Cantina Quote o’ the Week: H.G. Wells »« Mount Rainier Travelogue Parte the Seconde: Falling Water Everywhere

Dr. Phil’s Rape Culture Goggles

Another day, another clueless dude* asking a dumbshit question about rape.

“If a girl is drunk, is it OK to have sex with her? Reply yes or no to @drphil #teensaccused” Screen cap courtesy Change.org.

I heaved a weary sigh when I got the Change.Org email inviting me to sign the petition advising Dr. Phil that a) answer’s no, you dumbshit**; b) apologize; and c) air a show that advises viewers not to rape people, no, not even if they’re drunk. Not surprised? I’m having a heart attack from not surprised. Dude sods up topic of sexual assault, news at midnight because who’s gonna stay up for this predictable bullshit?

Thing is, Dr. Phil’s not only a dumbshit, he’s a terribly influential one. Oprah merely mentioning she liked a book would send her fans phoning every bookstore in the country with requests for it five seconds later. This is her pet shrink. I’ve no doubt a large contingent of the country believes rainbows shine out of his arse and that every nugget he excretes is pure genius, because Oprah likes him. He’s not just a symptom of rape culture: he’s one of it’s most powerful enablers.

Forget the fact his staff took that tweet down and blurted to some news agencies that they didn’t really mean it like that. The way the question and hashtag are phrased virtually scream to wanna-be rapists, “Yeah, you tap that passed-out pussy, bro! Go forth with Dr. Phil’s blessing, my randy son.***” They tell victims that they totes deserve it if they’re so foolish as to consume a mildly alcoholic drink when not alone in a locked panic room while wearing a burka. I don’t believe that’s what he and his staff intended – I believe it was, in their minds, “a research post in preparation for a show.” Problem is, Dr. Phil and staff had their rape culture goggles firmly screwed to their eyeballs, and it’s terribly hard to see how awful your action is when you’re wearing those. Say it with me, now: Intent is not magic.****

Alexandra at Feministing did the hard work of explaning most all that was wrong with this short, shitty tweet, under the following headings:

1. The tweet perpetuates the idea that rape is blurry.

2. The question is too simple for the problem.

3. The question assumes all victims are women.

4. The tweet focused on offenders rather than survivors.

5. Dr. Phil is concerned with “can” rather than “should.”

If you’re wondering what’s so wrong about this rape tweet, begin there. Me, I’m going to explore what’s wrong with Dr. Phil’s reaction, and his approach to this “very serious” topic generally.

Let’s have a gander at Dr. Phil’s Twitter feed, shall we? Surely, the feed that started the outrage will have a fine apology to offer.

Screen cap of Dr. Phil's Twitter feed, covering August 19th to the 22nd. Notice a distinct lack of an apology, or indeed any mention of the problem tweet at all.

Screen cap of Dr. Phil’s Twitter feed, covering August 19th to the 22nd. Notice a distinct lack of an apology, or indeed any mention of the problem tweet at all.

Dr. Phil @DrPhil

(18 hours ago) Have you experienced abuse by a stepparent? How was it resolved? Reply to @drphil with #stepparentabuse

(15 hours ago) If you have info about missing 15-year-old Erica Lynn Parsons, please call the Rowan County Sheriff at 701-216-8700. bit.ly/DP0820

(20 August) How young is too young to have “the talk” with your kids – and why? Reply with @drphil #pregnanttween

(20 August) Children learn what they live. | #DrPhil

(20 August) Have you ever felt alienated from one parent by your other parent? Reply to @drphil with #parentalalienation

(20 August)  Have you experienced #parentalalienation? Do you know someone who has used their child against their partner during a divorce?

Or, not.

Website?

Dr. Phil homepage screen cap 1

Dr. Phil homepage screen cap 1

And 2

And 2

 

Erm, nope. Not a single mention on the front page. Dear, oh dear. And it doesn’t appear there’s a newsy sort o’ thing where we can get the latest word on how Dr. Phil Fucked Up and Intends to Fix It.

Let’s search for the word “rape” and see what happens.

Rape search results, page 1.

Rape search results, page 1.

Deary, deary me. Numero Uno, Be on the Show – Know Someone Accused of Statutory Rape? My. It’s a 404 now, but sounds awfully like it was an invitation to MRAs, “ephebophiles,” and other assorted assholes to whine about how unfair it is that Dude’s in jail – sure, he was 45 and she***** was 13, but she looked older! And she was, like, totally begging for it!

Rape culture goggles again, I’m afraid.

Campus Crisis“? Let’s have a look. “Know the safety tips and warning signs…” Judging from the promo video, it’s all about tips to the victims about how not to get raped. Yay, rape culture! Let’s have a look at these “Top 5 Safety Tips,” then, and see.

Okay: “Never Walk Home Alone, Limit Alcohol, No iPod or ATM at Night, Change Your Route and Routine, Give Someone Your Schedule”…. DingDingDingDingDing! We have a rape culture winner! Ladies (cuz you know they didn’t mean dudes), here’s how not to get raped by a stranger! And it’s all your fault if you get raped trying to have a normal life! And special bonus – here’s five ways to retraumatize yourself if you screw up – remember, no conviction, no rape! Remember, girls: it’s not date rape without proof of a date rape drug being used! Also, if his wee-wee didn’t get forcibly stuck in your vee-vee, you haven’t been raped, so quit whining! Whee, rape culture, woo!

Might I suggest a new set of tips?

Sexual Assault Prevention Tips. Really like number 10: DON'T ASSAULT PEOPLE.

Sexual Assault Prevention Tips. Really like number 10: DON’T ASSAULT PEOPLE. Via A Rape Survivor’s Blog.

1. Don’t put drugs in people’s drinks in order to control their behavior.

2. When you see someone walking by themselves, leave them alone!

3. If you pull over to help someone with car problems, remember not to assault them!

4. NEVER open an unlocked door or window uninvited.

5. If you are in an elevator and someone else gets in, DON’T ASSAULT THEM!

6. USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM! If you are not able to stop yourself from assaulting people, ask a friend to stay with you while you are in public.

7. Always be honest with people! Don’t pretend to be a caring friend in order to gain the trust of someone you want to assault. Consider telling them you plan to assault them. If you don’t communicate your intentions, the other person may take that as a sign that you do not plan to rape them.

8. Don’t forget: you can’t have sex with someone unless they are awake!

9. Carry a whistle! If you are worried you might assault someone “on accident” you can hand it to the person you are with, so they can blow it if you do.

10. Don’t assault people.

Rather more sensible advice, targeting the correct part of the population. Shame Dr. Phil doesn’t seem to know about it.

I can hardly bear to look further, but it’s like a gruesome accident scene. Let’s see what Dr. Phil’s got to say about Steubenville. I think I can already tell by the title – Football, Booze and Bad Behavior just screams “those naughty boys will be boys with some slutty girl” – but bennie of the doubtie, they’re always telling me.

Dr. Phil sez, “Where the hell are the adults in this situation? Why isn’t there supervision? Why do they feel so safe that they can talk about this so openly?” Way to go, Dr. Phil. Let’s parse what you’re saying: People have no responsibility not to rape – it’s up to Mommy and Daddy to stop them cuz boyz will be boyz, amirite? Oh, and the real problem is the fact the boys felt cool bragging about it – rapists naughty children should show some decorum.

Joyous. Dr. Phil’s on the same page as this prosecutor. Gee, I wonder why rape victims are reluctant to report?

And my gosh, those poor friends of the accused in the last few paragraphs! People are being meeean to them, just for standing by rapists their buddies! (Death threats, assuredly, are not okay no matter who they’re aimed at. Neither is erasing the victim and perpetuating rape culture, Dr. Phil.)

Looking through the rape search results, the impression is overwhelming that Dr. Phil is your typical male middle-American asshat. Male rape victims are almost completely erased, as if they couldn’t possibly exist. Rape is pretty much stranger rape, unless it was some dude actually drugging a chick he knows (alcohol doesn’t count), or someone like an evil relative or family friend preying on the kiddies. Date Rape = girl drank too much, boys couldn’t help themselves, guess you’ll know better next time, eh, sweetheart? Rape victims are responsible for protecting themselves against rape, but heaven forfend we tell rapists not to rape! And then he marvels at the number of college men who don’t think rape is rape? Oh, puh-leez.

Dr. Phil: you’re part of the reason people (not just men!) are unclear on the concept. You’re a huge part of the problem.

the-fail-is-strong

So, yeah. Well past time he did something to set that right.

Petition’s here. And do feel free to tweet Dr. Phil. The more people telling him this shit must stop, the better the chances he’ll realize it’s time to remove the rape goggles. Let’s hope he can do better than some skeptics we know.

 

 

*Sometimes dudette, but most often a certified dude.*

*Paraphrase.

***Don’t talk to me about women also being capable of rape – talk to Dr. Phil.

**** Those hard-of-understanding people might also wish to try reading this succinct explanation as to why intent is not, in fact, magic.

*****I know, I know, but in Dr. Phil’s world, there is no xe, only she. And possibly he if the details are salacious and the teacher hot enough.

 

[notice] Hola, new commenters! Please do peruse the comment policy thoroughly before you expend valuable time sharing your thoughts. Or tl;dr: I reserve the right to drop asshats in the trash without a second glance. Bad behavior elsewhere will also get you instabanned here. Not an asshat or someone who’s been kicked out of other places for bad behavior? Then you’re probably cool. Thanks for reading![/notice]

Comments

  1. unbound says

    You know, I already had a really, really low opinion of Dr. Phil, and you had to go and show me that that extremely low opinion was far too high.

  2. rq says

    I don’t know what to say. Sometimes I wish I didn’t know about this stuff (rape culture and what it means), because it’s so damn depressing seeing it so much. It’s uplifting to see efforts against it and campaigns and just online news about people speaking out against it – but then people like Dr Phil show how ignorant they are of the problem, and… the obstacle grows another 3 to 5 times.
    I guess it’s just one of those things, the neverending battle.
    Your posts rock on this topic and this one is no exception, and I’ve been meaning to say all your recent posts have been great. I do read them. :)

    • says

      Ditto. It’s pretty much impossible to make yourself unaware of rape culture once you’ve been enlightened, fortunately/unfortunately.

  3. says

    “Research post” my ass. Saying stuff on Twitter is not “research,” it’s a crude form of push-polling, with extra dogwhistles for good measure.

    And isn’t DOCTOR Phil supposed to be an expert in his own right on something or other? Isn’t that why we call him DOCTOR Phil, instead of just Phil The Guy Who Bloviates About Stuff? Why does an expert of any kind need to get answers from an undifferentiated lay population? Isn’t that what he’s paid to do himself? Would you pay a shrink to punt your questions to an anonymous public and let them do the work for him?

    This whole thing is disgraceful and unprofessional. The only reason I didn’t lose any respect for “Doctor” Phil over this, is that I didn’t have any to lose beforehand. This just proves (again) that TV “doctors” like Oz, Phil and Laura aren’t paid to serve any patients, they’re paid to pander to the viewers’ tastes, and use their credentials to give the prevailing mood a veneer of respectability.

  4. says

    Can I also point out the additional soupçon of crassness as this tweet was sent out in advance of a show where the mother of Rehtaeh Parsons will be a guest? Her daughter was raped by multiple assailants, pictures were taken of the assault and distributed online, after which she was bullied for more than a year, and then committed suicide. So, the tweet asks “Was it ok for the #teensaccused of child porn for the bullying because the police did nothing about the actual rape when the victim was still, you know, alive, to rape the fifteen year-old Rehtaeh Parsons because she’d been drinking at a house party? Just asking.”

  5. Trebuchet says

    What’s really puzzling me about this is that I’m pretty sure the vast majority of Phil’s fans are female. And I think he spends most of his time talking down to them. (Can’t say for sure if either is correct, since I don’t and won’t watch his show.) Why do women — or anyone — put up with the condescending jerk? He’s just Jerry Springer with a PhD.

  6. says

    @4 The thing is, he’s condescending to everyone, not just women, and most of the time he comes off as wise and paternal (i.e. “this is for your own good”) rather than as an obvious jerk. That’s how he gets away with it.

  7. Dave, ex-Kwisatz Haderach says

    I was in a sewage manhole earlier today (I had to, for work, its not something I do for fun), and I hold the things on the bottom of my boots in higher regard than I do Dr. Phil. And that was before I read the tweet. I’d like to think worse of him for this, but I don’t know if that’s even possible.

  8. didgen says

    I haven’t figured out why Dr. Phil can’t be followed around by the trail of slime that he leaves.

  9. didgen says

    No I do not mean to equate him with snails or slugs, I actually kind of like this in a icky creeped out way. Dr. Phil, no redeeming qualities.

  10. says

    So, trigger warning for rape and suicide, but:

    I just learned that the show that Dr. Phil was “researching” with that tweet has to do with a young Canadian woman who killed herself earlier this year after she was raped (while drunk) and then bullied when her rapists shared pictures of the event with her classmates. Just…UGH. I mean, “is it okay to have sex with a drunk girl” is horrid enough as an excercise in JAQing off, but in this context? Actually trying to excuse the sick fucks who drove this young woman to suicide? On a show on which her grieving mother will be appearing? Makes me ill, and also baffled that they would even think this is okay.

    • rq says

      Knowing this context, it really makes me wonder (in a sickening, horrified kind of way) who the other guests will be on the show, and what kind of ‘experts’ Rehtaeh’s mother will be facing, and what kinds of questions they will be asking about her daughter’s behaviour… I doubt there will actually be much focus on the “teens accused”. I really, really, really feel for that woman, and I’m having bad premonitions of an impending trainwreck.

  11. leftwingfox says

    heliconia: Holy everfucking gobstoppers…

    Of all the things to ask about in that horrifying, tragic case, he has an internet poll about whether drunk girls are fair game? Community does nothing, cops did nothing, school sided with the rapists in bullying her, girl commits suicide. Let’s focus on teen drinking?! Next on Dr. Phil: “Burqa or niqab; which should your daughter be wearing?”

  12. Kevin Schelley says

    I think Dr. Phil needs to lose his TV gig pronto. He’s lost his license, does horrible, falsehood propagating bullshit all the time that actively harms people… Why the fuck does he still have a job?

  13. says

    Dr. Phil and Oprah: Getting stinking filthy rich one empty cranial cavity at a time! May the dumbth of a thousand homeopaths infest their personal health care stat.

  14. mudpuddles says

    Sorry to be the dumbass in the room, but I’d be grateful if someone could put me right on one point.

    Never Walk Home Alone, Limit Alcohol, No iPod or ATM at Night, Change Your Route and Routine, Give Someone Your Schedule

    I’ve looked at the offending web page, and to be honest I can’t see any problem with most of these as safety tips (I think “limit alcohol” is dumb, irrelevant and a bit preachy in the given context, but its not bad from a general health perspective). I don’t think these tips suggest that the responsibility for preventing an assault lies with the potential victim, rather I see the page as offering general advice about keeping oneself safe(er) in a world full of sickos and scumbags. Certainly, if you get assaulted its never your fault. I also believe that thinking about the risk of assault and factoring means of reducing that risk into your everyday life is not a responsibility – but its a good idea as long as we live in a society where rape-culture abounds.

    If my car is broken into while it is in a car park, and valuables taken from the trunk, am I as a victim responsible? No. Am I obliged to hide my valuables in a locker? No. Am I responsible for this crime because I left something valuable in my boot? No. Would removing valuables from my car beforehand be a pretty good idea, given the fact that car break-ins are common here in Ireland? Ya. Am I culpable if I do not follow this advice? No. I know that rape and petty theft are chalk and cheese, but I’m just trying to illustrate my thinking on this.

    I would feel it remiss of me not to teach my daughter those (or similar) safety tips, knowing they might help her reduce the risk of falling victim to a monster one night. Until such time as the risk of rape is minimal due to the fact that people just don’t commit rape anymore, there is danger, and danger is best avoided if possible. I would give the same sort of advice to any one of my friends considering walking down O’Connell Street in Dublin at any time of day or night – avoid the street altogether if you can especially after dark, don’t walk there alone, keep your eyes open and your wits about you, let folks know your plans, and be ready to run very fast.

    If I am missing an obvious point then I am very willing to be better informed.

    • says

      @mudpuddles,

      Firstly all those prevention/safety tips are made in the context of stranger-rape, and not a single one will protect anybody from the far more common date/acquaintance rape.

      Secondly, women already know all those tips from just about every rape-myth perpetuating example of socialisation and fictional portrayals, so (a) these sites don’t tell potential victims anything they don’t already know (they just reinforce what people will blame them for afterwards) and (b) if my or your daughter’s precautions ARE sufficient to avoid rape, we just push the problem on to the next more vulnerable (for whatever reason) victim.

      These tips do nothing to stop the overall rate of rape, and that means they aren’t actually addressing the real problem.

      • mudpuddles says

        Hi tigtog, many thanks for the reply.

        all those prevention/safety tips are made in the context of stranger-rape, and not a single one will protect anybody from the far more common date/acquaintance rape.

        I agree 100%.

        women already know all those tips

        I am sure this may be true for almost all women. But this does not mean that they are not useful, nor does their utility confer any responsibility to adhere to them on the potential victim.

        (a) these sites don’t tell potential victims anything they don’t already know (they just reinforce what people will blame them for afterwards).

        I agree, but see no problem in repeating good advice.

        and (b) if my or your daughter’s precautions ARE sufficient to avoid rape, we just push the problem on to the next more vulnerable (for whatever reason) victim

        I agree, a predator will probably seek till they find a victim. But if everyone knows this advice, surely the number of vulnerable people might be reduced and make it that much harder for the rapist? In school in the 80s a teacher told my class (which was mixed) about the threat of sexual assault, and gave similar tips. She told us to “think of a hyena hunting zebras” – following certain advice gave us stripes for camouflage and safety in numbers. No suggestion that zebras bear the blame for being eaten. I fully acknowledge victim blaming and see it as a serious social problem – but that does not mean good advice should not be given out.

        These tips do nothing to stop the overall rate of rape, and that means they aren’t actually addressing the real problem.

        I don’t see that ensuring women are alert and aware in society will do nothing to reduce the overall rate of rape – I think it very well could do, by at least a tiny amount. Otherwise I fully agree with the rest of the sentence – these tips do not address the real root of the problem. That does not mean that they are not in and of themselves good tips to help potential victims (i.e. most women in the West) reduce their risk. The real problem needs to be addressed, in line with the 10 alternative tips which Dana posted. Another problem which needs to be stopped is the prevalence of victim blaming – but this won’t be stopped simply by deciding not to impart good advice, though how that advice is parsed is important.
        A friend of my family was recently raped and murdered in Melbourne, Australia. She did not follow some of those tips that may just have saved her. If she had done so, she might still be alive, but someone else would probably be dead. The killer was a repeat sex offender and serial sexual abuser and ALL responsibility for the rape and murder is his. This girl’s family and friends have faced the usual disgusting suggestions that this wonderful woman bears some responsibility for her own tragedy, which I and all clear-thinking decent people reject. If the victim was someone else, I might be glad that our friend took a taxi or went home with friends, and still wish that the true causes and reasons for rape (which have nothing to do with the victims) could be wiped out. It may turn out that some other woman on that street that night did follow that advice and was left alone by the criminal, in which case I will be glad for her.

        • punchdrunk says

          Here’s what the ‘tips’ are telling me:
          Don’t walk to the bus stop
          Don’t have a pizza delivered
          Don’t let the landlord in the front door
          Never have a package delivered
          Never need money after dark
          Never work late
          Don’t go to night school
          Don’t dress for the weather, dress to avoid rapists
          etcetcetc

          And if you don’t follow this advice, you’re being careless, imprudent, and reckless. Unless you have a (male) chaperone.

        • Dana Hunter says

          Mudpuddles – you’re stepping over the line of acceptable behavior. Time to stop defending “how not to get raped” tips now. Go think deeply on why your words make survivors like myself extremely angry.

          And what you said about that murdered woman is far over the line. Do not do this in my cantina.

          • mudpuddles says

            With respect, I am a survivor too Dana. I sincerely apologise if I’ve caused upset or offense. I am not seeking to defend “don’t get raped” tips, and the advice given would not have made any difference to me, seeing as I was too young to understand and I was raped by someone I trusted. I simply disagree that such advice is necessarily bad just because someone misuses it to blame victims. I asked to be enlightened so I would better understand someone else’s point of view, and I have been pleasantly engaged and informed by Tony and tigtog.

        • dean says

          A friend of my family was recently raped and murdered in Melbourne, Australia. She did not follow some of those tips that may just have saved her. If she had done so, she might still be alive, but someone else would probably be dead. The killer was a repeat sex offender and serial sexual abuser and ALL responsibility for the rape and murder is his. This girl’s family and friends have faced the usual disgusting suggestions that this wonderful woman bears some responsibility for her own tragedy

          Are the assertions that disgust you things like “had she followed more of those guidelines she might still be alive”?

    • iknklast says

      mudpuddles – all these pieces of advice are telling women if you don’t want to get raped, you must truncate your life. You can’t go where you want to go, you can’t do what you want to do, you can’t have fun, you must be protected by someone else, etc. It implies that women are raped because they are enjoying life rather than cowering in fear.

      What sort of life is that? I should be free to: go out at night, go to an ATM at night, go to a party, have a drink (or two or three) in public, wear what I want to wear, as long as it meets the appropriate dress code of the place I’m going, etc.

      I was raped in my own home. At the age of 7. By a member of my family. Tell me which of those pieces of advice would have kept me safe? Was my jumpsuit provocative? Was I drunk? (No, I”ve never been drunk in my life. I still have been harassed regularly).

      In other words, to put it in shorter terms: Rape is the responsibility of the rapist. Period. No matter where the victim is. No matter what sort of life she is leading. If she walks out of her house to the ATM at midnight drunk and stark naked, the rapist still bears the responsibility for not raping her. These tips imply otherwise.

  15. says

    I knew nothing of Dr Phil prior to this Tweet (other than his popularity via Oprah endorsement). Given his influence he should have said something like “sex is best with consent from all parties involved”. That could still have been a springboard for his show, but it would also demonstrate his awareness of the importance of consent.
    But this shit he tweeted? I agree with Alexandra at Feministing.

    To see this is but one example in a long line of apologetics for rape culture is disgusting. How much harm is this douchenozzle causing?

  16. says

    Mudpuddles:
    That list does indeed put the onus of rape prevention on women. Thats a list aimed at women as things that can “help reduce your chances of being raped”.
    A few big problems with that:

    1- first and foremost, people (mostly, but not all, women) are raped all over the place. At work. At school. At church. At home. Outside. In a dorm. In an apartment. In a bus. In a car. There is no place that one can go to be safe from a rapist.
    Why is that?

    2- whether lots of clothes or no clothes, there is no style of dress that will magically prevent a person from being raped.
    Why is that?

    3- limiting alcoholic consumption or not drinking–no protection from rape. Children who have never touched alcohol have been raped.
    Why is that?

    4- you should get the point. Going a new route, not using ATMs at night, etc…none of that will prevent a rapist from raping.

    It is because rapists are the only ones who can stop a rape from happening. They are the ones exerting power over another human being. Their actions cannot be controlled by others. But these fuckers are not forces of nature. They have the power to not rape. They choose not to.
    Dr Phil’s list needs to be aimed at those who *can* prevent rapes: the rapist.
    Women are not responsible for preventing their victimization.

    (Another issue–women have heard this advice probably longer than Dr Phil has been alive. It is condescending to treat women as if this is important advice they somehow missed, especially when said advice is not going to stop a rapist from raping…oh and this list is nothing more than stripped down call for women to stay at home, rather than interact with the world on their own terms)

    • mudpuddles says

      Hi Tony, thanks for the reply mate.

      I agree with almost everything you said, except your initial statement that the list puts the onus of rape prevention on women. I do not believe that it necessarily does that. Yes, I will agree that it might indeed suggest that to certain people, and that the use of these lists in a weak context is a problem and can feed into rape-culture. But that is a problem of presentation, not of the advice itself. If some advice works to save me, I’m glad I took the advice. If the problem itself was resolved so I never needed the advice in the first place, then of course that’s better and its where we need to get to. If Dr. Phil’s web page had first presented the alternative 10 tips to prevent rape (aimed at potential rapists), and then followed with “Potential victims, until society gets the message and the world is safer, you may reduce the risk that you’ll fall victim to a rapist by following these tips…” that would have been better. In other words, I believe that the fact that good advice is badly presented or won’t solve the real problem is not a reason to not give said advice, but it is an incentive to work harder to address the root of those problems.

      It is condescending to treat women as if this is important advice they somehow missed

      – I know many who missed it. Is it condescending to tell people to wear sunscreen before going out in blazing sunshine, or to tell people to wear a seatbelt?

      oh and this list is nothing more than stripped down call for women to stay at home, rather than interact with the world on their own terms

      I disagree. I see nothing there that says “stay at home”, and to be fair there are many areas of life where not acting on your own terms – if following other paths involves reduced risk to yourself – is useful (wearing a seatbelt, not ignoring changes to a mole on your body, practicing safe sex). If you ignore that mole are you at fault for the sun giving you cancer? No. If you don’t wear a seatbelt, are you responsible for the fact that some idiot smashed into your car and sent you through a windscreen? No. Does that mean you should just “interact with the world on your own terms” and ditch all such advice? No.

  17. says

    A poorly worded(at best) research question on twitter? He uses Twitter for research like this? Seriously, what?

    Even Facebook would be better. Given the total lack of any controls against poll manipulation, the only value would be in what people say about it beyond “yes/no”, and Facebook at least allows for lengthy comments, even if it’s not the best platform for it.

    I was going to say fire his research team, but they appear to be living up to the standard set by the man himself, given all the context here and over at Pharyngula.

  18. mudpuddles says

    I’ve caused offense to Dana (and in light of Dana’s comment, I guess others too) with my question and comments. This was not at all my intent. I apologise to any affected. My thanks to tigtog & Tony for engaging in the discussion and giving your different perspectives, its much appreciated.

  19. rq says

    ***Just in case, going to Trigger Warning this for discussion of assault and rape (not detailed but still). ***

    mudpuddles: The second you say “Well, if she’d taken that advice / followed these rules / done something different, she’d probably be safe”, you’re engaging in some pretty strong victim blaming. Because if it was possible for her to avoid what happened to her and if she actively chose to do something that would bring her in harm’s way, then that means she was instrumental in her own assault in some minuscule way, which is enough to place at least some of the blame on her – and that is, indeed, victim-blaming (I am speaking here specifically of the woman you mentioned, where you specifically said

    She did not follow some of those tips that may just have saved her.

    Because there is always something you can do differently – not wear a dress, take a different route, call a friend, not work so late, not go to school – but in the end, the only thing that makes a difference between being assaulted/raped and not assaulted/raped is the presence of an assaulter/rapist (or absence thereof). And this is why focussing on victims is Just Plain Wrong: it does nothing to address the deeper issue of a culture that refuses to acknowledge the inherent wrongness of rape by not teaching boys, girls, men, women and everyone in between about bodily autonomy and that it is wrong to rape. As things currently stand, it seems to be wrong to get raped (by this I mean the horrible scrutiny and questions and dissection of lives and history that victims must endure as if they were the ones doing something wrong) – but nobody passively gets raped. SOMEONE is always doing the raping, and until the focus is on that person, and those who see nothing wrong with disrespecting another person’s bodily autonomy, this culture is never going to change.
    And trying to say that ‘These safety tips are just good advice’ is patronizing and condescending to all women (and for that matter any other minority at greater risk of assault), because it assumes that they are not already conscious of their own position in society, and that somebody else knows better. But that same somebody else rarely practically never directly and outright condemns the assaulter/rapist for what they have done. No, it’s just boys-will-be-boys and oh-hey-she-was-drunk. The fact that, in the presence of an assaulter/rapist, you are powerless to do anything that will keep them from going through with what they want to do, and that no ‘safety tips’ will ever be on a list thorough enough to cover everything you should or should not do, never seems to get through some people’s heads.

    Shorter version: It’s not about the safety tips themselves, it’s about the focus of those safety tips. And that focus is squarely on the victim, which is exactly where it should not be. And that is why parading them out yet again like something worthy of a Nobel Prize for the umpteenth time around is stupid and wrong and will never direct people towards the conversation that needs to happen.

    Apologies for the length.

  20. Dana Hunter says

    Thank you tigtog, Punchdrunk, RQ, Dean, iknklast, and Tony for saying what I was too angry to say last night. Brava, all of you!

    Mudpuddles, I hope this clarifies why your comments are not well received by most survivors. I’m sorry for what happened to you. I hope no one ever suggested that you should have done something differently in order to avoid becoming a victim. I hope you didn’t buy into that myth yourself. And I hope you’ve learned why your fellow survivors may not appreciate these prevention tips. I see you’ve already learned the first rule of holes – thank you for that! Very much appreciated.

    Hugs for all who would like them. Love you, my darlings!

  21. moarscienceplz says

    I’ve no doubt a large contingent of the country believes rainbows shine out of his arse and that every nugget he excretes is pure genius, because Oprah likes him.

    Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner!

    BTW this brings up a pet peeve of mine: Just because you have a doctorate, don’t expect me to call you “Doctor” unless I am asking you for your professional help. I used to have a video store. We accepted reservations for movies, and the was one darling woman who always tried to give her name as “Dr. Smith”. I took great pleasure every time in asking her, “Is “Doctor” your first name? ;-p

    Phil McGraw says he has retired from psychology and he has let his medical license lapse, so I refuse to call him “Dr. Phil”.

  22. says

    Can I also point out the additional soupçon of crassness as this tweet was sent out in advance of a show where the mother of Rehtaeh Parsons will be a guest?

    I feel sick.

  23. mudpuddles says

    Thanks everyone for engaging with me on this, and to you Dana.

    I fully understand and accept the points of view here. I disagree with some, but to a minor degree. We are all on the same page. I should have taken longer to consider and phrase my points before I wrote them.

    @RQ, #20 Hi there, & thanks for the comment. I don’t disagree with anything you have said, but you’ve helped make another perspective much clearer to me – thank you.

    Because there is always something you can do differently – not wear a dress, take a different route, call a friend, not work so late, not go to school – but in the end, the only thing that makes a difference between being assaulted/raped and not assaulted/raped is the presence of an assaulter/rapist (or absence thereof)…
    Shorter version: It’s not about the safety tips themselves, it’s about the focus of those safety tips. And that focus is squarely on the victim, which is exactly where it should not be. And that is why parading them out yet again like something worthy of a Nobel Prize for the umpteenth time around is stupid and wrong and will never direct people towards the conversation that needs to happen.

    Well said. It is my own experience with repeated sexual (and other serious) assault which simply drives me to see my children and others I care about do what they can to reduce their risk. So yes, it is not a problem with the tips per se, but with the focus on them, the ad nauseum repetition of them, and the failure to address the would-be attackers, not the potential victims. Yes, the presence of the assaulter is the ultimate arbiter. Perhaps we can sometimes make it harder for them, but I agree strongly that we should not have to, and that we have no responsibility to, and that the constant reiteration of these tips suggest otherwise. I will disagree that our lives need to be truncated. I will agree that we live in an evil world, with risk around every corner, and sometimes we might be able to reduce our risk. I will aggressively disagree with anyone that this is our responsibility, or that rape results from any failure on the part of the victim to act in a certain way – though I expressed this poorly and apologise for triggering and causing upset. I agree that almost all of the responsibility to prevent rape lies with the attacker – the rest of the responsibility rests with a society that needs to focus their prevention efforts on those who would do evil and not on their victims. I agree fully that the focus on these tips and the way they are flung up on sites like Dr Phil’s is a big part of the problem of rape culture, especially as long as society focuses responsibility on the victim, not on the attacker. I agree that my earlier comments actually feed into this backward thinking, though I intended the opposite.
    I also agree I stepped over a line and should be more thoughtful in preparing my comments in future.

  24. rq says

    mudpuddles
    I disagree with what you said here

    I will agree that we live in an evil world, with risk around every corner, and sometimes we might be able to reduce our risk.

    Again, you’re treating conditions in a culture as a passive thing, as an “evil world”. It’s not the world that’s evil, that we should protect ourselves from it. It is people who are not taught to behave, and this is a very active problem, because people can (and should and must) be taught. People create these risks by choosing to become assaulters and rapists, and there is nothing that can be done to reduce that risk. It’s either you, or someone else, or someone else, but whether it happens to you or that someone else or that someone else, the risk remains the same for everyone because there is an assaulter/rapist, not because someone took extra precautions.
    And again, I have this feeling we’re focussing too much on stranger rapes – because that’s the only kind of rape those tips are set up to supposedly prevent (and even then, stranger rape isn’t an accidental or particularly impulsive crime – it takes a lot of planning to find the right spot, the right time, and to wait for the right victim, so small precautions won’t make a difference, especially if you don’t have another choice (like choosing a different route)).
    All of rape prevention should be on the potential rapist, and when there’s a whole culture that supports their actions implicitly, then the whole of the culture is a potential rapist, and therefore wholly responsible. The moment you say

    almost all of the responsibility

    with respect to potential assaulters and rapists, you’re leaving them wiggle room: “Oh, but nobody taught me that!” or “I dropped out at an early age, I wasn’t socialized properly!” or etc., etc., etc. And again they put on their big innocent eyes and say they’re so sorry I’ll try to do better and go on out and do it all again. Because, see, they’re not responsible for their actions, their culture is.
    I’m glad you seem to have thought things through, and that you may have worded your comments poorly. That just means you need to take more time to think about how to word your comments (and this isn’t always easy, since a lot of these phrases are ingrained in us and are very hard to eradicate, because we never do think about how they sound).
    Also, I’m sorry I forgot to mention in my previous comment, but I’m incredibly sorry for your own experiences and being assaulted, nobody ever anywhere at any age should have to go through that.

  25. mudpuddles says

    Hi rq,

    Again, you’re treating conditions in a culture as a passive thing, as an “evil world”. It’s not the world that’s evil, that we should protect ourselves from it.

    No, I do not consider the conditions in a culture as a passive thing, and never have. In fact I believe exactly the opposite. I consider “the world” we inhabit to be what we make it – our cultural sphere is how we (as society at large) have shaped it, and what we experience is a product of what we (collectively) have built, though of course not everyone is responsible for that culture – my young daughter has had no influence on the prevailing cultural norms, nor (typically) do the most disenfranchised or impoverished. I will respectfully disagree that some risks can’t be reduced – perhaps that may only be on an individual basis, and I agree that when one reduces their own risk they may unfortunately simply be transferring risk to another (in other words, taking measures to reduce my risk of being assaulted does not reduce the risk of an assault taking place). I believe there are measures we can take collectively to reduce that wider risk, and I would posit that you actually agree to an extent – you say:

    People create these risks by choosing to become assaulters and rapists, and there is nothing that can be done to reduce that risk.

    – yet you also say “people can (and should and must) be taught.” to behave. Isn’t the purpose of that teaching precisely to reduce the risk that someone will commit assault or rape?
    This is why I say:

    the rest of the responsibility rests with a society that needs to focus their prevention efforts on those who would do evil and not on their victims

    I actually mean what you said,

    people can (and should and must) be taught

    So, I reckon we don’t disagree on the substantive points ;)

    Thanks for your kind words also, they mean a lot.

  26. mudpuddles says

    I’d like to come back to make an additional comment here, one that’s tangential to Dana’s post on Dr. Phil, but something I’d just like to say in the context of the discussion on this and other recent FtB pages. (warning: I’ve had a bit of tequila).

    I’ve been following FtB since it started up, and followed PZ, Ed Brayton and others in the atheist / skeptic sphere for a few years prior to that. Through PZ, Ophelia Benson, Skepchick, Jen McCreight and a few others I became increasingly interested in the issues which led to Atheism+. I have particularly followed with fascination, frustration, occasional bewilderment and frequent anger the on-going discussions over feminism, sexism, safety at Cons etc.

    The debate sickens me, by dint of the fact that it is occurring at all, and because of the petty squabbling it involves. It also leads me (like a sick train-wreck observer) to watch videos, read blogs, and listen to podcasts from a group of so-called skeptics who, by calling themselves skeptics, seem to assume an advanced level of rationality and insight and a superior intellect above everyone else who lives, whilst simultaneously proclaiming that feminist claims are all bunk because feminism itself is a lie (if you are a feminist you hate men therefore you must hate people therefore you must hate yourself blah blah blaaaaaaah).

    My head hurts from trying to make sense of the whole mess, and from the mind numbing tedium of most of the arguments and the depressing stupidity and inhumanity of people who lay claim to reason and rationality whilst pointing fingers of suspicion at assault victims and crowing about the need for a men’s rights movement. And I’m just a casual observer…. I often wonder, how on Earth do people like Dana et al not only skirt through the edges of this morass everyday, but roll up their sleeves and actively wade in, to engage, write, respond and push back against the endless torrent of willful ignorance, bile and hatred?

    I have entered into many discussions on FtB. I have had heated arguments with other commenters, who I now can laugh with. I have disagreed strongly with many of the opinions expressed by bloggers, and expressed as much in discussions with them. I have blundered about, thinking I was making informed statements when in fact I knew little, or expressing poorly worded opinions in ways that have caused upset. And yet no one has ever suggested I should not be here. The FtBullies we are all hearing about are strangely absent, even when I myself wrongly tell someone on these pages to go perform intercourse with themselves (a recent misunderstanding). Even here, the comments to tell me I was a dumbass – whilst frank and direct – were polite, encouraging and inviting of a response.

    My point is.. well, just thanks. Thanks to Dana and the rest for doing what they do and not backing down and continuing to counter the endless fuck-wittery, and still having the good grace and decency to inform and encourage people like me to stick around and learn a little. Thanks to the other commenters here for making this a welcoming place, for being the very opposite of the horde of irrational bullies that’s been dreamed up by a group who themselves rely utterly on overbearing noise, intimidation, threats, logical fallacies and bigotry. THIS here feels like a healthy community – where informed dissent from a stated opinion is challenged, but not discouraged, and where someone’s ignorance of another perspective is generally seen as a reason to engage with them. I don’t think I could muster the arrogance, the sense of self-importance, or the bitterness to spend much time in the other group. I’d rather stay here, continue to blunder, and learn from mistakes. Cheers.

    • Dana Hunter says

      (((hugs if you’d like them)))

      You know how we do this? You good people. You’re amazing, and you’ve made me a better person. Thank you!