Yesterday, we talked about Lena Dunham. And, believe me, I am very much done talking about her and would love to never talk about her again, but in six months she’ll probably talk out of her ass again, so we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. That said, I want to talk about one aspect of the latest Lena mess that goes far beyond her.
In a society where disbelieving victims is the norm, only very recently—as in the last few months—have we seen a real push to change this narrative, to eliminate the default idea of the lying woman and the poor man accused of a heinous crime he simply could not have done, or if he did do, she must have been asking for it, or if he did do it and she was passed out in the street, he’s still a nice boy who deserves a future even though he ripped hers out from between her legs and destroyed it forever. The shift is slow and small, but it’s happening. Monsters are being seen as monsters. These evil humans, who have gotten off on ruining lives for decades, are finally facing some kind of consequence.
But I’m going to let you in on a secret: it’s not just the cut-and-dried monsters out there doing this. People can be terrible and nice. At the same time.
And that’s where Dunham and Jenni Konner come in. Because their friend was accused of rape. They like their friend. Their friend is good to them. Their friend has never, would never hurt them. He’s a good man. He couldn’t have done this. So she must be lying.
Lena Dunham is a wretched pińata of moronicisms. But she’s by no means alone in this line of thinking.
For some, the problem is rooted in toxic masculinity and entitlement to women’s bodies, and how seeped into our culture they are to the point where we accept up to a certain level of this as completely normal. Just “boys being boys.” When we hear about the massive list of things Harvey Weinstein did, most sensible humans possessing basic empathy know that it’s terrible. Because his crimes are clear cut. But as people’s notions of consent and what constitutes acceptable interactions with other people are challenged, this is where a sense of denial and confusion seems to be kicking in for a lot of men. Unwanted touching, sexually charged “jokes” and comments, even instances of coerced or nonconsensual sexual encounters, there are those who genuinely believe they did nothing wrong because they have always thought of this stuff as OK, because this is what they grew up around, saw on TV and in movies, and never thought to themselves “this isn’t OK.” They are only now having to face that they may have done terrible things to people, and when confronted with the idea you might not be a good person, people go on the defensive. They diminish, they minimize, either knowingly or genuinely believing what they did wasn’t that bad. And their friends, because they love them, believe them. Because no one wants to believe someone they trust could do this kind of thing.
And then there’s just your standard sociopaths. People who pretend to be good and kind but aren’t. They’re manipulative, and they’re good at it. And their friends, because they love them and because they’ve been conditioned by this person, believe them. Because no one wants to believe someone they trust could do this kind of thing.
People are capable of kindness and warmth and capable of committing unspeakable acts. Your mileage may vary on how much you’re willing to forgive and ignore. But when all else fails, listen to the victims and try believing.
Header via feministmemes.tumblr.com.