “Christian” motivational speaker, which carries a good deal of weight with some Texans. In fact, the school district’s initial response to criticism was to apologize for the “non-religious terminology” Lookadoo used to get his message across.) But though this can’t be his first rodeo, he was evidently unprepared for the reaction from students at RHS. The first hashtagged tweet came from Nate Beer, self-described “newsman.” (Beer writes for the school paper.)

What followed was a twitstorm of fairly epic proportions. Student reactions ranged from amused to enraged and back again. Here are just a few:

Parents were livid. At least one apparently created a Twitter account just to get onboard:

And Lookadoo wasn’t ready for the after-show Q&A. From local station WFAA:

Students circled around the speaker and hurled questions about his philosophies.

“Why did you tell girls to get out of abusive relationships instead of telling guys not to be abusive in the first place?” one student asked.

“I’ve done about 4,000 programs. That’s never happened,” Lookadoo confessed.

#lookadouche became a trending topic. News and media outlets picked up the story and are still running with it. Nate Beer, newsman, had to take a Twitter break because he was overwhelmed by the response (not all of it positive, I’m sure). And of course Twitter-at-large took up the cry, which is how the story came to my attention today.

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that for a moment, when I heard about the speaker’s message, I was worried for these students; afraid that they’d actually buy into this bullshit and internalize it. And perhaps some did. But one thing is certain: Justin Lookadoo, misogynist “motivational speaker,” did motivate RHS students. Just not the way he intended.

Go, Richardson High School. You give me hope.

Updates:

  • Here’s a petition asking the superintendent of George West ISD to cancel Lookadoo’s upcoming speaking event at GWH.
  • Lookadoo has expressed confusion over the uproar, saying that his message at the assembly was not the same as the one in his “Dateable” rulebook. The Atlantic has excerpts from his speech at the assembly. I’ll let you be the judge.
  • *I originally stated that he “presented his rules for how to be “dateable.” I have since learned that part of the agreement with the PTA was that he would not state these rules, but it appears that he managed to get the message across just the same.
  • DallasNews has printed a letter from RHS Principal Charles Bruner, which apparently went home with students today.


It’s Not a Movie and We’re Not Buffy

buffy

(image via rottentomatoes.com)

[Trigger Warning for discussion of rape.]

Why didn’t you fight back? 

There was a hammer nearby—why didn’t you use it to defend yourself?

Why didn’t you scream? There were houses nearby—someone would have heard you.

You were carrying a knife—why didn’t you stab him?

These are questions people have asked me about my rapes. Regular people asked. Cops and lawyers asked. All of them asked because they were skeptical about what happened to me or it was their job to tear me apart (or to get the answers to all the obvious questions before shelving my rape kit and pretending the whole thing never happened). It’s no secret that many people believe that if you don’t fight back or scream or act in the ways we’ve been taught rape victims act, then it’s not really rape.

I’m here to tell you that there are dozens of reasons a rape victim might be unable or unwilling to fight or scream. And there are some very good reasons why she (or he) might not fit the profile television and movies have created of the perfect victim–one we can get behind because there’s no question in our minds that she is a victim. She fights tooth and nail, screams until her voice fails, and perhaps most importantly, she remains the perfect victim for the proper period of time after the rape. She looks the way you expect her to: pale and stunned. She behaves the way you expect her to: timid and shaken. And there are rules.

Shae

(image via winteriscoming.net)

I recently rewatched the first season of Game of Thrones. Among other things, I was struck by the scene in which Tyrion, Bron, and Shae are playing drinking games and Tyrion reveals the sad story of his brief marriage to a woman he and his brother rescued from “rapers” who turned out to be a “whore.” Shae tells him he should have known:

“A girl who is almost raped doesn’t invite another man into her bed two hours later.”

Just so no one is confused: this statement is bullshit. It seems to be an assumption on the part of the show’s writers—I don’t believe it’s one that the character, Shae, would ever make (although I allow that she might). Because if you’ve ever been raped (or almost raped) you know that things don’t play out in real life the way they do in our assumptions. Our assumptions are based on the rape victims we see on tv and in movies—those perfect victims I described above. There are no rules about what a woman (or man) who has been raped or “almost raped” will do, how she will behave, or whether she will decide to go ahead and fuck an entire soccer team later that night. There are no rules because none of those things are indicators of whether she was “really” raped and assuming that they are amounts to blaming the victim.

I wouldn’t blame you (much) if right now you’re asking, “But Rosie, why didn’t you scream? Why didn’t you use the hammer or the knife?” The point of this post is to explain those things and hopefully squash some of these assumptions like ticks. So, I’ll tell you why.

The first time I was raped the rapist told me if I made a sound he would take that hammer and bash my brains in. So I didn’t scream, and it never even occurred to me to use the hammer against him.

Because it wasn’t a movie and I wasn’t Buffy. I was a twelve-year-old girl whose mind simply could not conceive of what was happening to her. And I wasn’t the perfect victim, either, because a few days later when a neighborhood boy rushed up to console me I found myself wondering, at first, what he was on about. I had been raped, spent a night in the ER and with the cops, spent a couple of days at home, and now I was back at school and back to running around the neighborhood with my friends. My mind was attempting to let me be a kid again, but don’t think for a second that it helped—it only made people suspicious. “It’s your word against his,” they told me, because like most rape victims, my rapist was someone I—and everyone else in my neighborhood—knew.

The second time I was raped I was in an apartment where children were sleeping in the next room. I didn’t want to wake them to my nightmare. So I didn’t scream. And yes indeed, Officer Helpful, I did have a knife on me. It was a sort of dagger thing and I have no idea where I picked it up, but a friend had made a sheath for it and I loved it. But I had never used a weapon in my life and I don’t even think I thought of my knife as a way to protect myself. It was just a cool thing I had. It honestly never crossed my mind to figure out whether it was even within reach. If it had been, would I have plunged it into the man on top of me? I don’t believe so.

Because it wasn’t a movie and I wasn’t Buffy. I was a sixteen-year-old girl being raped for the second time and all I could think to do was survive it.

jenniferbaumgardner.net

Some victims don’t scream or fight back because a type of paralysis sets in and prevents them from doing anything at all. Some don’t react the way they imagined they might because they can’t wrap their heads around the fact that it’s even happening. Some don’t realize that what’s happening to them is rape because they’re making out with their boyfriend and all the sudden he’s inside them and they believe that they somehow “gave the wrong signal” or otherwise brought it on themselves and it can’t be rape if it’s your boyfriend, can it? It can’t be rape if you were making out, can it? What if you’re drunk?

The only question should be “did sexual contact occur without consent?” and if the answer is “yes,” then guess what? It was rape.

The point is, it doesn’t matter what a rape victim did or didn’t do before, during, or after the rape. The only thing that matters is consent. So if you came to this post carrying assumptions about perfect victims who behave like you think they ought to and scream when you think they should and fight like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I’m hoping you’ll leave with a better understanding of how those assumptions hinder your ability to empathize with me and other survivors. If you know someone who harbors these assumptions, I’m hoping you’ll share this with them and maybe help them understand that the only rule is there are no rules when it comes to how rape victims behave.

This is not a movie and we are not Buffy. We are individual men and women and there’s no telling how any of us will react in a given situation. And in a situation like the one we’re discussing, all bets are off.

Let’s put our assumptions aside and choose empathy, shall we?


Note: Rape happens to men and women and people all over the gender spectrum. The tropes and assumptions I’m addressing here are mostly about rape victims who are women, so I have often used the female pronoun.


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Dear Gabe: I Don’t Hate You, but We Need to Talk

be-cool-and-do-good-thingsTrigger warning for discussion of rape.

Dear Gabe,

I’m going to write this letter as though you’re a friend, because that’s how I used to think of Penny Arcade—people on the Internet who got what it was to be a gamer and a misfit geek. Who got what it was like to be me. People I wanted to hang out with. My cool Internet friends. And stuff that has happened over the last few years has made me not want to be your friend anymore.

I don’t hate you. The things you do and say often hurt me and I’m often sick and afraid to think of all the young people who listen to your words and emulate your actions, and yeah, often that pain and fear manifests in anger. Anger and hate are not the same things, and most of us expressing anger about what you said at PAX are not expressing hate. (I understand that you have been the target of hateful speech, and I understand that even a little hate can seem like an avalanche. I do not condone that behavior.) Most of us are expressing anger that is borne from disappointment, sadness, pain, and a fear that you don’t understand the power your words have over others.

Since we’re friends, you’re aware that I’ve worked in the games industry for about 25 years, and that I’m a woman. You probably also know about my history of sexual abuse and rape, or maybe you don’t and this is the first time I’m letting you in on it. I’m not going to go into detail, but it’s a part of my history and when people make light of it, especially people who I thought were my friends (people like me, people who get me) it really hurts.

For many years I said nothing when friends made rape jokes or used rape as an analogy for a bad beatdown in a game. I’d discovered years ago that my discomfort with group behavior would be met with ridicule at worst or dismissal at best, and I wasn’t really in touch with my feelings about it anyway. And then I learned about triggers and I realized what it was that was happening to me—that thing I kept having to swallow down on every time people joked about rape or tossed the word around like it meant nothing, the shoving down keeping those feelings distant. And I found out that I have a very mild reaction to these things compared to people who experience everything from panic attacks to being mentally transported back to their rape. And I stopped being silent about it because there is a cost to such things.

In your response today, you acknowledged causing pain and said that you regret it. Then you stood by your statement without really explaining how continuing to sell t-shirts mocking rape survivors belonged in a list of “mistakes” which included things like making the follow-up strip and creating the merch in the first place. Then you pointed out that both you and Robert Khoo had given an emphatic “No!” in response to a fan yelling “bring it back!” None of this adds up for me. I do the math, and the result I get is that you still don’t understand the damage that merchandise did if you don’t understand that continuing to sell it would have compounded the problem. Taking those t-shirts off the market was the only thing you guys did right in this timeline up until today when you really, truly acknowledged—for the first time I’m aware of—all those other mistakes and the pain you caused. But you still don’t seem to have acknowledged the cost vs. whether it’s “worth it” to exercise the right to use rape in your humor or what the cost would have been to continue to sell those terrible t-shirts or what the cost will be now, in the aftermath of that PAX Q&A.

And you once again played the reluctant role-model. This is the part I really hope gets through to you because while you are just one person, your words reach so many, and so many of the people you reach are young and/or otherwise impressionable and look to you for cues as to how to respond to criticism, how to deal with conflict, and how to treat people. Your actions three years ago didn’t just hurt rape survivors—they spawned a little pro-rape movement that still surfaces now and then to troll survivors. Many of us have been working to change the industry—to make it a place where everyone is accepted, respected, and represented. With #1ReasonWhy, #1ReasonToBe, and #1ReasonMentors, we were making progress. PAX was making progress. And by taking to the stage at PAX and saying that PA’s mistake with Dickwolves was not selling t-shirts, you set us back years when it comes to those for whom you are the Cool Kid. And as for women who do the things I like to do—game and write on the Internet—who are treated as though we’re “asking for it” every time we open our mouths? You just told the types of people who thought Team Rape was a good idea—the kind of people who troll us—that they were right. Whether you meant to or not, that’s the message they got. That was the applause you heard, and believe me, in the dark, wet recesses of the Internet, that applause continues to echo.

You may not want to be a role-model. You may not like being a role-model. You may wish fervently that you didn’t have to be a role-model. But you are a role-model whether you like it or not, and as long as you sit at the helm of Penny Arcade, you will be one. You are a major industry influencer and you are doing harm in the industry you love and to the brand you love and to the people you claim to care about. And reading your words today, I believe you when you say you don’t want that. I believed you the last time you said it, too.

So I’m asking you to make this one of those times when you change it up a little. Instead of a) stepping in it, b) apologizing, and c) pretending it never happened until the next time, I’m calling on you to take some real action to counter the message you sent three years ago and the message you just sent again this past weekend. Think about ways you can reach those young people who listen to your voice and help them understand the things you’ve learned from this. (And learn more, please, because you still seem to be missing some important pieces of the puzzle where this issue is concerned.) Do some interviews or better yet, scripted PSAs. Maybe meet with some of us to discuss solutions. Acknowledge the damage and do some real work to counter it, and then your apology will really mean something.

I want us to be friends again, but I need you to be a better friend to people like me (who are also people like you). We need you to be a better role model for young gamers, and we need you to help repair the damage you’ve done. I think you can be the superhero you seem to want to be, but only if you use your powers for good. I really hope you’ll try.

Love,

Rosie


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Gabe: We Made a Mistake Removing Dickwolves Merch

Click to embiggen.

Click to embiggen. (original image via wired.com)

Update: Mike Krahulik has published a response to folks upset by his comment. See bottom of post for brief comments. I have also written a follow-up post.

For anyone who thought that Penny Arcade and their lovable firebrand Gabe had learned anything from Dickwolves, Tentacle Bento, Gabe’s most recent outburst, or anything ever at all, news out of PAX yesterday should set you straight. In a Q&A, Mike “Gabe” Krahulik said he believed the company made a mistake in removing the “Dickwolves” merchandise they created not only to celebrate a rape joke but to ridicule critics (many of whom are rape survivors). If this is all new to you, you can read the whole sad, sorry timeline and catch up. The kicker? This time it wasn’t just Gabe talking out his ass. PA’s business manager backed him up.

Here’s yesterday’s entry from the Dickwolves Debacle timeline (emphasis mine):

On stage at PAX, Mike Krahulik (Gabe) says he regrets removing the Dickwolves merchandise from the Penny Arcade store. Robert Khoo, Penny Arcade’s business manager, agrees that those who were offended by it should have been ignored rather than engaged.

There’s video if you have the stomach for it. So far, I do not.

And from Alex Hern at The New Statesman this morning:

Today, that excuse is not available. These ideas have been mainstreamed to the extent that Krahulik and Holkins cannot get away with pretending that it’s only a vocal minority who see problems with using rape as a punchline which don’t extend to problems with using murder in the same way. But the last three years have not seen the pair toning down the rhetoric. From Holkins writing about the “censorship” of criticising a game’s exaggerated female characters to Krahulik being dismissive of trans people (leading to a $20,000 donation to the Trevor project), there have been no end of sub-dickwolves controversies, causing one prominent indie developer to pull out of their shows entirely. The Financial Post’s Daniel Kaszor summed them up in an article titled “Penny Arcade needs to fix its Krahulik problem“.

I’m going to say this again for anyone who didn’t hear me the first couple of times: Penny Arcade and Gabe/Tycho are major game industry influencers and as such, they have a responsibility to Not Be Dicks about stuff that affects a large portion of their audience and their community. In Gabe’s last apology for being an ignorant ass, he said he was going to keep his mouth shut to avoid doing any more damage to the PA/PAX brand. Apparently he forgot to do that. Now he’s doubled-down on his rape-apologist bullshit, and his BUSINESS MANAGER BACKED HIM UP. And I imagine Tycho is doing his ostrich act as usual.

Please don’t tell me this is “just Gabe,” and that “Penny Arcade does Childsplay” or “look, Tycho defended a rape victim the other day!” because none of that matters in this context. You don’t get to do Bad Things and get off the hook because you also do Good Things. Gabe just told a room full of fanboys (like the ones who supported PA’s original rape joke by dubbing themselves “Team Rape”)  that Penny Arcade’s mistake when it came to the Dickwolves Debacle was NOT SELLING T-SHIRTS. If you’re still willing to give him a pass–to give Penny Arcade and PAX a pass–then please at least examine and acknowledge the fact that you are doing so despite the fact that they repeatedly shit on rape survivors and anyone else who calls them out on their shit.

I understand that some of my friends have to go to PAX for work. I get that some people feel that they don’t have a choice. I’m not judging them.  I’m judging Mike Krahulik, Robert Khoo, and Penny Arcade and finding them rape apologists with no remorse. And considering how many people are rape survivors, they are apologizing for the perpetrators of rapes committed against a significant percentage of their audience and the games industry/community at large.

I’m not launching a campaign–not today, anyway. I’m just asking each of you to really stop and think about this if you’re in any doubt–about costs and benefits and consequences and influence. I’m asking you to speak up about this. Talk to your friends and colleagues. Have a conversation about how industry influencers who spread the message that rape is funny and rape survivors need to “get a sense of humor” are doing damage to our society. How rape culture is a real thing and Penny Arcade are currently its standard-bearers in the games industry. And then let’s come up with a way to either counter that influence or get them to once-and-for-all denounce all this bullshit and take steps to make it right.

Clever closing here. I’m just so sick of this shit. I’ll leave you with another line from Alex Hern’s piece in The New Statesmen (emphasis mine):

But by reopening the wound that first suggested that all was not well at Penny Arcade, Krahulik has also firmly reopened the debate about whether the pair can be trusted with the power they have in gaming. 

Update: Because I wasn’t there and haven’t watched the video, I was not aware that the audience cheered these remarks. I am just sick.

Update 2 (9/4): I just learned about this. From what I understand, a member of their Enforcer staff accused another of repeated incidents of sexual harassment, they quietly got rid of the guy, and PA mods shut down the forum thread where people were discussing the incident/issue, offering support and corroborating stories of harassment. I don’t know about you, but I feel kinda like putting another tick in the “Ways Penny Arcade Perpetuates Rape Culture” column.

Update 3 (9/5): Gabe has published a response to the Internet response to his comments at the Q&A. I think he has a lot of good things to say, but I do not think he has adequately explained why he thinks continuing to sell the shirts would have been a good idea. He has listed it among several other “mistakes” that fueled the fire, when the only fire removing the merch fueled (that I know of) was that of Team Rape’s entitled rage. He is still saying that NOT selling t-shirts that ridiculed survivors was a mistake. And that tells me that even though he’s sorry he hurt people on some level, on another level he still doesn’t get how selling those shirts would have hurt–and kept on hurting–those very same people. What do you think?

Update 4 (9/5): Here is my response.


Related:


Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.


The Standard Hotels, DuJour Media, and Violence Against Women

Trigger warning: violence against women.

TL;DR: Sign the petition.

UPDATE 8/29: Refocusing on DuJour

moore24f-1-webI have rewritten the petition letter to focus on DuJour, but have left The Standard as a recipient for now. This campaign is still getting press, and if the petition takes off,  would hate like hell for them to miss out on all the fun.

Please continue to share the petition and contact your media peeps.

Thank you for all your help and support!

UPDATE 8/28: On Fauxpologies and Small Victories

standard-downtown-los-angeles-logoIn activism, we have to choose our battles often accept small victories when we’d rather announce that we got everything we wanted the way we’d like to. In the case of The Standard, I’m pretty sure we’ve heard all we’re going to from them unless we step this campaign up in a major way. (DuJour has not responded yet; more on that in a bit.)

In under 24 hours, we got The Standard’s attention and that of several media outlets, including BuzzFeed. (UPDATE: The Daily Mail apparently also picked this up yesterday, and Business Insider and The Daily Beast both covered it today.) This post has had over 2,600 hits, and has been reblogged many times. We got people talking about an image that for many of us produced a visceral reaction and sent a message that dead women make great advertising fodder. And we got an apology from The Standard.

Now let’s talk about that apology, shall we? Because it looks a lot like other apologies we’ve seen from entities in response to criticism of the type we’ve leveled at The Standard.  I’ll break it down:

“The Standard advertisement utilized an image series created by the contemporary artist, Erwin Wurm.”

Translation: This is art, dummies. Blame the artist, not us.

This avoids responsibility for the content by branding it “art” and hopes, I think, to make us feel a little silly for making such a big deal out of it. I mean, we didn’t ask who the artist was, and the fact that it’s art is completely irrelevant. You spent exactly four sentences on this apology, The Standard. Did this really need to be one of them?

“We apologize to anyone who views this image as insensitive or promoting violence.”

Translation: We don’t see it that way, but we’re sorry you do, and if you do, it’s not really our fault.

Ok, look, I’m asking a lot here, I know, but couldn’t we get a “We’re sorry we did a bad thing?” “We’re sorry we used this image without thinking of the implications or the impact on survivors of violence?” No, we basically got “we’re sorry you were offended,” and that not only defers responsibility for the perceived “offense” onto us, the “offended,” but it declines to acknowledge that any damage occurred.

“No offense or harm was intended.”

Translation: We didn’t mean to do anything wrong, ergo, we didn’t and/or you should let us off the hook because our intentions were not evil.

Duh. You didn’t set out to cause harm to women or survivors of violence or anyone with this ad. You intended to get people’s attention and you didn’t think about what this image might actually say about your brand–what it might say to over half the population who, presumably, you’d like to attract to your hotel. You didn’t think about the harm it might cause despite your intentions, and now you’re not really admitting to any harm, just assuring us that none was intended.

“The Standard has discontinued usage of this image.”

Translation: We were done with this campaign anyway, so here’s a bone.

Yes, I’m being extremely cynical, because we should really call that line a win, dog-boney as it is. We have (as the amazing Jaclyn Friedman (Women, Action, and the Media) kindly pointed out to me yesterday) created an “opportunity cost.” We have caused this company–and anyone watching, including DuJour–to take a look at the cost vs. benefit of using ads like this in the future. That is a GOOD THING.

So yeah, this was a pretty weak apology–but it’s still a win. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

As for DuJour, they ran the ad apparently thinking it was acceptable, and so far they have not responded in any way to our petition. I would sincerely like to get a response from them saying they get it, but frankly, at the rate we’re gaining signatures on the petition, I’m not sure how long that will take or whether it will happen at all. As Jaclyn pointed out, there are many ads like this out in magazines around the country and the world, and we have to choose where to focus our energies.

Your Input Needed

What do you think, readers? Should we leave the petition up, removing The Standard so DuJour keeps getting emails when someone signs? Is it worth pushing for more signatures, more media coverage? Or is it time to call this a victory and move on to the next thing? If we had 2,000 sigs instead of under 200, this wouldn’t even be a question, but I’ve only got so much energy to spend and I want your input on this. Let me know what you think in the comments section.


UPDATE 8/27: The Standard Responds

Fewer than 24-hours after we launched our petition, The Standard posted the following response to Change.org:

“The Standard advertisement utilized an image series created by the contemporary artist, Erwin Wurm. We apologize to anyone who views this image as insensitive or promoting violence. No offense or harm was intended. The Standard has discontinued usage of this image.”

I’ll have commentary on this soon. Meanwhile, let me know what you think in the comments section below. Are you satisfied with The Standard’s apology? Have they done enough?


The Standard Hotels, DuJour Media, and Violence Against Women

Last week Daisy Eagan sent me the image below. It’s a partial of a full-page ad for The Standard Hotels in DuJour magazine’s summer issue. The ad contains no text—just this image and the hotel’s logo and a bit of fine print at the bottom.

Click for full page ad.

DuJour is a new fashion/lifestyle magazine published nationally with localized issues for major cities. The Standard is a “boutique” hotel chain with locations in New York, Miami, and L.A. The image above looks to be taken from the NYC edition (based on the small print on the facing page). Somewhere in the offices where each of these companies does business, one assumes that entire teams of people looked at this and thought it was ok. At an ad agency hired by The Standard, some bright young creative type came up with this ad* in response to the challenge to market a hotel chain to rich people, a group that must certainly include many, many women. All three of these companies made the decision to use violence against women to market a product. Apparently, this isn’t the first time The Standard has been criticized for their advertising choices. Claire Darrow, creative director for Andre Balazs Properties has said these choices amount to “surrendering our ads to art, so to speak…We want to contribute to the magazines…We don’t just want to advertise.” (Update for clarity: This piece is part of a series by Erwin Wurm called “One Minute Sculptures”)

I know I don’t have to explain to most of you why this particular ad is (no,  not “offensive”) damaging, but I really have to spend some time talking about how, like recent pieces by The Onion (more info here and here), this ad trivializes violence against women, once again using victims of said violence as bait, once again for the purpose of profiting from our pain. I need to point out for anyone not clear on the concept that by using violence against women for something as crass as attempting to lure people to your “boutique” hotel chain these companies are helping to perpetuate the cycle of violence. They are normalizing it—treating it as something trivial, not worth taking seriously. Treating it as a joke. That teaches everyone regardless of gender that violence against women is No Big Deal. These messages in our media teach women to expect violence and teach men prone to violence against women that what they do is socially acceptable. And apparently The Standard Hotels, DuJour, and the as-yet unnamed advertising agency behind this ad thought that this was the right message to send to potential customers.

Daisy blogged about this ad last week asking her readers to contact The Standard and DuJour and ask them why they think this is appropriate advertising. She had this to say about it:

Dujour magazine ran an ad in its summer issue for The Standard hotels clearly meant to warn women to steer clear of the hotel or face violence and/or death.

I’ve ordered a copy of the Miami edition which should arrive soon, and since TSH has a location in Miami, I assume the ad will be present. When it comes, I’ll update this post with a full image of the ad (now available here thanks to Daisy) and any other information I can find—hopefully including the name of the agency that designed the ad.

Take Action

We’ve started a petition to let The Standard Hotels and DuJour Media know what we think of this ad and the message they’re sending about violence against women. Please sign and share so we can get their attention (tweets have so far had no effect) and make sure they understand that ads like this are not acceptable and that they do harm.

Sign the Petition

You can also write to the parties in question directly. Thanks to Daisy for finding this information. (If you decide to do this, I’d appreciate it if you also signed and shared the petition, which goes directly to their email. Numbers matter. Thanks!)

Andre Balazs Properties
23 E. 4th Street
New York, NY 10003
email: press@standardhotel.com
Twitter: @StandardHotels

Jason Binn
Dujour Magazine
2 Park Ave, 4th Floor
New York, NY 10016
Twitter: @JasonBinn @DuJourMedia
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dujourmedia

You can also help by alerting media folks about this campaign (especially local media if you live in NYC, Miami, or L.A.). Bad press is often what penetrates otherwise impermeable entities.

Let’s make some noise.


Press Coverage

See The Ad For The Standard Hotel Accused Of Trivializing Violence Against Women (Business Insider)

The Standard hotel is accused of ‘trivializing violence against women’ in new ad showing a woman crushed by a suitcase (Daily Mail)

The Standard Hotel’s Latest Ad “Trivializes Violence Against Women” (BuzzFeed)

The Standard Hotel Comes Under Fire For Trivializing Violence Against Women In Their Latest Ad Campaign (The Frisky)

The Standard Hotel Accused of Trivializing Violence Against Women (AdRants)

Hotel Pulls Ad of Crushed Woman (The Daily Beast)

Dear Advertisers: Violence against women is not sexy (Mamamia)

The Standard Discontinues Ad Accused of Promoting Violence Against Women (the fashion spot)

Which Luxury Brand Couldn’t Resist Using Violence Against Women In Its Ads? (the gloss)

Related

Stop Violence Against…Everyone (Stuphblog)


Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.


And the Award for the Most Vile Piece of Crap on the Internet Goes to…

Trigger warnings for rape, rape apologia, victim-blaming, and general rape-culture fuckery.

This week, two popular Internet publications—The Onion and The Daily Beast–apparently engaged in a competition to see who could publish the most disgusting piece of rape-culture-perpetuating clickbait on the whole entire Internet. It was almost as though TDB saw the steaming pile The Onion excreted on Tuesday (in which they appeared to be competing with their recent Chris Brown piece for some sort of internal fuckwit prize) and thought, “You know, I’ll bet we can get something out by Thursday that gives them a run for their money.”

I’m not linking to either of these pieces, but I will tell you a bit about each and how you can let these pubs know what you think, if you’re so inclined. We’ll start with The Onion’s attempt to point up the tragedy of child rape. Here’s the headline:

Adolescent Girl Reaching Age Where She Starts Exploring Stepfather’s Body

When I saw this, I tweeted something about finding a way to get their attention and make them aware of the damage they’re doing with this type of piece. Predictably (and I predict this will happen here, as well) I almost instantaneously got a reply from a guy who didn’t get what the big deal was. “IT’S SATIRE!” he explained. “Where’s the damage?” he wanted to know.

Many if not most of my readers will not need to read past this headline to understand—if only at a gut level—what the problem is. But here are just a few of the ways I and two fellow feminists attempted to clarify it for him.

The headline is probably the worst thing about this piece, second only to the image choice, which I’ll cover below. It tells a story not of a predator and a potential victim, but of a young girl “coming of age” and getting ready to explore sex with an adult. It practically makes the victim the aggressor, for Christ’s sake. I just can’t believe I have to explain to anyone why this is a problem.

Satire is meant to point up: to sting the people in power—the ones who perpetuate the problem the satire is spotlighting. Satire should sting the perpetrators—not the victims. This is what I call lazy or just plain bad satire: it points in the wrong direction and makes its point at the expense of the people it claims to want to help.

As was the case with the Chris Brown/Rihanna piece they did a few months ago, they made the victim the punchline. I have been a professional writer for 25 years, and I know that there’s always a way to write around a problem. There was a way—there were multiple ways—for The Onion to make the point they wanted to make—that child rape is tragic and sick and all-to-prevalent—without making the victim the joke. Why not write from the POV of a child rapist? Why involve the victim at all? And tell me why in the name of all that is good and holy you would lead with this image?

700

Seriously? My brain is just a whirlwind of everything that’s wrong with this, from what it does to my insides seeing it in this context, to the fact that there is an actual little girl out there to whom this face belongs. I just can’t even with this shit. FUCK.

And finally, survivors of rape do not benefit from satirical stories that make light of their pain and terror and trauma and abuse.

Again, predictably, we got nowhere. I don’t know how to make it any clearer: This type of piece perpetuates rape culture and hurts the people it purports to help.

You can contact The Onion at publicfeedback@theonion.com. Let them know what you think. I personally think they are a) failing at satire, b) whoring for links, c) becoming no better than their hack competitors, d) perpetuating rape culture and violence against women by trivializing same and making victims the punchline.

On to The Daily Beast. When Chelsea Manning announced yesterday that she was a woman, the Internet exploded. I watched as the press flubbed pronouns and terminology left and right, as folks on Twitter corrected one another, got angry, called for calm, asked questions, learned things. Then TDB published a piece of rape apologia that made my hair stand on end, and if I thought the tweets had been flying before, well…it wasn’t long before TDB issued a Twitter fauxpology (and I mean a SEVERELY weak thing of weakness) and posted an editor’s note at the top of the piece pointing out that the original draft had been even worse. Then they quietly began editing out the most outrageous bits, like this:

Indeed, the vast majority of experienced convicts know that “true” rape is not a common occurrence in prison. That doesn’t mean that homosexual sex doesn’t occur—it certainly does. But it’s really not that unusual for a new prisoner to show up on the compound and begin walking around the yard in pants far too tight. Before long they drop the soap in the shower, get a little close to another naked man, and then— simply because they’ve never been able to come to terms with their own sexuality—tell anyone who will listen (but, interestingly enough, they usually never complain to the guards) that they were “raped.” And a week or two later it could happen again, and then again.

Quiet as it’s kept, this is one reason for high recidivism rates. In prison, closeted homosexuals can receive what they desire but are able to maintain to the world they really find such behavior disgusting; in this manner they don’t have to take responsibility for what happened to them.

I can only imagine that the editor had an emergency root canal and this piece somehow slipped by without anyone with the words “fact-check” in their job description laying eyes on it. And if that was the case, removing the piece and issuing a sincere apology for publishing it would probably have meant that by now, we’d just be shaking our heads wondering how such a thing could happen. But removing what they perceived to be the “offending” chunks of the article without making note of the fact is sneaky as hell and this purposeful attempt to rewrite history has stripped TDB of all credibility with many of us. They’ve got a lot of work to do to fix this mess.

Prison Culture has published an article containing contact information for TDB and a list of demands they need to meet in order to start making things right. Please take a moment to let TDB know what you think about their rape apologia and utter lack of journalistic integrity.

And the winner is…The Daily Beast because they’re actually supposed to be journalists and they have failed at that in a major way. But The Onion is a very close second for learning absolutely nothing this year when they’ve had so many opportunities.

Let me know what you think in the comments (but if you’re considering explaining satire to me, please fuck right off).

Update:

The Daily Beast has issued an apology acknowledging how wrong they were to publish the piece in question. On the other hand, they have opted to leave the piece up, and have so far not edited the note at the top to include this acknowledgement. I really hope they do, and that they apologize to Chelsea Manning.


PS/Update: Here’s a video by The Onion showing that they do know how to do satire that sheds light on a problem without perpetuating it–instead ridiculing rapists, rape apologists, and rape culture and leaving the victim the hell out of it:


Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.


Dear Trolls: Thank You

(image: getsatisfaction.com)

(image: getsatisfaction.com)

The title of this post might seem confusing. I mean, who thanks trolls? Those angry, sad individuals who dedicate themselves to spewing hate (especially, it seems, woman-hate and feminist-hate) all over the Internet are hardly contributing members of society, are they? I mean, I can’t begin to say how they spend their time when they’re not trolling, but when they are?

Under “normal” circumstances, I’d say no. They generally contribute nothing to a debate, relying on sweeping generalizations (often, in the case of anti-feminist trolls, repeating MRA talking points) to make their arguments. And they aren’t here to change hearts and minds—they mostly seem not to care about convincing anyone of anything, telling their own stories, or improving life on Planet Earth in any way.

And yet, because they exist and target women and other non-men with violent language and hate (and even rape threats and death threats), and because most people (who aren’t women/non-men on the Internet) never encounter them at their absolute worst, their 31 flavors of bullshit can sometimes serve a higher purpose. When we treat that BS as an illustration of the challenges we face, I believe we (as activists) can show readers how little power most trolls actually have while illustrating for our readers (and other trolls) the weakness of their arguments.

So with that, I’d like to thank my trolls for all these reasons:

  • Thank you for targeting me, because that tells me that I’m doing something right. Otherwise, why would you bother?

    download

    Apparently a famous troll.

  • Thank you for challenging me: by countering your lazy arguments I not only hone my own reasoning skills, but illustrate for my readers (and the rest of the trolletariat) just how lazy they are and how easily we can deconstruct and disprove them. If nothing else, our exchanges serve as a signpost: All viewpoints are welcome here, but trolls will be dealt with (more on which in a bit).
  • Thank you for being just vile enough that you distinguish yourselves from regular people who disagree rudely, allowing me to easily identify and disregard you. This doesn’t mean I won’t reply—just that I don’t give a shit what you have to say. It takes far less energy, and my reserves always seem low these days. So again, thanks for making it easy on me.
  • Thank you for those instances when you take the time to write a comment so pointless that I can disregard it completely. I get a lot of comments on some of my posts, and I like to respond to them when I can—it’s extremely considerate of you to allow me to filter you out of that process. I do wonder why you bother, though—did you really think “Your a stupid cunt” was a) a contribution, b) ever going to appear publicly on my page, c) remotely original?
  • Thank you for stepping up every single time we need an object lesson on white male privilege and/or MRA/anti-feminist/woman-hate. Whether here, on Facebook, or on Twitter, it’s like you show up just to prove my point. In any conversation about the challenges we face in a patriarchal society, one of you will show up with your cries of “Fucking feminazis!” and “What about the MEN???!” How do you keep a straight face? I can tell you that I do not. I LMFAO on a regular basis, and I’m pretty sure that’s not what you intended.
  • And thank you for those laughs. The chuckles, the cackles, the all-out guffaws you provide when you show up in a conversation about our lives and perspectives and wave your pathetic little flag—when you hurl insults as though you believe each one has any impact on me other than annoyance and audible eye-rolls. Thanks for the entertainment. I mean that.

Now, a few methods for…

Dealing with Trolls

Some folks will tell you that ignoring trolls is the best policy. Those folks have apparently never dealt with bullies, or they beat the odds somehow, because as Rocket J. Squirrell famously stated, “That trick never works.” For one thing, more trolls will come, and some will teeter on the dividing line between troll and just rude fucking asshole (i.e., making an argument, not just spewing bile). You won’t be able to ignore them all (trust me, I’ve tried) and dealing with them decisively shows other trolls what they can expect when they visit your blog (or Facebook page or Twitter mentions).

Kitten Setting

Some of you know that one of my favorite methods of dealing with trolls is the Kitten Setting. It takes time and energy, so I don’t always employ it, but when I have it has been hilarious and pretty rewarding. Fun, even–and that’s not a word most people associate with trolls (except trolls themselves, I imagine).

Respond

In general, I don’t recommend engaging trolls. It’s an energy suck and there’s usually no point. They don’t show up to debate but to distract and derail and intimidate. However, as I’ve stated above, sometimes a troll writes something I feel is worthy of a response. Generally, this is not because he (and it’s nearly always “he”) contributed something intelligent to the conversation, but because he’s repeating MRA talking points I want to counter publicly for readers and trolls who happen by. Sometimes I don’t have the energy for this, and I let the comment through hoping my readers will take it on. I’m rarely disappointed—my readers are super smart and trolls are lazy so it’s usually short work to take them apart, and I’m so grateful to those of you who step up and do that. Thank you.

Kill Them With Kindness

This is one of the most challenging methods for me because in order to be kind, I have to feel compassion, and when it comes to trolls that takes some reaching. But understanding that most of them are a) young men or boys, b) social misfits, and c) often just misguided has helped me to find that compassion at times, especially when a troll lets slip a teeny hint of humanity. Sometimes I just have to say “I’m sorry you’re so unhappy, but you can’t play here anymore.” And leave it at that.

Get Out the Ban Hammer

When a troll ceases to be useful and becomes nothing but a sad little voice constantly raging at me from his basement lair, I ban him. There are several ways to do this, including setting his email address as a filtered word or his IP address as “direct to Spam.” Either way, that troll can never darken the doorway of my blog again unless he’s willing to go to a lot more effort to harass me.

Report

Once a troll dedicates himself to an all-out harassment campaign on your blog, it’s possible an email/IP ban will fail as he will create new accounts from new locations in order to troll you. At this point (if you haven’t already) it’s time to contact your friends at WordPress (or your service provider) and report the little fucker. And if that fails for some reason, I recommend contacting the police. Cyber-stalking/harassment laws at this point are weak in many areas, but they don’t get stronger without precedent. Ultimately, if the laws in your location don’t protect you, it might be time to contact your elected officials and find out why.

Don’t Stop

In the majority of cases, it won’t ever get to that point. Most trolls are dedicated not to trolling one blog but to spreading their love all over the Internet. If you cease to become an easy target, chances are they will move on. Believe me, there is no peace in that thought for me. I don’t want trolls harassing anyone else instead of me (kind of like teaching women to prevent rape teaches us to make sure rapists rape someone else), but there’s only so much I—or any of us—can do. A dedicated troll will pursue his hobby until, like that poor, sad man in Texas, he suffers real consequences for his actions; often the best we can do is buy ourselves some peace and help our readers understand—as I’m trying to do now—that trolls rage precisely because they have no real power (though they may enjoy privilege) over us. They are a pimple on the ass of the Internet, and as such what they mostly do is annoy and irritate (and occasionally weep pus all over the place). They’re ugly and vile but mostly impotent (though they may have an agenda that is not), and I believe it’s important that we treat them as such and avoid expending our energies either arguing with them or worrying overly about the things they say. By this, I don’t mean we should ignore what they do. Just don’t let them drain your resources if you can help it.

Whatever you do, don’t let them intimidate you into silence.*

(Note: Trolls can do real damage, such as when they target traumatized people, bully young people telling them to kill themselves, or make threats that genuinely make one feel unsafe, which is where the police may be helpful—if you see something, say something.)

So here’s to eventually popping that zit and slapping a Band-Aid on it. But in the meantime, I hope the information above helps you in some small way to deal with the trolls you encounter. If you have a favorite method I haven’t mentioned here, I’d love to hear it.

In closing, just one more word of thanks to my trolls: for the laughs, the object lessons, and the challenges. For often making my point even better than I did. For providing the constant illustration of the fact that women speaking out are still a threat to men who fear that they have little enough power already and might lose even more. And finally, thanks for providing grist for yet another blog post to which you will no doubt flock and serve all these purposes all over again.

Thanks, trolls.

Love,
Rosie

*Sometimes you have to take a break or even stop what you’re doing altogether and practice self-care. Do that without hesitation! I’m not saying you should keeping doing what you’re doing no matter what it costs you—I’m just saying don’t give them power they don’t have. I hope that makes sense.

PS: For Twitter, there’s BlockBot. Seems pretty cool.

PPS: Honestly, I have a way harder time dealing with push-back from friends and allies than I do hateful bullshit, so in case you’re new at this, be prepared for that to hurt way more than anything trolls can say to you.

Update (11/13): I’ve made some minor tweaks to this article to clarify—and reflect minor changes in—my philosophy. Also, four months later, and zero trolls have hit this post. WTF, trolls?


Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.


Does This Rag Smell Like Chloroform to You?

20120522210822!Dishonored-box-art-1-

[Trigger warning for discussion of rape.]

This article contains spoilers.

Dishonored is a game about choices and the effects of those choices. It’s also a game that had a lot of really visceral horror, which I noticed within the first several minutes as I watched rats murder and completely devour two guards. Holy shit. At first I thought I wasn’t going to like it for that (on a personal level, not a larger level), but I came to really enjoy what it brings to the table on the whole. There were two things about the game that really stood out about my playthrough, though—the castration torture we never actually mention and the rape boat.

The former is something that’s super easy to miss. You find someone on your side, Overseer Martin, chained up in the middle of a courtyard. He has clearly been imprisoned for a while, and is guarded by a single smack-talking dude when you find him (why every single guard is male is a discussion for another day). Once you dispense of the watchdog (I believe I set him on fire in one of my playthroughs), you let your target out. As soon as he stands up, you can see that his crotch is bloody. He babbles some quasi-cheerful (for a guy in his position) lines to you, then heads off to your base to meet up with the people who sent you while you go on ahead to incapacitate the high overseer. You can talk to Overseer Martin later, you can talk to other people who know him, you can even aim your creepy magic “I’ll-tell-you-everyone’s-secrets” heart at him, but no one ever talks about it. He just walks around with this bloody crotch, almost casually unaware of it himself. I’ve tried to see it as a trick of the light, as maybe something else—as anything, really—but every time I look at it, I see the same thing. Blood. It’s blood. Whoever imprisoned him castrated him as a form of torture, and the only way to even pull that out of the story is to look. I think that’s great storytelling, but overall, that’s some terrifying visceral shit.

Which leads me to the rape boat.

Or, hey, maybe it’s not really a rape boat. Maybe I just handed an unconscious woman over to a man who tells me that she’ll learn to love him—“after all, she’ll have her whole life”—because he really wants to have totally consensual sex with her. Or maybe he really just wants to get her out of harm’s way and then set her free into the wild. Like a mongoose. As one does. And hey—as my roommate pointed out—maybe she’ll escape!

Let’s set this up. For this mission, you’re to go to a party and dispose of the hostess. (There are three, actually, and you have to figure out which is your target. Also, cool fact: your target changes on multiple playthroughs.) Your assignment here is just to incapacitate her. Nothing fancy. Same with every other target, really. Each target also has two methods of disposal—outright homicide or various no-kill options. The game also has a no-kill achievement, so if you’re after that, you need to figure out how to get her out of this crowded house with no one seeing you.

Screen shot 2013-07-07 at 10.46.07 AM

Lady Boyle, the hostess

Luckily, as you talk to party guests, you find a man who would like to help. He knows you’ve been sent to kill her, you see, and he explains his undying love for her. It’s important to him that she live. If you could just bring her unconscious body down to the cellar, he promises that “you will never hear of her again.”

“I won’t harm her, I swear. I’m a man of means. Just bring her to the cellar and I will keep her safe with me. Forever.”

“WHOA”,” was my initial reaction. “That sounds…but you can’t really be asking me to…no way, obviously I misunderstood. This is her boyfriend. He just plans to take her somewhere safe, and is going about it in a fucked-up way.”

Hanging on to this thought is the only thing that makes me feel like I can actually complete this mission. So I do. I deliver her to the basement where he places her in his boat and delivers the line that I’d been dreading. “Don’t worry. She’ll learn to love me. After all, she’ll have her whole life.”

WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK. So I have not only just assisted in a kidnapping, I have sent a woman off to…what? He’s obviously planning to keep her full-on against her will. He doesn’t see her as a person so much as a trophy, because you want consent from fully autonomous people. Will she be tied up? Chained up? Merely locked in? Or maybe—and possibly even worse?—he really does want sex to be consensual, so he plans to mentally and emotionally abuse her until she begs for his comfort. I don’t know, but to me, every option sounds like hell.

Now, let’s be clear: torture is featured heavily in the game. I have zero issues with that because it highlights how terrible the world is, and you don’t actually see most of it. You see the effects, and come to realize that this is a horrible, horrible place.

There were so many angles Dishonored could have gone with their (only) female target that include torture, and I wouldn’t be annoyed because torture in general fits the world. But instead, we went with sexual torture—the clichéd and “acceptable” punishment for women who step out of line.

On top of all that? It is just damn lazy writing.

“Wait, Sid, so you’re saying castration is totally cool? Why do you hate men?”

Nooooo…I brought it up because it was one of the two truly horrifying things that really stood out for me. Also, it’s super interesting to me that no one in game ever talks about it. But I didn’t expound on it in this particular article because, while unquestionably horrible, it isn’t a cliché. It isn’t an “accepted” way to handle an out-of-line man in our society. It doesn’t exacerbate an existing viewpoint.

Might ask them about the mask, too...

Might ask them about the mask, too…

The thing that gets me is this: I’ll bet if you asked the designers why they didn’t subject Lady Boyle to any other kind of torture, they would tell you that made them uncomfortable. The idea of allowing someone to hit or torture a woman in a video game would be in bad taste, but allowing her stalker to rape her (“No, just force her into an unwanted intimate situation!” To-may-to, to-mah-to.) for the rest of her life is totally fine.

Something is deeply wrong with that line of logic.

As soon as the two of them floated away, I reloaded the game and immediately played through this mission again specifically to avoid sending her off in the rape boat.

“Trust me,” I said, killing her in front of hundreds of partygoers. “You’re better off.”


Read Sid’s previous MMAS articles in Sid’s Stuff. Follow her at @SeeSidWrite.


SFFragette: Moving SF/F into the 21st Century

Woman-in-Space-Suit-Reading-a-BookThis week, after news broke of yet another sexual harassment incident at a convention, I decided I needed to do something tangible to help solve the sexism, misogyny, and harassment problem in the science fiction and fantasy community.

I’ve been a part of the community since I was 19 and attended Westercon in Portland, Oregon, and I have worked and played in the field ever since (nearly thirty years). It’s home to so many friends and is part of my family life. I have always thought of it as an accepting community, and it is in a lot of ways. There are few places where people can be pretty much whatever or whomever they choose and not feel judged, and SF/F fandom is one of them.

But it was an incident at Norwescon in Seattle a couple of years ago that helped me come to the realization that I had to start talking about feminism. Living it. That I had to stop being a Feminist Butt.

I was on a panel with two men where I was ostensibly the moderator. One of the men very helpfully took over moderation duties, ran the panel, and he and the other guy proceeded to do most of the talking. I gave up trying to do my job or get a word in edgewise at some point about halfway through and just waited (with what I hoped was a patient, not-bitchy look on my face) for it to be over. It wasn’t until I walked out of the room that I allowed myself to get really pissed. Two months later I started this blog.

It wasn’t an isolated incident (and the Internet is currently brimming with women’s stories of sexism, misogyny, harassment, stalking, and assault at SF/F cons), but my decision to come out as a ranty feminist was certainly not a result of my experiences in SF/F alone. And until recently I’ve been pretty focused on the larger culture and the video games community (my other home) where we’ve finally begun talking about these issues in earnest, and haven’t really given a lot of thought to the need for activism within SF/F. Then all hell broke loose, and it broke loose again, and a writer named Kari Sperring coined a hashtag that gave me one of those “Light bulb!” moments:

The conversation was already hopping on Twitter, so I ran over and created a Facebook page and posted some of the wonderful posts coming across that feed. The idea was to get people all in one place and start talking solutions. And as I thought about solutions, I realized what I wanted to see for starters was a presence at conventions to counter sexual harassment. To that end, I and my ultra-secret partner-in-crime began designing a badge idea to propose to the community as part of a campaign to achieve three goals:

  • Don't Harass Me BroProvide information on how to report harassers.
  • Act as safety liasons (someone you can go to for immediate assistance if security isn’t around).
  • Create an awareness among potential harassers that we are watching and reporting harassment.

It soon became apparent that we were going to need a website* and a Twitter account, so that achieved, I’m now engaging members of the community on the design, the slogan, etc. and am really encouraged by the response. I’ve also learned of two groups doing similar work (Nerdiquette 101 and the Backup Ribbon Project) and I’m looking forward to talking with them about what they’ve learned and how we can work together.

All this to say if you’re a reader, writer, or SF/F con-goer and want to help make positive change in that community, join the discussion. Chime in on the blog, Facebook or Twitter, write a blog post telling your story or giving your perspective, and consider participating in the upcoming campaign to be part of the solution at cons you attend. I’d love to have your help making SF/F the accepting, safe community we all want it to be.

*SFFragette.org domain active soon!


10 Signs that Feminism May Not Be For You | The Outlier Collective

This excellent post by The Belle Jar appears today The Outlier Collective as part of a guest blogger series on Feminism. (My contribution appears tomorrow.)

10 Signs that Feminism May Not Be For You 

I’m typically a huge proponent of the idea that feminism is for everybody. Feminism is for ladies! It’s for men! It’s for non-binary individuals! Feminism is for teenagers and small children! In fact, I’m even pretty sure that at least one of my cats is a feminist, although the other one just prefers to think of herself as a cat-ist, because that’s less political. Regardless, I’m usually of the opinion that feminism, as a philosophy, can and should be embraced by everyone.

Lately, though, I’m not so sure. I’ve been seeing a lot of questionable behaviours and comments, many of them coming from purported feminists. I’m starting to wonder if some people might want to re-think whether the feminist movement is right for them. With that in mind, I’ve created a handy-dandy list of ways to tell whether or not this movement is for you.

Read the 10 Signs that Feminism May Not Be For You.