“The first step towards reimagining a world gone terribly wrong would be to stop the annihilation of those who have a different imagination - an imagination that is outside of capitalism as well as communism. An imagination which has an altogether different understanding of what constitutes happiness and fulfilment. To gain this philosophical space, it is necessary to concede some physical space for survival of those who may look like the keepers of our past but who may really be the guides to our future. To do this we have to ask our rulers: Can you leave the water in the rivers, the trees in the forest? Can you leave the bauxite in the mountains?”—Arundhati Roy (via zealotry)
Yesterday, prosecutors decided that they won’t press charges against Greg Kelly, son of police commissioner Ray Kelly. He was accused of raping a woman—I wrote about it here. I sounded pretty sure I believed he was guilty. As far as the courts are concerned, there wasn’t enough evidence to indict him. Am I sorry? No.
And I’m not sorry about calling Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who was found not guilty of rape in a court of law, a rapist. And the next time someone comes forward saying he or she was raped by another someone, whether that person is a powerful government official or a friend, I will always, ALWAYS believe the accuser. I will always support him or her even before I know all of the “facts” of the situation, or, more likely, have heard the two sides, and probably after. Why? Because we live in a culture so permissive to rapists and so punishing to rape survivors that to do anything else would be monstrous.
The Post published a picture of Kelly’s accuser yesterday, identifying her by name. They did the same to the woman who accused two cops of raping her. They called Nafi Diallo, or, as you may know her “the maid,” of being a liar, a sex worker, a gold digger, a drug dealer. They have, in the words of Intel’s Joe Coscarelli, engaged in “a bullying tactic that could prevent women from reporting sexual abuse crimes.” This is not the exception. This is the norm.
Greg Kelly, by the way, was deemed unchargable not because he didn’t rape his accuser, but because it would be impossible to prove that she was, as she claimed, too intoxicated to consent. This is what rape culture is. And what it means to the women who live in it is that they live with the very real possibility—a one in five chance—that they too will face the same impossible choice: stay quiet, live with what happened, watch your rapist walk around free, or accuse him or her, and have your entire life dragged through the mud. Have every single choice you’ve ever made examined publicly to see if maybe it’s your “fault” that this happened. Be put on trial—publicly—in a way your rapist will never, ever will be.
Let me tell you about two of my friends who had terrible things happen to them. The first is a man. He was falsely accused of rape by a woman he was friends with. He had never slept with her. She later recanted and told everyone the truth of what (hadn’t) happened. He is still living with the consequences of that action today: it made it very hard for him to trust women, to be sexually open. It really fucked him up. He did nothing wrong.
The second friend is a woman. In college, she was raped by a man she was on a date with. The man’s older brother was very important in the ROTC of that college. On this campus, the ROTC was very powerful, and had a strong reputation for honor and excellence. When she came forward about what happened to her, she was called a liar and a slut. The ROTC members embarked on a campaign of harassment that forced her to drop out of college. Nothing happened to the man. The administration of the college refused to get involved. She also did nothing wrong.
I am truly, deeply sad for both of these friends. I really do understand the harm a false rape accusation can do to a person. It can ruin someone’s life. But it still does not compare to the damage that rape can do. And unfortunately, rape is more common by a factor of hundreds. If you think you don’t know someone who was raped, you are probably wrong. Many rape victims are never able to come forward about what happened to them.
When the Post goes out of its way to punish women who speak up about rape, women everywhere hear and understand the message: stay in line. Be quiet. It’ll be easier for you if you just lie back and take it. Here is another story that I happened to come across yesterday, just in the normal course of reading the internet.
I was, as a teenager, locked in a room with my rapist by school administrators and told, “Don’t come out until you’ve worked out your differences.” He spent the entire time threatening to kill me, my family, and my dogs, if I ever reported anything he ever did to me again. When the head counselor eventually came back to that room, I was asked if we’d managed to work things out, and I confirmed that we had.
Because I would have said anything to get the fuck out of that room.
He raped me again and again over the next three years.
Again, this is not the exception. It is the rule. If you go looking, you can find hundreds, thousands of variations on this story. I understand why people don’t want to accept this truth: it’s horrible. Nobody wants to think it is their mom, their sister, their friend who things like this happen to. Better and easier to think that she’s lying or that she somehow deserved what she got. For women, it’s a way of warding off evil. Maybe if I can figure out what she did “wrong” I can avoid her fate. Did she dress slutty? Get drunk? Go home with a stranger? Wear headphones? It is tempting to think that if you are a good girl and do everything “right,” you’ll be safe. The truth is that in this culture, nobody is safe.
Even so, we look for reasons to excuse the rapist, to mitigate the horror. Even in the most cut-and-dried “honest rape” cases, and even in the New York Times, the blame is shifted.
The Times article was entitled, “Vicious Assault Shakes Texas Town,” as if the victim in question was the town itself. James McKinley Jr., the article’s author, focused on how the men’s lives would be changed forever, how the town was being ripped apart, how those poor boys might never be able to return to school. There was discussion of how the eleven-year-old girl, the child, dressed like a twenty-year-old, implying that there is a realm of possibility where a woman can “ask for it” and that it’s somehow understandable that eighteen men would rape a child. There were even questions about the whereabouts of the mother, given, as we all know, that a mother must be with her child at all times or whatever ill may befall the child is clearly the mother’s fault. Strangely, there were no questions about the whereabouts of the father while this rape was taking place.
The overall tone of the article was what a shame it all was, how so many lives were affected by this one terrible event. Little addressed the girl, the child. It was an eleven-year-old girl whose body was ripped apart, not a town. It was an eleven-year-old girl whose life was ripped apart, not the lives of the men who raped her. It is difficult for me to make sense of how anyone could lose sight of that and yet it isn’t.
These little things, these seemingly unimportant things like tone and word choice, like hate rags publishing pictures of rape victims, like all of the tiny ways that we, every day, as culture, signal to potential rapists to go ahead, it’s not so bad, she probably wants it anyway, wink wink. That is rape culture. There’s no neutral ground. You are either fighting hard against it—speaking up to defend rape victims, not laughing at rape jokes, refusing to accept the excuses people make for rapists—or you are part of it. Silence abets rapists. And THAT is why I will always take the side of the person making a rape accusation, and why you should too. When the playing field is level, I will wait to be vocal. I’ll listen to both sides, or just stay out of it altogether. But in a world where trying to bring your rapist to justice puts you in line for something that might be more difficult to endure than the rape itself, victims need all the support they can get.
All of this, always, always, always. I will always assume guilty until proven innocent with a rapist, because that’s the only way to counteract the game of putting the accuser on trial instead of the accused… and, of course, because it’s generally true. Minor detail.
“You will always go into that tent. You will see her scar and wonder where she got it. You will always be amazed at how one woman can have so much black hair. You will always fall in love, and it will always be like having your throat cut, just that fast. You will always run away with her. You will always lose her. You will always be a fool. You will always be dead, in a city of ice, snow falling into your ear. You have already done all of this and will do it again.”—Deathless, Catherynne M. Valente (via joannastarks)
Racism:Two centuries of PoC being stolen from their homelands, driven out of their native lands, tricked, raped, infected with disease, and otherwise downtrodden so as to remove them from any chance of being the dominant race.
Prejudice:[PoC gives a white person a nickname playing on the fact that they're white].
Racism:PoC must, from the moment they realize a baby is on the way, worry about whether giving a child a name reflecting their heritage will affect their chances at a good life in the future. Hint: it will.
Not racism:Calling out that slavery lasted for two centuries, and civil rights did not happen for PoC until the 20th Century (you know, the century which only ended TWELVE YEARS AGO).
Racism:We should not talk about it, because it makes [non-PoC] feel bad.
Not racism:A non-PoC actor can get pretty much any role s/he wnats.
Racism:... including roles that were originally written as PoC. PoC actors must settle for roles making them servants, sassy women, jive turkey men, criminals, drug addicts, or abused downtrodden prostitutes, the better to reinforce the negative mental image of PoC in the minds of the zeitgeist, and hold up the excuse that "they bring it on themselves".
Not Racism:Flattering pictures of people used to represent them on the web.
Racism:Flattering pictures of Sarah Palin, Hillary Clinton, Michelle Bachman. But the most unflattering pic available of Michelle Obama is used for the same article.
Not Racism:Articles about women's features.
Racism:Article purporting to have scientific "proof" that Black women are uglier than women of any other race.
Not Racism:America is where everyone is supposed to have equal chance.
Racism:Equal chance? Freed slaves were lucky if they got 40 Acres and a Mule, after working for free for generations for people who are now wealthy and offered no other reparations.
Not Racism:Irish History Month, Italian History Month, French History Month, German History Month, etc. All of which would, technically, qualify, btw, as White History Months.
Racism:It's not Cameroon History Month, Nigerian History Month, Egyptian History Month, Zimbabwean History Month, Zaire History Month, Somalian History Month, etc. It's BLACK History Month. Doesn't matter what country in Africa you come from. If you're Black you just all get lumped in together.
Not Racism:PoC describe their experiences.
Racism:Non-PoC interrupt, derail, silence, mock, deride, or cite "oversensitivity" because it makes them feel uncomfortable to know that PoC have endured this, and to have to acknowledge their privilege -- and their responsibility to do something about it if they really are as anti-racist as they profess.
Not Racism:PoC generalizing white people to protect themselves; including avoiding them in any capacity.
Racism:Calling that "prejudice" as if it's on the level of prejudices that actually damage anyone. It's called REASONABLE PARANOIA.
“We too have been seduced by the false assumption that the goal of academic freedom is best served by postures of political neutrality, by teaching methods that belie the reality that our very choice of subject matter, manner, and style of presentation embodies ideological and political signifiers. Assuming this posture, there are black professors at Yale and other universities who feel it essential that they do not call attention to race and/or racism, who feel that they should behave always in a manner that deemphasizes race. This is extremely tragic. Such behavior in no way serves the interest of academic freedom. Instead it participates in the construction of a social reality wherein conformity to a racist, white male norm of representation prevails, where difference and diversity are assaulted, denied place and value.
Academic freedom is most fully and truly realized when there is diversity of intellectual representation and perspective. Racism has always threatened the realization of this ideal. Rather than become accomplices in the perpetuation of racial domination, black scholars who value academic freedom must continually work to establish spheres of learning in institutions where intellectual practice is not informed by white supremacy. If such a place cannot or does not exist, we betray the radical traditions that enabled us to enter these institutions and act in a manner that will uphold and support our exclusion in the future. It is our collective responsibility both to ourselves as black people and to the academic communities in which we participate and to which we belong, to assume a primary role in establishing and maintaining academic and social spaces wherein the principles of education as the practice of freedom are promoted.”—bell hooks, “on being black at yale: education as the practice of freedom”; Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black; (1989); (p. 64-65). (via agradschoolbreakup)
“We were not born critical of existing society. There was a moment in our lives (or a month, or a year) when certain facts appeared before us, startled us, and then caused us to question beliefs that were strongly fixed in our consciousness-embedded there by years of family prejudices, orthodox schooling, imbibing of newspapers, radio, and television. This would seem to lead to a simple conclusion: that we all have an enormous responsibility to bring to the attention of others information they do not have, which has the potential of causing them to rethink long-held ideas.”—Howard Zinn (via swintons)
“[S]hame is not a catalyst for change; it is a paralytic. Anyone who has ever carried extreme personal shame knows this. Shame doesn’t make you stronger, nor does it help you to grow, or to be healthy, or to be sane. It keeps you in one place, very, very still.”—What’s Wrong With Fat-Shaming? | xoJane (via machinery)
“Although most boys figure out how to bring themselves to orgasm by age thirteen, half of girls don’t have their first orgasms until their late teens, twenties, or beyond. Teenage girls widely agree that they get the message loud and clear that masturbation is something boys do, but girls don’t, can’t, or shouldn’t. The cultural focus on intercourse tells young women to expect they’ll begin to experience sexual pleasure once they have sex with a man (whether or not they’re even interested in sex with men). Nearly all teen boys, on the other hand, experience sexual pleasure long before they get their hands—or other body parts—into a partner’s pants. Despite the massive advances in women’s equality, young women’s sexuality is stuck in a surprising paradox. Young women are sold provocative clothes but aren’t taught where to find their own clitoris. Many girls give their boyfriends oral sex, but are too uncomfortable with their own bodies to allow the guys to return the favor. It’s still a radical act to say that women need and deserve access to information about their own sexual pleasure—not just about the risks and negative consequences of sex.”—Dorian Solot, I Love Female Orgasm: An Extraordinary Orgasm Guide. (via feministhistorian)
“When prompted by a question from Chris Rock who was seated in the audience, he blurted out a small, clear truth: He said one reason we did Red Hook Summer independently was because he could not get Hollywood to green light the follow-up to “Inside Man” – which cost only $45 million to make and grossed a whopping $184,376,240 million domestically and worldwide – plus another $37 million domestically on DVD sales. Within minutes, the internet lit up with burning personal criticism of him stitched into negative reviews of “Red Hook Summer” by so-called film critics and tweeters. I don’t mind negative reviews. That’s life in the big leagues. But it’s the same old double standard. The recent success of “Red Tails” which depicts the story of the all black Tuskegee Airmen, is a clear example. Our last film, “Miracle At St. Anna,” which paid homage to the all-black 92nd Division, which fought on the ground in Italy, was blasted before it even got out the gate. Maybe it’s a terrible film. Maybe it deserved to bomb. The difference is this: When George Lucas complained publicly about the fact that he had to finance his own film because Hollywood executives told him they didn’t know how to market a black film, no one called him a fanatic. But when Spike Lee says it, he’s a racist militant and a malcontent. Spike’s been saying the same thing for 25 years. And he had to go to Italy to raise money for a film that honors American soldiers, because unlike Lucas, he’s not a billionaire. He couldn’t reach in his pocket to create, produce, market, and promote his film like Lucas did with “Red Tails.””—James McBride Dropping knowledge (via howtobeterrell)