(Content note: rape culture)
So, if you haven’t heard (though I can’t see how you haven’t), a very horrid preacher was shouting “you deserve to be raped” at a bunch of high school students. A 19-year-old woman walked up behind him and whacked him upside the head with an aluminum baseball bat.
This has raised an interesting conversation, as many (myself included) have utterly no sympathy for him, and have, in fact, made fun of him over it. In fact, I commented, and then posted on my Facebook, the following:
To be completely fair, I think we need to ask some important questions…
What was he doing there, at that time of day, just being all provocative, and not even with a chaperone? Things happen when you go out like that. I mean really… he shouldn’t have expected any less.
And what was he wearing, anyways? Did he have on a provocative shirt, showing off too much?
And before you say it, no I’m definitely *not* victim blaming. All I’m saying is that there are ways he could have minimized his risk, and really… shouldn’t he be held responsible at least for his own actions?
Of course, many others have responded about Freezed Peaches, and about how people have the right to say anything, even things that are horrendous (like shouting “you deserve to be raped” in public to a bunch of high school girls). Myself and many others went back and forth about this on the comment thread for the article linked above. And then I finally posted this on Facebook and then in the comments of the article:
Okay so here’s the thing… there’s this idea of “I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
See… for me, there’s a line. That line is bigotry. You start spouting any kind of racist, misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, xenophobic, and/or fascist bullshit, and I’m out.
I will not commit violence against you, of course. I’m against violence. But I will no longer defend you, especially not to the death; my life ain’t worth your bigotry. If you start being a bigot, I reserve the right to say “fuck you; you’re on your own” and walk away.
And I really don’t care if you feel some type of way about that, either. That’s how I feel about it and I don’t see that changing… ever.
I also reserve the right to feel some schadenfreude if you face some sort of non-legal repercussions for your bigotry. I may disagree with a misogynistic, pro-rape, victim-blaming asshole getting whacked over the head with a bat, but I’m not gonna cry crocodile tears over it, either.
Before I continue, I would like to say this:
I honestly do not think she should have whacked him over the head. It was a mistake and she is facing consequences for it (although there will be more on this in a minute). I am anti-violence, at the end of the day. I’m not a fanatic about it, of course. There are many, many situations where I understand violence (for example), and of course, I have the privilege to tut tut about violence in a way that many, many others can’t. But, for me, it’s a last resort sort of thing, and should be avoided if at all possible.
So now that I have that moralizing out of the way…
I still find it utterly impossible to be upset that this preacher got hurt. In fact, even though I don’t agree with him being whacked over the head, I find myself supporting Ms. Brubaker, even with money!
Yes, that’s right. You can donate to her legal fees right there at that link, and I highly recommend it. There is a distinct argument to be made that she was acting in self-defense, possibly triggered by his vile, disgusting, violent words.
And I think people need to finally accept that our right to free speech is not unregulated. The right to free speech does not guarantee you a platform, nor does it guarantee you safety from social repercussions. The reality of the free speech clause of the First Amendment is that it only protects you from the government. That’s why, for example, when you get banned from Facebook, or… perhaps… from a particular social justice blogging network… or when you get disinvited from speaking at a college or a conference… your free speech simply isn’t being violated. All the free speech clause in the First Amendment really does is stop the government from locking you in prison because you said you didn’t like the President and couldn’t wait to vote him out… for example.
Telling a bunch of high school girls that they’re whores who deserve to be raped, however, is not protected by the First Amendment. They’re considered “fighting words”, and also violent speech, and you will suffer consequences for that speech (like being banned from the school premises… or being whacked over the head with an aluminum baseball bat).
As much as I disagree with what Ms. Brubaker did, I hope she can use the fact that the preacher was shouting rhetoric designed to incite violence and hate speech to show that she was merely defending herself. In fact, I have to admit that I’m torn on whether or not I think she should face consequences at all. On the one hand, I can see why she has to. But there is a strong argument to be made that she shouldn’t. In fact, let me quote a little of what stavvers says in that link here:
Well yes. Hitting people is wrong. But do you know what else is wrong? Encouraging rape. Threatening to rape. Enabling rape.
Holding up a sign saying “You deserve rape” is a direct threat to all women. A physical intervention is not just an act of self-defence, but an act to defend all women.
I fully agree with stavvers. The preacher is not innocent, here, and I fully expect him to face consequences for his own actions, too. He does not have the right to shout at high school girls that they are whores who deserve to be raped. And he better face consequences for that.
Because honestly, while I am iffy about the precedent letting Ms. Brubaker go without at least a slap on the wrist would set, I am utterly terrified of the precedent not punishing the preacher would set. As far as I’m concerned, viewing the preacher as purely a victim, and letting him go to do this again and again, is much, much worse, because he creates a very terrifying atmosphere for girls and women wherever he goes, and he should not be allowed to get away with that.
(ETA: Thank you to mck9 and smrnda for pointing out my mistake. I originally called what the preacher was shouting “hate speech”, saying that was not protected by the Constitution. It’s actually “fighting words” which are not protected. Hate speech is.)