Saturday, June 16, 2012

Vox Day: Women should “relax and enjoy” rape culture

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Theodore Beale (aka Vox Day)
Vox Day

A few days ago, Kate Leth at kate or die! posted a useful little cartoon in which she illustrates some of the demeaning and sexist attitudes women are constantly faced with in our not-quite-yet-egalitarian society, particularly those whose concerns about rape culture are casually dismissed on the grounds that not all men are rapists (which, to be fair, partially illustrates the problem with the name “rape culture”, itself, though that’s just semantics and is a topic for another day). The comic has been making the rounds, including over at Pharyngula … which is presumably where our dear Theodore “Vox Day” Beale (or one of his followers) caught sight of it.

It turns out Vox has a bone or two to pick with the cartoon. To wit, under the endearing title “Oh, relax and enjoy it, Kate”:

One of the things I find remarkable is the readiness of outspoken feminist women to crucify themselves with their own words. It's as if they have absolutely no conception of the logical consequences of their ideas, and despite their confrontational tone, they appear to have no expectation that their position can or will be criticized.

Of course, Vox’s blustery condemnation might carry a tad more weight if he didn’t consistently mischaracterize these outspoken feminist women’s arguments (whether deliberately or not) and instead end up chasing strawmen through Scooby Dooby Doors. (Yakety Sax optional).

For instance, here’s his understanding (such as it is) and response to one of the core points in Kate’s cartoon:

It's not fair that I have to be terrified when I go jogging after 6 PM or when I'm on the bus or going to get milk.

Then don't go out alone at night. That's common sense.

That's rape culture! When you tell me it's my responsibility not to get hurt, you take away the responsibility of a human being not to rape!

Why are we even talking about this? I'm not a rapist.

Because it gets really fucking exhausting trying to believe in a future where I'm not treated like a crazy person for believing in equality!

First of all, Kate being terrified of rape when she goes to get milk is her problem. Some women are terrified of bats, others are afraid of heights, and those fears are no more your problem or my problem than Kate's terror of rape on the milk run. It is very, very easy for Kate to significantly reduce her chances of being raped, as getting a concealed carry permit and avoiding the company of black and Hispanic men will virtually eliminate the possibility that she will be forcibly raped. Even without taking any such defensive measures, the national rate of forcible rape is only 24.7 per 100,000 population, one-third lower than it was in 1990. This means that in a population of 308 million, Kate's chances of being raped in any given year are less than one in 12,000 and declining. This cannot be reasonably described as a "rape culture".

I suppose it was predictable that he would draw every point for his “rebuttal” from the communal MRA fallacy salad bowl, thought that doesn’t make it any less exasperating. Completely misrepresenting the phenomenon of how women are made to feel in public; blaming the victim for living in an environment that fosters fear in women; defending or simply ignoring the behaviors that excuse, if not promote, said fostering of fear – it’s all there. But the most glaring crock – and the perfect representation of his critical ignorance on the matter – is his use of national rape statistics (as fundamentally unreliable as they are) to try and argue that “rape culture” doesn’t exist.

For those not in the know (or too lazy to spend all of five seconds on Google), the term “rape culture” is not (or mostly not) about the numbers of women who are raped, nor about the risks of potentially being raped faced by individual women. Rape culture is the name given to the wide (and sometimes vaguely defined) range of socio-cultural beliefs and behaviors that ignore, trivialize and sometimes outright condone sexual violence, predominately (though not exclusively) against women. It’s not necessarily an overt and material display, either, but rather the collective of smaller, subtler roles and actions stemming from an undercurrent of dismissiveness and sexism. Declaring that rape victims shouldn’t have been wearing skimpy clothes (when one’s clothing habits actually have nothing to do with it); accusing women who report being raped of faking it for the attention (’cause nothing spells celebrity status like calling yourself a victim of sexual violence, right?); demeaning sexually open women as worthless sluts (when the same behavior is considered a sign of virile success in men); and most of all, acting in any way that tolerates the notion that the responsibility to avoid rapes rests with the victims and not the actual rapists – all are symptoms of rape culture (and only a few more prominent ones at that).

But even if Vox hadn’t completely misunderstood the meaning of “rape culture”, his point about falling rates of sexual violence against women is still dismantled beyond repair by existing statistics, which state that up to one in four women experience rape (including attempted rape) in their lives, and often before they’ve even passed college age. Again, say what you want about the reliability of such statistics and the research they’re derived from (or check out the linked report’s cited sources for yourself), but assuming that a wide margin of women who report rapes aren’t just making it up, that’s still more than enough to strike outrage and sorrow into the heart of anyone who calls themself a decent person.

As I’ve said before, though, Vox obviously doesn’t qualify, so all the better for him. As he continues:

If Kate genuinely lives in constant terror of a one in 12,000 risk, she is delusional and may be clinically paranoid. And this doesn't even begin to take into account that unless a woman is raped at home by someone breaking into her residence, it is very difficult for a woman to get raped without her not only contributing to the situation, but contributing significantly to it. And yes, in such situations, that does make the victim at least partially culpable from a legal perspective.

More typical apologetics. “Some victims are just asking for it!” Now, to be fair, the legal system (at least in the U.S.) varies enough between jurisdictions to account for some wide discrepancies regarding what can be considered rape (or “forcible” rape) or not. Just look at North Carolina, where the state Supreme Court established in 1979 that anyone who retracts consent after having originally given it cannot claim they were raped if their partner proceeds to force themself sexually on them anyway. But laws like this are only reflective of bad policy and wrong-minded officials, not of allegedly indecisive or permissive rape victims who supposedly fail to resist their aggressors strongly enough to receive the label of rape victim.

In the end, it’s all startlingly simple: “No means no.” If your partner says to stop, then just fucking stop. It’s really not that difficult or complicated. Anyone who forces sex upon a non-consenting individual is committing rape, regardless what their victim was wearing, doing or saying previous to the act. They could be the epitome of perceived harlotry incarnate, and you still can’t fuck them if they tell you not to. Really, there are only so many ways to phrase this.

Vox then proceeds with another of his usual attacks against equality:

Furthermore, Kate is quite obviously crazy. If she had said "it gets really fucking exhausting trying to believe in a future where I'm not treated like a crazy person for believing in rainbow-tailed unicorns", everyone would quite correctly conclude that she is a lunatic. But there is no more evidence for equality than there is for rainbow-tailed unicorns. Human equality simply doesn't exist and it has never existed. As I have pointed out before, both logic and genetic science demonstrate that human beings are not even all equally human.

Once again, someone seriously needs to explain to him the difference between equality and identicality, and how equal value doesn’t mean perfect similarity. Yes, men and women are different in body and mind. No-one in the history of humanity has ever said otherwise. What the pro-equality side is saying is that these differences do not signify that men and women should be treated with different levels of respect, both socially and legally. The fact that men have dangling genitals and that women’s are on the inside, or that men are generally stronger at math while women are apparently better at leadership (to list two common, albeit far from concrete, stereotypes) doesn’t mean that one is overall better than the other, nor that they should be treated as if they were. Men and women are nothing more or less than two different but equally worthy halves of the same species.

Again, I just have to wonder what it is about this concept that makes it so difficult to understand.

As if he hadn’t mangled the hell out of Kate’s arguments enough, Vox then goes on to accuse her of trying to censor critics with this truly facepalm-worthy passage:

Moreover, it is apparent that Kate, by her own admission, doesn't actually believe in equality anyway. Consider her final rant:

So fuck ANYONE who thinks they have the right to tell me not to care! FUCK THEM! I do care. I will always care.

Here Kate is expressly denying that others have the right to free speech, which is not only encoded into various legal systems but also happens to observably exist in a material manner, while simultaneously asserting the legitimacy of her attempt to believe in a future that is not only nonexistent, but improbable to the point of near impossibility. From which we are forced to conclude that she's not only crazy, she's outrageously stupid to boot.

I apologize for the broken glasses or keyboards some of you now have. Yes, Vox really is dumb enough to commit the grade-level mistake of confusing criticism with censorship, and further extrapolating from this idiotic misunderstanding to declare it antithetical to egalitarianism. Because when you insult someone or their position, you’re actually taking away their right to speak their minds or to respond to you. Dang, I guess all those people whom I’ve insulted or told to shut up over the years must have immediately ran to the courts to make sure my word wasn’t legally binding. I didn’t know I had such power! (Wait, does that mean I have to use it wisely? Drag.)

Quick tip: Criticism ≠ censorship. Saying that people “don’t have the right” to say various stupid things is not, in most contexts, actually advocating for the repeal of their freedom of speech. Just as how saying “Vox Day cannot possibly be this stupid” is not implying that he doesn’t have the right (or the ability) to broadcast his idiocy. It’s a rhetorical expression, not a literal declaration. Which is something that ought to be evident to anyone who repeatedly calls themself a “superintelligence” (presumably with a perfectly straight face).

Skipping over the characteristically childish swipe at Kate’s looks (another favorite anti-feminist tactic of his), he then further accuses Kate of supposedly wanting to make her fear into everyone else’s problem:

The fundamentally nonsensical thing about her position is that she wants others to do what she will not. If she can't be bothered to put any effort into defending herself against rape, why should anyone else? If it's not her responsibility to act on something about which she professes to care so deeply, how could it possibly be mine, or anyone else's, when we do not care in the slightest about her feelings or her fate.

“I’m an asshole, so it’s all Kate’s fault.” Because if he (and other sexist pricks) doesn’t care about the problems women face, then no-one else cares, either. And let’s not even imagine that anyone might actually want to rectify the situation by fighting to expose and end rape culture, one flaming misogynistic moron at a time. Nope – silly wimmen, it’s their problem if they get frustrated or frightened when they’re constantly belittled and harassed and insulted and threatened and ignored. Why should teh menz do anything about it?

And finally, as a closing and rather fitting note, he further reveals his mingled bigotry and cluelessness:

Of course, it would be deplorably raciss to notice that a 31 percent increase in the number of incarcerated black men, mostly for harmless drug charges, has corresponded with the 33 percent decline in forcible rapes per 100,000, from 41.2 in 1990 to 27.5 in 2010.

It’s like he’s not even trying anymore.

Then again, that does say pretty much everything anyone needs to know about him.