Today I find myself in the frustrating position of having to urgently explain the term "rape culture" to two members of the mainstream media, in response to two isolated articles that desperately misunderstand 1_ the extent to which rape and sexual violence continue to prevail throughout the world at large, 2_ the ways that said sexual violence epidemic is normalized by the media today.
The first person I am calling out is a lady who calls herself Liberty Chick. Last week she penned a piece directly in response to my January 31 piece for the Phoenix regarding Occupy Boston's attempts to create safer spaces for women, LGBTQ folks, and victims of sexual violence in general. Hiding behind her pen name, LibChiqq wrote the piece for Andrew Breitbart's website "Big Government."
LibChiqq basically cut and pasted my whole piece into their super right-wing content farm and then tried to re-contextualize my writing to point out the ways in which Occupy is at fault for being a breeding ground for rapists and misogynists. She then uses my words as a means to discredit the movement as a whole.
Occupy communities need to develop better ways to deal with sexual offenders and create safe spaces. We know that. As I wrote in my piece -- its one of the biggest issues the Occupy movement is dealing with now.
But why are "safe spaces" becoming a huge conversation for Occupy? It's not -- as Brietbart's right-wing propogandists would have you believe -- because Occupy camps are turning out particularly douchey characters. Rape, sexual violence, and misogyny are becoming critical, definitive issues of the Occupy movement because rape, sexual violence, and misogyny are critical, definitive issues of the world we live in, Lady Liberty.
"[It's] the culture of misogyny that prevails in
our society at large," Occupy Boston Women's Caucus member Ariadne Ross told me for that story, in one of the few pieces of the article that BigGovernment failed to quote. "Like it or not, we're a microcosm of
The mainstream media rarely recognizes this -- only now, when it can be used to take down a powerful radical social movement. Why does the mainstream media rarely recognize discuss issues of rape and
sexual violence? Because of the "rape culture" that we
live in. Rape culture: a culture in which rape and
sexual violence are not only common, but in which the mainstream media normalizes it through
trivalizing rape, objectification, and victim blaming. (Further reading: "Defining a rape culture" via Sparkle All Day.)
Occupy camps, by embracing direct democracy and welcoming all, were/are microcosmic villages where the structures of the society and culture that we live in existed. With that, Occupy encampments did not only bring very-real issues of economic injustices into a spotlight. They also exposed other systems of oppression: sexism, racism, homophobia. Occupy questions everything about our world's cultural fabric and thus, even age-old issues of sexism and rape culture were put under a microscope.
To say getting
rid of Occupy camps would solve any of these problems is to ignore these
issues entirely; just like beating up protestors and throwing away
their encampments did not solve the problems of economic
After reading this article earlier this afternoon, I was perusing the Internet in a fit of feminist rage when I stumbled upon an article a friend emailed me: "The Barstool podium," published last Sunday by Joanna Weiss for the Boston Globe. It was an article discussing Knockout Barstool -- a campaign protesting bro-y Boston-based 'humor website' Barstool, a party it had planned at Northeastern, and its promotion of rape culture.In her piece, Weiss does not take a stance distinctly against or in-favor of Barstool. Instead, she vaguely agrees with the messages of Knockout Barstool while also defending Barstool. This is the kind of half-assed equivocation that passes in the mainstream media for fairness -- and that the rest of us can recognize as moral cowardice. It's amazing that some of Weiss's column made it past the Globe editorial board. She actually compares Portnoy's jokes about raping passed-out women to Chris Rock making jokes about race -- as rabid, misogynist fratboys had suddenly become an oppressed minority.
According to Weiss, "declaring a subject off limits for jokes doesn’t quite get to the heart of the problem." She wrote that Barstool readers "understand that the jokes they can type into comment boxes . . . have
little to do with what they’d say to an actual woman in real life."
(Don't worry, ladies of Knockout Barstool: the Globe says even though Barstool is offensive, its readers would never be rude to you IRL! Joanna Weiss guarantees it!)
It seems that before attempting to write an article about a campaign
against rape culture, Weiss did not educate herself on the definition of
"rape culture" at all.
Weiss also defends Barstool by pointing out that its founder showed up at the Knockout Barstool rally, and didn't even make any rape jokes! "Portnoy showed up, intending to take the microphone himself and offer a half-satirical, half-serious response," says Weiss. "But then he saw that women were sharing real, painful stories about sexual assault. So instead, he stayed silent, and watched."
Staying silent about rape culture doesn't help anyone, y'all.
Yes, sexism and misogyny exist within Occupy. But unlike the rest of the world, Occupy communities are acknowledging it and people are speaking out to address it -- as frustrating and complex as that conversation may be; as much as that conversation may make the movement seem vulnerable, its a critical conversation to have, and the fact that the Occupy movement seems to be making 'safe spaces' a priority is promising.
Don't expect the mainstream media to understand that anytime soon though. Or to understand the term "rape culture" at all. Or how they're perpetuating it.