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They Are Not Trolls. They Are Men.

Oliver Rawlings

Oliver Rawlings

Trigger warning for discussion of the various types of abuse perpetrated by those humans known as “trolls” incuding rape and death threats and suicide.

Back in July, during Netroots Nation 2014, Zerlina Maxwell spoke on a panel about online harassment. I wasn’t there, but someone tweeted a quote that stayed with me:

“Don’t call them trolls. They’re assholes.”

I think this is important. By calling these people “trolls,” we are basically letting them off the hook. It’s a lot like the “boys will be boys” mentality that helps to keep rape culture thriving, but it’s also different, because boys are expected to be human. By calling these people “trolls,” we relegate them to non-human status, and we make it clear that we don’t expect them to live up to the same behavioral standards as human beings.

So, who are these assholes? Well, the subset of the population we refer to as “trolls” is mostly (almost exclusively, in my personal experience) made up of men who—for reasons that range from angry entitlement to I-don’t-know-what—make it their business to perpetrate harassment and abuse on targets who are mostly not men.

As a woman online, I’ve dealt with and watched others deal with all of these things and more:

Michael Brutsch

Michael Brutsch

Men who insist that we engage them because they disagree with something we’ve said.

Men who keep tweeting at us or commenting when we’ve asked them to stop.

Men who keep tweeting at us after we’ve told them in no uncertain terms we’re done and have blocked them.

Men who create sock-puppet accounts pretending to be women and use them to harass us, gaslight us, threaten us.

Sean Duffy

Sean Duffy

Men who haunt hashtags they disagree with so they can harass people who are not men who speak out about issues that matter to them.

Men who haunt hashtags about gender violence, sexual assault, and other painful topics and target the people there telling their stories.

Men who band together to create armies of sock-puppet accounts to harass us and discredit the work we do.

Men who reply to our stories of rape to tell us that it wasn’t rape. (And who are very likely defending their own behavior.)

Men who play devil’s advocate on issues that disproportionately affect people who are not men.

Men who chime into conversations about sexual & domestic violence to speculate on what the victim should have done differently.

Neil Law

Neil Law

Men who attack those of us dedicated to fighting for equality simply because we fight for equality.

Men who call us “feminazis” and “white knights” because we identify as feminists and talk about feminist issues.

Men who use racist and sexist and transphobic slurs to attack marginalized people, often for months on end, with no consequence.

Men who send us graphic photos of everything from sex acts to gaping wounds in order to punish us for talking back.

Men who tell us all we need is a good fucking to set us straight.

Wesley Meredith

Wesley Meredith

Men who tell us we should get raped.

Men who tell us they hope we kill ourselves.

Men who tell us how they hope we die.

And of course, all of this is in hopes that we will simply STFU, or better yet, cease to exist.

I think Zerlina’s right: we need to start calling them what they are. Assholes, yes. But also, men who choose to harass and abuse others online, sometimes to the point of driving their victims off the Internet, out of their homes, and even to suicide. So, when you talk about these men, consider using words that describe what they actually do and are, such as “abusive asshole.”

These men are human beings who treat others as less than human—who purposely cause pain and suffering and sometimes even death. It is time we stopped letting them off the hook.


PSA: Trolls Abusive assholes who comment here will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)

The Time My “Friend” Sexually Assaulted Me

Bureau of Justice Statistics

Bureau of Justice Statistics

Trigger warning for discussion of rape and sexual assault.

I met A in the early 1990s at a science fiction convention. I’d seen him around and…damn. The man was fine. When we finally came together, sex was a forgone conclusion. We spent a wild weekend together, and I fell in love with him. And he broke my heart, and I basically moved on. Except that almost every time I saw A after that, we ended up having sex. A was…persuasive. But he didn’t have to try very hard—I had a thing for him for years.

In 2000 or so, I went out drinking in my neighborhood, went back to a guy’s apartment to smoke some pot, and woke up on his couch with his penis inside me. I only remembered feeling really woozy and telling him I needed to lie down on his couch. I don’t know if he drugged me or if I was just really drunk, but I never consented to sex. The next day I IM’d with A about it, and he made excuses for the guy. “Maybe he was just really drunk and didn’t know what he was doing,” he said, or something very like it.

Fast forward to the late aughts, and I’m in A’s town on business. He’s happily married, and I’m in what I believe at the time is the relationship I’ve waited my whole life for. A & I make plans to get together and have a drink at my hotel. There is—in my mind and probably in his—no question of sex. We are committed to our partners. It seriously never enters my thoughts.

I have several Martinis and somehow end up in his car on the freeway. A says something about a bar he wants to take me to, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to vomit, so he takes me back to my hotel.

Most of what came after is blurry. There is a good chance I stripped my clothes off the moment we got to my room, as I was drunk and with someone I trusted, and when I’m drunk and on my way to bed, my clothes end up all over the house. I remember getting into bed, under the covers, and I remember him lying on the bed saying things like, “What they don’t know won’t hurt them.” I remember laughing and saying, “No.” I remember that I had no intention of cheating on my boyfriend. I remember that I kissed A at one point and my boyfriend’s face popped into my head and I was like, “Whoa, no!” A continued trying to talk me into having sex with him and I continued to decline.

I remember that speaking was becoming really difficult. I remember A climbing on top of me, on top of the covers, as I tried to form words or even coherent thoughts. I remember that he masturbated on my chest and that I had absolutely no say in the matter. I remember that I got up and washed it off.

I remember that the next day when he picked me up to drive me to the airport, he asked me if I was angry with him. I could tell he felt like shit, but what exactly he felt like shit about, I still don’t know. I think I said something about being angry with myself (and I was—I blamed myself and told no one for years), but then I said something that made him defensive, because his next words were, “Come on, now, you were complicit…”

I was complicit in exactly one thing: I kissed him.

I know he felt “bad” about what he’d done—I just don’t think he knows that what he did was sexual assault. Because I kissed him. Because I took my clothes off. Because of our history. Even though I said no.

via ThinkProgress

via ThinkProgress

I understand that not everyone who commits sexual assault thinks of himself (or herself) as a sex offender. I understand that people make really bad decisions under the influence of alcohol that they might not make otherwise. But neither of these things changes the fact that sexual contact must be consensual or it is sexual assault. It doesn’t matter what someone does before the “no.” If you don’t hear an emphatic “yes,” you are simply not cleared for take-off.

That was the end of my friendship with A. It took me a couple of years to remember that it was he who had made excuses for the man who raped me all those years ago. And then I realized that when a man makes excuses for another man’s bad behavior, there’s a good chance he’s defending his own. I was probably not the first woman to get drunk with A and end up being assaulted.

I just hope like hell that I’m the last.


Related:


PSA: Trolls who comment here will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)

The Missing Stairs of Feminism

Image: Flickr user kke227

Image: Flickr user kke227

Ugh. I’ve been working on this post on and off for weeks, but have been so disgusted and discouraged (and clinically depressed, as it happens), it’s been really challenging to get it finished and put it out there. It’s not the sort of thing I like having to write about, and I think some part of me was hoping that the person who sparked it would address the issues and somehow make it less necessary, but alas, that was wishful (one might even say “magical,”) thinking. Also, I recently learned that this whole thing came out a whole lot longer ago than I thought and some of us just missed it. See my apology toward the end.

Perhaps you’ve heard the analogy of the “missing stair.” It refers to a phenomenon wherein women warn one another about predators and other creeps in their social group because the social group is unwilling to oust said creep, makes excuses for him, or doesn’t even realize that the fact that he’s a creep is a problem to be solved. “But he’s a nice guy,” they’ll say, and list all of his good qualities, ignoring the fact that he’s at best an annoyance and at worst a danger to the women in the group.

In feminism, a missing stair can take many forms, as the author of the “missing stair” piece points out. Today I want to talk about one particular form: that of the faux feminist ally.

It recently (for some of us) came to light that a man who calls himself a feminist ally (and who many of us believed to be one) has behaved in ways and harbors attitudes that are decidedly un-ally-like. This is a person who, at first glance, seems like the perfect ally. He says all the right things, and he says them often. He just seems to “get it.” I mean, how many guys get it like this guy does? Wow. Everybody loves this guy.

Everyone, that is, except those who have already discovered that there’s more than one side to him. Or, perhaps more accurately, that there’s just one side, and it’s cleverly hidden under a fluffy sheep’s skin.

This guy is accused of silencing women on his once very popular (now defunct) feminist Facebook page as a matter of daily business. He has been accused of a number of things I’m not going to go into here, but suffice to say accusations abound. And the fact that there are so many accusations is an important piece of data. Perhaps emboldened by others speaking out, people seemed to flock to Twitter to share their stories, and many had screenshots to back them up. Put it all together, and the picture is not pretty.

And then there are the things he has admitted to: He has admitted to sending a very ugly message to a woman who criticized the way he ran his page. He has admitted that he used that page to meet women. He has freely—and one might even say proudly—admitted that his interest in feminism is at least partly based in “self-interest.” And I don’t mean in the way that feminism is good for everyone. No, this guy wants to be a professional feminist.

While dozens loudly criticized his behavior in a recent Twitter campaign to bring it to light, the dude in question ignored them and tweeted this quote:

“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt

Numerous people attempted to engage him and from what I can tell, he responded to very few (many were apparently blocked). His feminist Facebook page disappeared after folks who tried him there got the same treatment. The Twitter hashtag calling him out is still active after several weeks. So yeah, people have been talking.

But I believe when Mrs. Roosevelt said the words above, she was talking about gossip—e.g., whose car was parked in the neighbor’s driveway—and gossip is not what has been happening here. It is not “gossip” that this dude berated a woman and used his privilege to mock her for using the word “privilege.” It is not “gossip” that he called her an “idiot” for expressing her views on how he ran his page. It is not “gossip” that he has expressed a desire to make a “career” of being a prominent male feminist and that he estimates he’s about “80 percent” dedicated to the cause, with the other 20% being about him. These are all things he has said and admitted to, and reducing these criticisms to gossip indicates that he does not take them—or his critics—seriously in the least.

No, gossip is not what has been happening. Here’s what has: People have been talking about what it means that a self-styled male “feminist” does these things and continues to have a speaking spot at a major feminist rally, a platform in major publications, and a place in a movement that is meant to empower women.

Some of us are disappointed that a man who said all the right things and really should have known better has privileged himself above women; that someone who talks so often about following women leaders thinks that what the feminist movement needs is a man who berates, verbally abuses, and silences women who disagree with him; that he thinks what we need is a man to lead us.

Some of us are angry that this person who ought to know better so often uses the word “vagina” (even as he verbally abused a woman who dared question him) in ways that ignore and even erase trans* people from the equation; that someone who claims to be an expert on feminism can be so clueless about intersectionality.

Some of us are shaking our heads in disbelief and even embarrassment that we didn’t see through this facade sooner; that we didn’t take a clue from how much space this man takes up in feminist discussions—from how often he talks about himself and the good deeds he does on behalf of feminism; that we held him up as an example of what an ally looks like.

Some of us are disgusted that (though he vaguely laments his tone) this dude not only stands by the things he said to the woman he abused—which, for one thing, firmly privileged him above her in all things feminist—but fully admits that feminism is an ambition for him and that much of what he does (i.e., posting on social media) is to promote himself as a feminist “leader.”

Some are relieved that a thing they’ve known for some time is finally coming to light; that the experiences they’ve been trying to talk about for months or even years are finally validated by public disclosure of this harmful behavior.

Some of us are wondering how we can—how we should—help prevent others from falling prey to a “feminist leader” who believes it’s ok to privilege himself above women and verbally abuse them when he thinks they’re wrong. We’re wondering if the right thing to do is to name names, join in the pile-on, and drum this guy out of feminism before he can do more harm, or to quietly remind people that allies who promote themselves* as allies seldom are and thereby avoid making targets of ourselves. Because make no mistake, not only is this dude willing to verbally abuse and shame people who disagree, this “ally” has allies who have made it their business to chime in and “explain” to women who speak out about this that they are everything that is wrong with feminism. And in an ironic twist, the MRAs have joined in to support this dude and to gleefully accuse us of eating our own. And frankly? Most of us get enough of their crap on a daily basis.

Some of us are developing a better understanding of why some of our sisters have been so suspicious of men who claim to be feminists.

I have long believed that men not only can but should identify as feminists or at least feminist allies, because I believe that men have to be part of tearing down the systems that benefit them and oppress everyone else or it just won’t happen. But a man who strives to become a professional feminist is taking the concept of dominating feminist spaces to a whole new level. Men who use the feminist movement to further their own ambitions do so at our expense, which means that instead of helping us to tear down these oppressive systems, they are using feminism to benefit from them, which is pretty fucking sick if you think about it.

And men who set out to use feminism as a launchpad for, say, a talk show career ignore the fact that (as others have said before me) for us, feminism is not an ambition. It is our lives. It’s not something we do to promote ourselves—it’s what we do in response to oppression. I don’t believe that men who strive to become “professional feminists” are in it for the women—not to any degree that makes a difference. And quite frankly, it is my firm belief that if anyone gets paid to do feminism, it ought to be women. Period.

That’s one big difference between guys like this and real feminist allies. Good allies understand that it’s not appropriate for men to presume to lead the movement. They get that it’s not their place to teach women about feminism any more than it would be a straight person’s place to teach gay people about LGBT issues. (What might be more appropriate would be for men to teach other men about feminism, assuming they actually know what they’re talking about and won’t do more harm than good, like this guy would.) Good male allies understand that their place is at the back of the room. Men who want to be allies need to study the behavior of failed allies and learn how not to be That Guy. Because That Guy is not only not an ally, he has the potential to do harm to our movement from within, not least by silencing people who already have a hard enough time being heard.

That Guy, these guys—men who use feminism for their own gains and do harm in the process—are the “missing stairs” of feminism. They look perfectly safe (in fact, they can look so safe that they’re practically begging you to step on them) but they will break your ankle just the same. And it will hurt, if only because you trusted them and they turned out to be just like every other entitled straight white dude on the planet.

Image: postthisinc.com

Image: postthisinc.com

I think we do have a duty to warn one another about these missing stairs. And then we have to work to fix the staircase. We have to raise up the voices of the marginalized and privilege them above these men and we have to deny these men access to leadership positions. Because for us, this isn’t a thing we do to make a name for ourselves. It’s what we do to live an authentic life and make our world better for our sisters and daughters and for boys and men and for everyone.

And yes, talking about this means talking about people who place themselves in our spaces.

For my own part, and to get around to the real reason I felt like I needed to write about this, I want to apologize for every instance in which I touted That Guy (the person in question or anyone like him) as a feminist ally, be it a Follow Friday on Twitter or a gushing share of a pithy feminist post on my Facebook page or the inclusion of his photo on my blog as an example of how men can do good in feminism. In doing these things, I helped give him credibility—I helped him perpetuate this image of himself as the perfect male feminist when what he turned out to be is the perfect faux ally.

Here are a few things I learned from this experience. It all seems so clear to me now.

  • When a straight, white man takes up more space in feminist conversations than most women, he may be in it for the wrong reasons.
  • When 99% of his Facebook posts are about the Good Feminist Deeds he did today, he may be in it for the wrong reasons.
  • When he is called out on bad behavior toward women and ignores his critics (many of whom are the very women making the accusations), posting passive-aggressive quotes instead of responding to criticism, he may be in it for the wrong reasons.

And from my own personal experience (because friends have urged me to share), when an “ally” solicits donations to his feminist charity event in return for promoting your work on his feminist network, then never seems to get around to promoting said work despite multiple promises, you might be tempted to let him off the hook because “he’s such a good guy; he does so much good” and “he must be so overwhelmed, poor bunny,” but when you find out that this behavior is part of a larger pattern of promoting himself as a great ally but actually being an awful one, you realize that you’ve been had** and…wait for it…he may be in it for the wrong reasons.

Now, because I held him up as an example of a good ally on more than one occasion and he turned out to be a missing stair (and because I don’t think I could look myself in the mirror if I didn’t), I’m going to say the thing that needs to be said out loud:

Charles Clymer can call himself a feminist if he wants to, but I do not believe he is an ally to feminism, and I’m sorry I ever helped promote him as such. In fact, I believe that he displays the same behaviors and attitudes of some of the worst MRA fuckwads who show up here and on my social media feeds to tell me I’m doing feminism wrong, except it’s worse because he does so in the name of feminism and at the expense of the people he claims to uplift and empower. He has expressed a wish that people would come to him personally about all this, but if you have a strong stomach, you can see what happens to women who challenge Charles and I highly recommend you check out the discussion on Twitter for additional data. As for me, I sincerely hope he finds a different career aspiration for the sake of all the people who daily continue to be taken in by his words, knowing nothing of his bad behavior or his continued unwillingness to address it in any meaningful way. And if he really wants to be a feminist ally and not part of the problem, I hope he goes back to feminism school and also how not to be a complete jackass school.

“One's philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes... and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.”  ~Eleanor Roosevelt

She also said this.

I further apologize to anyone upset by this news (however, if you’re angry that I named names, I don’t know what to tell you—I’m doing what I think is right). For me, finding out about this felt like getting punched in the gut. I felt (still feel) sick and betrayed and sad and angry because not only did I trust this guy, I told other people they should trust him (again, sorry), and his actions show that he is not worthy of that trust. Ultimately, I hope my writing this helps you avoid not just this particular faux feminist ally but also others still out there saying all the right things while doing all the wrong ones behind the scenes. I know I will be less trusting in the future (I already am), and that’s sad, but it’s a difficult thing we’re doing and we have to protect ourselves. There’s an old saying about friends and enemas that applies here.

I guess I’ll just leave it at that.


*In fact, one big takeaway for me from #YourSlipIsShowing (a recent campaign to out fake “feminist” Twitter accounts) was the louder and more often it quacks, the less likely it is to be a duck.

**I don’t regret my donation in the slightest, as it went toward providing abortion access (I had already donated once before he made the promo offer). Also, I don’t think he set out to defraud me, just that he was far too busy promoting himself as a great feminist ally (and shouting down women who disagree) to actually be one even in such a small way as this.

Note: I made some post-publication tweaks for clarity and inclusivity.


Related reading:


PSA: Trolls who comment here will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)

Dear Entitled Straight White Dudes

Eviction-PhotoThis is formal notice that I’m evicting you from my life. I’m utterly and completely over you. Your privilege allows you more platforms than anyone and ensures that your voice is always heard first and foremost. It lets you be pretty much anywhere you want anytime you want. But the one place you can’t be is in my face or in my life any fucking more because it’s my face and my life and I’m sick of hearing from you.

I’ve written about splaining and been splained at. I’ve written about privilege and been devil’s advocated at or simply ridiculed. I’ve talked about sexism and racism and been reverse-sexismed and reverse-racismed at. I’ve written about sexual assault and been gaslighted. I’ve attempted to talk about issues that affect me and other women and been barraged with comments from you, ESWDs, telling me how wrong I am (because what a woman really needs is for a man to tell her she doesn’t know what she’s experienced or what issues affect her life). You insist on our time, energy, and attention even when we make it clear we don’t want to engage and then you act as though the fact that we don’t want to engage with you means we don’t have the courage of our convictions (i.e., we’re full of shit). I’ve pointed out that it’s ALMOST ALWAYS you who does these things and asked you to please stop, and when I do, you show up in force to tell me I’m being divisive and women do it too and that I’ll draw more flies with honey.

Here’s the thing: I don’t care what you think anymore. I’m not interested in your opinions because you’re not interested in mine, which is clear from the way you talk at and down to me, make proclamations tied to bullshit conclusions, and generally behave as though you’re the teacher and I’m the student. I’m sick of you thinking that every post you disagree with on social media is an engraved invitation and that the rest of us are just waiting to be enlightened by you. I’m not interested in your opinions because you seem completely unwilling to learn about the role you play and how you can stop making things worse and I’m tired of giving you the benefit of the doubt.

I am an opinionated woman and I speak my mind, so you may be wondering how what I do is different from what you do. The difference as I see it is that I don’t walk through life believing that everyone is entitled to my opinion on every subject even if they aren’t talking to or about me. I don’t believe that my opinion is so important that I must inflict it on other people and their friends at every opportunity. Because I was not raised in a culture that taught me that I am the most important person in the social hierarchy. (In fact, the same culture that taught you to be brash and opinionated taught me that I’m supposed to use honey and draw flies.) And because I wasn’t, it actually occurs to me that my opinion might not be required at all times—that other people might just want to be able to talk without someone disagreeing with them about every fucking thing. That people less privileged than I might like to have a conversation about how they see the world without me butting in to tell them how I see it differently because it turns out, it’s not about me.

carlsonI’ll tell you what I’d like to be able to do: talk about privilege without you showing up to wave yours around like a fucking flag you don’t even realize you’re holding. The problem is that even when we point it out to you, you still can’t see it. In fact, you absolutely refuse to see it even as you brandish it at us like a club. You refuse to see how that club you’re armed with creates a power differential that can’t be ignored. So you continue to ignore it and say things like “women do it too” and “stop making everything about race.” You become the perfect illustration of the problem that is you.

But here’s the thing: I know that not all straight white dudes are ESWDs. Many straight white dudes have learned that their privilege is something to be aware of and that awareness allows them to navigate the world without walking all over everyone else. And that gives me hope for you—each and every one of you—that one day you’ll pull your head out of that warm, wet place you keep it and realize that what you have been is part of the problem.

It’s the E that’s holding you back, ESWD: that sense of entitlement that is part and parcel of your privilege and your biggest weakness because it blinds you and keeps you from challenging yourself to truly do better by your fellow humans. Right now, you’re an Entitled Straight White Dude waving your flag and knocking shit over, and as long as you’re doing that I have no use for you. But you can choose to shed that E and join the ranks of regular straight white dudes who are out there working to make things better for everyone who isn’t a straight white dude, and if you do that…

Well, if you do that, I’ll be rooting for you.


Related:


Note to white dudes offended by this post: Is that your shoe?

PSA: Trolls who comment here will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)

The Choice to Be Silent

Trigger warning: discussion of rape.

Note: This post has been updated since its original publication. I just kept having more to say on the subject. Also, I’d like to amend “silent” in the title because while many survivors choose not to report, we are often far from silent about our rapes. This is about the choice not to report a rape to the police.

I am a multiple rape survivor. I have experienced what it’s like to report rape and I have chosen not to report rape. And although I want all rapists caught and punished, I fully support every survivor’s right to choose whether to report rape and I do not question any survivor’s choice no matter what. For me—and for most of the feminists I know—this is fundamental.

A recent post on Fiending for Hope discussed the choice not to report a rape as an act of self-care and something to be respected. She went so far as to suggest that survivors who choose not to report are courageous:

People that do choose to report their rapes are incredibly courageous and I support them so freaking hard. But those of us that don’t choose to report are no less courageous.

She didn’t claim that the choice not to report required the same amount of courage as choosing to report and face the consequences which will likely include being grilled about every choice she made leading up to the rape and immediately after. She merely stated that choosing not to report doesn’t make you less courageous. I agree with her (on all counts—read the piece if you haven’t) and will take it a step further: I believe that choosing not to report requires courage (of perhaps a different kind), and I don’t think that there’s a mathematical formula you can apply that will determine which survivor must display more courage. It’s not a contest, and every survivor must be courageous—sometimes just to get up in the morning and live our lives. But while choosing to report a rape may require the courage to deal with systemic abuse of rape survivors, choosing not to report—choosing instead to take care of yourself first and foremost—requires the courage to deal with the fallout when people hold you responsible for the rapist’s future actions.

Because there are still those who believe that a rape survivor owes it to society to report rape—as though by doing that we are protecting society from a rapist—and hold survivors who don’t report responsible for rapists running free. I saw some of this in the reaction to the piece in question—and to the quote above. The idea that a survivor might choose not to report a rape is, to some, not a courageous act but a cowardly one—one that leaves a rapist at large, and so, endangers others.

Fun fact: 97% of rapists never serve time. It’s estimated that about 46% of rapes get reported, only 12% of rapists ever get arrested, and only 3% go to jail. So how, exactly, am I protecting society by reporting my rape when the odds are the rapist will never see the inside of a prison cell? When, in fact, there’s a good chance that my rape kit will sit untested on a shelf for years—possibly decades?* How the fuck do you take a rapist to trial without testing a rape kit? You don’t. (Hence the 9% of rapists who get prosecuted.)

via RAINN

via RAINN

I don’t know the percentage of female rape survivors who report and are subsequently treated like criminals and interrogated about their clothing choices, how much they had to drink, how many sexual partners they’ve had and whether their attacker was one of them, whether the “sex” was actually consensual but they regretted it later…but I’m guessing the percentage high based on pretty much every survivor I’ve read or talked to. So when people say that a survivor owes it to the rest of us to endure this scrutiny and shaming even knowing that the rapist is going to walk free almost every single time, they are basically saying, “If you don’t run the gauntlet, you’re responsible for all future rapes this perp commits.”

A rape survivor is never, ever responsible for future rapes perpetrated by his or her rapist. I mean, the fact that I actually have to say that… But you know, I do. And for anyone out there who questions a survivor’s choice not to report, I’d like you to think about the following:

Would you support a rape survivor’s choice not to report a rape because…

…he feared for his life?

…she was drunk and can’t identify her attacker?

…his attacker threatened his family?

…her attacker is already on trial for another rape?

…his attacker was a family member dying of cancer?

…her attacker got hit by a truck right after the rape and so will never be able to rape again?

If you answered yes to any of these questions (or can conceive of any possible circumstance under which you would be ok with not reporting), then you support a rape survivor’s right to choose whether to report. And so, to question any survivor’s choice to report a rape is bullshit because you have no idea why they are choosing not to report and IT’S NONE OF YOUR GODDAMNED BUSINESS.

Out of three rapes, I reported the first two. I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about whether to report the first time, but the second time I was afraid it wasn’t rape because I didn’t fight, and a police officer convinced me that it was indeed rape and took my report. Neither of these times did it ever occur to me not to file a report, so no particular courage was required for me to do so. I wasn’t out to save anyone—I was a mess and I did what people told me to do. The third time circumstances were complicated enough that reporting seemed utterly futile based on my experience with the system. I did not display courage in choosing not to report; I just did what I had to do. But I wasn’t *more* courageous when I reported the previous rapes than someone who chooses not to, and to say I was is bullshit. And furthermore, I can’t conceive for one second of holding a prior victim of any of the men who raped me responsible for my rapes.

Like Britni says:

We all have our own stories and our own reasons for making the choices that we make. It’s important to remember that survivors make the choices that are best for them– not the choices YOU think are best for them. And all of those choices are valid. All of them.

Rape survivors don’t owe anyone anything. They certainly don’t owe us their continued pain and suffering so that we as a society can blame them for their rapes and lament the ruination of their rapists’ lives and ultimately let the rapist go free most of the time. They don’t owe us that.

I am a multiple rape survivor. I have reported rape and I have chosen not to report rape. Both choices required courage and still do. Every fucking day of my life.

*True story: One of my rape kits has been sitting untested on a shelf in Texas since 1981.

UPDATE: Check out the #WhyIDidntReport hashtag on Twitter, which was started by @ethiopiennesays soon after I posted this piece. It saw tens of thousands of tweets from survivors sharing their stories of why they chose not to report their rapes. If you can read their stories and walk away believing survivors have a duty to report or that reporting somehow equals justice, then there’s very likely nothing anyone can say that will change your mind.


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ANITA the Documentary: See it and Send a Message

ANITAIn 1991, Anita Hill captured my country’s attention when she testified before congress that Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her while he was her supervisor. I was in my late 20s at the time, and I remember how brave she seemed, but the power dynamics were frankly lost on me at that point. In fact, they were lost on a lot of people. Prior to Ms. Hill’s testimony, we weren’t even talking about sexual harassment in the workplace as a nation. Like so many societal ills, it was a silent current running through our culture, accepted as just “the way things are.” Anita Hill changed that.

Now, watching the trailer for the upcoming documentary ANITA, I look at the sea of white, male faces that confronted her (literally) as she testified, and I have a far better sense of just how much courage that must have taken as a woman and especially as a Woman of Color. She spoke a hard truth to the most powerful men in her country and made herself a target not only for politicians but for racists and comedians and anyone else with an axe to grind against a Black woman who dared talk about how powerful men treat women who are subordinate to them. She did so with a grace I know I couldn’t muster in similar circumstances, and I am in awe of her. I expect I’ll be even more in awe after seeing this film.

Watch the trailer:


Yeah, this looks really, really good.

I’ve worked on Women, Action, and the Media (WAM!) campaigns before and hoped at one time to start a Seattle WAM! chapter. Life got in the way and I have had to take a step back from my activism until further notice, but I’m still kicking, and when Jaclyn Friedman asked me if I’d help WAM! get people out to a local ANITA screening I was happy to oblige. But I don’t want to stop there.

Initial screenings are taking place in March and April in select cities (see below). Based on ticket sales for those screenings, distributors for the film will decide how many cities will get the film and for how long. WAM! wants to get as many people as possible out to these screenings to ensure that the film gets wide distribution and in doing so, send a message to Hollywood that “woman-helmed films about women are a good investment.”

I think this is a worthy endeavor—don’t you? I’m hoping you’ll help me get the word out so these initial screenings are as successful as they can be. And BONUS: WAM! has arranged for discounted tickets (see links below)!

From WAM!:

Just past the 22 year anniversary, Freida Mock revisits one of the most controversial watershed events of the past century, the Anita Hill – Clarence Thomas hearings, the weekend of shocking television that made Anita Hill a household name and smashed the door open on the issues of sexual harassment and gender equality.

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Attend a Screening

Screenings are happening in the following cities (courtesy of WAM!—follow links for discounted tix!):

MARCH 21 – 23, 2014

APRIL 4 – 6, 2014

  • CHICAGO, IL – RIVER EAST 21: Email us ASAP to help make a Chicago WAM! screening happen

  • ATLANTA, GA – REGAL TARA CINEMAS 4: Email us ASAP to help make an Atlanta WAM! screening happen

Help Make ANITA a Success!

Watch the trailer. Spread the word about this film, these screenings (and discounted tix!), and our goal to turn out as many movie-goers as we can. If you live in one of the above cities, attend a screening! Any screening! And if you live in one of the above cities and would like to help ensure the success of ANITA in your city, or if your city is not listed and you’d like to bring a screening to your areaemail WAM! and let them know.

Let’s send that message to Hollywood so more films like this one get made and seen.

I’m Tired of All the Damned Splaining so Check Your Privilege, Please

STOPI’m tired. So tired of all the splaining and the related derailing and domination of conversations about issues facing less privileged people by those who have more privilege in our society.

I have written about mansplaining before. Many men (who seem not to have read past the headline) get their feelings hurt by this because they automatically assume it applies to all men. If you do not engage in mansplaining, it does not apply to you. The same goes for what I have to say here: if the shoe fits, wear it.

All of us sit somewhere on a scale of privilege. Some are more privileged, some less. My wish is that when someone from a lower rung on the ladder of privilege speaks out about an issue that affects them, everyone above them on the ladder would take the opportunity to listen and learn and allow room for that voice to be heard. Too often what I see instead is the people from higher on the ladder jumping in to splain to the people on lower rungs why their perspectives are flawed. I see threads about women derailed and dominated by men. I see threads about People of Color derailed and dominated by white people. And it’s not cool.

I am tired of being splained and watching other people get splained. I’m tired of women never being able to speak out about an issue that affects them without half a dozen men jumping in to splain “it’s not just women” or telling us how wrong we are when we try to talk about our lived experiences and how we feel about them. I’m tired of seeing People of Color speaking out about their lived experiences and issues affect them only to have white people splain that “it’s not just Black people” and “that’s not racist.” I’m tired of straightsplainging and cissplaining. I’m tired of abandoning threads I started because even when I say I’m done arguing, the splainers keep on splaining (often becoming more and more condescending as the discussion “progresses”). I’m tired of dealing with people who are more interested in having their opinions heard and being right than in sitting back and listening to people whose lives and challenges are different from theirs and maybe learning something.

You know what? When people less privileged than you are use their voices to talk about an issue they face, it really doesn’t matter whether the issue also affects you. The point is that it affects the less privileged group to a (chances are much) greater degree, and they are trying to talk about that, and it is not helpful or wanted for you to splain that you were once poor or that you got sexually harassed one time so it’s not just them. In fact, when you do that, you take up room in the conversation that really ought to be reserved for other voices in the less privileged group who want to discuss the issue. What would be helpful would be for you to listen and learn about how other people experience the world—other people who do not benefit from the privileges you enjoy—and the challenges *they* face. Consider whether your opinion is required on every topic on which you feel tempted to comment, or whether you are simply exercising your privilege when you and people like you end up dominating a conversation that wasn’t about you in the first place. Consider how your privilege allows you to feel comfortable doing that.

Your privilege means that your voice carries more weight in almost every situation. Do you really have to chime in on every single thread on which you have an opinion? Must your voice be heard, possibly at the expense of others? Want to talk about an issue that affects you? Maybe go start your own conversation rather than taking over one a person on a lower rung of privilege is trying to have.

If this pisses you off, then maybe ask yourself why, and consider whether you’re actually willing to allow less privileged people to talk about issues facing them without splaining how it’s “not just X” or how their perspectives are flawed. Consider whether you are willing to make room for voices that carry less weight in our society. If you’re not willing consider these things, then you are not being an ally to those less privileged than you are.

I’m tired of all the damned splaining. And I’m about to start culling my social media feeds to reduce the amount of it I have to deal with in my life. I have already revised my comment policy here to reflect the fact that I’m not nearly as tolerant of various flavors of bullshit as I once was. This is one of my least favorite flavors because people who do this are often unaware of what they’re doing and consider themselves to be allies, which means that people like me end up wasting a lot of time and precious energy trying to help them understand. False allies are worse than trolls because at least they seem like they have good intentions, but what they end up doing is sucking all your energy as you try to engage them when ultimately, they can’t see past their own privilege to actually listen. They end up dominating conversations instead of learning. And the less privileged end up leaving these conversations because we’re tired of arguing with people who have no intention of hearing us, and so our voices we are effectively silenced. False allies are people who think of themselves as “progressive” but behave in ways that become part of the problem.

If you want to be an ally, learn how to be a good one. If you want to argue about this, go argue with someone else. And please stop splaining.

Because I’m so fucking tired of it.

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