Monday, March 18, 2013

I Can't.

I was going to start with my Scintilla Project posts today, but I can't ignore the news out of Ohio, and the way the media is handling it. Quite frankly, with each news event that unfolds, I grow to detest the media more and more. Journalism ain't what it used to be, folks, and I'm going to blame the Internet. Anxious for the scoop or the fresh angle, the concept of responsible reporting has gone out the window.

But we're not here to talk about "responsible reporting" - no, that's something else. This has more to do with culture as a whole, that in this case, the media was just reflecting. And the image wasn't pretty.

I was going to let it slide. Guys, I've been trying SO HARD not to stir things up on facebook recently. It's pained me to hit the little red X in the upper corner instead of the share button, so many times over the last couple months. I've held my tongue (well, ok - I've held my mouse clicker finger), and have opted for peace instead of discussion, I've avoided conflict, I've posted cute and funny things instead, I've let a lot of things go.

But this time, I can't.

There's nothing new to be said about rape - I think we can all agree that it's horrifying and wrong. If you don't think it's horrifying and wrong, then GTFO, because you are a sick human being and I don't want you around these parts. It's one of the worst things that humans can do to each other - it's not about sex. It's about violence and control and vulnerability and exploitation. It's violating not just another person's body, but violating their very soul, down to their core.

It's no secret that CNN is catching a lot of (deserved) flak for sympathizing over the two teenage boys convicted of sexual assault. Those poor rapists, their once-promising futures, their football careers... what. the. hell. A news anchor lamented about how they'll have to carry around the label of sexual offender for the rest of their lives. Yes, and rightfully so - because they are sex offenders. To be so callous and cold about it - to not only violate an unconscious girl but to take (and post!) pictures and video and laugh about it to their friends. I suppose we can feel sorry for them - it's a damn shame they didn't realize that this was wrong, that they didn't know better. But to hell with their futures. They brought this on themselves and they need to learn that there are consequences to their actions. The fact that they cried when receiving their verdict might mean that there's some hope for them, that they realized the consequences to their actions. It also might mean that they were sad about their football careers. I'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt, but I'm not sure I can. I read the text messages that were used in the case. These boys - and mere boys they are, indeed - were heartless.

This Gawker article laid into CNN, bashing them for all but fawning over these two boys, concerned about how this will affect them, blah blah fucking blah. My favorite quote is thus:
"For readers interested in learning more about how not to be labeled as registered sex offenders, a good first step is not to rape unconscious women, no matter how good your grades are... Your ability to perform calculus or play football is generally not taken into consideration in a court of law."

Let's get away from this for a quick minute and on to the bigger thing that is vexing me. It's that, no matter what seems to happen, the victim gets blamed. She shouldn't have been wearing this, she shouldn't have said that, she shouldn't have had anything to drink, how dare she leave her house while being female, she should have known better, she was just asking for it.

In this particular case, there's been a lot of emphasis on how this girl had been drinking, and you know what? I don't want to hear a WORD about how she was drunk. So were they; so were a lot of their peers. There was a whole extravaganza of underage drinking going on, they all made some very poor choices that night. She didn't deserve to be sexually violated, and she sure as hell doesn't deserve to be called a slut.

Why? Why do we do this? Why do we blame the victim? That's the part that frustrates me. I've been lucky; I've never been assaulted, I've never been in a situation where I was truly afraid. I'm one of the most paranoid people I know, simply due to an overactive imagination, and while I live in probably the safest area I know of, I still get a little uneasy sometimes when I'm out by myself and it's dark. This isn't right. But I know the mentality of society, and no matter what would happen, if something were to happen, it would get twisted around to be my own damn fault. Simply for being.

Which reminded me of an analogy that circulated the Internet a while ago and I'm reposting it because it's relevant:

You see how that line of reasoning is bogus, right? The above conversation never happens, because it would be ridiculous. We don't blame people for getting robbed, murdered, abducted, or whatever litany of horrible things could happen to a person. So why do we blame rape victims? That's a legitimate question, and I don't think anyone has an answer for it.

Similarly, there's an ongoing debate about the mentality of "teaching men not to rape versus teaching women not to get raped" and I've heard a lot of varying opinions. I don't have an answer. It sounds obvious, but it's not. Obviously, not all men are rapists, far from it, but there is a degree of education that needs to be involved. One of the articles I read today emphasized that instead of keeping the mentality of "no means no" we need to shift our thinking to teach that "the absence of a no doesn't mean yes - only a yes means yes." An enthusiastic yes, at that. Adolescents and teenagers need to be taught (and understand) the importance of consent and what that means. Boys need to learn to respect girls, so that they'll grow into men who will respect women.

A friend of mine posted this to my facebook page, I'd seen it before, but I'd forgotten about it until now. I mean, yeah.

There are a lot of good men out there - more than the bad ones. I don't mean to imply that there aren't. I wish the men standing up against rape and sexual violence were more visible - I know they're out there. Hell, I wish we'd all stand up. You know the worst part about all of this? A scary-high percentage of the time, it's women blaming other women. Who is this helping? Why do women turn on each other like this? Is it self-righteousness? What is it? I don't get it. I really don't. We're in this together, ladies. Stop being bitches and start being human.

To quote Tina Fey (because there is a Mean Girls quote for absolutely every situation):
You all have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it ok for guys to call you sluts and whores.
It's just... I don't know. I can't. I can't think coherently about this, I absolutely CANNOT understand how this still happens, how it's still condoned, how excuses get made on the people committing these acts. I'm worried about our culture. I'm worried about what kids are learning, what they are being taught, what kind of an example is being set. There is too much silence, not enough conversation. It's sad that an argument could be made, earnestly, legitimately, that these kids simply didn't know better. I'm not sure if the boys actually understood the sheer gravity of what they were doing, that it was wrong, and why.

One last quote, from a blogger who I feel really nailed it on the head. (The bolded part is my own emphasis). Her whole post is here.

I do feel sorry for these boys. And not only because they will be put in cages that will not make them any better. I also feel sorry that two 16-year-olds are capable of the things these boys have been found guilty of doing. That makes me deeply, deeply sad. ​That we have created a world in which, at just 16 years old, and even younger, boys can already hate girls this much. That they can already dehumanize and degrade them. That misogyny is so insidious and so effective as to make 16-year-old boys incapable of respecting this girl, of seeing her as a human being with the right to make her own choices, even when drunk, and the right to remain unviolated, even when passed out. I am sorry for these boys that, at 16, some of their humanity is already gone. The cruelty of kids is not new, and I guess it should not shock me, but this specifically gendered cruelty, at such extreme levels and at such a young age, is shocking to me. And I do feel very sorry for these boys.
We also need to teach society at large to remember what it means to take responsibility for your actions, to speak up when something is going down, because a lot of times when it comes down to it, if you don't act, no one will. There's a psychological phenomenon referred to as the bystander effect, which basically means that if you're being victimized (raped, robbed, stabbed, whatever), the more people that are around, the less likely it is that anyone will help you. It's called "diffusion of responsibility" and it basically has been shown that people always assume that "someone else" is doing something. So no one does.

I know this post is fragmented and maybe it doesn't make sense and probably nobody is reading it all the way through and that's okay. I just need to get it out of my head. I need to feel like maybe by adding my voice to the conversation, maybe eventually a crack will form and we can tear down the metaphorical wall. Little by little, I suppose, is the only way change is ever made, but I'm afraid it never will. Our culture is rapidly devolving to the basest of human instincts - greed, violence, ignorance. It's there in every political conversation, in every social movement, in every news story. It's getting worse and worse.

I wish things like this didn't happen. I wish I wasn't so tormented by them when they do. I wish I didn't have to internalize it, I wish I didn't need to make so much noise sometimes.

I wish I could just let it go.

But I can't.


Kelly L said...

i really shouldn't have read the text messages. for fuck's sake. i think the reason that women are so often the loudest victim blamers is because they don't get it. i didn't used to get it. i used to think "there are places i will not go, there are situations i will not allow myself to be put in, i am responsible for my safety, why isn't everyone else?". What I didn't realize is that by making us responsible for deciding whether a group of people is safe to drink around, or whether a bar, club, or section of town is too shady is that when we're honestly mistaken, we pay with our dignity, our sovereignty and sometimes our lives. i also didn't realize the key difference in perspective, that the world should be safe for me, as a woman. i simply shouldn't have to make judgement calls about appearing in public or private society. i have a wonderful father, who told me often that the world was different for girls, even though it shouldn't be, even though it isn't right or fair, that's how it is, and we need to be aware of it. i missed the "even though it shouldn't be". these girls that blame the victim have either never guessed wrong about their safety, or they have made an error in judgement, and they blame themselves. as far as men go, this is all you need to know: I was on a flight from Phoenix to Atlanta a few years ago, and my seatmate was a silver fox. he bought me a drink, and we were flirting, and he gestured to the male flight attendant to bring another round. at some point, my seatmate got up to use the restroom. the flight attendant said to him, AND I QUOTE "another two drinks, and i think you've got her". so. yep. i have no faith.

Kelly L said...

okay i didn't know any of this happened (because I have to ignore news or I just go crazy as well), but rape is not peeing in public. rape is a legit sexual offense. if you're labeled as a sex offender for something stupid you did in college (streaking, peeing in public), then fine, sucks to be you, you did something stupid. rape is NOT something to be taken lightly, and these boys should be labeled as rapists. it is a violent act.

also, i didn't get all the way through this, but i'm working on it.

Kelly L said...

Okay. So I have been in a situation in which I've been afraid (remember sober matt????). Want to know what college-aged (and probably adult) men do when they know they don't actually have a legit chance with you? They (try to) get you drunk to see how far they can take it. Some of them take it too far. He wouldn't take me home a few times that I hung out with him, and once I woke up with him next to me in my bed (21st b-day party). I'm going to maintain that I don't remember anything (because I don't) and hope that means that nothing happened because no matter how drunk or passed out I was, I am sure something that traumatic would stick with me.

also, i love the idea of teaching men to be offended by society thinking that they're not in control of their actions. that is offensive, and i know that Mark and Matt have had discussions about this (with the same ideas that you have), and that it's offensive to them that society thinks women should "be careful" because men might rape.

And I'm going to throw another log on this fire: gender/sexual orientation bias.

Yes, men are statistically stronger than women. And yes, probably the most common (-ly reported) form of rape is male on female. But rape isn't limited to that. Women can rape other women. Men can rape other men. Etc. The combinations are frightningly endless. I don't know how to even begin cracking that nut, but the point I'm trying to make is that women shouldn't be afraid of men. if you're genuinely afraid of being raped, you should probably be afraid of anybody and everybody. And maybe take some martial arts.

Kelly L said...

Yes, that's a really good point - I didn't get into the other "combinations" (for lack of a better word) of rape, mostly because this particular scenario/conversation was centered around male/female assault. Statistically speaking, it is the most common (or, like you said, commonly reported - which even then, doesn't say much, because hardly any rape goes reported, because of shame/blame and the trauma therein), but it's by no means the only scenario.

I forgot about "Sober Matt" - man, he was creepy. I'm hoping he was harmless, just really clueless and misguided. We'll leave it there.

Kelly L said...


Kelly L said...

i have read so much about this entire situation and everything i read makes me more and more sad for the world.

the biggest thing i believe to my core is that the whole mentality of "teaching women not to be victims" HAS GOT TO STOP. not only does it inherently teach society that if you don't follow these rules, it is your own damn fault, it also only perpetuates the problem by identifying rape as inevitable.

we need to focus on teaching men not to rape. and more importantly teaching men what rape even is. so many of the young boys involved in this case admitted to having no idea that was was happening was wrong. which like, doesn't even begin to make sense to me. but it definitely highlights the problem that most people in our society think that no might mean no but silence or incapacitation means yes.

anyway , i know i am preaching to the choir but i wanted to join the venting game too :) amazing post. thanks for always saying what needs to be said.

Kelly L said...

I just wrote a post about this too! How insane is it that we are not only blaming the victim, but acting as though men have no control over their urges?? I read my boyfriend both of those graphics and he agrees this is all just craziness.

Kelly L said...

Well put, Kelly. The whole situation - all of it - is horrifying. I'm sad for those boys too - not because they'll be haunted by this awful thing, but because they were even capable of doing something like this, of bragging out it and laughing out it.

It's a scary world. I wrote my final paper of undergrad on rape and the labels people assign to victims and it was horrifying - the victim blaming is a scary, scary thing and the way it creeps into the minds of otherwise logical people is horrifying and absurd. Even convicted rapists, and we all know that not very many make it to prison for a myriad of reasons, blame the women they raped for what they did, even in situations of violent rape where a weapon was used.

I hope it gets better. I hope we can stop this. I hope there's a day when a woman can walk along a same street that a man can and feel safe. I hope we stop blaming women for the things that they can't control and I hope we learn from this awful thing, that victim blaming isn't okay and that feeling sorry for RAPISTS isn't okay either.