Analysis of MySpace responses
Posted by Richie on March 7, 2007
I actually planned on writing this last night, but in between then and now, Tekanji has said basically everything I wanted to say, albeit about a different incident. I’m going to write it anyway, though, mostly because Stormy went to the trouble of finding archived versions of the comment threads. Actually, there were two kinds of responses, so this might not be entirely redundant.
These responses were to a series of posts and responses-to-posts I wrote about rape on my deceased MySpace blog. What should be kept in mind is that that blog was a section of my other website, which is (ostensibly) about video games, and most of the people who read it didn’t find it because they were on the lookout for feminist blogs, they found it because they were looking for stuff about Final Fantasy and clicked “blog” on my site’s menu. You’d think this would be a good thing, because it would get people who weren’t previously interested in the subject thinking about feminism. You’d think, but you’d be wrong, because it really just meant that a bunch of people who mouthed off about video games felt qualified to mouth off about feminism as well, since they were both mentioned on the same site.
I don’t blame people for having privilege, obviously. I’m a white middle-class university-educated heterosexual male, for God’s sake, and I’m acutely aware that my place in society means that there are millions of things that I don’t have to think about, and that all these things may as well be invisible to me unless I make a point of shutting up and listening to other people. But shutting up and listening is a conscious choice that’s got nothing to do with how you were born, and refusing to do so, especially after being asked repeatedly… I believe the technical term is “Being an arse”.
I’m not going to re-create everything here, because it was stretched over multiple posts and the topic veered wildly from police procedure to porn to statistics to semantics. The reason I got so angry with the people involved wasn’t necessarily what they said, but that they continued to say it after it had been conclusively demonstrated that they didn’t know what they were actually talking about. Anybody whose argument is based on the assumption that most rapists end up in jail, or that rape is somehow an equivalent crime to mugging, understands absolutely nothing about rape at all, and their opinion on the subject simply doesn’t deserve to be taken seriously. And, again, I’m only calling their opinions into question here, not their worth as human beings. Yet.
Where things get problematic is that, instead of either apologising or just politely butting out of the conversation, they kept arguing and refused to admit that the other side had a point. The longer this was drawn out for, the uglier their responses got, and I’m going to talk about two of them here, since all the responses were basically variations on one or the other.
“If they don’t want to be raped, they shouldn’t have vaginas”.
Clearly meant as a joke, although there are people who genuinely believe this. The major problem with him saying this – if you can isolate a single problem in this sentence – is that not only did he think it was acceptable to make a joke about rape, he thought it was acceptable to make a joke about rape during a serious discussion about rape. It isn’t just that it’s a massively disrespectful thing to do, it’s that he doesn’t care that it’s a massively disrespectful thing to do, because the issue isn’t one that directly affects him, and thus isn’t worth taking seriously. And not only is it not worth taking seriously, it’s worth actively derailing the entire discussion just so he can make an adolescent joke at the expensive of the victims. A discussion that he wasn’t even invited to be a part of in the first place, and was asked politely to leave on more than one occasion.
I used to talk to this guy fairly regularly. He’s willing to trivialise rape, pedophilia, racism, the Holocaust, 9/11, terminal illness… Look, you can fill in the rest of the “incredibly obvious topics people bring up for shock value when they can’t be bothered coming up with an actual joke” list yourself. On its own, this would be bad enough, although treating everything like it doesn’t matter is at least consistent. He is, however, prone to get stupidly defensive if anybody criticises video games, Quentin Tarantino or Lord of the Rings.
It’s official: Women are less important than hobbits.
I wonder if his girlfriend knows that.
“We can’t stop rape until women stop blaming men, blah blah blah misandry” (paraphrased, obviously).
Slightly more reasonable, and, yes, I understand that “Women have to assume any men they meet are potentially rapists” looks like hyperbolic sexism to somebody who thinks rape and mugging are the same thing. This came from somebody who had, previously, been completely supportive of my anti-misogyny stance on movies, video games, comics etc., so it was surprising and depressing that, after half a dozen attempts at explaining the difference between rape and other crimes, he still maintained I was being a misandrist (spell check doesn’t think “misandry” is a real word, incidentally, although it doesn’t think “jabberwocky” is, either, so it can’t be trusted on these matters).
See, here’s the thing about equality: If you’re in the dominant position, you have to be willing to give things up, and a depressingly large number of people who pay lip service to it immediately begin backpeddling when they realise this. This guy was willing to accept everything I said, until I suggested that men are not doing enough to combat rape, at which point I’m being completely unreasonable and man-hating. Because… Well, because I suggested he stop being complacent and actually do something, basically. He repeatedly called for “the genders to meet each other half way” on the issue of rape, yet failed to realise that women lack the power to meet men half way on anything, and the only way this could possibly work is if men made a point of giving up power over women. Ah! But placing the burden on the the shoulders of men, well, that’s just sexist. Did you know that most rape allegations aren’t even proven, and it just drags men through the courts and is responsible for damaging the careers of promising young footballers? Misandry! It’s everywhere.
And that was it, basically. Once you’ve heard variations on these two arguments over and over again from people you’re friends with, it really doesn’t matter what happens next, because you can’t possibly think about them in the same way again. Byebye MySpace, hello WordPress. Things will hopefully improve from now on.
[Edit: Shrub just linked to this entry. So, yes, things have improved immeasurably].