Anti-Feminist Vandalism

After seeing the above image at Feministing yesterday, there was a little celebration going on in my heart.  I felt really joyful at this message and its getting out there.  Even though I’m usually opposed to talk about what “real men” do and don’t do, so long as those messages exist, this is definitely the kind I want around.

I saw the note at the bottom of the post, stating that the image had been defaced, but didn’t notice the links and assumed it was a mere reference to the tear at the top.  That was annoying, but also not particularly surprising.  It wasn’t until today, at Sociological Images, that I saw what was actually done to it.  It’s below the jump, as it could easily be considered very triggering.

Sociological Images describes this quite rightly as defending privilege.  I think it’s also pretty indisputably defending rape culture.  And all I can really say to it is this:

And they say that feminists hate men.  But we’re not the ones who think that raping is an identifying characteristic inherent to all who “deserve” the title.

Thankfully, the woman who took the picture also apparently removed the flier from the wall so that it wouldn’t trigger other passersby, who were just trying to get somewhere without a reminder of how much our society still hates them.  But that’s not really the point, is it?  The point is that someone felt hostile enough towards women’s bodily autonomy and sexual rights to have taken out the exacto knife.

Indeed, I’m now counting down the minutes until someone feels the need to tell me that I just can’t take a joke.


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40 Responses to Anti-Feminist Vandalism

  1. It’s not a joke and it’s not funny. It’s not even anti-feminist, it’s plain sick fucking misogyny. It’s the result of millennia of patriarchal inculcation that woman’s essence is vaginal and that it belongs to man. Autonomy be damned. After 50 years of fighting this, it still makes me sick. And to think that evo-psych portrays it as an inevitable evolutionary attribute just contributes to its repulsive expression. Those who excuse should be excoriated. Those who abuse should be eliminated.

  2. Kristen (The J one) says:

    Just so tired. This and that poor sex worker. Plus a few issues in my personal life…it just makes me want to go home and throw a blanket over my head. Someone wake me when I’m free to walk through the mall without someone commenting on my nipples.

  3. I’d like to let said vandal know exactly what he can do with his exacto knife.

  4. ArmyVetJen says:

    We have to find phrases that can’t be altered like this. I saw a May Day sticker that said “fight for Communism” and some cut it so it said “Fight Communism”.

    We should have a brainstorm of creating phrases that can’t be vandalized to turn the message to the opposite of our intentions. (Maybe a new post?)

    Overall I am not surprised. At Fredonia a Take back the Night march was met with “we have roofies and will rape you”, watergun squirts, an RA telling us we were the problem and revving/driving cars at us.

  5. I didn’t read it as anti-woman at all.

    I read it as making a blanket statement about men and rape culture. As saying that yes, men rape. All men, real or unreal, have the potential to be rapists and some of every group act on it.

    I didn’t read it as saying they condone it, rather that rape is a fact of life and that real men commit it.

    But then, I have Brownmiller damage.

  6. Rebecca says:

    ArmyVetJen, seconding your idea.

    Angelia, if that were the case I’d have thought the vandal would have removed the “real.”

  7. j says:

    Well, you *could* read it as an indictment of patriarchy, as saying that the ideal of masculinity is so fucked up that violent misogynistic behavior is seen as a necessary component of true manhood.

    But someone trying to make that subtle of a point would probably be smart enough to realize that this is a very unclear and ambiguous way of getting the point across.

  8. Will says:

    I actually read it the same way as Angelia did. It’s important that men hear the message that rape is something “real people” i.e. “people like us” do. Keeping people from viewing the rapist as the Other takes steps against the myths that only crazy people/minorities/old men/homos/poor people/whatever commit rape.

    I go to a small liberal arts college at which sexual assault is a problem, and is probably more of a problem than most students are aware. Take any man who commits acquaintance rape and ask him the next day whether he thought he could commit rape, and his answer would be flat-out “no.” He probably doesn’t even think he committed the rape he committed. Telling men that “real men” commit rape – that it is a real crime that people like them commit – puts them on their guard and highlights for them the responsibility not to do it themselves. Many men don’t grow up knowing the standards of consent: that it isn’t ok for sex to be about men making advances until women “give in.” I think the message of this sign becomes, “Wanna stop rape? Start by making sure you don’t do it yourself.”

    That might not have been the intent of the modification, but it certainly was how it read to me.

  9. QoT says:

    Given my own experience several years ago at university, when stickers handed out saying “No Means No! No Means Stop!” quickly showed up everywhere having been altered to read “No Means Yes! No Means Don’t Stop!” … I have a hard time believing this is some kind of meta-social-commentary, as opposed to some insecure idiot lashing out.

    See also the recent thread at KiwiPolitico where the response of almost every male commenter to the same assertion (Friends don’t let friends rape) was an immediate, “HOW DARE YOU! I DON’T KNOW PEOPLE WHO RAPE! YOU’RE A MAN-HATING FEMINAZI! DON’T CALL MY MATES RAPISTS!!!”

  10. Ens says:

    Yeah, while this isn’t funny, I’m almost certain this was a joke. Perhaps a joke in bad taste, and perhaps the fact of the joke says something about our culture, but I don’t think a member of the international pro-rape cabal came to cut out the middle line.

    I kind of like what Angelia and Will said about this, but at the same time, I don’t honestly believe that any more than I believe that a sage guru of feminist zen aphorisms did the vandalism either.

    People try to subvert signs all the time and in every way and this really fits the same pattern.

    Basically, I think this guy’s an asshole of a different variety than is made out here. I think some of us are vastly underestimating people’s capacity to not give a shit, and I think not giving a shit is a serious and insidious problem in this space (much as Will said).

  11. Cara says:

    Ens, did I say anywhere that it wasn’t intended to be a joke? (Or are you referring to someone else?) I’d actually quite buy that whoever did it thought they were being hilarious. But everything I said about it in the post still stands, even if it was done as a “joke” rather than out of pure rage at women having rights.

  12. Holly says:

    The real idiotic crime here is that whoever thought defacing this sign to change the message was funny did not realize how severely UNFUNNY it is. Light years less funny that even cutting words out of an advertisement so that it reads “I eat doo doo,” which is the kind of result this sort of shenanigan usually results in. But you have to have some severe privilege-blindness to think that you’re “rebelling against something overly serious” by defacing a message telling men they shouldn’t be rapists.

    It’s the same with all kinds of rape jokes — naive idiots use rape as a joke because they have enough privilege and not enough real brushes with a deadly serious issue, and because it’s taboo.

    Sometimes I think this kind of stupidity won’t go away as long as rape is a serious issue that’s not appropriate to joke about, because that’s what makes the jokes keep coming.

  13. shah8 says:

    Jokes are directional. Also, many jokes are there to solidify public opinion.

    It’s funny for the sort of men who hates women. It’s not funny towards women. In fact, it’s a (not so)veiled threat. I think that this is an overt stance on privilege–directed at other men as well, not a naive prankster.

  14. I don’t think it’s fair to divide the world into feminists and those who are “hostile towards women’s bodily autonomy.” This could have been done as a joke by a stupid teenager who doesn’t understand what rape does to women, girls, and society at large. This could have been done by someone who grew up with the same stereotypes about women’s sexuality as you and I did. The only difference between the person who did this and feminists is that feminists eventually learned that these stereotypes disenfranchise women and girls and hurt our society. I don’t think this was done by someone who thought about rape culture as much as you and I have and came to a different conclusion. I see this as something done by someone who still doesn’t get it but still has the opportunity to learn.

  15. Cara says:

    I don’t think it’s fair to divide the world into feminists and those who are “hostile towards women’s bodily autonomy.”

    The whole world? No, life is a lot more complex than that. But I think they’re two fair divisions among many.

    This could have been done by someone who grew up with the same stereotypes about women’s sexuality as you and I did.

    Yeah. Therefore, someone who is hostile towards women’s bodily autonomy. That’s what we’re taught. And if someone’s stupid enough to not know that rape is a bad thing, then yes, they are still hostile towards women’s bodily autonomy. Being stupid enough to not get it doesn’t make one less hostile.

    Little-known fact. When I was like 16, I was anti-choice. Not “outlaw it” anti-choice but “I think it’s really wrong and I’ll judge you if you have one” anti-choice. Not because I thought a fetus was a baby, but because I thought “you had sex, you should have to live with the consequences.”

    Did I hate women? No. Was I a bad person? I don’t think so. Was a stupid? In that respect, yup I sure was. Did I have the opportunity to learn? Pretty damn clearly. Was I hostile to women’s bodily autonomy? Abso-fucking-lutely! If thinking that women who have sex deserve to be saddled with a kid they don’t want for the rest of their lives isn’t hostile to their bodily autonomy, I don’t know what is. And in my book, thinking that rape is a fucking joke is one of the few things that could possibly be more hostile than that. Even if you don’t knowingly hate women, even if you’re not necessarily a “bad person,” and even if you have the opportunity to learn.

    I don’t think this was done by someone who thought about rape culture as much as you and I have and came to a different conclusion.

    Or it could have been an MRA. They’re both equally valid guesses.

    I see this as something done by someone who still doesn’t get it but still has the opportunity to learn.

    Everyone has an opportunity to learn. If I didn’t think I could teach/inform people, I wouldn’t bother writing for a feminist blog. But I don’t think that everyone is going to take the opportunity to learn. And I don’t have the time to teach everyone. Whoever did this to that sign up above, they fall into those latter categories in my book. If they fall into different categories in yours, that’s your prerogative.

  16. Nacey says:

    As a survivor, I usually roll my eyes and ignore such jokes. I wish I didn’t have to be confronted with them. Even the word ‘rape’ or associated synonyms sends a horrible shock through my system, but I can cope. I’m more angry for those other survivors that aren’t coping as well as I am.

    I just keep believing that hate atrophies and love grows. Women continue to get stronger and more enlightened. We just have to keep fighting.

    I know, I’m a terrible optimist.

  17. Schmorgluck says:

    The person who did this is either an extreme misogynist, or an extreme misandrist. Hard to tell out of the blue. All things considered, the first case is more likely. Both cases suck anyway.

  18. tlc says:

    I agree with Angela Sparrow, that it is/could be an acknowledgment that it is in fact real men who rape and not mystical generalizations on the margins who are responsible for the vast majority of sexual assaults. I also see how it could be offensive to have a powerful statement vandalized, especially if it was with the intent of promoting rape. I would prefer to think that a passerby saw it and thought more deeply and made their own amendment. For survivors, the amendment/defacement could be deeply triggering, like much of our dominant society. It is a tough spot but this dialogue is what is going to transform it.

  19. Dan says:

    It was a joke, but a joke by an asshole trying to shock.

  20. Axiomatic says:

    The person who did this thinks he’s bloody hilarious.

    Also, I don’t think this can be read as a warning that rapists are actual people and not some shadowy other, as it’s pretty clear that it divides the male half of the species into two groups, the real men who exhibit all the proper characteristics of proud manhood i.e. raping people, and the laughable, pathetic remnant of sissies and gender-traitors who are letting their side down and generally not acting the way nature intended because they don’t laugh promptly enough when women think they’re people.

  21. jrod says:

    I like that Angelia and Will read the defamed poster so favorably. It actually speaks wonders to how far we’ve progressed without showing it. I welcome the day where abstractions like that are not necessary. A bright side that just is.

    Also I wanted to note the comments about being hostile to female bodily autonomy. I feel like hostile has connotations of intent. Such that there is a different between hostile ideas that are in and of themselves hostile and a hostile individual.

    Someone can be ignorant, and hold hostile ideas, but in and of themselves not be hostile, simply ignorant.
    Where as someone who is hostile comes to a hostile ideology in order to promulgate their hostility.

    I hope that makes sense… but to me nothing without a middle makes sense…

  22. I read it as making a blanket statement about men and rape culture. As saying that yes, men rape. All men, real or unreal, have the potential to be rapists and some of every group act on it.

    I didn’t read it as saying they condone it, rather that rape is a fact of life and that real men commit it.

    That’s how I read it as well.

  23. I cannot in any way see it as a statement on the facts of life. Had it been the original message, then yes, I could see how this conclusion could have been reached, but someone changing an anti-rape message in such a way? Heck no.

  24. MANFRED says:

    Someone wake me when I’m free to walk through the mall without someone commenting on my nipples.

    WOT?

  25. William says:

    Take any man who commits acquaintance rape and ask him the next day whether he thought he could commit rape, and his answer would be flat-out “no.” He probably doesn’t even think he committed the rape he committed.

    I’ve heard this argument before, and I have to say it’s always rung pretty false for me. I can’t imagine how someone could “accidentally” commit a rape. Sure, they might deny it, justify it, pretend it was something else, but thats par for the course with anyone who gets caught doing something they knew was wrong (“I can explain, really…”). The lack of self-awareness necessary for something like that to be a reality (as opposed to shit you say in the morning to maintain your self-image) has always struck me as unlikely. I think that men need to be more honest and call bullshit when someone says something that we know to be untrue. I’ve been a 16 (or 20) year old boy who desperately wanted to have sex with a partner who wasn’t into it. I’ve tried to convince and cajole my way into getting laid. I’ve been in situations where I realized that if I was just a little more insistent or a little more pushy I could get what I wanted, but you stop because at some point you know its wrong. Its not about being enlightened or pro-woman or especially empathic, its just basic interpersonal skills. You can’t take advantage of another’s vulnerability without first recognizing the vulnerability. At some point the decision is made to abuse another. It doesn’t just happen and it isn’t accidental. People don’t use people accidentally. When someone says “we need more education because these men don’t even know they committed a rape” what I hear is “I don’t want to believe that people I know might be casual rapists so I’ll frame the problem in a way that doesn’t scare me quite as much.” That dishonesty perpetuates rape culture.

  26. Cara says:

    William, no one said that it was an “accident.” At least, no one here. I think you’re misunderstanding.

    The argument is that they don’t call it rape, or think it’s rape. I whole-heartedly agree with your argument that the rapist always knows that what they’re doing is wrong, but if they don’t call it “rape,” it’s not as wrong in their minds. Because rape is really horrible. And what they did, they think, is only kind of horrible!

    It’s what Marcella at abyss2hope talks about. They make the argument “I’m a jerk, but I’m no rapist.” And they use that to justify the behavior. Because everyone’s a jerk sometimes! Etc.

    So, my rapist? I know that he did what he did knowingly and on purpose. I bet you a million dollars that if you asked him if he raped me, he’d say a flat out no. And I bet you almost as much that he genuinely believes it. That is a problem. Because rape is really horrible. And until we get people to reclassify their actions from “jerky” to “really horrible,” they’re going to keep justifying and making excuses.

  27. Dave says:

    Dr. Ron Gerughty says: And to think that evo-psych portrays it as an inevitable evolutionary attribute just contributes to its repulsive expression.

    Where is there a reference that supports this characterization of evo-psych? Sounds like a strange, marginal offshoot to me.

  28. Anonymous says:

    William, the problem is that we, as a society, have this image of a woman walking alone at night and being attacked and forced into a dark alley and being brutally raped. This is what we think rape is. This happens, of course, but most rapes are committed by a person that the woman already knows, and this is something that most people aren’t aware of. A woman doesn’t have to be kicking and screaming to have been forced into sex, and this is something that a lot of men seem to be unaware of (thus the ‘accidental’ rape).

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  30. Fred says:

    As a rape survivor I would remind you that women are the only ones who are raped.

  31. William says:

    So, upon reflection it seems that I was responding to a lot of things that weren’t part of the thread. Part of it is that I have a client right now with a history of low grade sex offenses and the “just being a jerk”/”being a rapist” semantic tap dance has been on my mind lately. As for most rapes not being the dark alley scenario, between my own history as a survivor and working in mental health believe me, I know. My point was more that I find the rationalization and denial that both offenders and the general society engage in to be a big part of the problem. I apologize if I jumped down anyone’s throat.

  32. Everyone has an opportunity to learn. If I didn’t think I could teach/inform people, I wouldn’t bother writing for a feminist blog. But I don’t think that everyone is going to take the opportunity to learn. And I don’t have the time to teach everyone. Whoever did this to that sign up above, they fall into those latter categories in my book. If they fall into different categories in yours, that’s your prerogative.

    It seems like your view of people uneducated in feminism is pretty negative and that you only have time to preach to the choir. Instead of writing this post to the person who cut up that poster, you wrote it to the people who already know it’s wrong to do something like that. What does that accomplish? Pretty much nothing.

  33. Axiomatic says:

    Well, it’s statistically unlikely that the person who cut up the flier (or is that flyer?) is reading this blog, so writing a post in a blog to them would be an empty gesture, wouldn’t it?

    Although now that I think about it, it might serve to make a point if you posted a new message directed at the vandal in the same place the vandalized message was previously. So instead of a piece of paper saying REAL MEN DO NOT LET MEN RAPE, it’d say something like TO WHOEVER THINKS RAPE IS FUCKING HILARIOUS or something, with a longer message in smaller print beneath it where you, in calm and reasonable language, explain why what they did was wrong.

    Granted, it’s not likely to have much of an effect on the actual person who did the original cutting up, provided they ever actually see the new message, but it might still be a good thing to do.

  34. Steve says:

    I am a man and I don’t like the statement, “Real men do not let men rape.” The implication is that its my fault if someone sexually assaults a woman. Or that I’m not a real man if I don’t…. what?

  35. Cara says:

    Yet again, Steve, we apply the standard of “if it’s not about you, don’t make it about you.” That being said, far too many men who don’t rape play along with rape culture. They turn a blind eye when a friend purposely tries to get a woman drunk so that she’ll “have sex” with him when she otherwise wouldn’t. They laugh at rape jokes. They talk shit about victims, and “how she wanted it,” or about how a woman dresses and what it says about her sexual availability. Etc.

  36. Will says:

    @William –
    I might be repeating Cara in different words here, but I think the distinction comes down as between knowing you did something wrong (a feeling most of us get on a pretty regular basis) and knowing you did serious violence to someone’s bodily integrity (not a feeling most of us get on a regular basis). And I think the space where educating (some, many) men is really useful falls in that crack. I don’t understand how getting (some, many) men over that gap means we as a society are covering up people’s capacity to be casual rapists; I think it means we are acknowledging that and naming it the collective crisis it should be named.

    I remember when I was around seven, I was at my sister’s birthday party and during a game of musical chairs, I put my hand down on a chair just before one of my sister’s friends sat down. As a result, I accidentally touched her in an (obviously; I was seven) non-sexual way. I remember being confused when my parents took this very seriously – pulled me into the other room and gave me a talking to about appropriate and inappropriate touching. After all, neither she nor I thought anything of what had just happened. Was my parents’ response out of proportion with what happened? Absolutely. Did it teach me the important lesson that when it comes down to people’s bodies, there are no excuses? Absolutely. That’s the kind of education I think is important. Young men need to learn ASAP that their privilege gives them an endless supply of excuses for doing terrible things, and that they need to ignore those excuses and be especially respectful when people’s bodies are at issue.

  37. Will says:

    Sorry about the double post, but I just wanted to add casual use of “rape” to mean “defeat” to Cara’s list of ways people play along with rape culture. I can’t tell you how uncomfortable I get every time someone says “we totally raped the other team” or “man, I just raped my midterm” or “I got raped by some tequila shots last night.” And if it makes me uncomfortable, I can’t imagine how it would feel to be a survivor and hear that.

  38. T B says:

    Hey everyone,

    I originally posted one of those photos — the first one — on Flickr.

    There are more responses to that first photo here –
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/tobanblack/3216214895/

    There are two other related photos of another flyer nearby that was torn down quickly –
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/tobanblack/3211592108/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/tobanblack/3215929685/

    The other day an anti-feminist troll started bombarding me with comments on Flickr (about how all ‘feminists’ are anti-men). Those commetns are at those pages.

    Cheers.

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  40. Radfemsrevil says:

    The more I see feminist keep lowering the bar
    on what is and isn’t rape. The more convinced
    I am that feminist are trying to criminalize all male sexual behavior.
    Pro feminist men are nothing more than useful idiots to feminist.
    Weaving the rope that feminist will be use to hang them.

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