Rewatching To Catch A Predator: Rape Culture Makes Accurate Predictions

One of the less appreciated aspects of rape culture is how rapists are demonized, literally portrayed as animals, violently and obviously deranged, or otherwise clearly outside the human norm.

Part of this is addressed through push back against the “stranger in the bushes” myth. But even where we have been successful in raising awareness that

  1. a large amount of rape is perpetrated against children or vulnerable adults who know and are being supervised by their rapists and
  2. another large chunk of rape is perpetrated against people who first accept a date with someone who eventually rapes them

there is still a lingering myth that these rapists are somehow disguised demons, but demonic nonetheless. There is massive resistance to the idea that there’s a continuum of violation, instead insisting that, for instance, when Rebecca Watson asked repeatedly during a conference – even during her plenary address – not to be propositioned as she wasn’t at the conference for sex, someone ignoring that “no” and propositioning her anyway is completely and utterly different from someone who ignores a “no” to sex.

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Joe Biden is a Thug, and not the good kind

During an anti-violence rally, of all things, Joe Biden saw fit to declare:

“A guy who ended up becoming our national leader said, ‘I can grab a woman anywhere and she likes it,'” Mr. Biden told the crowd. “They asked me if I’d like to debate this gentleman, and I said ‘no.’ I said, ‘If we were in high school, I’d take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him.’ “

In the midst of a national outcry about violence in schools, prompting but not only prompting intense, renewed attention on US gun laws, and at a rally specifically called to oppose violence, albeit focussed on sexualized violence, Biden chose to use his platform to endorse teens beating on teens.

As they say in the UK, “Good show, Mr. Biden. Good Show.”

 

Fascist Policing: Can People Under Arrest Consent to Sex Up The Cop Arresting Them?

So, there’s been another horrific case of police abuse that made it to my eyeballs. It actually made it there a couple weeks ago, but I haven’t had a chance to write about it. Content note for cops abusing power, rape, sexual assault, and all the rape apologies, okay?

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Racist Rape Apologists Do Good By Accident?

By racist rape apologists, we are of course including Trump, but the instigator here is Tucker Carlson acting on behalf of Trump. From RawStory:

Last night on Fox News, host Tucker Carlson called on the Department of Justice to open an investigation into “Hollywood’s culture of systematic sexual abuse” in light of mounting accusations of sexual abuse and harassment against film producer Harvey Weinstein.

Today, it appears that President Donald Trump heeded Carlson’s advice.

As the Daily Mail reports, Trump’s DOJ is opening an investigation into Weinstein amid reports that the producer may head to Europe for “sex rehab,” leading to fears that he may “pull a Roman Polanski” and flee the country to avoid prosecution for his alleged crimes.

Clearly racist lapdog Carlson is engaging in attempted deflection. Perhaps he believes that “the left” will object to a DoJ investigation of sexual abusers and sex abuse enablers? If so, he’s dramatically, dramatically wrong. If there were violations of Title 7, we should know, and if the DOJ has reason to believe that violations may have occurred, an investigation into whether those suspected violations in fact occurred may very well be warranted.

So, sure. Set this precedent, Carlson. Create a more proactive culture at the Department of Justice, a culture that feels empowered to investigate any large employer that appears as if it may have engaged in ongoing discrimination against people on the basis of sex or race or national origin or religion. I’m perfectly happy to have the DOJ root such discrimination out of Hollywood. I’m not sure, however, why you think this is such a good idea. You really think that Fox News and the Catholic Church won’t be next? And if your desire is to focus on the bad acts of people who aren’t Trump, you might want to take note that Title 7 covers the federal government – the same federal government that currently employs at least one person who has admitted multiple times to engaging in multiple different kinds of assault and harassment while serving as owner/employer of the people being targeted.

This is what being an air-headed douchebro gets you: a TV show paying you millions so that you can inadvertently advance the liberal agenda. Good job, Carlson!

Returning the Money: My Ethics Say No

For the most part, I prefer to ignore Kelleyanne Conway. She’s a liar of the same magnitude as Baghdad Bob, so even if I wanted to use her words to understand the right wing, I couldn’t. There’s just no way to reliably understand what Trump or (more broadly) his administration or Republicans in general think about an issue based on anything she has to say. She might occasionally tell the truth (I imagine when she’s expressing her personal opinion she’s more likely to be truthful, but her personal opinion of Trump did a 180 once he got the nomination and her income depending on getting work from him), but that only makes it worse.

There’s an old riddle about meeting one trans* person who always tells the truth and another trans* person who always lies. They stand at the fork in the road, and, not wanting to waste time and effort going to the wrong place, you decide to ask these trans* folk how to get where you’re going. However, since these two trans persons are two of three genetically identical triplets, you can’t know which one tells the truth and which one lies. How, then, do you find your way? There is a method for getting the truth no matter which triplet you ask. But here’s the tribadism: getting that truth requires that the liar lie 100% of the time. If you encounter a pair of triplets where one tells the truth 90% of the time and one lies 90% of the time, there is no way to ensure that you get good information out of them.

So Conway tells outrageous lies. She tells them with verve, sincerity, and even enthusiasm. But she’s not some character in a philosophical thought experiment. And so even though you always know that she’s likely to be lying, and in some cases you have prior information that allows you to know she’s definitely lying, just listening to her gives you no reliable information about anything.*1

But others like RawStory and Ed Brayton do pay some attention to her, and I pay some attention to RawStory and Ed Brayton, who runs a good blog over on Patheos. So I ended up reading a RawStory piece on Conway’s latest rant against Hillary Clinton. The substance of her critique is that

  1. Clinton is a woman
  2. Clinton ran for President
  3. Clinton has previously made statements supportive of victims and survivors of sexual harassment and assault, and
  4. Clinton has received money from Weinstein, now publicly reported to be someone who has engaged in sexual harassment and assault.

Now, Conway hasn’t run for POTUS, but it’s unclear what role that plays in the analysis. If this is only used to mean that she has voluntarily taken a role in the public eye, well then

  1. Conway is a woman
  2. Conway has voluntarily taken a role in the public eye
  3. Conway has previously made statements supportive of victims and survivors of sexual harassment and assault, and
  4. Conway has received money from Trump, widely reported to have engaged in sexual harassment and assault even before she took her job at the White House.

So when Conway insists that Clinton has insufficiently responded to the reports of Weinstein’s behavior, any reasonable person might tune out at the obvious hypocrisy of this person accusing Clinton of hypocrisy. But what I found interesting was Conway’s idea of what constituted an inappropriate and insufficient response:

“I felt like a woman who ran to be commander-in-chief, president of the United States, the first one ever, who talks about women’s empowerment, took an awfully long time to give support to those women who were coming forward,” Conway said. “And has still — as far as we know — kept the money, kept the dirty money that dirty Harvey has given her in her campaign.”

Based on the above, any reasonable reporter should be asking Conway if she has kept the money paid to her for working for Trump, though we know that’s not going to happen. So let’s move on.

We can be confident that lots of the money received from Weinstein by the Clintons, and by Hillary Clinton in particular, has been spent, I’m sure. But imagine if you knew exactly how much Weinstein gave and that Hillary had that much cash on hand. You’ve decided that the appropriate response is not to keep the money, but too few people think about what comes next.

It is, in fact, not uncommon for political campaigns to return checks uncashed if the checks somehow indicate that the donor is beyond the political pale. But is this the best policy? Several years ago John Scalzi was having a problem with Vox Day being an asshat, and solved it via donating money to groups opposed to Vox Day’s apparent positions and causes. How much better would the donation be if the money came out of Vox Day’s own pocket, limiting his ability to donate to groups that supported his racist, sexist, homophobic dipshittery?

This is why I sincerely hope that Clinton does not return any of Weinstein’s money to Weinstein. At this point, Weinstein got most of what he wanted – Bill Clinton in the Arkansas governor’s mansion and the White House and Hillary Clinton in the Senate. Imagine if he was able to successfully support all his favorite political causes and candidates AND THEN get a 100% rebate. That seems like a very, very bad plan. The money Clinton might use to pay back Weinstein would have to come from somewhere, after all. To paraphrase John Kerry, how to you ask someone to be the last donor to repay a sexual predator? It would be like the Catholic Church getting to shuffle predatory priests around, pay out a bunch of millions in settlements, and then have all that money returned to them by donors concerned about the money they “lost” to survivors. As if anyone would ever want to contribute money to the Catholic Church to refill the coffers drained by their sexual predation!*3

If Clinton and Conway did want to rid themselves of any possible taint associated with taking money from sexual predators, the reasoning above gives us some clear guidelines:

  1. Don’t give the money back to the unethical jerkwad.
  2. When picking a place for that money to go, you have to be deliberate, otherwise buying a yacht for yourself would be getting rid of the money – you gave it to the yacht company, right?
  3. The primary criterion in picking places to receive your money should be that they have a publicly announced mission that is at very least inclusive of opposing the behavior that made the source of your money an unethical slimeball in the first place.
  4. It’s unlikely that you’ll find a well-funded, useful advocacy group that’s as specific as “Survivors of sexual harassment in the film and television industries opposing Weinstein’s ability to harm people with impunity”. So don’t set up false expectations of perfect tailoring. For both Conway and Clinton a group that makes it their mission to oppose rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment ought to be specific enough.
  5. When you make the donation, make sure that any attention is on the group doing the good work, not on you for giving the donation: after all, you’re doing this because you don’t want to be tainted, not because you’re super-generous.

It’s not generous in the way that Scalzi was generous with his own money, but if you’re ever running a group of campaign that has been given a donation that generates more negatives than the cash can generate positives, I think this is a good basic guideline for where to entrust your tainted money.

Of course, none of this is likely to help Conway, as the list of organizations she would need to support is so long that she’d still have some hard decisions to make. But Conway if you happen to be reading this, I’d be happy to help you prioritize your donations to the different possible organizations deserving of the tainted money you’ve accepted for serving Donald Trump. Though it has only expanded since the recent hurricanes and Mexican earthquakes, I’m sure that I could help you rid yourself of even millions of dollars.

 

 


*1: Did I really just write all that to say I usually don’t bother to pay attention to Conway and I feel I have good reason? Apparently I did. Oy.

*2: yes, tepidly and inadequately and incompetently and while engaging in victim blaming and … well, a whole lot more ands that ensure her “advocacy” is anything but helpful and effective, but in her defenses of Trump she has gone out of her way on TV to say that she supports “real” survivors. Since she didn’t single out Clinton for the effectiveness of her advocacy, merely for the fact that she spoke up about survivors needing and deserving things, the effectiveness and even the offensive malicious falseness of her statements “advocating” for survivors are not the point. If she made statements that she feels

*3: That might just be the most depressing attempt at humorous litotes I’ve ever made.

Police Violence is Racialized And Racist, But That’s Not All

About 15-20 years ago now, I first encountered studies whose data found a person’s disability to be a stronger predictor of police shootings than race. It is tragic, it is racist, and it is utterly predictable that the US law enforcement system would kill Black men disproportionately. I’m very, very glad that issue is getting attention and hope that the even more disproportionate killings of indigenous and First Nations men get the same attention. Our racism must end, and the NFL protests among other avenues are fruitful efforts to bring attention to racist killings by police officers and the utter lack of accountability for them.

I hope, however, that there is room enough for us to discuss not only the racism of police, but other things as well. The increasing militarism of the police gets some attention, though it is frequently (and wrongly) framed as an alternative reason for concern, as if it’s not okay for white people to care about racist killings of Black men, but if we concern ourselves with police militarism generally then we’re being “fair” or “reasonable” by devoting ourselves to an issue that affects all of us. But receiving very little attention is the slaughter of persons with disabilities.

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More Lynching

So I’ve made it clear that when people equate Black pride and Black Lives Matter to white pride and the KKK, the people making the comparison are failing to understand huge, important, relevant differences between the phenomenon of whiteness and the phenomenon of blackness. I’ve also spent some time making the point that not every murder is a lynching, that lynching is a crime with multiple components and the public infliction of terror is part of that. Because of this, I’ve made the case that lynching is ongoing. If lynching includes murder but is not complete until photos of smiling murderers are shared or nooses are displayed, then noose-threats are part of lynching and where we find threats that refer back to racist murders in order to create fear in a community, especially (though today arguably not only) a black community, then you have lynching occurring right here, right now.

But the actual murders have always been more rare than the terrorizing references to those murders, whether photos or other records, or less linguistic symbols such as publicly displayed nooses. This both assists some in discounting the threats inherent in those records and symbols and also helps to convince people that lynch murders no longer happen or don’t happen “here”.

This, of course, is not true. But today it’s my tragic duty to inform you of a particular racist hanging in New Hampshire. Angela Helm of The Root, relying in part on the reporting of NH1 and the Valley Newstells the story:

[A] Claremont, N.H., boy had to be flown to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center after one or more teens decided to hang him from a tree with a rope.

[The boy’s grandmother] told the Valley News that the incident was, in fact, racially motivated and “intentional.”

[She] said that she was able to recount what happened from her grandson’s 11-year-old sister and other children present (there were no adults): Her grandson and some teens were playing in a yard on Aug. 28 when the teens started calling the little boy “racial epithets” and throwing sticks and rocks at his legs.

Some or all of the teens allegedly stepped up on a picnic table and grabbed a nearby rope that had been part of a tire swing, [she] said.

“The [teenagers] said, ‘Look at this,’ supposedly putting the rope around their necks,” [she] said. “One boy said to [her grandson], ‘Let’s do this,’ and then pushed him off the picnic table and hung him.”

I risk quoting the entirety of Helm’s piece, and I do wish that you would go there to read the rest if you can, but there is one other piece of this story too vital to leave out. The local police chief is (appropriately) declining to share information on the kids who perpetrated this racist attempted murder. While withholding the name of 14-year-olds in this case is justified and may even be required by New Hampshire law, it stands in contrast with how so many black children accused of crimes are treated. That contrast was heightened by statements of the Claremont Police Chief, Mark Chase:

[Chase] would not comment on the specifics of the case, saying only that they were still investigating and that those involved are juveniles, prohibiting him from specifically making any comment. Chase also said that the kids being investigated (who knows if they’re charged?) should be “protected.”

“Mistakes they make as a young child should not have to follow them for the rest of their life,” Chase said.

Notice how he called these predators “young children,” infantilizing the white teens. Conversely, teens like Trayvon Martin are made out to be hulking, menacing adults. Chase seems to be centering the perpetrators’ feelings and futures, all but forgetting about the trauma of a little boy who had his so-called friends hang him from a tree to the point where he had to be medevaced to a hospital.

It is a fact of our current social context – one we should seek to change, but that cannot be ignored in this moment – that if the names of the perpetrators of this crime were released, they would be targeted for abuse by scattered, horrible people. Though these people are nowhere near the majority, when stories reach a wide audience only a tiny percentage need react with insults and threats to create an intolerable, life-affecting stream of abuse. I do not want even racist, violent children to be subjected to that. So I’d like us not to focus on the protection of the racist aggressors’ identities as an evil, but rather as appropriate treatment that is too often denied to other children, and which is disproportionately denied to children based on racial and racist categorizations and perceptions.

In particular, I’d like to call attention to that last bit of Chase’s statement:

Mistakes they make as a young child should not have to follow them for the rest of their life,

Yes. Yes they should. They should never forget that day and the choices that they made. What shouldn’t happen is the public shaming of a child. There is such a thing as unjust sentence inflicted after a just conviction. We can argue about what the consequences should be for children who choose, as teens, to attempt murder on an 8 year old child while shouting racial epithets at the poor kid. I won’t argue with anyone who thinks that this is something that a teen should be able to forget or leave behind at some age of majority.

But even more than that, when is this the attitude of public figures towards Black and Latino and other racialized children, especially boys? I can think of only one context, and it’s not one that gives me hope: sexual assault. Think of the Steubenville rape case. One of the rapists in that case was a Black teenager, and when convicted appeared to be included in mass-media’s public mourning on no less a basis as the white teenager convicted of the same crimes. That doesn’t make me more optimistic that the accused will be judged on the basis of their actions and not on the basis of their identities. Rather, it merely shows that at least in the context of sexual assault, it’s possible for gendered classifications to be more important than racial classifications in determining the treatment of the accused. Judging by the Steubenville and Claremont examples, however, both are still more important than the actual behaviors involved.

If there are any more ways a lynching can break your heart, I cannot think of them.


Sorry for the inability to get much written lately, folks.

Also, I’ve redacted the grandmother’s name. It’s all over those other stories, and if you have a reason to need to know it, I’m not preventing anyone from finding it, but enough has happened to this child and I’m not at all interested in spreading his identity even more widely. Though the other posts and articles on this lynching omitted the name of the boy, printing the names of family members makes their efforts ineffective. Thus I’m opting not to print those names more widely even though the story itself is important.

However, some redaction has been performed at those other sites, mainly of the names of children. Confusingly, then, when you see “[she]” in reference to the grandmother of the boy who was lynched, that is my redaction. While “[teenagers]” and “[her grandson]” are redactions made in the original article at The Root.

What Fascist Policing Looks Like: Harris County Edition

As I have said before (a number of times) in this series, a principle component of fascist policing is an environment where police misconduct routinely goes unpunished. This is not to say that such misconduct never goes unpunished, but that even egregious misconduct is not guaranteed to be punished when brought to light.

Harris County, Texas gives us yet another example of cops going unpunished despite egregious behavior. The fascist cops in this case are Ronaldine Pierre and William Strong. Yet I want to question the extent to which a fascist policing mentality is exclusively to blame.

All the trigger warnings, should you choose to continue.

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Every Other Trans Person Is Wrong

I’ve struggled over the last four weeks with a post bashing around inside my skull. It seems unable to escape but also unable to calm down. I’ve wanted to write a rather lengthy post about language and the problems that I see with certain tendencies in trans* advocacy these days around language. But every time I go long-form, there’s so much that I can’t find a place to stop. So then I tried to go short-form, but that didn’t convey the real difficulty of the topic I wanted to engage. So now I’m going in a completely different direction, with a seemingly unrelated introduction and then, probably, a short-form take on the topic itself, allowing you all to take from it what you will, given the context provided by the introduction/preface.

So a good, long time ago, the internationally celebrated center of learning that is UMM ran into a spot of difficulty: apparently some right wing jerks were being right wing jerks. Whodathunkit. Usernames are Smart, a longtime commenter whose work and thoughts I remember as generally respectable and valuable*1, disagreed with PZ Myers suggestion that Morris residents treat as trash any scattered copies of the Young Republican rag “The North Star”. (Yes, they deliberately stole the name from the abolitionist newspaper of Frederick Douglas, which famously included one of the only ads promoting the Seneca Falls “convention to discuss the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of woman” to run outside of the State of New York).

I disagreed with Usernames’ disagreement, and said so. The crux was that while I agree that white people should be accountable to people of color when attempting to address racism in the US, I disagreed that suggesting actions (like trashing any “scattered” copies of The North Star that weren’t in their designated paper-piles) was the same as telling people from other groups what experiences define their groups. I also disagreed that waiting for people of color to plan a response is the right course of action when a white person is confronted with racism in that person’s presence. This doesn’t mean that white folk should be praise for anything they do, just for taking action. No, this is merely the natural consequence of refusing to put people of color on the spot, to make people of color responsible for ending racism.

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Spam: Game of Thrones Edition

Every so often it amuses and/or shocks me to see the spam left on a particular post. Usually this is because of the horrible incongruity between the content of the post and the content of the spam. About two weeks ago, I wrote a piece about rape on college campuses, including a bit about how rape at religious colleges is often covered in the media as a separate issue from rape at secular private colleges and rape at public universities. Of note, I concluded that studying the cultures of particular educational environments is fine if you want to understand those culture (especially if you want to use that understanding to tailor a message to be more effective at creating positive change around issues including but not limited to institutional responses to rape and sexual assault), but that the biggest institutional barriers to creating safe campuses appear to be shared across the religious/ secular/ state divides. In particular, schools seem to use criminal court systems as a model for determining whether one student is a danger to others, and the criminal court treats each charge as entirely separate, thus schools tend not to allow a history of credible and/or fully established charges against a student to affect how likely it is that a student’s latest denial is credible.

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