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Today in Misogyny and Rape Apologia

steubenville

Two members of the high school football team that is the pride and joy of Steubenville, Ohio were found guilty Sunday of raping a 16-year-old girl in a case that bitterly divided the Rust Belt city and led to accusations of a cover-up to protect the community’s athletes.

Naturally.

God and misogyny forbid that a 16 year old girl who was raped stand in the way of a long established and beloved football tradition in a town filled with righteous townsfolk and faithful church goers.

As it is the case with rape trials, rape apologia and victim blaming followed the case almost immediately because this is how the rape culture we have created operates: go after the victim, question her and her integrity and make it look like she was responsible for her assault in one way or another. Or go after her parents, friends, teachers and everyone for the rape. All but the actual rapists.

The two juveniles, who I am sure will grow up to be formidable misogynists and rapists, got off the hook easy with the verdict, as both Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond were tried as juveniles, receiving merely delinquent verdicts on all three charges. Delinquent is the guilty equivalent for juveniles. They were both convicted of digitally penetrating the West Virginia girl, and Mays was also found guilty of illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material.

If they had engaged in copyright violation no doubt they would have been tried as adults.

The “boys” will serve their sentence at a juvenile detention facility until they turn 21, which effectively means they’ll probably be out in six months and welcomed back to the warm bosom of the Steubenville community that will treat them like long, lost sons that were unlawfully sent to the front but are finally returning to their rightful place on top of the football team throne, while their nameless victim will be traumatized and has to go into hiding for ever having dared to accuse her tormentors.

A guilty verdict in a juvenile case also means little given because their records will be  sealed after they serve their sentence. Erased. Invisible to the outside world. If they move in your neighborhood or seek employment in your company or non profit, no one will know what they did. In other words, there will be no real consequences for them as a sealed document for a juvenile case may as well not exist.

And that is the problem isn’t it? As long as we allow such actions to remain without consequences, we will only add to the problem and encourage it or at the least send the message that there is little consequence to committing such a huge crime.

As it is to be expected, after the verdict was announced, message boards and commenting sections of news articles and blogs were inundated with comments by people, some of whom think they are acting in good-will, lecturing the girl on how she needs to be more careful in the future and that hopefully she learned her lesson to “not get drunk” again so as to avoid getting raped, as clearly, she not only invited the rape but she is also the one person who needs to learn a lesson from this, namely to not get drunk or engage in other behavior that might prompt otherwise stand up young men like these to rape and assault her.

Some even wondered why parental supervision was missing.

Very few comments, if any at all, were criticizing the rape culture we live in and the values we raise young boys with. No one commented on the culture problem with young men or with bystanders not stepping in. No one commented on the fact that we need greater socialization of young men to appropriate masculinity so that honorable behavior and mutual respect are encouraged.

Instead everyone engaged in a cover up and burst into tears when the two men got what they deserved.

When these boys see that an entire community charges to their rescue, tries to cover up their crime and then bursts out in a hail fire of tears and sobs after they get their well deserved guilty verdict, how will they ever internalize the truly horrendous act they committed?

If I was one of the boys sitting on that chair, watching everyone cry for me and defend me after I did such a horrible thing to someone else, I would not think what I did was all that bad.  I would just be bitter at the justice system that has come after me in the first place and failed me.

Note how the socialization works even at this stage: these boys are being treated as unfairly judged, misunderstood. Not as truly guilty. Sure the law says so, but just look at the support they are getting from their community.

I must say I was and remain very appalled and disturbed by all the rape apologia comments.

Instead of Asking “How can we create a culture in which men stop abusing and raping women?”,We Are Striving to Create a Culture in Which We Teach Women How to Not Get Abused and Raped

As if it was on them to not be violated, as opposed to those committing the crimes.

Telling a woman that if she had not been drinking, she wouldn’t have been raped – no matter how well meant (it is not) – shifts the blame to the woman “see, this wouldn’t have happened if only you had behaved.” Such attitudes and notions are destructive and callous and once again shift the burden onto the victim instead of to the perpetrator. As if some men just couldn’t help but raping and abusing (and thus as if it was somehow their natural birth right or something the world and their victims had to just deal with, like thunderstorms and earthquakes),  so it was up to women to make sure a man doesn’t t get to engage in both or either behavior.

Let’s be clear on this, rape apologists and victim blamers:

1)  Who brought alcohol to the event is irrelevant as that doesn’t make it ok or understandable to rape someone.

2) Lack of parental supervision doesn’t make it ok or understandable to rape someone.

3) The victim having been inebriated, dressing a certain way, behaving a certain way and talking a certain way is neither an invitation to rape nor does it make rape understandable and/or acceptable.

4) That these were 16 year olds as opposed to 26 year olds, doesn’t make the crime less heinous and it doesn’t mean their punishment is to just sit one out as opposed to seriously pay for their cruelty – which means being tried as adults as well as receiving counseling and an education vis a vis their actions.

Nothing makes rape ok, understandable, acceptable or invitational. “Oh sorry ma’am, I saw you dressed in this sexy outfit so naturally I thought you enjoy a little raping, no?”

There is nothing this girl  – or any rape and sexual violence victim – did to cause, justify, excuse or make more understable the assault on her person. Period. It is not even a matter of opinion.

We do not accuse murder victims of having brought it on themselves, asserting that they, after all, behaved in a way that invited murder and then dismiss the case.  Why is doing the same with rape ok? Again, I point to our rape culture where sexual assaults are far more forgivable offenses than other acts.

See Mike Tyson and his revival onto the grand hall of fame of legends for something or other ( I mean what is Tyson good for anyway?) and promising return despite being a convicted rapist. Cast members of The Hangover 2  – most notably Zach Galifianakis – wanted Gibson’s Hangover 2 cameo cancelled, but did not ask the same when Mike Tyson got to have a super duper cameo in the first Hangover. On the contrary, he ended up being portrayed as the sensitive, cool dude everyone was honored to meet. I mean MIKE TYSON. Yeah!!

This is the rape culture I am talking about.

Mel Gibson bad (for hating blacks) Mike Tyson redeemable (after raping and assaulting women).

I wish instead of trying to engage in the same old victim blaming and gas lighting rhetoric,  people would just admit that what these two did was hideous and wrong instead of sitting here trying to assign blame to everyone but the rapists.

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Today in Misogyny: Mike Tyson, Convicted Rapist, Cast in Law &Order: SVU

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I am not even going to comment on the irony of casting a violent, convicted rapist in a show that claims to be all about condemning heinous, sexual violence.

Instead, what I am going to comment on is the fact that we live in a culture in which a sex offender is being treated like some fallen-from-grace-knight who allegedly served his time and is now finally getting to return to his rightful position on the throne of fame, wealth and luxury  – which he and everyone around him believe he’s totally entitled to and deserving of after the brief “hiccup” that was his trial and conviction for rape.

Mike Tyson is untouchable. He cannot ever be asked to talk about or even reflect upon his heinous crimes. Instead, everyone is working diligently to have his reputation rehabilitated, while his victims remain forgotten and the veracity of their testimonies questioned to this day.

Clearly, in the rape culture we are fostering – from lawmakers who believe that there is such a thing as legitimate rape and the House GOP attempting to redefine rape altogether so as to apparently make it easier for the perpetrators to navigate the murky waters of the legal system after having committed such an act, to rape jokes that signal to and encourage male sexual aggression and support violence against women, to those who believe that a pregnancy resulting from rape is something god intended – it’s the accused, the criminals, and not the victims, who need looking after and given second chances. That is especially the case when those accused are “legends” and famous and especially if the second chance means not actually doing three of the sixty years you were supposed to  – which I call a huge second chance – but the return to fame and fortune instead.

Mike Tyson is a man who was convicted of rape, has a history of violently beating and abusing his wife, is someone who assaulted and bit off part of another boxer’s ear during a boxing match and who possesses so little integrity, compassion and just dignity that he got married a mere two weeks after the death of his 4 year old daughter.

Speak of your terrible human being.

Yet, to the world, those things are beside the point apparently.

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Tyson on The View? Isn’t it great? Such a sensitive guy…

He is being graciously invited to talk shows,  was invited by a major network to have his own show, he has been offered cameos in highly marketed box office hits; in 2008, a documentary painting him in a sympathetic light was released and he has been asked  to give his opinion and expertise on domestic violence. Heck, he was even asked to participate in what they think is a skit filled with hilarity at the 2010 Teen Choice Awards, where he gave Joe Jonas a haircut and was, once again, painted as this really cool guy for an audience of children who aren’t old enough to know how horribly violent this man is.

His come back has included receiving top representation in the industry and a management team that’s been working hard to fix his brittle image to insure a swift return to fame and fortune – which he is clearly entitled to.

The Culture of Victim Blaming

The mechanisms of the rape culture we live in work in subtle, yet effective ways. Putting Tyson on stage with the Jonas Brothers, for example, makes him cool as hell to a certain young, female as well as male demographic who see this guy palling around with the likes of Joe Jonas and think that’s cool because you gotta be cool to be hanging around with the Jonas brothers.

When those kids, who are not old enough to remember what he did, then go looking up Tyson on Wikipedia and find out that he was a convicted rapist, wife-beater and just overall violent piece of shit abuser who thinks that women are nothing but fuck-holes to be “boned”  – as he once eloquently put – the message inevitable get is that rape is no big deal; that violence against women is no a big deal because, hey, look at Tyson: this guy is still famous and cool hanging around with the likes of Joe Jonas. What he did was no big deal. In fact, he must be ok and what he did must be ok too.

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A message that prompts the kid to not only not see anything wrong with this picture, since clearly Tyson – despite prison sentence and conviction   – still managed to come out on top – but to also subsequently rationalize that stuff away as “everyone makes mistakes” and “such is life”, ultimately leading to narratives that make excuses for the perpetrators and trivialize their acts while simultaneously creating a culture that blames victims and engages in rape apologia.

Doing Three of the Ten Years You Were Supposed To Is A Second Chance

To be clear, I am all for giving people a second chance, although – as mentioned above – it can be argued that facing 60 years in prison, actually getting sentenced to 10, and only serving 3 out of those 10 is a second chance in and of itself. But still. Everyone has a right to find a way to feed, clothe and shelter themselves, a right to bodily safety and autonomy as well as a means of maintaining their health.

However, no one is entitled to fame and fortune and a place in the spotlight.

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Speak of the blind leading the blind. Mike Tyson was asked to comment ans give his expertise in Chris Brown’s domestic abuse case

Putting a violent sexual offender  – who doesn’t even have any remorse for what he did as he still denies it and who fifteen years after the first time he raped Desiree Washington talked about wanting to rape her again and who still maintains his innocence despite all the evidence to the contrary – back in the spotlight just normalizes, if not trivializes his crimes – treating the restitution he was forced to make as if it was some bureaucratic checklist one had to  go through to no longer be considered an outlaw under the law. As if there weren’t actual victims who are seriously damaged and harmed by the abuses and which is the reason that “restitution” had to be made in the first place.

Unfortunately, we live in a society that tends to exactly do that, trivialize crimes that involve violence against women by rewarding the perpetrators with the kind of empathy and understanding they never granted the victims.

Man of the People

I have noticed that over the years, and especially after the trial and his conviction, the tone and direction of  the news outlets discussing Tyson’s comeback have been overall accommodating, warm and sympathetic; like some long, lost hero had finally found his way home after he had been unjustly made to stand trial and pay for his crimes. As if some great injustice had been done to this grand man who had to give up a promising career as a violent miscreant getting his skull smashed in for craploads of money but now was finally returning to take his rightful place in the spotlight, just like he had always deserved but was robbed off with that pesky lawsuit.

As the New York Post put it

Tyson served three years for rape in the mid-’90s and effectively ended his fight career two years later by biting Evander Holyfield during a bout. But he is now well on his way to remaking himself into a sensitive guy. He cried on Oprah’s show last year and starred in a stunningly candid documentary about his life, “Tyson” (which many in Hollywood believe was robbed of an Oscar nomination). 

Notice how he is being described as having been robbed of an Oscar nomination, as if he was entitled to being nominated for the Oscar and instead was robbed off that opportunity that rightfully belonged to him by that damn slut who was raped.

And then we are supposed to feel all warm and fuzzy when he declares that “I never hurt anybody until somebody hurt one of my birds.”

Yeah, sensitive guy my ass.

A baby made to look like Tyson  tattoo and aggressive look included. You can never Indoctrinate too early...

A baby dressed up like Tyson tattoo and unhinged, unadulterated rage included. You can never indoctrinate and brainwash too early…

I Was Just Depressed I Couldn’t Bone Her No More

During an interview this past April, Tyson discussed the day he walked into ex-wife Robin Givens’ house to find her in bed with Brad Pitt. As Tyson put it with the delicate sensibilities only a sensitive guy like him can:

One day, I’m going to her house to bone her again and no one’s home, and I’m leaving and she’s pulling up with Brad Pitt, and I’m sad. He wasn’t Brad Pitt back then. He was just some little beach-bum-looking dude. […] “I wasn’t thinking about attacking him,” Tyson told Global Grind. “I was just depressed I couldn’t bone her no more.”

Sensitive guy my ass.

During the notorious Mike Tyson/Robin Givens interview some twenty years ago, the majority of people sympathized with Tyson, not Givens, who was being accused of being a lying gold digger who had no right to talk about their personal life to the public with him sitting right next to her.  Apparently having the living shit beaten out of you is personal dirty laundry that ought not to be shared with the world. It took a freaking rape conviction to take her seriously and even then, the victim blaming continued.

"Ha ha. Look, we got this crazy, scary violent abuser and rapist on the show. It's so funny if we make one of our guy emulate it and crack jokes about how fun it is to be a rapist". Ha ha"

“Ha ha. Look, we got this crazy, scary violent abuser and rapist on the show. It’s so funny if we make one of our guys emulate it and crack jokes about how fun it is to be a rapist”. Ha ha”

When Tyson was tried in Indiana, his accuser, Desiree Washington, was also called names – from a filthy lying whore to a gold digger who was falsely accusing this pillar of a man and was after his wealth. She was being shredded through the press as someone who was just crying wolf with a “history of at least one false accusation of rape“.

And here we are, over twenty years later, and still no one is asking about either Washington or Givens or any of the people Tyson has hurt.

On the contrary, in countless magazines, interviews and all staples of the entertainment business, including Wikipedia, all sorts of doubts are being cast on their reputations and motives  just so that Tyson’s can be rehabilitated.

One look at the commenting section of any article concerning Tyson’s come back and it is abundantly clear who people empathize with and pity. Either that or they see a commercial opportunity to exploit the situation, giggling that putting a freak like Tyson in their movie would be just so much fun and hilarious. Hardi har har har. 

Never mind that he doesn’t have any remorse for what he did and in fact in an interview in 2006- while lamenting the “hard life” he faced after his conviction and incarceration for the rape of Desiree Washginton – not only still denied that he raped Washington in 1991 in an Indianapolis hotel room, he also said that the burden of being labeled a convicted rapist made him want to do it now even more.

I just hate her guts. She put me in that state, where I don’t know,” Tyson said. “I really wish I did now. But now I really do want to rape her.”

Sensitive guy my ass.

He cannot even admit to having committed a crime.  How can people think he paid his dues and made amends and then
forget about it altogether celebrating him as if he was a war veteran on the return?

Should he be able to make a living? Sure. But making him famous and rich? Some kind of a public figure people inevitably look up to?

robin

All such behavior does is sweep a history of violence under the rug rather than confront how well that violence is abetted and normalized by the wider culture that tells women and other victims, over and over again, that violence against them is tolerated and will be fought even if it means dismissing their rape claims as mostly a result of “miscommunication” or a sex act gone wrong, as opposed to a serious crime.

Entertainment Value Continues to Trump Appropriate Human Behavior

We’ve heard the story before when Michael Vick strolled out of prison right into a new multi-million dollar contract  and thus back to that high status with all the privileges therein.  He couldn’t even be bothered to serve as a messenger to all those kids that look up to him explaining why it’s wrong to torment and abuse weak, defenseless and innocent creatures.

Instead, he just went back to the high life signaling once again to society that there really are no serious consequences to your crimes against women as long as you have the privilege of maleness, wealth and fame behind you.

You Can’t Rehabilitate Someone Who Denies Any Wrong Doing

Ultimately, if there is a chance for Tyson to be truly rehabilitated, with which I definitely don’t mean the rehabilitation of his career but of his person as a human being – it is doubtful that rewarding him with wealth, power, entitlement and with it unlimited privilege would accomplish that. In fact, those are the very things that give credence to his behavior and are likely to exacerbate it.

Being famous inevitably puts one in a leadership position as people, in one way or another, look up to the famous person. While I’m not suggesting Tyson wear a scarlet letter,  I must point out how reprehensible it is to use his image and persona in such a way as to suggest that his violent past, including rape, is no big deal. When Tyson realized that the world was welcoming him back with open arms, the message that was sent to him, all males, kids who admire him and the whole world as such was that Hey, what you did was no biggie. We’ll understand. Life throws you a curve ball every now and then. We get it. Note that if he had murdered someone, like OJ Simpson, it is highly unlikely that he would have been welcomed back.  But rape – we can work around that as no sexual offense is heinous enough that fame and fortune would not take you back.

Is it then any wonder that our very own legislators dismiss and trivialize sexual violence against women with a straight face, trying to redefine rape, even going so far as to believe there is such a thing as legitimate rape? Judge for yourself.

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