Disappointment Followed By Inspiration: More Reactions To The R-Word Joker Interrupting My Life
About a week ago, in a discussion on my friend Sean’s status update on Facebook, a pro-rape joker thrust his material into my life without warning and without obtaining enthusiastic consent. I challenged him, just a little, so he upped the ante and textually assaulted me some more. Nobody said anything and the topic was ignored, including by Sean, who was present in the aftermath of both of the incidences in which I experienced rape – in the second, which was less than a year ago, he was the first person I saw after it had happened, and he was the first person to whom I disclosed my fears when I started to realise that the “sex” that had happened hadn’t exactly been inclusive of the opinions of all parties involved.
In the status update discussion, I presented the facts about why pro-rape jokes are destructive in the lives of people who have experienced rape, and are counter-productive in our society. The pro-rape joker complained that I was dictating his life for him and how dare I suggest that he’s not really there for people who have been raped when it really counts, and then he increased his textual assault against myself and the other women present again. I stuck to my guns, and hoped that I left a positive message for anybody who feels affected by this behaviour and is scared to speak up against it.
The day after the argument ended, I spotted that Sean had returned and had commented on the status update. I had been hopeful for the duration of the argument that he, having been friends with me for a decade, and surely remembering what it was like to see me go through the immediate aftermath of rape, would see what was going on and step in and put a stop to the pro-rape rhetoric by his friends on his Facebook. I went to his Facebook to find this reaction from him:
Sean had made his decision: We were both wrong. Like two children fighting over which game to play. Except that one of those children was arguing, “But I want to play a game where it’s not popular to hate me for being born the way I was, and to normalise committing violent acts against me!” and the other was stating, “Too bad. I declare that we will play a game where I can say whatever I want, whenever I want, at the expense of the comfort and safety of other people.”
The thing is, Sean must have read through the whole thing – the pro-rape joker making his joke, my reaction to it including alluding to my own experiences of coping with rape, myself and two other women agreeing that we normally get attacked if we challenge pro-rape rhetoric and so we’re often too scared to do so, the increase in the severity of the pro-rape jokes as attacks for my challenging pro-rape rhetoric, Sean’s own girlfriend jumping in to plead with the pro-rape joker (now jokers, two of them) to “just stop” and getting attacked herself, and my sticking up for her and staying firm in my convictions – and decided that we were just as bad as each other. He had decided that if you challenge pro-rape rhetoric, then you’re just as bad as people who distribute pro-rape rhetoric, and you’re just as inappropriate, and you deserve to be silenced. Given that he didn’t even respond to the graphic pro-rape jokes when his friend first made them, and only reacted to sternly silence all sides after I had adamantly challenged his friend, then we can safely conclude that Sean thinks that all is well while pro-rape attitudes are being dispersed, and that there is only a problem when somebody challenges them.
Sean is against anti-pro-rape attitudes, and so Sean is pro-rape.
Worse still, Sean states that if “anyone” wants (read: if I want) to hear his opinion on the matter, then the action to take is to contact him about it. So, he’s declaring that it’s my responsibility to go to him and ask him if he thinks that it’s okay that his friends expose me to pro-rape jokes that make me feel shitty about myself because I know that I was raped. We’ve already learned that standing up for myself right then and there is unacceptable to Sean if he doesn’t feel like seeing that “defending yourself” shit on his status about Australian politics. Now we know that we must make our own efforts to seek him out to ask whether or not he’s on our side in the whole I-was-raped-and-now-I-feel-hostility-against-me-everywhere-because-of-it issue.
Although, if I know him, then I should already know his views. It’s up to me to research and remember that shit, not up to him to make sure that I know whether or not he’d be there for me in certain situations.
I felt crestfallen over Sean outright stating – whether he thought that he was or not – that he did not support me, and I checked back at my posts of the incident on my own Facebook.
It was nice of Sa to offer me support. Unfortunately, what he also did was dump something onto me that wasn’t my problem. Why does it matter what the pro-rape joker thinks or feels in the aftermath of his desperate attempts to hurt me with his joke? Why should I be encouraged to keep it in mind? How is that helpful or beneficial to me?
It’s not. We don’t have to always try to be cognizant of a person’s experience just because they’re a member of the dominant group in society (or just because they happened to be exhibiting their dominance over us in a particular situation). It’s not only pointless to do so, it’s also counterproductive. If we’re spending all our time feeling concerned about the experience of the people who attack us, then we’re not going to have any time to do our own healing, or to form our own understanding of the world. Also, if we’re always caught up in concern for the experience of those attacking us, in that we must constantly remain conscious of their humanity, then we’re affording them a humanity that they never afforded us. Furthermore, we’d be using our own voices as a proxy to share their voice – once again – and that amplifies their voice and their thoughts and silences our own.
My goodness, I was thinking, that was hard. Some people offer such great support in these situations, and some give reactions that just leave you with a lump in your throat, a sinking feeling from the the top of your torso to the bottom, and a heavy feeling all across the top of your shoulders and neck that makes you feel like your whole body is drooping. You read back on your own words, and you know that you’ve followed all of the societal rules about expressing anti-pro-rape attitudes, remaining respectful, presenting meaningful arguments, and fighting against attacks when you notice them occurring. But often, you wind up wondering why you even bothered, because there were punishments – both subtle and obvious attacks, a stern and condescending talking-to as though you had been an unruly child, silencing, reminders to keep your attacker’s feelings in mind – waiting for you on the other side.
The same day that Sean and Sa opined and that incredible weight bore itself down upon my shoulders, I felt a burst of optimism when a young friend of mine Facebook-publicly dealt with a negative experience of her own. Somebody that she knew had accessed her Facebook, and had sent her friends unkind messages about her while posing as her, and had edited some unkind information into her public profile.
Not to suddenly change the subject – clearly she’s talking about anti-mental illness attitudes, not pro-rape attitudes. But it’s related, because it’s another issue that is used as an attack against others for the purpose of domination.
Besides, I’m proud of her. I find her statement to be inspiring, because she openly outed herself as suffering from something (that isn’t her fault, but that is for some reason popularly shamed in our society), and she also expressed how hurtful it is to use her suffering as an attack. We shouldn’t be trying to counter these behaviours by trying to be the smarter one, or the funnier one (who shoots the other person down with a more successful joke), or the scarier one – we should be shaming these behaviours because they’re hurtful.
She had more to say, and her words only got even braver, kinder and more supportive.
Ah! Bless! Why don’t more of us express these attitudes? It doesn’t matter if you suffer from mental illness, or if you’ve suffered an attack. You’ve done nothing wrong and you have nothing to be ashamed of. It’s also inspirational that she’s picky about her friends to ensure that the people in her network actually support her. I’d do well to take a page out of her book.
So, that’s my experience. It wasn’t pleasant, though I left in one piece. It did bring out the true colours and the true attitudes of some of my “friends”, though I’m not going down that grateful-for-what-I-learned bullshit path. This wasn’t an isolated incident – it happens all too often, and it needs to stop. Don’t try to tell me that you’re making the efforts to stop it already – especially not in the same sentence as you tell me that it’s not happening to begin with anyway. Actually take a look at yourself. Start to look around more. Listen out for it. Speak to other people, and be a safe person that they can talk to, and actually listen when they tell you their perspective. Remember that just because you have your experience, that doesn’t render contrasting experiences invalid. Aim to be somebody who’s cognizant, supportive and progressive.
It’s the responsibility of one and all to aim for a culture in which our jokes are funny, not disruptive.
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