Rose DiManno, rape culture ambassador

I had an MRA show up in the comments yesterday. In between the bluster and the self-aggrandizing and the laughable talking points, he did manage to slip in the kernel of an actual point (I know – nobody was more shocked than I was). He reminded me of the claim that I made a couple of weeks ago about the role that male feminists ought to play:

The task falls to male feminists to learn to identify and advocate these ideas, pulling from our own experiences as the above authors have. Like religion, the entire philosophical edifice of gender needs to be critiqued and pulled apart in order to rob it of the power to hurt us in the many ways it does. Not in exclusion to discussions of how patriarchy hurts women, but in addition to it.

Male feminists have a duty to support our female and gender-queer allies, and to use our male privilege as a method to amplify their voices. Beyond that, however, we also have an opportunity to vocalize, perhaps better than anyone else (and certainly better than MRAs), the ways in which our understandings of gender not only hurt women, but hurt men too. There are a variety of experiences and emotions and ways of living that rigid gender roles make socially unacceptable for men, and a number of unacceptable situations that men are forced into for the simple fact of their (our) gender. There is no valid reason for such prohibition, and therefore no justification for its associated harms.

The specific form of the reminder from the commenter was regarding this story (TW for sexual abuse):

Toronto police have released updated descriptions of four women sought in a sexual assault on a 19-year-old man last month. The suspects are all described as white, approximately 5-foot-4, and between 190 and 200 pounds. They are believed to be between 30 and 36.

One of the women is described as having short blond hair and a tattoo of wings on the back of her neck. She has an accent, which could be British, and was driving the SUV in which the victim says he was attacked. After leaving from the King St. and University Ave. area, police said the women parked in a lot in the Spadina Ave. and Queen St. W. area and sexually assaulted the man.

I had read the story that morning, and was obviously upset by it – sexual assault at the hands of a group of people is terrifying and scarring. But beyond that, I couldn’t really think of much of an angle to write about it – it happened, it appears the police are taking it seriously, and significantly, I didn’t see anyone minimizing the assault or mocking the victim – a hallmark of rape culture (and predominantly levied against women who are not ‘perfect’ victims – who have been drinking, or are dressed a certain way). The crime is horrible, but I saw no evidence of the second crime that usually accompanies them: the crime of having your worth as a human being held up for public scrutiny.

I saw no evidence, that is, until this morning when I sat down to write up my response to the story, and came across this (TW for rape apologism):

What the women are alleged to have done to this young man is unclear and won’t be clarified unless, perhaps, the incident ever comes to trial. The victim has declined to be interviewed, in a Star request relayed by Toronto police. Yet again we’re confronted by a purported crime of sexual violation couched in unhelpful language because the Criminal Code no longer includes those details, won’t even draw a distinction between a grope and rape. Sexual assault is defined as “not limited’’ to kissing, grabbing, oral sex and penetration.

Of course, one man’s sexual assault is another man’s sexual fantasy come true.

Around the assignment desk at this paper Monday, there were both chortles and priggish warnings not to play snide or mischievous with the slim facts as we know them. Mustn’t be seen to make light of an alleged sexual crime simply because the victim is a male, which would be reverse sexism and a double standard — men’s rights groups the first to pounce, no doubt — despite the obvious snickering quotient.

Enquiring minds are eager to know what the heck befell this young man at the hands of his tormentors — one of whom, according to a newspaper report, apparently spoke with a British accent and had a tattoo on her neck. Already I’m jumping to certain conjectures about this doll crew: fat and butchy, maybe self-designated vigilantistas, depending on what had transpired with their target earlier, at the bar.

This textbook (albiet gender-flipped) rape apologia comes not from the denizen of some random asshole internet commenter, but from Rose DiManno, columnist for the Toronto Star, one of the biggest papers in the country. All of the elements are there: minimization of the severity of the crime, the implication that the victim probably enjoyed it (or at least should have), that his failure to report immediately was the product of indecision or apathy (rather than, y’know, fear at being mocked in a major news outlet), the subtle suggestion that the victim, still a teenager, was somehow culpable for his own victimization. The snickering, swaggering, sneering tone of someone who thinks that being assaulted, regardless of the severity, is a big joke.

Notably, the reaction from Twitter was near-unanimous condemnation, from both men and women.

The point that my MRA critic was attempting to levy is that feminism doesn’t speak to these issues – men’s issues. The reality, of course, is that feminists recognize the existence of rape culture and have given us the analytical tools to recognize it. Regardless of the gender of the victim or the abuser, rape is a serious crime, and victims deserve sympathy and justice – neither of which are on display in DiManno’s execrable piece. Instead, she has decided to fall into the ideological company of the police, peer group, and society at large that drove another rape victim to suicide earlier this week.

While the commenter surely wanted to highlight this case as an example of how feminism is a hypocritical anti-male stance, the fact is that DiManno’s column is about as anti-feminist as you can get. As a feminist, I have zero difficulty condemning DiManno for her disgusting lack of empathy and her inexcusable attempt to minimize this crime by encouraging her readers to treat it as somehow humorous because the victim probably wanted it because he’s a man. And as a man, and a feminist, I will never shy away from fighting against the noxious gender stereotypes that make victims of us all.

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  1. says

    Actually, I’ve seen a lot of minimizing and victim-blaming from all over the net…

    But it seems to be coming from those of the MRA persuasion. Warning… don’t read “A Voice for Men’s” take on it… or the comments in the Men’s Rights subreddit about it, either. Because in between takes of attacking feminists for not caring about issues like this, they joke about how this is a male fantasy, how they themselves would enjoy it… I also read one or two comments incredulous about how straight, manly men can’t be raped… especially not by women.

    So yes… the manifestations of rape culture are all there… amongst MRAs…

  2. says

    Unfortunately, only too many people will react like DiManno. A man who is sexually assaulted somehow loses his man-status, and gets the same shit women do.

    @ Crommunist: last paragraph should read either “failure to condemn” or “attempt to minimize”. [So it should. Thanks!]

  3. says

    I saw many, many victim-blaming comments on the three different websites I saw that covered this story. even took the extra step of pairing the story with a stock photo of a sexy, white, smiling woman with ribbons in her hair, holding a large knife up to the camera. After several people left comments and tweeted at them that this was unacceptable, they changed the stock photo to a surly, dark-skinned young woman with a knife. I don’t really feel like that was much of an improvement–substituting victim-blaming for a bit of racism? Blergh.

  4. ildi says

    I did notice that some of the news headlines said “teen was raped/assaulted by four 200-lb women,” also seeming to imply that it would be rape only because the women were fat…

  5. Paranoid Dominican says

    “until this morning when I sat down to write” Do you mean “sat down to read” here, Kapitan Kromissar? We’re clear that DiManno wrote that crap, and that verb threw me off.

    Props on setting stuff straight. DiManno’s…one of the reasons I’m no longer subscribed to the Star. It’s got good columnists, but Rosie’s no Antonia Zerbisias or Haroon Siddiqui.

  6. says

    Do you mean “sat down to read” here, Kapitan Kromissar?

    Ordinarily yes, but in this case no. I wrote this piece this morning, after I saw DiManno’s piece (which was also published this morning). I have attempted to make the wording clearer in my post.

  7. says

    Once again, the myth of “rape culture” is dusted off and thrown around.

    Does anyone reading this honestly believe that if the story were about a 19-year old woman being gang-raped by four men people would be just as flippant about it? Honestly? If so, you’re not living on the same planet as I. Disagree? Cite examples. Show me where a female rape victim is vilified and ridiculed like this young man was.

    I can show you examples. Here’s some on a feminist website. Can you show me examples of a female rape victim being treated the same way?

    It’s not rape culture; it’s a double standard. And it is the marginalization of men’s issues by feminists that directly contributed to this young man’s not reporting his assault. He also had no male-specific resources to turn to for assistance, but female-specific resources abound nationwide.

    It makes me wonder why you chose to write about someone’s column rather than the double standard issue itself. Afraid of revealing your own hypocrisy, perhaps?

  8. says

    Show me where a female rape victim is vilified and ridiculed like this young man was.

    I link to an example of exactly that IN THE ARTICLE YOU’RE COMMENTING ON.

    He also had no male-specific resources to turn to for assistance

    It’s pretty obvious you don’t care AT ALL if this is true or not (spoilers: it isn’t), preferring instead to rail against the imagined hypocrisy of feminists. I’ve long suspected that MRAs don’t actually care about men, they just care about putting feminists “in their place”. You are quickly confirming this suspicion.

    And it is the marginalization of men’s issues by feminists that directly contributed to this young man’s not reporting his assault

    Citation STRONGLY needed. Feminists haven’t “marginalized men’s issues” (what rot), they have demanded that women’s issues receive ANY ATTENTION AT ALL. You are making the same argument that “White Rights” proponents make – that a traditionally-marginalized group speaking up for itself is somehow taking away from the majority something it deserves.

    It makes me wonder why you chose to write about someone’s column rather than the double standard issue itself. Afraid of revealing your own hypocrisy, perhaps?

    Because it’s not a double standard. It’s one standard. Rape is unacceptable.

  9. tariqata says

    Itchy Ike: The assertion that feminists try to marginalize the sexual assault of men is directly contradicted in the link that you posted, since it’s an article criticizing the way many people have dismissed the assault and highlighting the limited resources for male victims.

    “It is hard to think of a famous case where a man was sexually assaulted because people — society, the media — openly laugh at male victims of sex crimes and these cases don’t make it to light. We don’t need to look any further than Adam Sandler’s recent attempt That’s My Boy to see an example of a male victim of sexual assault being treated as lucky and the situation as a funny non-issue. It is no wonder that it took this young man until April 5 to go to police: there are almost no resources for male victims of sex crimes and everything out there on the matter completely delegitimises his experience.”

  10. rq says

    I see Sivi @4 has pointed out one of the reasons (among many) why I don’t read Rosie DiManno’s column anymore. At one point, I just couldn’t take it anymore.

  11. Jacob Schmidt says

    Does anyone reading this honestly believe that if the story were about a 19-year old woman being gang-raped by four men people would be just as flippant about it? [snip] Cite examples.

    I have no examples on hand of a 19 year old women being ridiculed. Would an 11 year old girl be an acceptable citation?

    From the article:

    “Like the spider and the fly. Wasn’t she saying, ‘Come into my parlor, said the spider to the fly?’ ”

  12. says

    And it is the marginalization of men’s issues by feminists that directly contributed to this young man’s not reporting his assault

    As the partner of a feminist who has spent her entire adult life supporting survivors of sexual assault and all forms of abuse, regardless of sex/gender expression, fuck you.

    Oh, was that uncivil. Too bad. Fuck you. She pushes against the reality of rape and abuse culture every day, trying to mitigate the damage done by assholes like you.

    I like to think that if you could see the people she helps, hear the stories she hears, you’d apologize to everyone you’ve insulted, smeared, defamed with your misogyny-born assertions.

  13. says

    “I’ve long suspected that MRAs don’t actually care about men, they just care about putting feminists “in their place”. ”

    @Crommunist – may I have your permission to quote you?? You’ve managed to sum up my sentiments in a very concise manner!

    @Itchy Ike – as much as I want to sling curse words at you and fart in your general direction, it would prove to be as unproductive as trying to explaing mitosis (sp?) to Sarah Palin, and you have probably moved on to trolling other websites, so I’m not going to waste my energy. I’m just going to say that I feel very sad for you and your horrifying narrow interpretation of what is feminism and what are its goals.

  14. says

    Itchy Ike’s probably a drive-by troll. Too bad, because I want him to come back so I can lay into him as harsh as as it’s possible to with words.

    Fucking MRA misogynistic fucktard…

    [As much as I also find Itchy Ike annoying and fuck-like, I would ask that you find a less ableist suffix than ‘tard’ for your next insult – C]

  15. Rob says

    The problem with people like Itchy Ike and their ilk is that they seem to believe that emotions are finite. If you feel love or compassion for one group you can’t feel it for another. Thus paying attention to ‘women’s issues’ MUST mean that no attention is paid to ‘men’s issues’.
    The truth of course is that emotions, for better or worse, are pretty much infinitely scalable if you choose to make them so.

  16. says

    Hey Crom, I’m a regular lurker. Just wanted to let you know that your positions on issues and your clarity when explaining them regularly makes tears lurk within my eyes. So from those lurking tears, the lurking me just wanted to say thank you for doing as you do and writing as you do. You give a coherent and strong voice to pretty much every issue that needs it. Again, thank you.

  17. Europa says

    I wondered about how men could best study their own gender as part of feminism. It appears to me that tons of writing already exist on the topic of men and masculinity and therefore a feminist reading and study of such material would yield very promising results.

    For example, plenty of famous thinkers have described what an idea (man’s) life is and these ideas have been discussed by thinkers eversince. They provide an interesting framework because they start from men upholding masculinity and try to derive the best behaviors to adopt. They however require a strong feminist supervision to ensure that ideas such as “great life is reading books in your garden” (Voltaire) doesn’t imply “find a good wife to handle everything else so your only time is leisure time” or the more modern and typical : “drop anything that doesn’t make your goals advance and find someone else to do it” (a classic on Lifehacker).

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