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Posts tagged ‘institutional silencing’

The Monolithic Oppressed and “Consistency” in Product

A female-bodied friend of mine related to me something that happened to her the other day. She’d been waiting outside at the bus stop and one of her neighbors had come by; he had a friend with him. Apparently out of the blue, this neighbor turned to her and asked her, “You know how when a girl is raped the cops can tell because the vagina tears?”

My friend, understandably taken off-guard, responded, “Uh… sometimes…”

He insisted, repeating the question again. She repeated her response. Then, while he kept looking back at his friend, he explained that a neighbor of theirs had said one of their mutual friends had molested her. My friend’s neighbor didn’t believe her; his friend did.

“I wanted to tell them that they should believe her, because I’ve been there,” she told me later. My friend (who has given me her permission to post about this) has been raped before—but it was a “nice” rape, a father of a friend’s. He claimed that she’d “seduced” him, and… well. His wife told her that if my friend ever came near their house again, she’d call the police and have them arrest her.

No one believed her because she didn’t “act right.” She was punk in the first place, so “maybe it was some adolescent rebellion thing.” Or maybe she was just “a slut, you know how some cliques are.” And anyway, if he really did it, “why didn’t she go to the police? Why didn’t she tell someone?” Followed immediately, of course, by a parade of women saying that if they’d been raped, they would have gone to the police because, well, you can’t let them get away with it, now can you?

The neighbor kid didn’t know because she’d never told him. She got tired of being triggered every time she told someone because then they’d ask her those questions. She got tired of feeling like no one was on her side in the world, so she made a deliberate choice to not bring up the issue that would make her know they weren’t on her side.

“I figured it was a bad idea to like, go up to ask ‘Hey, are you really my friend or not?’ Because I never like the answer.”

What was worse was that her neighbor was asking her because she was female-bodied: he was trying to see if she bought into rape culture, if he could use her as leverage against other women. He was using her to cover his dick.

She told me it made her feel like he was violating her again by using her as a tool to dismiss someone else’s violation. “Basically,” she said, “you know how Carol Adams talked about the experience of rape victims being just, made into meat? Like objects? That doesn’t stop. We’re all just meat if some guy wants to use us that way.”

And it was an excuse to say that she wasn’t really being made into meat—she was just “crazy.” It was a bad excuse, but the flimsiest of lies will be seen as true if they defend rape culture.

Both of us know that checking for vaginal damage is in fact very rare, and largely occurs on Law & Order SVU, not in real life, a lot like the rape victim balled up in the corner crying. It’s an insidious form of rape culture: a “real victim” stereotype. No True Rape Victim goes out at night, or doesn’t starve herself to death afterwards, or doesn’t try to scrub off her skin in the shower. You think that trauma is something that makes you stop dead and just cry endlessly in the shower.

Me? I kept going to school; I kept functioning; I barely knew I hurt at all. Because my trauma was emotional, not physical, because I didn’t have bruises and broken bones, no one ever said something was wrong so I just thought it was… normal. And it was normal, to me: I barely existed. I didn’t feel hurt and I didn’t feel anything else, except an occasional thin wisp of amusement. Your body and mind is not meant to deal with ongoing suffering.

My friend said the same thing. “I just stopped feeling anything at all. No one wanted to see those feelings, anyway. I felt like I was intruding into someplace I hadn’t been invited if I got sad or angry or upset.” She said she became more like a robot than a living thing.

I felt happy and free and joyous every single day I lived in a tent, using my wits to get food for myself and my friend (and the neighborhood cats we made friends with)… It was world-changing. Those of you who have never had that experience, especially those of you suffering from a mental illness, don’t understand what it’s like to be happy, in totality, to have the thoughts and the feelings and the dull hard numbness just gone.

But even then, a month after I was forced back into civilization—into shelter—the memory of that freedom faded into only the palest idea that it had once existed. I only remembered that I had felt something much different, but I couldn’t tell you its heft, its color, its flavor, its quality and substance.

This is what trauma is like for the vast majority of people—it’s this hazy, heavy absence of self punctuated by sharp, stabbing pain. Anxiety. Triggering. Sadness. Loneliness. Worthlessness. Self-hatred. Rage. After a while, you can’t feel anything else anymore—you can’t envision a way out. Maybe it’s a blessing; maybe the memory of sunlight and ripe fruit would sharpen the hellfire of the brand and make us go insane. Nature isn’t cruel; there’s no reason for it to be, and plenty of reason to minimize pain and to not trap you into it. That’s also the driving behavior of trauma—that it is pain you can’t get out of; you’re trapped. Eventually, like the hum of electronics in the background, you just become numb to it.

But the lie that rape culture tells us doesn’t mimic reality, and so makes sure that as few people as possible are “genuine” victims. True Rape Victims do this, or that, and they’re virgins, and they’re good adherents to the patriarchy, and they would never have done anything to deserve male violation. Survivors are never allowed to be people: as Other, they have to be monolithic, because the more monolithic a group is, the easier it is to dismiss it. “Mother Nature” is monolithic. “African-Americans” is monolithic. “Children” is monolithic. “Animals” is monolithic. You can insert these words into your arguments and never have to ever question the assumption that the people that make up these groups are individuals that require an abandonment of exploitation—prison, pens, pastures, classrooms—in order to do justice to them. As people.

It’s a measure of the privilege afforded to white straight men that “white straight men” feel the obligation and right to protest when someone says anything about “white straight guys.” They tell us that not all guys are like that—that not all men are rapists, not all porn-watching men are sexually predatory, that not all white men are racist. They are also afforded the privilege to not have to prove it with actions instead of words: white straight men are assumed to be people—and actually, personhood is primarily defined by these visible social indicators. You can’t say all white straight men are like that—indignation, outrage—but you can turn to a woman standing at a bus stop, minding her own business, and ask her quite casually if she thinks that stabbing a woman through the soul is acceptable, assuming the entire time that if she says yes, then she is All Women, Everywhere, Because A Woman Said It; if she says no, then she’s just strange.

Meat is an object to be bought, after all. You should always shop around to try to get an object that meets your standards and specifications and, you know, it’s quite easy to find those if you look—all acceptable meat follows the same pattern. As an object—as someone transfigured into a number of objects—you, the consumer, are always the one whose whims should be obeyed and indulged. You can certainly pretend the meat wanted to be there, but it doesn’t really matter, does it?

Since meat shouldn’t argue back.

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Of Men Covering Their Dicks

It’s been my experience that when white men are called out on their privilege, regardless of what kind of privilege it is, they have a few select response patterns. First is the “quote me,” phenomenon, which assumes that he’s the one who gets to decide whether or not he’s privileged or if the caller-out was just “mistaken”; next is Appeal to Authority, especially when employed in the “show me studies!” shtick; last, though, is that a man will bring in someone of an underprivileged group and assert that because this person agrees with him, he couldn’t possibly be wrong.

I like to call this tactic “covering your dick.” By choosing someone who belongs to an oppressed group that agrees with them, he can pretend his beliefs are vindicated by the very fact that someone underprivileged agrees with him. Metaphorically, by using an underprivileged person to back up his privilege, he’s placing their face in front of his dick so everyone will be tricked into believing that it’s an Automatically Enlightened Oppressed Person speaking instead of, well, him. From his dick (privilege).

It can be used by privileged people of all stripes, but overwhelmingly it’s used by men, and even more overwhelmingly by white men. This stupid tactic has a long-ass history and many, many permutations.

Some of the most easily recognizable ones, I’m sure you’ll know them, are variations of, “Well, my black friend says he doesn’t mind racist jokes…” and “Some of my best friends are gay.” They get much more complex than that, though.

Christianity has been using the “cover your dick” tactic for centuries via flamboyant, dramatic conversions and confessions. Proclamations of, “I lived a life of sin,” do more to reassure the current followers than they do to convince the unbelievers. The evangelical Christian set in the U.S. still uses this tactic; I have little knowledge of its use in other countries.

Some underprivileged people, enjoying the admiration and honorary dick points that being used as an Automatically Enlightened Oppressed Person, deliberately set themselves up as unlike those meanie-head rebels, strictly pro-status quo. Phyllis Shafly played this role during the ’70s feminist movement, advocating against women’s rights and liberations—and being picked up by male mainstream media. Dr. Laura has made an extremely lucrative career out of shaming women, as have many pro-forced birth “feminists.” Sarah Palin et al. continue this thread of anti-women women.

The same has been borne out with people of color—whether pro-U.S. Rez residents, anti-hate crime/affirmative action Black people, or anti-immigrant Hispanics. (I can’t give sources for these; I’ve met them personally, and wouldn’t endanger their privacy no matter how much I may disagree.)

Part and parcel of the “cover your dick” tactic is actually intense contempt for the AEOP they’re holding up as better—because they are holding up that person as better. The one covering his dick is implicitly stating that an oppressed person’s worth is directly proportional to how much they agree with him, and if the AEOP he’s using is of the same status of the person he’s defending against, it gets even more bitter and hateful.

It doesn’t necessarily need to happen. There’s also a certain system of equivalence involved: a non-white man is worth more dick coverage than a white woman, but a non-white woman is worth more dick coverage than a non-white man (unless she’s Hispanic). An unpretty white woman’s dick coverage worth (DCW) is approximately equal to that of a visibly disabled man, unless said man is also openly poor. And an Asian kid dying of cancer speaking out against socialized health care is worth approximately 400,000 glods.

I had a conversation a while ago with a man who refused point-blank the idea that he could be privileged for consuming animal products, and he held up Lierre Keith as proof and said, straight-out, “Lierre Keith has done more for the world than any vegan has.” While I doubt that all vegans (an example) in social justice movements have been useless, he was expressly privileging her over every vegan woman and radical feminist—because she agreed with him. It was as simple as that: she backed him up when he didn’t want to let go of the idea that he was too “radical” to have missed the fact that he had privilege. He used Lierre Keith not because he valued Lierre Keith, but because he could cover his dick with her; he, a white rich man, used her, a white rich woman, as a weapon against every woman who was vegan and every person of color who +vwas vegan and every vegan who has ever fought for human and animal rights.

He used a woman as a weapon because she agreed with what he wanted to believe.

That’s the essence of “covering your dick.” By taking someone who’s grown up underprivileged in a fucked-up society and positioning them as an Automatically Enlightened Oppressed Person, by using them as a weapon against everyone who might disagree with him and prove him wrong, by using their oppressed status to cement his privilege of defining reality, he covers his dick so that no one notices it’s still his dick that benefits.

News: U.S. Military Part of Rape Culture, Too

Rape culture is perpetuated by a vicious cycle. Institutional power (the police, the courts, the prisons, the politicians, etc.) does not take rape seriously and actively discourages any attempt to change that fact; everyday people, taking their cue from these institutions (and assuming, as they have been taught via compulsory “education”, that the institutions would care if it were such a big deal), enforce the same dynamics on the ground level; those everyday people then enter those institutions and proceed to do exactly the same thing. This is one reason, among many, that I am an abolitionist, not a reformist—because those institutions of power pose too great of a threat to freedom of thought and life.

But I’m going off topic. This post isn’t about that. It’s about the fact that the U.S. military also follows rape culture: they would rather sweep rape under the rug than actually punish rapists. As the articles say, more than a dozen female and at least one male current or ex-military are suing prominent Pentagon officials to try to force the hand of the military into actually doing something. Which, in case you haven’t caught on to that by now, they haven’t been: survivors have mostly been told to shut up and serve regardless—even then their attacker is in the same unit. Systematic oppression is the only kind of oppression.

Part of it is just that it is even more bizarrely taboo to socially reject or shun someone for being a rapist than it is for any other reason. Another part is that rape culture as a whole continuously trivializes the experiences of rape victims—they’re whiners, drama queens, etc. because rape is not supposed to be that bad. Rape culture does its damnedest to persuade everyone to look at rape from the POV of the rapist—the rapist is sympathetic, the rapist is calm, the rapist is objective. The victim is irrational, overemotional, out-of-control, attention-seeking, manipulative (count which other oppressed peoples those apply to as well—I can name a few). That’s the cultural narrative.

It happens everywhere, whether you’re male or female, young or old, on the brown side or on the white side, rich or poor. Rape victims are overwhelmingly more likely to be female—the notoriously conservative RAINN estimates that 1 in 6 women will be raped in their lifetimes, whereas the corresponding statistic for men is 1 in 33. This doesn’t make rape and sexual assault less important when it happens to men—it is unacceptable, anywhere, at any time—but it does provide perspective on why rape and sexual victimization are coded as feminine.

Here are some other articles: Scott Howard, an openly gay man, went to prison for moneymaking schemes and was repeatedly raped and extorted by 211 Crew—a well-known white supremecist group, then punished by prison officials when he reported it.

In 2010, a report was issued that stated about 12% of youth in juvenile detention in the U.S. reported having been sexually abused in the last year. Unlike in adult prisons, however, the ratio of abuse by inmate:staff was reversed—the majority of sexual abuse was perpetrated by staff. Indiana got called out by Federal authorities soon after because the conditions shocked even the investigators—and do you know how hard it is to get people who think prison is a good idea to admit something’s crossed the line?

At the G20 summit in Toronto last year, police repeatedly threatened to rape protesters in their custody, and they actually did sexually assault several.

Rape isn’t invisible: it’s just bled out and pale, less threatening. One of the reasons that transparency is fought so vehemently by these institutions of power—corporations, government and even colleges and universities—is that transparency shows that these problems are big, that they are endemic and of mind-boggling proportions. The idea that real rape rarely happens is part of rape culture’s trivialization of rape—because, abstracted into isolated instances, the implicit suggestion becomes unavoidable: go work on real issues.

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