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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