Vance has more opportunities to change the rape conversation

August 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

This is a guest post by Sam, who will return to the University of Chicago this fall as a sophomore. Thanks Sam!

Just as rape charges were dropped against Dominique Strauss-Kahn earlier this week, an off duty NYPD officer was arrested for allegedly raping a woman in Upper Manhattan. The case is the third high profile rape incident to confront Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., following the Strauss-Kahn case and the trial of two police officers that were acquitted of charges that they raped a drunk East Village woman in her home.

Vance, who is just over a year and a half into his four-year term, has faced intense public scrutiny for failing to earn a conviction in both previous cases. While these criticisms and frustrations are understandable, energy spent criticizing Vance can be better used to draw attention to the thousands of rape victims in New York City and across the world who will never have the opportunity to face their attacker in a court of law.

While convicting a powerful man of rape would have made a strong statement that rape is wrong, a guilty verdict would not have made rape unacceptable. Even though we live under a system of justice that assumes innocence until proven guilty, it remains disturbing to see how much more credible a denial of rape is seen than an accusation. Public fascination with the backgrounds of victims reflects a culture that is more interested in seeing a drama play out in the courtroom than in having a responsible conversation about rape.

While both previous rape cases collapsed because of a lack of credible evidence, the newest accusation is the first case in which a witness other than the victim supports the rape accusation. Paul J. Browne, the NYPD’s chief spokesperson, has acknowledged that the officer was drunk and that he used his licensed weapon to intimidate his victim. Vance must use this evidence to vigorously prosecute the officer, while activists must elevate a conversation about rape.

Just as Vance must use this moment to ensure that women across New York are safe, activists must ensure that the voices of the women brave enough to speak out against their attackers inspire other women to do the same. To do so would be to do true justice for all women.

Think You’ve Been Raped? Think Again!

February 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

by MIRANDA

Genius:

HOW TO KNOW IF YOU’VE BEEN RAPED: A handy checklist based on the federal government’s (FBI, UCMJ) — recently updated — definition of “forcible rape.”…

7. Were you on a date with this man?
-If the answer is yes, you should have expected this. And if he bought you dinner, you’re ungrateful.
-If the answer is no, please proceed.

8. Were you drinking prior to the incident?
-Yes? Maybe you actually DID want to have sex.
-No? Good girl, keep going.

Hilarious in that way that makes you want to sob. Seriously, go read the whole thing.

SURPRISE OF THE WEEK: I still do not find rape funny

February 7, 2011 § 1 Comment

by MIRANDA

This, apparently, sets me apart from the kind and misunderstood souls of Someecards. They are usually so funny! But you know what is not funny, at all? Oh right, this:

HILARIOUS!!! Because if there’s anything worse than traumatic sexual assault followed by bravely coming forward followed by being derided and discredited and ignored, it is watching a tacky football half-time show on a television that you turned on.

I was kind of willing to overlook Someecards’ previous Ben Roethlisberger cards (here and here) because I could at least fool myself into thinking that they were essentially making fun of Roethlisberger, not his alleged victims. But this? This I’m not willing to overlook.

I tweeted @someecards to voice my discomfort, and received this reply:

They have not responded to my second tweet. If you’re on Twitter, please tweet @someecards and let them know why this isn’t okay.

People seem to enjoy rape jokes because they think they’re “edgy.” In reality, there’s absolutely nothing edgy about rape; indeed, it happens all the time. It is a serious and disgusting crime that cannot be joked about in this callous way. This kind of humor is not only tasteless and hurtful, it’s also boring. Plenty of people make light of rape, Someecards: you’re nothing special.

HR3 and the Pre-Voting Activist

February 2, 2011 § 1 Comment

by ADI

(Trigger warning for mentions of sexual assault.)

If you’ve been spending any time on the feminist Internet lately, you’ve likely read about HR3, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. Besides codifying the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits almost all federal funding for abortion and vastly limits the access of low-income women to this procedure, the bill would all but remove the current exceptions for rape and incest. Even more problematically, it does so by redefining the only “acceptable” rape as “forcible” rape, something which would effectively bar the majority of rape survivors from receiving help aborting their rapist’s child.

When we talk about the “pro-rape lobby,” this is what we mean. It’s not enough for women who have been raped by a partner, acquaintance, or even stranger in a way that doesn’t comply with this laughably limited definition of rape (while, say, unconscious, drugged, or held down by someone much stronger) to be told that they should have fought back harder, should have watched their drink better, shouldn’t have gone out at all or let their guard down around their closest friends. It’s now going to be enshrined in law. I didn’t think there could be anything more outright evil than denying medical procedures to survivors of sexual assault, but this is almost it: They’re effectively telling people that they do provide funds for survivors, but you weren’t raped.

There are a lot of other reasons why this bill is terrible, many of which have been laid out over at Tiger Beatdown, where Sady is running her wonderful #DearJohn campaign. So what do we do about it now?

Really, in a liberal democracy, there are about four things we can do. The first, obviously, is vote. The nearest election might not be near enough, however, and since this is a blog for young feminists, many of us can’t vote, or at least can’t vote yet. So what do we do? The other three things.

The second is to contact your elected officials. If you’re in the US, find your representative and write them. Call them. Do both. Don’t threaten — we’re better than that. Just explain why the bill hurts women and rape survivors, and why the issue matters to you. Even if you can’t vote yet, let them know that you will be in the closest election.

The third is to make yourself heard. Minority groups like the Tea Party can dominate the national discussion through violent rhetoric and hate — but we can amplify our own voices as well. Follow this guide to joining the #DearJohn campaign — it’s a first step to aggregating the opinions of all the people against HR3. Find your local newspaper and write a letter to the editor — a real, physical letter. If you have access to readers through a blog, post on it. Most importantly, talk to the people you know about the resolution. You don’t have to start an argument or take on a group of people you know are vehemently anti-choice (unless you want to), but make sure that even the pro-choice people you know are aware of the implications of the resolution and why they should be against it.

The last is to consider donating some money to a pro-choice campaign or access fund. Even if we win on this, there are still many women who desperately want abortions — but can’t get the money for them. Try searching for your state’s abortion access fund — many, including DC and New York, have them. Donate to Planned Parenthood or NARAL. Even if you can’t give much, every little bit can help someone in need.

#Mooreandme

December 19, 2010 § 1 Comment

by MIRANDA

Thanks, meme generator.

Laura and Me.

December 17, 2010 § Leave a comment

by ELENA

More than 20 years after his film Roger and Me, about Flint’s connections to General Motors, and how the city is affected by outsourcing, Michael Moore still has strong geological and emotional ties to the eastern side of the state of Michigan. He mentioned Flint in Bowling for Columbine and Farenheit 9/11, and was clearly passionate about shedding light on the disparity of wealth within Flint. Hell, his Twitter handle is @MMFlint. In his films and interviews, he frequently is seen wearing apparel with the logos of several Michigan colleges, including Michigan State University, and Eastern Michigan University. I wonder if Moore has visited Eastern Michigan University, or spoken at the school recently. If he did, he may have heard about what happened in 2006 to Eastern student Laura Dickinson.

Laura Dickinson, a student at EMU was raped and murdered in her dorm room in December 2006. EMU originally told her family that she died of natural causes, and it was only after a suspect was arrested that the school informed Dickinson’s family that her death was a homocide. EMU was fined for violating the Beverly Clery Act (which requires colleges and universities to report felonies that happen on campus), settled with the Dickinson family out of court, and the President, Vice President, and Public Safety Director were fired. Dickinson’s death, EMU’s cover-up, and the murder trial were on the news constantly, and brought the kind of publicity that a small town in West Michigan does not want. At the same time, the Dickinson family held several benefits, with proceeds going to causes that Laura supported. Friends and neighbors stepped in to help run the family coffee shop during the months after her death.

It was hard to hear TV and radio reports about Laura’s death, because I knew her family, spent numerous hours in their coffeeshop, and it was sad that instead of being in the news because State Grounds supported the community by letting musicians perform in the space, or raised money for important causes. They were on the news because their daughter had died, and the institution that should have been looking out for her safety failed to protect her, and decided to lie to her family.

When I hear the phrase “travesty of justice”, I think about how EMU treated the grieving Dickinson family. I don’t think about Assange turning himself in, being jailed for a short period of time, being released on bail, and spending his holiday in an English mansion. It isn’t so much Moore posting bail for Assange (it’s his money, he can waste it however he wants to) that pisses me off, it’s Moore’s going on “Countdown With Keith Shouts-A-Lot”, and claiming that his donation stems from a belief that Assange was “set up” and that his complainants are merely upset groupies/”honeypots”/CIA informants/otherwise hell bent on destroying WikiLeaks. This is a criminal case, and instead of trying Assange and his accusers in the Court of the Internet (which is highly susceptible to severe cases of trolling), we should let the courts do their job. And we should reserve judgement about the veracity of the accusations until all parties must testify under oath.

Moore and Olbermann have been silent about their fantastically insensitive comments. I understand that having to explain their justification behind saying that Assange’s work was more important than having to do something as pesky as answer for a crime he has been accused of (and spreading misinformation about Assange’s accusers)  must be hard. How about they meet with the Dickinson family, and ask them what it was like to not only have a daughter die after being assaulted, but to have a university lie to them about her death? If Moore doesn’t particularly care about the whole “sexual assault is bad” thing, it would at least provide another example of why cover-ups, and the spreading of lies, by any person or organization, can be devastating and hurtful.

And then maybe, just maybe, Michael Moore and Keith Olbermann will realize why dismissing rape accusations comes off as hurtful, insensitive, pompous, and a slew of other unpleasant adjectives.  And then oh, I don’t know, donate at least a little bit of their fortunes to RAINN?

On #Mooreandme, Fucking Up, and Apologies

December 16, 2010 § 9 Comments

by MIRANDA

So. Let’s review.

1. Julian Assange, editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, has been accused of raping two Swedish women on different occasions. These two women have an apparently awesome lawyer, Claes Borgström, who says things like: “[my clients] are victims of a crime, but they are looked upon as the perpetrators and that is very unfortunate.” Assange has a lawyer, Mark Stephens, who says things like: “The honeytrap has been sprung. Dark forces are at work. After what we’ve seen so far you can reasonably conclude this is part of a greater plan.” Because of these accusations, Assange has been arrested and held in a London jail. But he has been released on bail and appears dedicated to avoiding fair and rigorous prosecution for these alleged rapes.

2. Keith Olbermann talks about Assange’s legal troubles on his show. Olbermann invites Michael Moore to comment on Assange’s legal troubles on his show, specifically why Moore chose to donate $20,000 to Assange’s bail. Moore tells us that he donated such a sum because he believes WikiLeaks’ works is essential for a “free and open society,” because supporting WikiLeaks is “an act of patriotism.” Oh, and because the rape allegations are “a lie and a smear,” “all a bunch of hooey.” Oh, and also: because the allegations of rape are actually allegations that “his condom broke during consensual sex, which is not a crime.” Not a crime, true. Also not the accusation. (But here’s the thing: respecting WikiLeaks as a mechanism for ensuring “a free and open society” does not prevent us from getting to the bottom of the accusations against Assange. We can admire the principles of an organization while still questioning the ethics of their frontman. Really. We are old enough to walk and chew gum, here.)

3. Sady Doyle calls this shit out. And by “this shit” I mean the utter audacity of a progressive leader like Michael Moore to dismiss so casually and callously the very legitimate claims of two women who may have been raped. She calls out “the unwillingness of men in positions of power to consider rape a crucial issue that must be taken seriously.” And she launches a powerful protest: #Mooreandme. For the last 24 hours, real progressives have been tweeting @MMFlint and @KeithOlbermann, calling out their rape apologist bullshit; demanding dialogue, an apology, and $20,000 to an anti-rape organization; saying:

We are the progressive community. We are the left wing. We are women and men, we are from every sector of this community, and we believe that every rape accusation must be taken seriously, regardless of the accused rapist’s connections, power, influence, status, fame, or politics. We believe that rape is a crucial and central issue which affects us all, women disproportionately, and we are sick of being told that you should “never, ever believe” us. We believe that accuser-shaming, accuser-harassment, victim-blaming, and the suppression of rape cases all serve one distinct purpose, which is: TO MAKE IT EASIER FOR PEOPLE TO RAPE US AND GET AWAY WITH IT.

And for the last 24 hours? Olbermann has blocked a bunch of people, and Moore hasn’t responded at all. That’s some courageous journalism right there.

So there you have my humble, incomplete recap. But what I really want to emphasize is this: Olbermann and Moore have a really incredible opportunity right in front of them, an opportunity begging to be taken. They have the opportunity to apologize. Because being a good progressive? Is all about fucking up.

If we’re ever to break the myth of the flawless progressive hero — a myth that is unproductive, a myth that breaks hearts — we need to start learning how to recover from mistakes. Because they happen; casual racism, sexism, rape apologism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, fatphobia, ageism, classism… Those things happen because we were taught to make them happen. Now we need to teach ourselves to stop them. Sure, we need to expect more. But expecting more doesn’t mean expecting perfection, the first time, every time. Expecting more is about making mistakes, being called out, engaging and learning from them. We learned that shit in pre-school.

Keith Olbermann, Michael Moore, we’re waiting, we’re literally begging you to apologize and to right your egregious wrongs. You can find me @mirandamammen, waiting with the rest of my crew. We’re waiting. But we can’t wait forever.

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