Friday, July 15, 2011

God help me, I nearly commented on a post about "rape culture".

Bad Michael! That way lies certain doom, no matter how carefully you make your point.


  1. Meh. My problem with "rape culture" as a meme isn't that there's nothing to it (though it's frequently used to hitch a huge and condemnatory word to very minor thoughtcrimes, which is both unreasonable and cheapens the concept of rape), it's just one of those words that means, ninety-five times out of a hundred, it will be impossible to compartmentalize a response. Try to question any part of the thesis, and the True Believers will trot out the arsenal of jargony dissent-dismissals.

    In this case, a sex blogger whose intelligence and courage I respect quite a bit was telling the story of how she chased an intruder out of her apartment with a hammer, the big-city bullshit that followed (long story short, her landlord had to end up paying off the intruder to get him to move out of the building), and the social assumptions that she thought made her mishandle the post-intrusion situation.

    I was with her right up until she tried to hitch "rape culture" to the idea that she should be aware of her surroundings while walking through Oakland alone, and consider arming herself. She figured it was "being drafted into a war she didn't ask for" if she kept or carried a weapon, and that not sticking earbuds in her head in bad parts of a high-crime city meant she was "never stopping to smell the roses", and that these are examples of how the "rape culture" oppresses women, who shouldn't have to worry about being so oppressed.

    I strongly suspect that trying to point out how basic awareness and preparation are important human concerns whose relationships to gender and rape are indirect would be futile and frustrating.

  2. Ahhhh. Yeah, I see what you mean there.

    The intersections that crop up between being in the gun community and being in the (feminist? not sure what the right word is) community get interesting.

    Which... I wanted a weapon and didn't listen to headphones walking around when I was in school not because I feared being raped, but because I feared being mugged.

  3. ...not because I feared being raped, but because I feared being mugged.

    Right? But try to articulate that shade of difference, and it turns into a debate about whether you're a rape apologist, and how your privilege makes you underestimate the harm your victim blaming is doing... And that's if it gets further than accusations of "derailing" in the first place.

    Hence my personal rule: never disagree with a post about feminism, circumcision, or declawing. ;)

    ...and being in the (feminist? not sure what the right word is) community...

    I'd love to be able to take the "sees a difference between a woman and a doormat" view and call myself a feminist, but I think mainstream feminists have allowed their obnoxious (and sexist) extreme fringe to set the public face of the word to the point that it carries far more political and social baggage than that ideal. The women in my closest social circles are independent and... Well, I don't even think it's "believe they're equal to a man" so much as "their equality is just assumed, and any suggestion to the contrary would be shocking". And they're all uncomfortable identifying as feminists. That's an indication of bad branding, however you try to sell it.

  4. Yeah. Add to that a general tendency to deny/downplay that there was ever a need for feminism in the first place, let alone that there's still some pervasive things wrong with the way our culture views gender, and I feel very much marooned between two bad options.

    I feel rather similar about the "libertarian" movement- all the ones I actually know and talk to regularly are awesome because I don't waste my time with non-awesome people deliberately, but some of the things said by people claiming the label are absolutely hair-raising.