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We've Come So Far with So Far to Go: Womanity's No Good, Very Bad Week

By Courtney Enlow | Think Pieces | June 8, 2013 | Comments ()


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Jezebel's Lindy West had a really rough week and most of the internet missed the point entirely.

If you've missed this whole thing, start here. West appeared on FX's "Totally Biased" where she and Jim Norton debated comedy's role in rape culture, a debate which has been going on across the internet since Daniel Tosh's heckler rape-cident last year. Norton is of the belief that comedy should have no boundaries, no rules, with nothing off-limits. West is of the belief that this attitude has contributed to the youthful ignorance of rape's abhorrence, seen most extremely as of late in the Steubenville case.

Some people online did not agree with West. And they responded as only "some people of the internet" can. By threatening her and calling her fat and ugly, too fat and ugly to be raped, in fact.

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Ah, rape. The cross to bear of only hot people.

This small selection, from West's original piece on Jezebel, is just a fraction of the comments she's received. I urge you all to watch the full video. Warning: your hearts will break and you will lose faith in society, if you had any to begin with. But, at the very least, it lead to a discussion.

Unfortunately, it was the wrong discussion. One we've already goddamn had, and one which is about as effective as running in circles while attempting to properly use a Skip-It.

See, rather that a thoughtful discussion about the treatment of women on the internet, its default responses of violence and degradation, we went back to the "is rape funny?" well.

And if you're keen to partake in that argument, you're going to grow old waiting for any sort of outcome, whatever side you fall on.

Here's where I actually differ from many of my fellow Pajiba writers, and I say this as a woman, as a feminist, as someone with some skin in this game: I actually tend to agree with Norton and the other comedians who sided with Tosh. I don't believe something as subjective as comedy can be dictated with rules and regulations and what is okay versus what isn't okay and what's within the bounds of good taste and what isn't. It's all okay or none of it is, and it falls to us, the viewers, to determine for ourselves what we will allow into our eyes or ears by where we put our hard-earned money. Yeah, I think some jokes about rape are reprehensible (but not all, and even Lindy West would agree) but I think assigning a right way and wrong way upon any creative medium is a dangerously slippery slope, because if I had any say in the matter, Chelsea Handler wouldn't have a show, because she offends me with her shittiness.

But that's not the point here. And it shouldn't have been. The point here is that if another man had made the same argument West made, and many men have, that the responses would not have immediately delved into comments focused on appearance and threats of bodily harm, or combining the two into some sick notion that a person can be too ugly or fat to be violently attacked. And that is the issue we should be discussing. We need to get to the bottom of "rape culture" and sexism's internet prevalence.

No one should be spoken to or about the way West has been in the past week. No one. And people have acted as though all that matters is her opinion and whether or not they agree with it. As though, one might infer, that having an opinion that person disagreed with meant that she was asking for it.

We can argue for days about whether or not rape can or should be joked about, whether or not it is more or less unspeakable than infanticide or hate crimes or pedophilia or any other type of horrific act. But let the conversation be bigger than that. Don't just ask if rape can be funny. Ask why a woman's body is the go-to target for the majority of internet conversation and criticism. Ask why that body is the go-to cause for a complete dismissal of opinion and violence is the go-to threat when a woman is deemed "wrong" on the internet.

That's the conversation we should be having. And it's got nothing to do with Daniel Tosh.




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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • BWeaves

    Is rape funny? Is blackface funny? I think with any joke, there is a line that should not be crossed. On the one hand, is it funny if it gets laughs? On the other hand, there are certain people who will find it funny and others who will be appalled. The line, unfortunately, is in different places for different audiences.

    However, insulting or threatening someone on the internet is bullying. Being anonymous increases the insults because the bully feels they have power. Bullies must be tracked down and exposed. Bullying must be stopped.

  • Gunnut2600

    I cannot believe that people are talking this seriously. This entire thing is completely manufactured. Its fake controversy. Lindy West INTENTIONALLY trolled the trolls. Now we are supposed to act all surprised that random morons on the internet are random morons on the internet.

    Jezebel is feminism for people with head injuries. The fact she even writes for that site and then claims she is a feminist is enough to disregard her views.

  • GuroMotel

    Rape is horrible, horrifying, and inhuman. But jokes about rape can indeed be funny. Like other atrocities, murder, torture, and sexual deviance can be very funny if treated in a cartoonish manner. Also, the comedian delivering the joke has an effect on the public's perception - Louis C.K. routinely makes rape jokes and is almost universally adored, but Daniel Tosh made a single one (probaby, I must admit I'm not a fan of Tosh) practically destroyed his career. Perhaps that comes down to whether or not one can actually imagine the comedian in question committing a sex crime. Anyway, there are undoubtedly many factors, but I think we can all agree, nothing about those tweets directed at Lindy West was anything but incredibly sad.

  • BierceAmbrose

    There are a great many people in the world not worth listening to at all. So don't. It's attention they want, or rather relevance, for which attention serves as substitute.

    Don't feed the trolls also applies to whole cultures. That and don't make them welcome in your own living room.

  • Maddy

    This is awful - and people go on about how misogyny is a myth and there's no need for feminism? Just because you disagree with someone gives you absolutely no right to personally attack and belittle them. Also - this whole idea that only 'attractive' women get raped, and the inference that they probably secretly enjoy it is completely fucked and JUST NO

  • Ringo183

    Wow! Quite a bit of hate being directed towards Lindy West in those Twitter comments. Don't worry Lindy, a lot of people show the true colors while hiding behind the anonymity that the internet provides. Keep your head up; not all people act this way! I personally know plenty of people that would rape you :P

  • F'mal DeHyde

    When did "fat" become the favorite insult of the mentally challenged? She's an attractive woman but all these knuckle draggers can see is that she's not skinny.

  • Michelle Belden

    I think "fat" is one of those words that's lost any specific meaning and is just meant more as a blunt weapon, along the lines of "freedom" or "democracy." True story, in high school I weighed about 85 pounds and dudes would still resort to calling me fat when they were mad at me. Although that did serve to end any argument, since I could not stop laughing. Probably women could be well served by seeing any words such as "fat" "ugly" and "slut" to simply mean "dear god you terrify me."

    P.S. love your avatar

  • NateMan

    There's so many comments in this thread I doubt many will see this, but Bell did a great response to the misogynistic backlash against West here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?f...

  • Justin Hess

    You're right. If it was a man who had said that, then the responses would be different. They'd resort to calling him a 'fag' or that he's gay or he should come out the closet.

    Because the wit on the internet knows no bounds...

  • Sara S.

    Who says stuff like that online? Knowing ANYONE can see the cruel words they post? We must be in a bad place if we, as a culture, feel comfortable enough telling a random stranger that they're "fat and not even worth rape". Geez, faith in humanity lost for today.

  • googergieger

    Yeah it's not like guys arguing what this girl was arguing would be called fags or be threatened with rape, or be told they were probably raped, or any such thing either...

    Internet is full of people wanting to say things they think are shocking. With nothing beyond that. If you focus on that and that alone, well, you're probably going to just find the negative in everything.

    Way to take a "stand" that might as well be a page long essay that can be summed up with "racism is wrong". Should someone be threatened ever? No. It happens on the internet. Ignore it and move on, or do whatever else you want to do. Free country and all that shit. Especially on the interwebs.

  • And I'm sure in 1855 you would have said this: "Should someone be enslaved ever? No. It happens in the US South. Ignore it and move on." No?

    I'm not equating rape and slavery, though we can agree that both are fucking evil, right? I'm just pointing out that ignoring a societal problem, no matter if it's localized in a certain place, won't do anything to actually fix that problem. Acting above it won't change anyone or anything. We're becoming a global society because of the Internet. Very soon, perhaps within our lifetimes but maybe not for several more generations, society will *be* the Internet. Do we really want to eCommute into work and still have to deal with this, again, fucking evil bullshit?

  • googergieger

    No.

    See sport, I said this lady said something no one will argue against. Safe statement. I.E. "Racism is wrong".

    Suffice to say, much like in real life you and others are purposely choosing to focus on the negative, and then act indignant when someone tells you to stop if it's such a problem.

  • Michelle Belden

    Do you seriously think no one will argue against the statement "racism is wrong?" What internet do you visit?

  • googergieger

    Miss the point some more, knob.

  • Michelle Belden

    Are you trying to bait me by calling me "knob"? Because I think it's pretty cute.

  • googergieger

    Nope. You just clearly missed the point. As a knob would. Ugh. Barely found out about the internet I see? I'm too ill to give you the tour. Will tell you this though. Learn what bait means. And in general don't reply to things you clearly don't understand. You're welcome.

  • Michelle Belden

    Adorable!

  • What's the positive in this situation, again?

    Positive things are written here all the time about the Internet, despite the bitchy/snarky identity. Did you see that George RR Martin video from "Conan?" Delightful!

    You're choosing to ignore a problem because it bothers you. Except, apparently, the problem of people reacting to things you don't think they should react to merits your engagement. But, yeah, ignoring problems can be good in life, generally, when you can't do anything about it. But this is societal and society can be changed, over time, by constant and persistent advocacy.

    It's all about bending that arc of history, man. It doesn't bend itself.

  • googergieger

    Are you serious with this shit? Or are you too cherry picking to fight such a safe fucking point? People attacked someone on twitter? Did people defend her on there? I'm sure they did. Someone post up those tweets. She should do it! No wait, why would they? That wouldn't be a story a bunch of fauxhipster white people problem having mofos could flock to and pat themselves on the back over.

    Know how society can be changed? Beyond actively doing something about it. And I do mean active. Be a good person. Take notice of other good people. Be good people together. Ignore the negative people. Hope enough people follow suit.

    Fucking kidding me with this. People are bad mouthing a lady incredibly aggressive on the internet! This is a problem because it only happens with women? Except it doesn't. People troll the hell out of everyone online. Especially when it's a group that can do the trolling together. But yeah up voting an article and comment that says you shouldn't threaten women online(that are the only group threatened and it's okay apparently) sure going to change society!

  • Of course there's other shit like this on the Internet, but this conversation is about Lindy West and the attacks she's faced on Twitter. Acting above it all doesn't help, and making your initial comment means you aren't ignoring anything. If you really don't want to engage, don't engage.

  • googergieger

    "The point here is that if another man had made the same argument West
    made, and many men have, that the responses would not have immediately
    delved into comments focused on appearance and threats of bodily harm,
    or combining the two into some sick notion that a person can be too ugly
    or fat to be violently attacked. And that is the issue we should be
    discussing."

    As to the other bit...

    "You care enough to say you don't care!"

    So I care enough to talk? Da eff kind of rere logic is that?

  • Sometimes I think we speak different languages, and I'm not even talking about the last line.

  • googergieger

    Apparently I'm enlightened. So that might have something to do with it. Glad you understand what the conversation is about now though.

  • Michelle Belden

    Seriously? "You guys just shouldn't engage with people who disagree with you and I'm going to keep engaging with you on this disagreement until you see my point." Seriously? But wait, seriously?

  • googergieger

    No. Not even close to it.

    *tips hat*

    Knob.

  • Jack Tors

    Lindy raises ire on the regular. I was a fan of hers until she went out of her way to defend the teen mom/porn actress. Pick your battles kid

  • Arran

    One thing that really frustrates me whenever this comes up is that, aside from the more extreme fringes, both "sides" are mostly in agreement. West, and other prominent voices, have repeatedly said that they DON'T think jokes based around rape are inherently bad/destructive, but that some are, and they want to call out examples of the latter and say why they think those particular examples are emblematic of a larger problem. (What I did appreciate from the Lindy West/Jim Norton chat is that Norton really DID understand that they were mostly in agreement, he just disagrees that such jokes are harmful in a larger sense.)

    But it always gets painted as "comedians versus feminists", with tutting ladies (and emasculated men) telling the poor, embattled comedians what they can and can't say. Blergh.

  • foolsage

    Hrm. I think you're misrepresenting the situation there, albeit not with malice.

    The two sides in this issue are NOT enlightened comics who want to use humor to explore human nature on one side, and enlightened feminists who want to help reduce the prevalence of bigotry on the other side. Instead, West and Norton are really just part of the same side of the discussion; the other side are the dudebros who post "Make me a sandwich bitch" and think they're really putting women in their place. And, almost as bad, the guys who are friends with said dudebros, who passively support the effluvial and malodorous tide of sexism coming out of their friends' mouths. Or the women who blame the victim. I could go on but it's depressing.

    There is a real problem with rape culture. It's hard to spot. It's insidious. Most people who support rape culture don't do so consciously, or even know what rape culture is. It's the kids in Steubenville who did such hateful things to that poor girl, and their parents, who taught them that "some women deserve to be raped" or "some women deserve to be pissed on" or whatever other hateful and dehumanizing thing they come up with.

    Rape culture doesn't have a lot of champions or defenders, at least not openly. But THAT'S the other side of this issue; the people who propagate these ideas. You're entirely right that there isn't a huge gap between enlightened comedians and feminists; they're not the opposing sides here.

  • Arran

    I agree with you totally, which was kind of my point—it gets depicted as one thing, a binary thing, when the problem is something else entirely (which is what you're talking about). And the real problem is not the one that ends up getting talked about most of the time. People who are "against rape jokes" (quotes because they're not actually against them as a rule) are usually TRYING to talk about the larger problem and how sometimes "jokes" can contribute to that, but it gets dismissed as "political correctness" or being somehow anti-comedy.

    I'm probably not explaining myself very well! Honestly, 90% of what Lindy West says on the topic pretty much sums up my own viewpoint.

  • foolsage

    Ah, ok, I see where you're coming from. You explained yourself well. It's the topic that's at fault, for being so complex. ;)

    For my own part, I don't like humor (or for that matter speech in general) that's actually hurtful. I'm fine with mocking people's faults, but not fine with mocking people, if that makes sense. Rape jokes can in theory be ok, but in general, if you want to discuss bigotry, you need to approach the topic with a certain amount of enlightenment, or you're part of the problem.

  • Carrie

    When I expressed concern about moving to an area with a higher crime (including rape) rate, a female acquaintance angrily blurted out "what makes you think someone would want to rape you?". I don't know whether she was implying that I'm ugly, vain, or neurotic, (I was too dumbstruck to ask her) but it struck me as one of the most asinine things anyone as ever said to me. So yeah, women also make these kinds of comments to other women -- and not just on Twitter.

  • MarTeaNi

    About 9 months ago I was sexually assaulted while biking home from a friend's good-bye party. I was only a block from my apartment so I raced home and immediately called the police, who dispatched a female officer to take my statement and they sent a car around to try and find the guy. She immediately blamed me, saying "this is why you should never wear headphones on a bike, you need to pay attention to what goes on around you" and then finally took my statement after telling me even if I filled out a complaint, "we're never going to find this guy."

    I was not wearing headphones, and I knew there was another cyclist behind me, I just didn't expect him to kick my bike out from under me at a red light and shove his arm under my dress. Worse is that because under the dress I had bike shorts, I was told it "didn't really count as sexual assault."

  • Gen

    That is awful - "didn't really count" UGH. I am so sorry.

  • Jo 'Mama' Besser

    I'm so, so sorry to hear that you've endured that. Shit, it's--I was going to say criminal but evidently isn't.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    I hope you made a face to express your amazement at her stupidity and insensitivity. I doubt I would have been able to help myself.

  • e jerry powell

    The underlying notion that rape is actually about sex rather than rape being about claiming some kind of power differential, rightly or wrongly, is the point SPotI (and, indeed, the culture at large) seem to be missing. The fact that any person is subjectively unattractive has never stopped that person from being subjected to violent sexual abuse (even from members of their own families). It's not as though a rapist needs to see the potential target as attractive at all, just as an target to be acquired.

  • DominaNefret

    I have this really terrible habit of reading all of the comments on the Washington Post articles I read. The article about the boy scouts decision to allow openly gay members was a land mine of ludicrous comments. The bigots were out in droves for that one, and one of the most common comments was the implication that allowing gays would exponentially increase their child's chances of getting raped on camping trips. Because, if a boy is attracted to other boys, and is sleeping in the same place as a bunch of boys, obviously that is going to be too tempting and he will rape someone. These comments were so pervasive that I didn't have the energy to go through and reply to each ".....I think you lack a fundamental understanding of rape. It isn't about sex, it is about power. Men are more likely to be raped by straight men than gay men. And you are deceiving yourself if you honestly believe there haven't always been gays in the boy scouts."

  • Slash

    Anonymous people on the internet wrote appalling things that insulted women, overweight people AND rape victims? Get the fuck outta here.

    They're usually so reasonable and intelligent.

  • I'm just as stunned by this behavior as I was by how Anita Sarkeesian was treated when she announced her Tropes v. Women in Video Games series. If someone points out a problem, you're not doing yourself any favors by standing up and loudly blaring that you're totally part of the problem you're saying doesn't exist.

  • Melissa D

    You continue to make eloquent, important contributions to this failing of society. Thank you for sharing your voice in this way.

  • Marc Greene

    I do have a question, but the answer will not make me feel better about humanity either way: is there any way to know if all of the pieces of shit blasting her on Twitter are all men? I've heard women say stuff fairly in line with the messed up think expressed in those tweets.

  • NateMan

    I can't bring myself to scroll through all of it to find out, but I very much doubt it. There are a whooooooole lot of female supporters of rape culture out there. Especially if they have a 'Oh, my friend was accused of rape this one time and he totally didn't do it cuz he was drunk too' story to go along with it.

    Note: I HAVE known people accused of violence against women who really didn't do it, so I know it exists. I've just known a lot more women who really were raped or abused. Both of which are very sad.

  • A woman wrote the article slut shaming Kate Winslet today, too. Men certainly aren't the only perpetrators of woman bashing.

  • stryker1121

    After the Steubenville case, two girls were arrested for tweeting threats at the victim. Just a complete lack of empathy and that can come from either sex.

  • JeanRalphioSaperstein

    You know what is never OK and never funny and super lazy? Pointing to someone and saying "you should be raped." This isn't debatable.

  • foolsage

    Agreed. I don't think there's any clearer indication that you're part of the rape culture problem than saying something like that.

  • Rochelle

    Comedy should be allowed to roast sacred cows, but just because a comedian says words on a stage it doesn't make them comedy. Tosh's "joke" about the rape of a specific woman wasn't a joke, it was a threat in joke clothing.

  • alwaysanswerb

    This is an important point. It's hard to draw any kind of line because humor is so subjective, but we should really stop accepting inflammatory rhetoric as comedy just because it's "shocking." Eliciting gasps -- and even surprised or nervous laughter -- does not a punchline make.

  • toblerone

    "We've Come So Far With So Far to Go..."

    Yep, I clicked on Lindy's boobs to open this post.

  • AudioSuede

    Fantastic essay and an important discussion. I'm with you; it's not that there is no accountability in the comedy community, but the real issue isn't the prevalence of rape jokes but the contingency of creeps who don't see rape as the horror that it is. It's one thing to make a joke that shocks our sensibilities, but if someone tells a shocking joke and not only are you NOT shocked but you're CHEERING, you have some sort of mental disorder or need to be educated in the awful treatment of too many women in our society.

    Being jolted into laughter by a controversial topic can be good. Thinking that someone is advocating for you because they make an offensive joke is not.

  • DarthCorleone

    Well done, Courtney.

    Nothing to add to the conversation from me beyond what has already been said.

    I did have to look up a "Skip-It."

  • PaddyDog

    I completely agree with everything you've written Courtney, which is why I die a little inside every time this site covers a story related to Honey Boo-Boo and almost everyone starts piling on about the mother's weight. It's not okay to do it when the target isn't as "acceptable" as Lindy West.

  • Bodhi

    Yes. This. A hundred times, this

  • Uriah_Creep

    This is so true. We Pajibans are not so unlike the Internet-at-large as we would like to think. We have impossibly high standards for beauty, and even when we claim that it's for yuks, the Sarah Jessica Parker horse jokes and such are so tired and unnecessary. No wonder our young girls are increasingly growing up with feelings of utter inadequacy.

  • DeltaJuliet

    Kind of related, but not really, a woman was sexually assaulted the other day, in broad daylight, in her car, after coming back from a run. This happened about 20 minutes away from where I work. My 74 year old male co-workers response? "Well, why did she leave her car unlocked?" I wanted to weep. Thank God my 30 year old, also male, co-worker was incredulous at the stupid statement and came back with "Oh, so she should be RAPED because she left her car unlocked?? Let's not blame the victim here". But we do. Every. Single.Day.

    I just want to weep for society.

  • Melissa D

    At the shopping complex I worked at, a woman was sitting in her car outside work when some guy dragged her from her car. She got away, thankfully, but my 29 year old co-worker, a woman, replied "well, she should have had her car locked in the first place." I wish victim blaming bullshit was generational, but sadly it's not.

  • foolsage

    A small amount of the rape culture is generational, I'd argue, but not enough to make progress as quickly as we'd like. There are idiots in every generation, but it's a lot harder to transcend bigotry if everyone you know embraces it. Most of America's real progress in combatting sexism has happened in the last 50 years, so people over 50 were likely to have been raised in a culture that embraced bigotry in ways our modern culture thankfully doesn't.

    I think one factor that's easy to overlook is how readily people can share their opinions now, via social media. That allows people to anonymously express views that they'd be reluctant to admit to in public, face to face. To the extent that this is true, it means that, even if our society is slowly becoming less bigoted, people feel more comfortable expressing hateful ideas now over the internet than they ever did in person or over the phone.

    Which is to say, I think we're progressing, slowly, but the internet doesn't always help.

  • Fredo

    Victim-blaming is part of our American mindset. It comes from that olde Puritanical/extreme Calvinist way of thinking that portrayed good things happening to you as blessings for your good character and bad things as proof of poor character/sinful behavior/innate evil.

    It happens during disasters ("Why do people choose to live there?!") or bad events (like the example you gave above). We have this need to demand order and if that order requires us to blame the person who suffers, then so be it.

  • Bodhi

    I live in Oklahoma & have gotten the former about a billion times in the past week or so. Personally, I don't really like living here, but this is where my husband's school & subsequent career is, so this is where we live right now. And I will dive into the closet & throw a mattress over the kid & dogs at the mere hint of a tornado

  • Completely off-topic, but where in Oklahoma?

  • Bodhi

    Broken Arrow, outside of Tulsa. We're generally out of the path of tornadoes, but we had a close on last week

  • I ask because I'm in Oklahoma City. There don't seem to be many of us Okies around these parts. I'm glad to hear you dodged that bullet, too.

  • Bodhi

    Right back attcha. I'm a transplant from coastal SC & I am not remotely used tornadoes. My local friends laugh at me, but tornadoes scare the fuck out of me

  • Michelle Belden

    I can't imagine not being terrified of tornadoes. I have never lived anywhere near Tornado Alley and I still have periodic nightmares about them.

  • pajiba

    (Totally off topic, but hey: That happened 10 minutes from where I live. We're neighbors! Also holy shit, that was terrifying. All the times I told my wife that she didn't need to lock her car because we live in Maine, for God's sake, were rendered completely null.)

  • Michelle Belden

    Wait, what? Where the hell in Maine was this?

  • DeltaJuliet

    It was in Portland. The parking lot at Back Cove.

  • Michelle Belden

    I'm about 45 minutes away, in a more rural area. I'm not sure if that should make me feel more or less safe, but I am disappointed to hear about this because Maine feels so much safer than anywhere else I have lived.

  • DeltaJuliet

    (In regards to the neighbor aspect only: That's cool!! I had no idea!)

    It's very scary. And as a runner myself, who always enjoyed running on the eastern trail, I am purchasing some pepper spray this weekend to bring along with me from now on. It's sad really, but I'd rather be prepared than not.

  • $2786243

    I'm a runner too, and every time I go out I write down what I'm wearing, tell somebody what time I'm going to be back, don't run trails by myself, and carry my keys so I can make my fist into an eyeball-gouging weapon. I wish I could say I was being hysterical, but then I remember the carload of good ol' boys driving up beside me on a run and following me slowly while leering at me the whole way.

    Rape culture: yep, it's a thing.

  • DeltaJuliet

    And I have no doubt they thought you should have been flattered by the attention, too. I guess maybe it's my age showing here but I don't find those kinds of behaviors to be "compliments".

  • $2786243

    Sadly, I think they meant to scare the shit out of me. And it worked.

    I hope you never need that pepper spray.

  • Rochelle

    I've had that happen to me. It was really scary.

  • $2786243

    Ugh. I'm sorry.

  • mswas

    Don't weep! There's some semblance of humanity, in your younger coworker.

  • NateMan

    At this, as with pretty much all larger schools, we have a Dean of Students office that handles the administrative side of judicial cases. Someone sets their room on fire, underage drinking, etc. They also handle the administrative (as opposed to criminal) side of sexual assault cases. Making sure the perpetrator is removed from campus, isn't in the same area or classes as the survivor, that sort of thing.

    The woman who used to be in charge of it before I came to this side of things was notorious for blaming survivors, in private if not during the hearings. "What was she wearing? Why did she drink that much?" That sort of thing. As in your example, she was an older woman - though not 74 - and it was apparent in some of the things she said.

    The school does a much better job at dealing with these cases now, though as with every process, nothing is perfect. I bring it up only as a reminder that it's not just men who react this way, and that age is in many instances a significant factor when something appalling like this gets said. Sadly, it's not always the case. If it was at least we could hope it'd get better when they all die off.

  • Bodhi

    There has been a string of assaults in the college town I am from & former co-worker & I were discussing them during a lull in a department meeting. Our immediate boss & the dean (both older women) started in on "Well, those girls shouldn't be out that late. What were they doing walking around campus at 1am?", etc. My co-worker & I both FLIPPED out. I went to that college, I walked around on campus late at night (Hello, the library is open 24/7 during exams), & I was never assaulted. And I was lucky as hell. I think our ferocity took them aback, but I don't think it changed their minds.

    This is mean, but I hope that way of thinking is dieing out

  • greenblue

    One of the things that I find most frustrating and sad about these types of events is that people are made to feel like they can't have their own opinion because they'll be attacked for it. That's what is supposed to be great about America is that we can do what we want. We're slowly turning into a community that 'does what they want' but is too afraid to talk about it because trolls will attack you.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Ironic that you should say such a thing about a conversation based on the "rules" of humor.

  • John G.

    complaining that rape culture is not a thing while you're telling someone that you hope they get raped really undermines your argument.

  • This may be a bit tangential, so please be patient.

    One day (I'm not sure how), I fell down the well of zit popping videos on YouTube. (Yes, such things really exist. I'm scarred for life.) These two Ed Hardy wannabes had wandered into an ER to get the rather large cyst on one of their legs treated/removed. When the doctor enters, their jaws dropped noticeably. She was gorgeous, and looked to be of similar age. Think somewhere between Cobie Smulders and ScarJo.

    She introduces herself and starts to treat the guy's leg. As soon as they've recovered from their apparent shock, they immediately start making derogatory comments about her. "Who'd you sleep with to become a doctor?" and about 20 variations thereof followed, along with just as many rather crude and vulgar attempts to hit on her. Like she couldn't be a competent or effective doctor because she was beautiful. Or intelligent. Or confident. Or empathetic.

    What the hell? Didn't these dimwits realize that they were verbally and/or emotionally abusing a highly trained medical professional that was helping them out? They'd never have done that to a good looking male doctor. Fortunately for the doctor, it didn't seem to bother her any, but do you know what bothered me the most about the whole incident? She didn't call them out on their shit, so they'll just keep up with that pattern of behavior.

    I guess what I'm trying to get at, Courtney, is that I agree with you. Our nation is having the wrong conversation. And, unfortunately, too many of us are following the wrong role models.

  • Gen

    I agree with the spirit of your post, but I'm struck that even in a story that describes assholes, the victim is the one who bothered you the most, and the one who you assign the responsibility for changing the assholes' behavior.

    This whole thread reminds me of the "Assault Prevention Tips: #10 DON'T ASSAULT PEOPLE" http://i.imgur.com/Jqy7H.jpg

  • See, I hadn't even considered it from that angle. I was just aggravated that someone who appeared to be unfazed by that behavior didn't do anything to keep it from happening to someone else. It didn't occur to me to think of her as a victim. Sigh. I guess that makes me as much an asshole as the two dudes. See? Conversation needed.

  • Annie Lockyer

    When beautiful women critique the behavior of the dudebros hitting on them, it's very easy to cast their perfectly valid complaints as "beautiful woman complaining about being beautiful" instead of "beautiful woman setting and enforcing boundaries."

  • foolsage

    Agreed. I don't think it's easy as the target of bigotry to challenge the people targeting you. Most of us just want to get past the situation so won't speak up in the moment. I think that's especially true of women, and even moreso when being targeted by multiple large young males, who can be physically intimidating.

  • Jensicola

    What I find so bizarre about this whole thing regarding the 'humor' of rape is comparing it to how we deal with the 'humor' of racism. When our formerly dear friend Kramer (Michael Richards) went apeshit and started calling specific hecklers racial slurs we collectively (and appropriately) lost our shit and he was subsequently ostracized; when Daniel Tosh joked that it would be funny if a specific woman in the audience was gang raped, we had to debate it, and folks are still defending him. There are funny ways to talk about extremely not funny things (shit Louis CK does it ALL THE TIME and I adore him for it), however this one anecdote seems to prove beyond the pale that rape simply isn't seen as something to be taken seriously (while racism is), victim blaming is apparently appropriate, and we have some really fucked up views surrounding women, their bodies, sexuality, and what aggressors (generally male, though not always) have a 'right' to.

    BTW before anyone jumps down my throat, I fully comprehend that these are different issues, but both of them deal with the politics of power and involves a dominant group showing its dominance through degradation.

  • AudioSuede

    I would absolutely agree with you, to a point. There may be a double-standard here, and that's a topic worth exploring, but there is a clear distinction between these two events beyond just the topics. Richards was screaming the n-word at the top of his lungs in a way that had nothing to do with his comedy or what he'd been talking about or what the hecklers were saying, he was just being straight out racist without any sort of context. Tosh, while I wouldn't defend his joke as being appropriate, was riffing on both the joke he'd been in the middle of telling and on what the heckler had specifically shouted at him (she said "rape is never funny" and he responded with a rape joke).

    Again, it's all about context, and it's so impossible to make a hard-and-fast rule about comedy, but if there can be one it would be that context is everything. I think you're right that rape as a topic still gets more of a pass in our culture than racism does, and that needs to change, but in the two incidents you're citing, the contexts of the moments were so different that they're hard to compare directly.

  • Michelle Belden

    This goes with my (poorly made) point above - silently tolerating rape jokes, or perhaps giggling prettily at them, would be the more acceptably feminine thing to do - how dare we put our feelings about our own physical safety above the dudes' jollyfuntimes. Do that and all of civil society's protections are forfeit, ya fat shrew.

  • Fredo

    I'll avoid making the same points regarding comedy's limits.

    As to why the first response is to attack a woman's attractiveness, I would suggest because it's still the attitude of many in our society to equate a woman's worth to her physical characteristics. Much in the same way that many think a man's worth is equal to his ability to earn/provide.

    Is that everyone? No. But should it surprise us that people spouting the kind of abuse they're spitting is using thinking from the Jurassic Era? Or that they find refuge and like-minded Neanderthals in the open expenses of the Internet?

    The greater concern is that this kind of thinking is pervasive throughout American society. It'd be easy to just spin it as poor rednecks from the South or conceited frat boys from the Northeast or meatheads from the West Coast. But the fact is that it's all of them and so many others who think this way. Who think that women's value is determined solely by "how hot that bitch is" and whether or not "that skank gave it up" (If she does, she's a skank. If she doesn't, she's a bitch).

    To them, Jim Norton is a funny guy and Lindy West is every nagging, annoying, liberal bitch telling them not to laugh at their funny guy. (BTW, Jim Norton is a very funny, very intelligent man). Twitter becomes their bullhorn for spewing stupidity.

  • Michelle Belden

    I'd argue that while women's value is determined in a big way by perceived physical attractiveness, it is also determined by non-physical attractiveness, which is to say agreeableness. Dudes who would usually troll me by saying "ur hot lets fuck" will, when confronted with my feminism, troll me by saying "ur ugly id never fuck u." Which is, of course, preferable, since I'd rather fuck a cactus than a troll.

  • kirbyjay

    I think I will incorporate your incredible quote
    "I'd rather fuck a cactus than a troll"
    into my mottos for life, which include
    "never eat onions in social situations"
    and
    "never decorate with birds"
    Thank you!

  • Michelle Belden

    ha, you can have mine if i can have yours ;)

  • Fredo

    That's a good point. Bros want a hot chick who'll let them do what they will, agree to everything and never turn them down for sex.

  • NateMan

    It'd be spiny, but you'd probably get drooled on less.

  • NateMan

    I think you make a good point and there's something to it, but to me it's more of the fear factor. These people are afraid of an intelligent, dominant woman who's not afraid to call them on their shit. I've seen it happen a lot, where people (read: men) start dealing with a woman who behaves the same in some respect as a man, and they lose their minds. They're afraid of a woman's sexuality, afraid of a woman's intelligence, and afraid of the way it puts a spotlight on their own failings and insecurities.

    I've been reading Lindy since she was on the Stranger's staff (alternative Seattle paper that's the home of Dan Savage's blog) and sometimes she can be bitchy and judgemental and hyper-reactive, as we all can. But one thing she's never been is stupid. She's smart as hell. And that scares the everlovin' shit out of people who can't come up with a better insult than "UR FAT."

  • DehydrationStation

    I think you are unrealistic to expect Twitter (of all places) to be a source of reasoned, analytical discourse. If you are going to cherry-pick only the sour fruit, why not get the /b/tards on 4chan to weigh in on this important social issue?

  • Michelle Belden

    There's a helluva lotta ground between reasoned, analytical discourse and "die fat whore".

  • DehydrationStation

    I'm just saying, it is dishonest to refer ONLY to the Twitter trolls when there are actual intelligent discussions about this issue taking place (say, for one example, on Reddit: http://www.reddit.com/r/videos... ).

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