It’s time to address a few of the more spectacular claims that emerged from the anti-feminist crowd last week.
1. The repeated assertion that it’s not victim-blaming to suggest women drink less at conventions.
Rape is, by its very nature, a thing someone inflicts on somebody else. It’s a one-sided crime. When you suggest that women take any sort of action to avoid rape, you shift the blame where it properly should be (ie, on the rapist) and transfer some of it to women. You’re implying that she is at least partially responsible for becoming the victim of a crime. You are claiming that she provoked the rapist into taking a specific action.
I should not have to explain how this is misogynist but given the vile comments that appeared in my comment section and continue to appear on avenues like Twitter, the Slyme Pit, and the Randi Foundation’s forums, it’s necessary to reiterate this basic fact. Women do not have any sort of responsibility to avoid rape. Rapists have a responsibility to avoid rape. Any other dynamic, ye who despise ‘buzzwords,’ is a manifestation of rape culture. That’s reality.
2. I am ‘straw-manning’ critics.
This popped up on the Randi Foundation forums. This is also false. People have repeatedly suggested that the women coming forward with examples of gendered violence a.) don’t exist, b.) are lying or at least exaggerating, c.) actually wanted sex and d.) shouldn’t have been drinking. Exhibit A: Brian Dalton’s latest video tirade. If I hadn’t noticed such concerning responses I wouldn’t have said anything at all, and last week would have been another typical week for me.
3. People who criticize Shermer et al are anti-sex.
This is also bullshit. Sex is fantastic. I have no problems with sex. I am not anti-sex. I am anti-rape. And while I can’t speak for the Freethought bloggers, that seems to be their position too. It’s not prudish to suggest that a man should avoid taking advantage of a woman whose judgement is clearly impaired. This is not a radical suggestion. There is no need to invoke the shade of Andrea Dworkin. If this simple suggestion sends you into a rage, there’s clearly a problem and the problem is with you, and not with me, or any other feminist. Enthusiastic consent. Google it.
4. Stollznow et al have made ‘extraordinary claims’ that demand ‘extraordinary evidence.’
We’re talking about violence against women, not Bigfoot sightings. Unfortunately, gendered violence is a common occurrence. The Institute of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that one out of every six American women will experience a completed or attempted rape during her lifetime–and it’s worth noting that women of color experience disproportionately high rates of sexual violence. Despite these high numbers, the Department of Justice reports that only three out of every one hundred rapists will ever spend a day in jail.
This is partially because sexual violence is one of the most underreported crimes in the US. I didn’t report my assault. Most women (and men) don’t report theirs, either. There are a number of reasons for this, stigma being chief among them. When it’s considered acceptable to interrogate survivors about their drinking habits, their clothing, their sexual histories–who on earth would want to come forward as a survivor? Sexual violence is deeply traumatic. The reporting process asks survivors to relive their trauma. It’s no wonder why so many don’t immediately come forward about their experiences. Sexual violence is a crime, yes, but it has unique characteristics and it can’t logically be compared to theft, physical assault, or other crimes. Apples and oranges.
And if you’re queer, trans* or a woman of color (or all of the above) the police historically haven’t been your friends. It astounds me that a community so frantically concerned over government intrusion and official abuses of power abandons these concerns when the subject shifts from surveillance to rape. You don’t trust the government, but survivors should? The government is an enemy of the people until it comes to rape? Hardly consistent. And not very logical, I might add.
You don’t get to police a survivor’s reaction to trauma. We cope in what ways seem best to us. If someone wants to come forward via social media, they can come forward via social media and your response should be compassion, not a demand for a blow by blow description of events. People demanding ‘evidence’–what evidence do you want? Rape kit results? Because I have the feeling you’d just swear that they’re evidence of consensual sex, not rape.
People have asked me not to ‘opt out’ of the skeptic community. And maybe they’re right, and those of us who want to fight for social justice should stay in the movement. In 2011, Flavia Dzodan wrote one of the best essays on feminism I’ve ever read. Reacting to mainstream feminism’s domination by white women, Dzodan demanded an intersectional feminism, a feminism that recognizes that women of color, queer women, trans* women, disabled women have been excluded from mainstream debate, shoved to the side, drowned out. For Dzodan, an intersectional feminism isn’t a luxury or an esoteric thought exercise; it’s her reality, and a feminism that doesn’t recognize this isn’t capable of delivering equal rights for her, or for anyone else outside the mainstream. My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit. That’s what she wrote. And she was right.
You should read it. And then you should read it again. Frame it, maybe.
I’m mentioning it here because I intend to demand something similar of skeptics. My skepticism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit. I will question rape culture. I will demand that my experiences, and the experiences of people of color, of queer folks and disabled folks and poor folks, receive respect and attention within skepticism. Do you really think I’d have left fundamentalism if I hadn’t been the least bit skeptical about its gender roles? Its homophobia? Its ableism? A skepticism that doesn’t address gender, or sexual identity, or racism isn’t capable of addressing all the myriad reasons why people question and abandon religious dogma. A skepticism without these elements isn’t really skepticism and it shouldn’t be labelled as such. It’s just white male supremacy dressed up in different rhetoric. It is the status quo.
If you want an intersectional skepticism then we’re on the same side, and let’s organize together. If you don’t, enjoy the fringes. Rest safe in the knowledge that you are a fundamentalist and you offer nothing new or better to the world.