“Violence against women” vs. “Men’s violence against women”

April 21, 2014 § Leave a comment

Harrowing article out of the Guardian today, which challenges the “monster rapist” narrative in which only the most aberrational, violent, and outright psychotic men commit acts of sexual violence against women. Sometimes this is true, author Tom Meagher writes; sometimes men who do bad things to women are in fact psychotic. But much more frequently, they aren’t. Much more frequently, these men are average dudes, the problem being that average dudeness is often predicated on and actively normalizes violent sexism.

Some quotes, though you (particularly if you are male) should go read the whole thing immediately:

While the vast majority of men abhor violence against women, those dissenting male voices are rarely heard in our public discourse outside of the “monster-rapist” narrative. Indeed, the agency of male perpetrators disappears from the discussion, discouraging male involvement and even knowledge of the prevalence and diversity of male violence against women. Even the term “violence against women” sounds like a standalone force of nature, with no subject, whereas “men’s violence against women” is used far less frequently.

While not attempting to broad-brush or essentialise the all too abstracted notion of “masculinity”, male invisibility in our discourse can be compounded by masculine posturing, various “bro-codes” of silence, and a belief, through the monster myth, in the intrinsic otherness of violent men.

The idea of the lurking monster is no doubt a useful myth, one we can use to defuse any fear of the women we love being hurt, without the need to examine ourselves or our male-dominated society. It is also an excuse to implement a set of rules on women on “how not to get raped”, which is a strange cocktail of naiveté and cynicism. It is naive because it views rapists as a monolithic group of thigh-rubbing predators with a checklist rather than the bloke you just passed in the office, pub or gym, and cynical because these rules allow us to classify victims. If the victim was wearing X or drinking Y, well then of course the monster is going to attack – didn’t she read the rules?

It’s an upsetting read, but I could not recommend this article highly enough.


I’m Not Blaming the Victim, I’m Just Saying It’s Her Fault: My reaction to bullshit victim-blaming Slate article

October 16, 2013 § Leave a comment

According to Emily Yoffe of Slate, a large and influential online news magazine, feminism has taught America’s young women that they should be able to drink as much as men, because Girl Power (what). As a consequence, more women are getting raped. Feminists, you should be ashamed of yourselves! Yes, of course, rapists are ultimately the ones who rape. That said,

we are failing to let women know that when they render themselves defenseless, terrible things can be done to them. Young women are getting a distorted message that their right to match men drink for drink is a feminist issue. The real feminist message should be that when you lose the ability to be responsible for yourself, you drastically increase the chances that you will attract the kinds of people who, shall we say, don’t have your best interest at heart. That’s not blaming the victim; that’s trying to prevent more victims.

I don’t know how pointing to a victim and saying “you did this to yourself” doesn’t qualify as victim-blaming, but ok. Semantics I guess. So I’ll play along — let’s say young women heed this message. That they maintain the ability to be responsible for themselves (because everyone knows that so long as women are responsible for themselves, whatever that even means, nothing bad ever happens to them — it’s only the irresponsible women who are assaulted, harassed, and sexually victimized, those silly little short-skirt wearers). Then who are we supposed to blame WHEN YOUNG WOMEN KEEP GETTING RAPED, which is a funny thing that happens when you conflate the symptom, namely an obscenely high incidence of sexual violence committed against women, with the cause, namely a culture that objectifies and devalues women to such an extent that it is entirely accepted that men WOULD rape, because how could they not with all those irresponsible women lying around??

To her credit, Yoffe tries to try to keep things balanced, and quotes several experts.

“I’m not saying a woman is responsible for being sexually victimized,” says Christopher Krebs, one of the authors of that study and others on campus sexual assault. “But when your judgment is compromised, your risk is elevated of having sexual violence perpetrated against you.”

Now, I don’t want to sound like a racist, but [insert racist assertion here, say about “The Jews” or “The Blacks”]. Before you get any nasty ideas, let me reiterate: I’m not a racist. I’m not a racist because I said I wasn’t.

Which is essentially the argument here. Here I am, blaming victims, and holding victims up as an example for other women (“you don’t want to end up like HER, do you?”), but because I say I’m not blaming the victim, then I’m not. It’s fun to be the gatekeeper for linguistic meaning!

Oh and one more thing:

I’ve told my daughter that it’s her responsibility to take steps to protect herself. (“I hear you! Stop!”) The biological reality is that women do not metabolize alcohol the same way as men, and that means drink for drink women will get drunker faster. I tell her I know alcohol will be widely available (even though it’s illegal for most college students) but that she’ll have a good chance of knowing what’s going on around her if she limits herself to no more than two drinks, sipped slowly—no shots!—and stays away from notorious punch bowls. If female college students start moderating their drinking as a way of looking out for their own self-interest—and looking out for your own self-interest should be a primary feminist principle—I hope their restraint trickles down to the men.

You hear that, men? Wait for the women to make the first move. THEN you can stop raping. Glad we’re on the same page. But there’s more:

If I had a son, I would tell him that it’s in his self-interest not to be the drunken frat boy who finds himself accused of raping a drunken classmate.

Hmm, that doesn’t sound like DON’T RAPE YOUR CLASSMATES TIMMY. But apparently it’s the accusation of rape that’s the fucking tragedy. I mean, you wouldn’t want your son’s reputation sullied, would you? That would be horrible and so inconvenient!

In conclusion, I don’t think I could type the words “bullshit” or “gross” enough times to adequately capture the lack of facepalms I have to express even a modicum of the “I just can’t” which is, itself, inadequate.

Sexism in Tech – A Reckoning

October 12, 2013 § Leave a comment

Everyone who has ever worked on or around the internet or has simply ever been on the internet needs to read this article written by Shanley at Medium, which is a kick-to-the-balls takedown both of sexist brogrammer nonsense and of the “Fuck you, I got mine” mentality embraced by rich cis white women in tech who, deliberately or not, ultimately carry the aforementioned brogrammers’ water.

Behind the stark heteronormativity is the predictable streak of rape culture, dangerously paired, as it often is, with a bland homoeroticism. Brogramming presents a bizarre, nightmarish hybrid: a re-imagined geek-as-boy-king that co-opts the jock stereotype in all its brazen physicality, with all its attendant vanilla, American, locker-room male bonding. In brogramming we see a white male hive mind which has tired of its own sexless, fumbling nerd stereotype — itself a cover-up, a type of plausible deniability for a long history of rampant sexual objectification, harassment and assault of women by “nerds.” The brogrammer movement trades a hidden culture of lecherous misogyny for an overt one in an effort to restore a masculinity lost to caricature.

And then there is Lean In, the new brand of white, extreme upper-class tech feminism championed by Sheryl Sandberg and epitomized by Marissa Mayer. It is a self-interested feminism of white privilege, bereft of historical context, bereft of critical thought. It is a feminism removed utterly from the challenges of average women workers in tech, a feminism deliberately pacified for the devouring palate of the status quo.

It is, at last, a feminism the patriarchy can get behind.

“Women’s inspiration,” but inspiration for a lifetime of work given freely to the white male machine, with no certain reward other than soothing the phantom guilt of abandoning a workplace that never gave a fuck about women anyway.

Read this now.

Modern Primate on the “Gray Areas” of Rape Culture

March 18, 2013 § Leave a comment

My fiance is the best. Video description:

Before the verdict of the Steubenville rape trial, the defense and other witnesses demonstrated a lack of knowledge that what they did was rape. And we shouldn’t be surprised, given how violating the body of someone who is passed out is such a common occurrence. Certain forms of bullying, hazing, and practical jokes all contribute to normalizing rape culture.

Chris Menning’s “Rape Culture Part 2: Society, Sports and Capitalism”

January 14, 2013 § Leave a comment

Last week I was delighted, surprised and disgusted when Chris’ video on Steubenville football and rape culture “went viral,” as the kids say. Delighted because Chris makes great videos and it’s about damn time that lots of people start watching them, surprised because this video is essentially the anti-meme, making it an unlikely candidate for virality (it’s long; it’s depressing; it’s about rape culture) and disgusted because, as I said in response to Part 1, it’s awful that these kinds of videos need to be made. Part 2 is every bit as difficult but every bit as necessary, so enjoy I guess. Also, due to subject matter, probably somewhat occasionally NSFW, depending on what kind of work you do.

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