Tag Archives: rape culture

Think Rape Culture Doesn’t Exist? Read This Vile Email Sent to a Witness

Think Rape Culture Doesn’t Exist? Read This Vile Email Sent to a Witness


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Watch a Brave Woman Teach a Man a Lesson for Sexually Assaulting Her on the Subway

“In 2010, Nicola Briggs felt a man rub himself against her while riding an uncrowded subway train in Manhattan. Briggs turned around to find, to her horror, that the man had exposed himself and was wearing only a condom.

While this type of sexual assault is startlingly common, Briggs’ story took a unique turn. A tai chi instructor, the 5-foot-tall Briggs fiercely confronted the perpetrator in the middle of the subway car.

“Oh, you’re getting f—ing arrested. I’m not leaving your side,” she told him, enlisting the help of other passengers to keep him in check…”

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June 24, 2014 · 6:58 pm

Becoming Better Victims

When rape victims are told that it was their fault, when young women and girls are told that they must cover up their “distracting” skin and curves, when they are told to not walk home alone, when they are given pepper spray as presents for dorm life, we are teaching them that they need to become better victims.

When children are told to stand up to their bullies, when they are told to stop the personal expressions that attract bullies’ attention, when they are taught preventative self-defense, when they are given bullet-proof mats to protect them in a school shooting, we are teaching them that they need to become better victims.

When minimum wage workers, the unemployed, and the homeless are told that they need to use more ingenuity to get by, when they are told to manage their personal budgets better, when they are criticized for not being able to support their children, we are teaching them that they need to become better victims.

When LGBT individuals are told that their sexuality and gender expression is a choice, when they are denied their existence and livelihoods, when they are denied dynamic roles beyond the typical stereotypes in popular culture, we are teaching them that they need to become better victims.

When “minorities” are criticized for having high unwed birth and single mother rates, when they are seen as less capable of academic and financial achievement, when they are seen as dangerous criminals and drug addicts, we are teaching them that they need to become better victims.

When people are encouraged to use guns for self protection, when they keep hidden defenses in their purses and wallets in case they get abducted or kidnapped, when they switch to the other side of the street to avoid walking by dubious-looking others, we are teaching them that they need to become better victims.


Instead of examining why rape, sexism, racism, classism, homophobia, and other forms of arbitrary discrimination exist and why society produces these horrors, we are placing the blame on the victims.

We are saying: it’s your fault you were targeted, it’s your fault that you have big breasts for a 13-year-old, it’s your fault that a multi-million dollar corporation does’t pay you a living wage, it’s your fault that your school district does not teach comprehensive sex education, it’s you fault that you’re gay, it’s your fault that American prisons are for-profit and have capacity quotas to meet, and it’s your fault that you couldn’t defend yourself during a mass shooting, a robbery, or a rape.

We are saying, you are the one who is wrong.

We need to turn around and instead examine why the rapists rape, examine why the bullies bully, examine why the CEOs don’t pay a living wage, examine why the homophobes are homophobic, examine why “minorities” are given unfair treatment in the eyes of the law, examine why the murderers murder, and examine why the kidnappers kidnap.

We need to fully examine an individual’s journey to victimhood and see if it’s actually the fault of the victim as we are often too eager to assume in this society. We are brainwashed into thinking that it’s the victim’s fault that they’re in the position they’re in. I’m arguing for deconstructing that idea and re-examing how they became victims, and then pursuing/punishing those whose fault it actually is. I would argue that, more often than not, it’s not the victim’s fault that they’re a victim.Victim-blaming just perpetuates the cycle and it needs to change, now.


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If Every Male Troll Took a Walk in Women’s Shoes, Would He Finally Feel Our Outrage?

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“After I received my first online rape threat, Caroline Criado-Perez was the first person to reach out to me publicly. “Are you ok? I’ve been there,” she confided. As the co-founder of The Women’s Room and a prolific feminist campaigner, she had certainly been there – the target of all sorts of sexist-driven online abuse. But nothing would prepare her for what ensued after she successfully lobbied the British government to put a woman on one of its banknotes. At first, the messages were encouraging and positive, but they quickly escalated into something else entirely.

After the announcement that Jane Austen would be on the £10 bill, Criado-Perez was flooded with a slew of violent rape threats on Twitter. Although one would think equal gender representation on bank notes is a pretty benign issue, the abusive tweets she received were hair-raising. The bold feminist campaigner received as many as 50 rape threats an hour, probing her to ask her Twitter followers to screen-shot them because she couldn’t even keep up with monitoring all the hate herself. “For me, the really shocking thing is how this has happened over such a tiny, tiny thing. We asked for there to be a woman on a bank note, how does asking that even annoy someone? Annoy someone so much they send a barrage of rape threats? It’s kinda gobsmacking,” Criado-Perez told Huffington Post UK.


The sad reality is that if you’re a woman on the Internet, this sort of gender-based harassment is no anomaly.

Withstanding rape threats has become a right of passage for female writers or personalities, just as making them as become a right of passage for cowardly and anonymous misogynist trolls. If you’re a woman who happens to possess opinions, and write about feminist issues (god forbid!), chances are you will be violently trolled. As Owen Jones from The Independent notes, “The attacks on Criado-Perez are essentially about attempting to drive women from public life. Nothing infuriates misogynists more than a woman with an opinion, particularly those prepared to challenge publicly the status quo and prevailing views.”

For the record, the issue is not that women receive more criticism than men, but rather that it comes in more violent and vitriolic forms. Men will be attacked for their opinion, whereas women will be threatened because they have opinions. 

Fellow PolicyMic writer Soraya Chemaly talks about the Internet being an unsafe space for women — the “digital safety gap” perpetuated by the systematic harassment of women online. The data supports this claim. For instance, one study showed that female usernames in chat forums received 25 times more abuse than male ones. In an experiment conducted by the University of Maryland, researchers found that “Female usernames, on average, received 163 malicious private messages a day.” So all else equal, if you’re a woman online, you’re going to be on the receiving end of more hate.

In her essay, Chemaly explains that women dominate social media (53% of Twitter users are female), but are still treated like a minority in these spaces. “Public space has traditionally been an entirely male sphere. It’s only recently that this has begun to change. But, like street harassment and the threat of violence that give it its suppressive power, namely rape and physical assault, this kind of online abuse is largely tolerated. Having an opinion, as Laurie Penny put it, is the ‘short skirt of the Internet.'”

Emma Barnett at The Telegraph exposed the disturbing psychology of your average woman-hating trolls. She courageously interviewed one and asked him how he would feel if his mother (potentially the only woman he would respect) was the target of rape threats like Criado-Perez has been in the last few days. Barnett said that his answer defied belief. “She would know these men wouldn’t actually come and rape her. They don’t mean it. Rape is a metaphor,” he (actually) answered.

This troll’s disturbing comments reveal what Soraya Chemaly has already noted before: Rape has a purpose. As the troll disturbingly admits, the rape threat serves as a way to shut that women up and put her back in her place. It gives a no-name loser living in the crevices of his mom’s basement a sense of power over a prolific female writer because he can rape her, or at least scare her into believing he can. Why does he keep doing it?

Because he can. He keeps doing it because often he never faces the consequences. We tell women to “stop feeding the trolls” as if it was their responsibility to prevent the abuse in the first place.

Women will not be equal until they are free from the threat of rape. The fact that it’s virtually impossible to be a woman on the internet without being threatened with violence shows just how unequal the virtual space still is. For women whose careers take place online, social networking like Twitter have become an occupational hazard. 

Criado-Perez’s experience was horrific, but it wasn’t in vain. Her tale launched an online campaign on Change.org to pressure Twitter to take hate speech and abuse seriously. The petition already has more than 70,000 signatures, and Twitter has since announced a new “report abuse” button. A 21-year-old man in Manchester has also been arrested in connection with rape threats to Criado-Perez.  

Will this make a difference?

Criado-Perez isn’t sure. She says that the abuse button only works for people getting one violent threat, but when you’re getting them by the hundreds (or thousands), as many other female writers like Zerlina Maxwell or Lindy West have, the technology is still ineffectual. 

Whatever system we come up with, putting an end to gender-based online harassment will require a major shift in attitudes and practices. Women won’t fight trolling with complacence. Men won’t fight harassment by remaining silent. Trolls will keep trolling if they don’t get caught. 

Sign the Change.org petition today and tell Twitter that it needs a responsible strategy to deal with hate-speech and violent threats to protect its users. 

Have you been the target of rape threats on the Internet, or do you know someone who has? What do you think should be done? Let me know on Twitter and Facebook.

Picture Credit: The Independent

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July 30, 2013 · 8:26 pm

Read This Poem and You’ll Never Laugh At Rape Jokes Again

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“In case you missed it late last week, Patricia Lockwood’s poem in The Awl entitled “Rape Joke” became one of those brilliant pieces of art we get to read, digest, and pass around for free thanks to the wonders of the modern age. It’s not very often that something so emotionally naked, devastatingly honest and skillfully crafted gets our attention, and it is not just by virtue of its title, which of course recalls an issue we on the internet have discussed and struggled with over and over again. If you’re the sort of person who believes great art like this can be wielded as an instrument to change minds, the question becomes: what does this poem bring to the conversation that we have otherwise been struggling to say when discussing controversies like rape jokes and rape culture? The intention of the poem, of course, isn’t just to get us to feel bad all over again about rape jokes. It is, after all, heartbreaking and edgy and even darkly funny. Instead, what is compelling about this poem is its honesty and, within that brutal honesty, a call to redefine what we as a society understand rape to actually be.

Whenever rape is discussed on a website, the comments section quickly swells to an incredible size (the comments section of “Rape Joke” is currently no exception), often thanks to a vocal minority who take the opportunity to point how a particular story just doesn’t “cut it.” Look at the context, they say, do we really understand the context? The hard truth is that we men need to stop looking for ways to weasel out of the word “rape” and acknowledge that all rapes have contexts, and that rapes happen between men and women who know each other and, in certain circumstances, may even care for each other or love each other.

Rape culture is our collective refusal as a society to admit that while we in the abstract believe strongly that women should be free from the fear of sexual violence, we have not done enough to actually make the spaces we inhabit together (college campuses, for example) safer. It’s about being trapped in an old mode of defining rape and other forms of sexual violence and thus denying its existence in other forms. For most people rape is something that happens on Law and Order: SVU, CSI, an accuser and an accused (often strangers). This definition empowers a culture of rape apology on the internet and feeds the websites of Men’s Rights advocates. They want, by suggesting that rape is not rape unless you’ve gone to court, or that rape is not rape if it occurs within a relationship or a marriage, to delegitimize the very idea of rape culture. According to them, men like the one in Lockwood’s poem do not really exist, or at the very least, are not really rapists; rape is simply not something that can happen between a 19-year-old girl and her boyfriend. To them the world is divided between accuser and the accused, and that in today’s politically correct society the accusers are running rampant and more often than not are making things up. This is, at its core, the same pernicious meme that circulates among social conservatives as they struggle with the rape exemption when limiting abortion rights. The idea of “legitimate rape” or “forcible rape” is a means of limiting its definition to something is easily classifiable and only real when reported to the police. According to them, if the police haven’t heard about it, it’s “made up.” Yet, we know from study after study that in the vast majority of instances (the National Institute of Health says 80% of incidents) a woman knows her attacker and that reporting a rape is anything but a clear-cut situation.

The simple fact is, rape is always “in context.” As a human rights issue, that’s precisely the problem: rape is statutory rape and date rape and rape while intoxicated and prison rape, and worldwide it is rape as a war tactic and rape as child marriage. Now is the time to take the next big step and broaden our discussion of these issues. Like any civil rights struggle, each new level of progress is an order of magnitude more difficult to achieve than the one before it, like boring into the Earth’s crust. Cultures of sexual violence cannot be shooed away by legislating or litigating alone, they must be preempted. And we can start by having a discussion that is open and honest about how the vast majority of rapes actually happen.”

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July 29, 2013 · 10:36 pm

For strong daughters, stop with the sex stereotypes

By David M. Perry, Special to CNN
updated 8:33 AM EDT, Wed May 29, 2013
Decades after the feminist movement, our culture still emphasizes girls' appearances, David M. Perry says.
Decades after the feminist movement, our culture still emphasizes girls’ appearances, David M. Perry says.

“Editor’s note: David M. Perry is an associate professor of history at Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois. His blog is How Did We Get Into This Mess. Follow him on Twitter.

(CNN) — When the rocket scientist Yvonne Brill died in March, The New York Times celebrated her as the maker of a “mean beef stroganoff” and “the world’s best mother.” When my 4-year-old daughter, Ellie, a wildly creative and interesting girl, finished a year of preschool last week, her teachers gave her an award for being the best dressed.

A few years ago at my son’s preschool camp award ceremony, I sat silently as well-meaning counselors called each child forward. Girls: best hair, best clothes, best friend, best helper and best artist. Boys: best runner, best climber, best builder and best thrower. My son won best soccer player. In general, girls received awards for their personalities and appearance and boys for their actions and physical attributes.

It was similar at my daughter’s ceremony, where the teacher told us that all the children were so excited to see what award they would receive; it had obviously been built up as a big deal. The gender disparity was subtle but present.

A boy received best engineer. A girl got best friend. Another girl was the best helper, and another most compassionate. A boy received best break dancer. A girl was named most athletic, and the teacher told us how when all the class raced around the track this girl “beat everyone! Even the boys!” And then my daughter got her certificate, showing her in a funky orange sweater, tight pants, and holding a bowling ball. Her award — best dressed.

Many decades after the feminist movement of the 1960s, why are we still stuck in this gender-norming rut?

The truth is that my daughter may well be the best dressed in her class. She has a terrific sense of style. One day she put on a hand-me-down Disney princess outfit, looked in the mirror and said, “OK Dad, I’m ready to dig for worms!” Another day, she went to school in a pink dress, green rain boots and a viking helmet. I frequently come home to find her in a pirate costume. She’s practical and became outraged when she discovered that her “girl jeans” turned out to have fake pockets. “Daddy,” she said, “Where am I going to put my pine cones?” If she’s the best dressed, it’s because of her creativity.

Sometimes, I find the prospect of raising a girl to be terrifying. The forces of patriarchy conspire to render girls weak, subordinate and sexually objectified. When we respond to infants by gendering our speech, strong for boys and lilting for girls, we immediately start to shape their interactions with the world.

I would once have said nothing was worse than the conspicuous consumption mantras of Barbie or thefemale-subjugation messaging of Disney, but then I encountered the hyper-sexualized elementary-school girls called Bratz. And then there’s underwear. Boys mostly get superheroes and girls get hearts and flowers, but at least Dora is an explorer. All too soon Ellie will encounter the world of Justin Bieber nightgowns and Victoria’s Secret underwear for tweens.

The teenage years with the new dangers of sex, alcohol, eating disorders and more will arrive before we know it. I can’t save her from all of this, and anyway we buy into purity culture (the notion that only a father’s constant surveillance can save our daughters) at our peril and the peril of our daughters. Our daughters need to be strong, not closeted and coddled. We have to arm them with the tools to question, resist and change our patriarchal culture.

Ellie’s teacher is the kind of smart and strong young woman I want as a role model for my daughter (she’s also a really snappy dresser), and I know she was only trying to make the transition moment special for each student. She absolutely intended to celebrate the way Ellie expresses her creativity through clothes. But gender stereotypes are, by their very nature, pernicious. They creep into our minds, shaping our perceptions of the world on a subconscious level, tricking us into betraying our values.

Our culture constantly projects the message that only appearances matter, and this message is aimed squarely at our children. We can fight this only by working against the grain, resisting gendered language and emphasizing the internal over the external.

If my daughter’s creativity shines through in her choice of clothing, then celebrate both that creativity and the critical thinking that lies at the heart of all creative acts with a most creative award. Or we could just let Ellie tell us what she wants us to celebrate. When she picked up her award, she beamed at the picture of herself holding the bowling ball so proudly. “Daddy!” she said, “I won best bowler!”

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Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of David M. Perry.”

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May 30, 2013 · 8:45 pm

Adria Richards Why Are Women Threatened With Rape For What They Write Online

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“Last week, SendGrid developer evangelist Adria Richards attended PyCon 2013. Two men seated behind her made a crass sexual joke which violated the code of conduct for conference attendees. Bothered, Richards snapped their picture and tweeted it at the conference staff, asking that someone speak to the men about their conduct.


One of the men was subsequently fired over the incident  a consequence Richards says she never intended. After that, the Internet exploded. Anonymous attacked the SendGrid website, essentially shutting it down. Richards received many disgusting, racially charged insults via social media. She received rape and death threats. Someone tweeted her a disturbing image of the bloody decapitated corpse of a woman with the caption “When I’m done.” The image included her home address.

Much thoughtful analysis has already been written about the situation and whether Richards’ reaction was warranted. However, whether you agree with Richard’s actions or not, the amount of gendered hate directed at her is simply inexcusable. Unfortunately, it seems that women who write or speak out online are sometimes the recipient of these kinds of disgusting attacks. These attacks go beyond harmless internet “trolling,” and they need to end.

After Democratic strategist Zerlina Maxwell told Sean Hannity that she thought sexual violence against women could be stopped by teaching men not to rape, she received a flood of disgusting and racially charged comments telling her she deserved to be gang raped.


Maxwell, who is a rape survivor, refused to allow these threats to stop her from educating the world about rape prevention, saying, “I’m certainly taking steps to protect my emotional health, but I will not be quiet. Because I refuse to be bullied into silence.”

Two weeks ago, I penned this piece about gender inequality in the media. In the piece, I included a mention of media critic Anita Sarkeesian. After she started a video series critiquing gender identity in video games, Sarkeesian said she received a series of threats. Sarkeesian notes:

“I found myself the target of a massive online hate campaign. All my social media sites were flooded with threats of rape, violence, sexual assault, death — and you’ll notice that these threats and comments were all specifically targeting my gender … They attempted to knock my website offline, hack into my email and other accounts. They attempted to collect and distribute my personal information including my home address and phone number … There were images made, pornographic images made in my likeness being raped by video game characters and sent to me again and again. There was even a game made where players were invited to beat the bitch up in which upon clicking on the screen, an image of me would become increasingly battered and bruised.”

After my piece was published, I was surprised to find it received a lot of responses. While many people enjoyed the piece, or at least thought it raised questions worth asking, several seemed troubled by the study and my summary of it.

When I first started out as a blogger, I anticipated readers sometimes disagreeing with me. I mentally prepared myself for comments or tweets telling me my ideas were unfounded or that my writing was bad. These were all things I expected when publishing writing online.

My women in the media piece was a kind of milestone; it marked the first time I received a racially charged insult based on something I wrote, an outcome I was totally unprepared for.

Whether we agree or disagree with what these women have to say, these kinds of comments are never okay. No one should have to worry that they’ll receive racially charged insults, rape threats, or death threats because of what they write online. We should be able to disagree with each other respectfully without crossing the line. 

Today, Adria Richards is in hiding. Once an avid user of social media, she hasn’t tweeted or blogged since the incident began. For the time being, her voice has effectively been silenced.

Picture Credit: VentureBeat

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March 25, 2013 · 7:29 pm