August 19, 2015
Hell, sometimes it can even be right three or four times. Okay, not an actual broken clock, but in this case I’m using the “broken clock” as a metaphor for third wave feminists, so it obviously won’t translate perfectly. After all, #YesAllWomen are #NotYourTimepieces.
I’m referring specifically to a speech given at my freshman college orientation by Laci Green (no relation to myself, obviously). I’m not terribly familiar with her work, but I’ve heard her name thrown around with the likes of Jessica Valenti and Amanda Marcotte, so I expected that same level of disaster from her. Not even close.
Now, that’s not to say I found her presentation to be particularly great, but there’s no denying that some of her points were very much valid. To be perfectly honest, anyone who condemns sexual assault makes a valid point; I highly doubt the opinion that “rape is bad” is in any way controversial. Seriously, letting people keep their privates private is just basic human decency. That said, merely professing that “rape is bad” isn’t really worthy of comment. The question that really needs answering is “How do we stop it?” That is (or at least should be) the meat of any speech on this topic. So what were her suggestions?
Firstly, I must applaud Green’s take on the issue of gender attributes assigned during childhood. When I first saw the words “Gender Roles” flash on screen in her PowerPoint, I will admit to shuddering a little bit. Far too often I have seen feminists turn this into an issue of what movies/toys/colors/etc. is marketed to what gender of children. Sure, Disney Princesses/dolls/pink are marketed mostly to girls and superheroes/Hot Wheels/blue are marketed mostly to boys, but I fail to see the feminist issue in that. Sure, these products are marketed that way, but that doesn’t mean they can only be used that way. Hell, a girl wearing a blue superhero costume certainly wouldn’t attract as much attention as a boy wearing a pink princess dress.
Obviously, this wasn’t a speech about kids’ toys. Green’s explanation of gender roles had to go through a lens of how they relate to the issue of sexual assault. And honestly, I think she did a fairly decent job of it. A lot of this section of her speech focused on the concept of the “macho man” who is strong, stoic, dominant, and yes, who gets laid a lot. She claimed this ingrained image to be the root cause of many societal problems for both men and women, and it was honestly quite refreshing. I myself have long suspected it to be at least part of the reason for the significantly higher suicide rate of men as opposed to women. She even mentioned that the macho man stereotype often leads to the misconception that men cannot be sexually assaulted! I can’t ever recall seeing another third wave feminist admit that.
However, it wasn’t all good. Part of Green’s evidence for the existence of “rape culture” consisted of the numerous rape threats she herself has received, as well as examples from social media of people disparaging rape victims. I found this element of her presentation to be unconvincing at best and downright disingenuous at worst. I certainly don’t agree with the people sending Laci Green rape threats on the internet, but it’s not really evidence of anything other than that there are often loud, angry assholes lurking behind the anonymity of a computer monitor. It’s not unique to her, after all, Milo Yiannopoulos had to cancel a speech due to a bomb threat just a few days ago and John Bain (better known as “TotalBiscuit”) has stated that he “received death threats on a monthly basis”. She appeared to insinuate that the threats she received were somehow related to her work as an anti-sexual-assault activist, but they’re really just a product of her being moderately well known. It happens to everyone of that status. As for the random people on the internet disparaging rape victims, well, Ben Folds has already said it better than I ever could. Anyone that classless is either (a) looking for attention, or (b) too dumb to bother trying to deal with anyway.
This brings me to my final, and by far biggest, problem with Laci Green’s presentation: her call for stronger enforcement of sexual assault regulations. According to her, the average rapist will claim six victims before being brought to justice. She used this as evidence that enforcement is lacking and that there was “no accountability” for rapists. Assuming the “six victims” statistic is true (she also cited the “one in four” figure, which isn’t), her argument must be valid, right? Not so fast. Sure, some colleges do attempt to cover up sexual assaults in order to preserve their reputations, but six-victim-rapists could still very well be an issue even with genuine attempts at enforcement. The thing is, rape is a difficult crime to prove. It often occurs in private, causing many cases to boil down to “he said, she said” situations. And honestly, “she said” is just not enough to warrant a punishment without other evidence. The foundation of the American justice system is the presumption that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. Without strong evidence of guilt, there cannot be a conviction. To make “he said, she said” cases more viable for prosecution, and therefore catch more rapists early, we would need to relax the burden of proof, raising the potential for false convictions. And that is simply not acceptable to me. I’d rather see a thousand rapists run free than one innocent person convicted. Period.
EDIT: I forgot to mention, the PowerPoint slide about politicians supporting rape culture was just a big Republican logo. Way to be impartial there, Laci…
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