Friday, May 30, 2014

Hashtags and Fantasy Worlds

Before I launch into this rant, I want to make something absolutely crystal clear: There absolutely is a problem relating to what some feminists are calling "rape culture." There very clearly are people who have been hurt by systematic injustices in our society. This post in no way should be construed to be a denial of that.

No, today I am merely ranting about the response to that fact!

A while back I started reading up on this rape culture thing. I was gathering data to create a reasonably informed opinion on the subject so that I could then pontificate about it here on my blog and also, you know, just generally be a well informed human being. Alas I decided it was too complicated a subject for the time being and shifted my focus elsewhere.

Then last weekend happened, and the #YesAllWomen hashtag campaign happened. And then the internet got stupid and I got frustrated and now here we are!

So, for those of you who are just now hearing about "rape culture", here is the entirely inadequate 30 second rundown that you must absolutely go and investigate for yourselves before talking about this in public but which will hopefully be enough background for our purposes here. The basic idea is that our modern American culture is awash in violence against women. Common complaints are that men feel entitled to women's bodies. That women are in constant fear for their safety. That a woman's "no" isn't taken seriously and that police don't investigate crimes against women adequately. See this article to get a general idea.

There is, as I said in that first paragraph, some truth to this. Nor is it a complaint to be brushed aside. That being said, while I agree that the observation is valid the responses are downright ludicrous. Take for example:
What, exactly, is this saying? Is Ms. Bush saying that she should not be responsible for her own safety? That society owes her perfect safety? That crime should not be a thing that happens? Its a fantastic sentiment, and I wish we lived in a world where violence and crime did not exist. But we don't, and we never will. Everyone needs to be aware of their surroundings! Everyone needs to be prepared to defend themselves. Not just women! Ms. Bush is at least off to a good start, having learned the importance of situational awareness, but I'd suggest she get herself a handgun and learn how to use it. Or at least a stun gun or pepper spray.

More generally, this is one of the problems I have with hashtag activism related to rape culture, its users seem to be doing one of two things: complaining about things that are only questionably related to rape culture, or demanding solutions that would only work in a fantasy world. Take for example:
Again, this is a fantastic sentiment. I wish we lived in a world where education is all it took to make people saints. But we don't live in that world. What child isn't taught that murder is wrong? And yet people murder. It may very well be the case that in large swaths of America children are not being taught it is wrong to rape, but even assuming that, the proposed solution doesn't work!

In fact, I'd argue it doesn't go far enough. You can be damn well sure I'll teach my boys, should I be blessed with children some day, not to rape. Beyond that they will be taught to respect women and to actively defend them! And my daughters will be taught how to defend themselves, and to not settle for men who do not respect them. However, not every child will be raised in such a family. And you know what? Even if every single family in America did likewise... there would still be rapes and murders.

Because the heart of the problem is not one of education. Evil will always be with us, all we can do is chose how we respond to it in the individual instances where it rears its ugly head. You want to make women safer? Teach them the importance of situational awareness and self defense. Preferably with a gun. If he doesn't stop at "no" he'll probably stop at "parabellum."

In the interest of being explicitly clear, I am not victim blaming. My assertion is simple: you can't control what happens to you, you can only control your response to whatever situation you find yourself in. This is, admittedly, a rather unsatisfying thought, because it is not possible to prepare for every situation you may encounter. And some of those situations may have no happy outcome. Yet it is the world we live in.

If we want to build a just society, we need to have real, honest to God, deep and thoughtful conversations about the its flaws whenever we uncover them. As I said in the first paragraph, the rape culture theorists have uncovered some flaws, and they should be discussed. The problem is these same people are doing themselves a disservice when they move that discussion to twitter. Inevitably observation is replaced with anecdote, conversation with hashtag, discussion with group think, facts with generalizations. They create, in short, a fantasy world. Leaving behind the real world, along with the real problems that they've discovered.

I'd like to see this conversation brought back down to Earth, then maybe we could start solving some of these problems. I have some ideas concerning rape culture I'd like to discuss, but I am trying very hard to be careful here, so I will probably chew on them for a while. Regardless, this is unlikely to be the last time you read about rape culture here.

*Because this is a sensitive subject and because I really really really don't want my words misconstrued, I am only only only rejecting the response to rape culture. Not the concept itself!*

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