I'm not sure why the Brock Turner rape case has caught the nation's attention. We live in a world that shows us each and everyday that society still views women as chattel, something to be used, tossed about, scorned, shamed, insulted, beaten, stalked, and harassed online. If you've been paying attention even halfway, you're aware that women get abused or killed by their partners in this country by the minute, beaten or killed by strangers, raped by frat boys, sold for sex trafficking, told by strangers online that they should be raped or have their breasts cut off, and are generally made to feel worthless using terms that insult their weight, physical characteristics, or intelligence. The internet hates women even more than the real world does.
This man is lying, Rapey McRaperson who shows zero remorse for his actions. Look at that smug, "my daddy can get me out of anything" look of entitlement on that doofus face.
Yet, I can't help but notice that, for some reason, this what is sadly a very typical example of what can happen to a young woman when she is around men who cannot control their impulses, has gone viral. It's no longer been contained to the quiet, manicured grounds of the West Coast's Ivy League university. People are posting pictures of Brock with the words RAPIST above his head. People are posting the victim's unbelievably eloquent and powerful letter to Brock.* People are posting the father's ridiculous response about how his fuckwit of his son has lost his appetite for ribeyes and how he shouldn't be punished for "20 minutes of action." People are posting the judge's picture and reminding everyone that he's up for reelection tomorrow. (As it turns out, he's running unopposed, but there is now a petition to get him recalled.)
And the reason this feels different to me is twofold: first of all, we women are becoming more emboldened and empowered. For all of virulent hostility women encounter online, we are now using social media and the internet as a forum to publically shame rapists and abusers. For every ten Men's Rights Activists (that term makes me throw up in my mouth a little) slut-shaming women from their hidey holes, there is now one woman standing up and saying "Fuck you, you Tiny Man, no one cares what you think." We, too, have learned to use social media to our advantage when the justice system fails us. We have watched versions of this same tired rape trial play out all over the country for decades now, and we are finally standing up and saying "Fuck this shit. Stop teaching your daughters about what not to wear and how much to drink and start teaching your sons not to fucking rape."
Second, I'm seeing, for the first time, MEN getting involved in the public shaming of this entitled, unapologetic human skid mark. I live in the Bay Area, where, arguably, we have some pretty damn enlightened men. My male friends are compassionate, intelligent, mostly liberal people who would consider themselves feminists. Even if they wouldn't use that word to describe themselves, they still certainly believe that their female partners, friends, and coworkers are entitled to all the rights they themselves enjoy. They certainly believe that a woman has a right to control over her own body.
Yet, in past high-profile trials involving rape, abuse, stalking, or harassment, these compassionate men mostly remain silent on social media. There is no calling out the rapist or even posting the story on their timelines. I'm not sure if it's because they feel the burning shame of the atrocities of which their gender is capable, whether it's because doing so would make them seem like a wimp to other male friends, or if it's simply "well I know that *I* would never rape someone so I'm already doing enough." But for whatever the reason, my usually compassionate male friends' social media accounts have remained awkwardly silent in the past.
But this one is different. I see my male friends stepping up and reposting this story with furious words for Brock, his father, and the judge. They are reading this story and making a moral judgement, then doing something about it by reposting it with angry commentary. I mean, we just had a week of "what kind of stupid-ass parent doesn't keep an eye on their kid around a gorilla enclosure?!?!" parent-shaming on Facebook. It's right and just that Brock's father receive this same level of parental shaming for not instilling common decency in his grown-ass child. People--no matter the gender--should be calling this fuckface out. Brock's father's plea to the judge has received thousands of "fruit doesn't fall far from that tree" comments worldwide. I also believe this is right and just.
Yes, one can argue that being a "slacktivist" accomplishes little. Sharing a story on Facebook with your rant is about as little action that you can take (aside from no action at all), and people argue that's not really doing anything. It's not like you're taking to the streets to affect social change.
I disagree. I think social media is now how we see, in real time, how tides can shift when it comes to social and cultural issues. I don't think attitudes about same-sex marriage would have changed at the lightning pace they did without Facebook, without the countless memes, news stories, and pictures posted on Facebook and Twitter. You keep seeing those sentiments over and over again, phrased in different ways, poking holes of logic in any arguments you might have had, coming from all different types of people, and eventually that's how the zeitgeist changes. You start to realize that maybe your beliefs aren't cool, a touch outdated perhaps.
And just like other social movements before this one, the oppressed need allies who are members of the oppressing group. The Civil Rights Movement needed open-minded, compassionate white people to help get the message out that racial equality was an idea whose time had come. The same-sex marriage movement needed straight people who believed that ALL people should be entitled to equal rights under the law to join the cause and help influence other less-open-minded straight people.
And now? Now we need you gents to step up and help us get this message out, and speaking out on social media is a good start toward it. I think public shaming---for all of the murky, ethical, Shirley-Jackson-Lottery-esque qualities it carries---is actually starting to work. Sadly, it's not enough that we women are standing up for ourselves, showing our outrage, and speaking out--we need you guys to stand up against this behavior too. For it shows other men---men who themselves would never rape someone but who would otherwise shrug and say "well, it's the world we live in" and walk away---to see that it's not betraying their gender to also speak up and say it's time to stop treating women as objects. It's not enough that we're standing up for ourselves when it happens to us on the streets or in the workplace; we need men who see this happening in real life to speak to the aggressor as well. It's the old "if you see something, say something" adage, writ large.
As my friend said "Is it wrong that I'm grateful for those two Swedish boys who stumbled upon the scene as Brock was penetrating this unconscious woman and that they actually did something? Because that's not necessarily the society we live in." Sadly, she's right---many men would have averted their eyes and hastily walked by, not wanting to get involved. But those kids DID get involved, and it sucks that women have to feel grateful for even those scraps of basic human decency.
I just read a comment on another friend's page that said she overheard two old white men in the airport this morning talking about how poor Brock was being persecuted for his boyish indiscretions and it was "a bunch of jealous dykes with pitchforks on a witch hunt." Had I been sitting next to those two old dinosaurs, I would have stood up, looked them in the eye, and said "I can't wait for your old asses to die and with it all your stupid, sexist, outdated bullshit. The rest of America is doing just that---waiting for you to die so we can get on with the business of making this an America where ALL citizens are given equal value and equal treatment." Hell yes, I would have said it; I'm known to do that sort of thing all the time. (Some of my friends have suggested they'd like me to strap a GoPro to my head and have a reality show based on me calling out stupid shit.)
And the thing is, we need ALL like-minded people to start doing this. Don't just shake your head and move to another seat so you don't have to listen to their misguided, misogynistic rantings. Think of it this way: if you were sitting next to a guy an the airport spouting racist crap, would you say something? If the answer is yes, then why not expand it to include women?
For the more people are told this sort of public behavior is unacceptable, the more we see a social shift. I'm not naïve; I don't think that public shaming and calling people out IRL has ended racism or gay-bashing. I spend enough time on the internet to know that's it's only inflamed some---the ones we're waiting for to die. But at one point, people of this country thought slavery was a good idea; now we don't. We thought Jim Crow was probably fine for those hillbillies down South; now most Southerners agree that was a shameful period of their history. At one point the thought of two men having a wedding and having it be recognized by our government would have been ludicrous; now people look forward to attending their first gay wedding with excitement. It is possible to shift public opinion. And now, thanks to the ways in which we're all dialed in, social media is forcing those shifts to happen faster and faster.
We are coming into a period where we will need our male allies to step up and be even louder. Look at what having an African-American president has done to bring out all the horrible, racist kooks who now think it's okay to shout their ignorance from the rooftops. (Hate groups have increased a whopping 250% since Obama took office.) If Hillary Clinton is elected president, the next four years will be a constant assault on women as old white dudes perceive their centuries of total control slipping away. We ladies will pay the price for America having elected a "female bull-dyke bitch" for president. We'll see misogyny the likes of which we haven't seen since the Middle Ages. If you think there's a War on Women now, just you wait until we see a 250% rise in MRA groups. It makes it all the more important that like-minded men consistently call that shit out when they see it---either online or IRL. For what we're seeing now is that public shaming DOES work when the law enforcement or legal system fails you. We see angry mobs getting people fired from their jobs for racist rants on social media; we see people publicly shaming rapists and judges and parents. And I can't help but think that now that the internet has just even the smallest amount of accountability, people are rethinking their actions. You think some drunken frat boy talking to his dudebros about how he's gonna take a wasted girl back to his dorm and take advantage of her now won't--at least a few times---elicit the response "Careful bro, remember what happened to that dude at Stanford?"
Hell, even if that conversation only happens once at one frat party, isn't that a start?
*If you haven't read the victim's letter yet, please, please, please go read it. It's one of the most moving and powerful victim statements I've ever read and something that should be required reading for ALL teenagers--boys and girls.