[Trigger warning for discussion of rape and racism]
Writer and political analyst Zerlina Maxwell spoke on FOX with Sean Hannity to point out, rightly, that no amount of precaution and preparation and weaponry can protect women from rape as long as there are still rapists. It’s the obvious statements like that that, for some reason, seem to appear so revolutionary and controversial that they’re worthy of argument or even death threats.
A rape survivor herself, Maxwell dismissed the idea that arming women is the surefire answer to rape by noting that when violence is begin committed against women, particularly when it’s by men the women know and trust, it makes no sense to tell them stop being raped and all the sense to tell men to stop raping.
I think the entire conversation is wrong. I don’t want anybody to be telling women anything. I don’t want women — I don’t want men to be telling me what to wear, how to act, not to drink. And I don’t, honestly, want you to tell me that I need a gun in order to prevent my rape. And in my case —
In my case, don’t tell me if I had only had gun, I wouldn’t have been raped because it’s still putting it on me to prevent the rape.
I don’t think that we should be telling women anything. I think we should be telling men not to rape women and start the conversation there with prevention.
There are organizations that do this. Men stop — men can stop rape. Men Stopping Violence. They train young men not to rape.
I won’t repeat the epithets thrown at her on social media as a result of her speaking out. (You can see a sampling at Talking Points Memo, if you feel compelled.) They told her in disturbing detail what should be done to her; almost all of them referenced her race. One mentioned that if she were thusly attacked, “Maybe then [she’ll] understand why white women have to be armed.” Because, goes the implication, rape is different for a black woman; she deserves extra punishment for speaking out.
Her crimes were being a black woman in public and believing that women can’t be called upon to stop everything and believing that men are more than feral animals and can and should be taught not to rape. All unforgivable, of course.
But despite numerous violently threatening instructions to shut up, she didn’t. She retweeted a sampling of her more vicious threats, then spoke with Ed Schultz on MSNBC. Then she talked with Democracy Now. And she outlined in Ebony five ways that men can indeed be taught not to rape.
1. Teach young men about legal consent
2. Teach young men to see a woman’s humanity, instead of seeing them as sexual objects there for male pleasure
3. Teach young men how to express healthy masculinity
4. Teach young men to believe women who come forward and not to blame the victim
5. Teach young men about bystander intervention
Because women are not responsible for their own rapes, and they haven’t failed to protect themselves — society has failed to keep them safe by accepting a culture that refuses to hold rapists accountable and to make prevention a priority. And that message, she says, is why the slurs and the threats won’t keep her from talking.
“I’m certainly taking steps to protect my emotional health, but I will not be quiet. Because I refuse to be bullied into silence,” she told Schultz. “The whole entire point of why I went on Fox to talk about this issue that I am so passionate about is because so many women are afraid to talk about it. That’s because they are blamed and shamed into silence, and I refuse — I refuse — to be silenced.”
Read posts by Arturo at Racialicious and Imani Gandy at RH Reality Check, Maxwell’s interview with Juan Gonzales and Amy Goodman at Democracy Now, and Maxwell’s article at Ebony. And h/t to commenter miga.
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