I haven’t posted in a while as I was contemplating writing this article and was being very careful on the nature of the topic. After a few rewrites and mulling it over, I finally decided to go ahead. As of February 4th:
So in the space of about a week, I’ve gotten involved in three separate discussions on women’s rights/rape. This is all spurred by the topic of the Jian Ghmeshi trial and the “Brogressives” supporters for Bernie Sanders’ campaign. While the subject is abhorrent, I do appreciate the value of sharing ideas and getting multiple perspectives; particularly from women whom this is a much higher concern than the white male demographic I find myself part of.
“Brogressives” vs Right Wing
I’ll tackle the “Brogressives” first as this one got the biggest reaction from me. My involvement in the discussion was only to contest an assertion by the person who shared the article. She asserted “brogressives” were more dangerous to women than right wing misogynists. She contended women will let their guard down thinking these individuals are on their side and thus more vulnerable to their predatory actions. While on an individual basis, that holds some merit. On the other, I could debate someone who shows open contempt or is dismissive to women is also more likely to act upon these beliefs than someone who is closeted or withholds this behaviour. The latter at least recognizes it is unacceptable within polite society.
What rankled me was an accusation of not understanding and lacking empathy by another commentator. Further, she added I was dismissing the psychological effects on the victims.
From my perspective, I was viewing the situation as a whole and not on an individual case by case basis. I retorted the statistic that women are far more likely to be sexually assaulted by individuals they know (family, co-workers, friends, acquaintances). I asked, somewhat rhetorically, how is that any different than falling to the “snake in the grass brogressives”? Women on the left of the political spectrum are not exclusively targeted by non-strangers. I was directed to the person’s blog.
While I did concede I may have fallen sway to “mansplaining” (up to you to determine which interpretation to use), I stayed firm in my belief that right wing misogynists were far more dangerous to women as a whole. These men (and Ann Coulter and her ilk) would, if given carte blanche, turn back the dial on women’s rights. I argued this would make women more vulnerable within society as a whole to discrimination and sexual assault.
When bad behaviour is tolerated or even lauded in society, individuals are encouraged to continue if not emboldened to do so. The murderer of Trayvon Martin is the poster child for this. Let’s take a somewhat milder (and more on topic) target:
Brown received very little punishment for his actions. He has a lot of defenders. Many are women. He then goes on to make horrible misogynistic songs and continues to enjoy to garner fame and wealth. I’ll admit, rap is not my cup of tea. I’m more of a metalhead myself. Yet, the message and lesson here is there aren’t real consequences in society today for domestic violence against women. Especially if you are rich and famous.
Gamergate evolved out of what was a heartbroken ex-boyfriend’s rant into a whole movement aimed squarely at harassing, threatening and belittling any women who dared to speak out or participate in gaming aside as a booth babe at conventions or other forms of titillation for male gamers. Within these circles, they applaud each other for a scathing rant or for “destroying” women’s credibility without really countering their arguments in any substantive manner.
Now, my argument goes if women were legally considered second class citizens, what effect would this have on the treatment of women throughout society? Would those who hold misogynistic views not exhibit their views more openly? Would those who were closeted in their misogyny not feel less ashamed to hold these views? Would they not be more emboldened to take these thoughts into the realm of action?
My frustration with the discussion came for the fact I was being told my opinion was invalid for I failed to be empathetic to victims. When throughout, I recognized sexual assault and misogyny was always bad regardless of the source. My contention was the source of the greatest threat. Never did I brush “brogressives” as harmless. I implied just because someone identifies mostly with the left (or right for that matter), you can still not be to the left on certain issues. The “brogressive” put forth might share Bernie Sanders’ message of income inequality but that doesn’t mean he is to the left on women’s issues.
In my own life, I could relate to not sharing all the views on the left. For a long time, I was actually in favour of capital punishment. That is, until I was exposed to studies showing how the criminal justice system was often incredibly unfair. About 5% of death row inmates are found innocent and are exonerated. Mock trials featuring actors playing the exact same arguments showed juries are far more likely to condemn persons of colour than whites. Men are also far more likely to receive harsher punishments than women for the same crime. It is even more skewed if you are a black male.
False accusations of rape
The other two conversations related to sexual assault specifically. The common refrain I have read and thankfully rarely heard is of women who would falsely accuse men of rape to dismiss the topic. Now, I won’t go into detail how prevalent this is (mostly negligible). Rather, I would write about the problem behind this argument. Considering the amount of scrutiny and vitriol an alleged victim of rape receives in society, what is the motivation behind making a false accusation? Not to mention the severe ramifications if you are found to have been lying. Legit cases of rape or sexual assault have such a difficult time being prosecuted:
You need to have a serious hard-on of hate for the person if you were willing to drag yourself through all this. A good example is the Patrick Kane rape investigation. The charge was eventually dismissed but there were multiple reports of threats and harassment against the accuser and her family. Although to be fair, the mother had made some statements which did not help her nor her daughter’s credibility.
So far, I’ve just tackled harassment from strangers. What about the impacts to your relations within your social circle? Remember, you are more likely to be victimized by someone you know. Even revealing the identity of the perpetrator can lead to people figuring out who the victim was without much difficulty. This causes rifts in peer circles or families when the appropriate response would be to provide comfort to the alleged victim if sought after and distance from the alleged felon. Perhaps I’m too detached or rational to “get it”. I just fail to see why this has to be a complicated issue. Sadly, we don’t live in a perfect world and we have to deal with this situation by bringing awareness and not immediately victim-blaming.