Wednesday, July 18, 2012

We take issue with gender divisive anti-rape, anti-false rape posters

There is a not-very-common kind of anti-rape advocacy that trivializes the serious problem of rape by pretending to give men "tips" on how not to do truly dastardly things that no decent human being doesn't already know.  One particular anti-rape poster has ten "tips" for men to help end rape, including: "If you pull over to help a woman whose car has broken down, remember not to rape her."  (We're not making that up.) Other tips for men include not to rape women who get in elevators with them; not to break into women's homes; to ask a friend to stay with them in case they can't control their urge to rape; to carry a whistle in case they might "assault someone 'by accident'"; and to be up-front with women when they plan to rape them on a date. See here: http://i.imgur.com/iNI3c.jpg.

The anti-rape poster is tongue-in-cheek and more a declaration of empowerment on behalf of rape victims than a serious attempt to change anyone's mind about rape. In our view, the people who might rape would not be swayed by it even if they happened to see it. There are many important rape prevention messages that should be on posters (e.g., it is our experience that young people don't understand the concept of "consent" nearly as well as they should), but the advocacy behind this anti-rape poster seems misguided.

In answer to that advocacy, the following poster was prepared by a men's rights advocate and posted at Reddit's Men's Rights sub-reddit:  http://i.imgur.com/ojeN7.jpg.

We get it, we get it. It's mocking the other poster while reminding people that some men are falsely accused.

Feminist writer David Futrelle takes issue with the men's rights poster. We do, too, for reasons we'll explain below. Mr. Futrelle suggests that the men's rights poster is "[m]ocking rape prevention programs" in general, but that's a bit of a stretch. The men's rights poster seems to be mocking the snark and gender divisive condescension of the aforementioned anti-rape poster -- a poster that doesn't seem intended to "prevent" anything. The men's rights poster does this by pretending to relate self-evident "tips" to women that are, in fact, just as useless as the anti-rape poster's tips to men.

In any event, we take issue with the men's rights poster because mocking the tactics of persons who advocate on behalf of rape victims doesn't advance the interests of the wrongly accused, no matter how misguided the tactics being mocked. The purpose of the men's rights poster seems to be less about raising awareness of wrongful sex claims and more about "sticking it to" the persons behind the anti-rape poster. It's not going to resonate beyond the small community of persons too thoroughly immersed in gender issues. A more helpful approach would be to chronicle some of the stories of the wrongly accused to show how terribly destructive a wrongful sex claim can be, and to show that once a rape lie is unleashed, it often takes on a vile life of its own.

The vast majority of women and men are offended by rape and by false rape claims. It's not a zero sum game, and there is no necessity to trivialize the victimization caused by one in advocating for the victims of the other.  Rape victims have expressed to us their disgust with false rape claims because they understand that every rape lie diminishes the integrity of every rape victim.

The delicate balance that commands us to punish rapists while not punishing the innocent is extremely serious business. We need more sober, more adult, more serious voices to be part of the public discourse on these issues. The last thing we need is more snark, more gender division, more Chicken Little hysteria, no matter which side it's coming from.