Miri has posted an excellent “…Review of the White House’s Report on Campus Sexual Violence which is a must read for anyone interested in sexual assault on campuses, and everyone should be concerned about this issue.

I would like to address one aspect of the problem here, briefly: the use of and concern over the term “rape culture.”

When I first encountered the term “rape culture” I was put off by it. I’ve lived in and directly studied, and indirectly studied through the literature, a wide range of cultures around the world, and there is a great range of variation in prevalence of and attitudes about rape. Now and then there emerge circumstances in which rape becomes extremely common. It has been said that for a period of time during the Second Congo War rape accounted for nearly 100% of the intercourse, babies, and of course, violent deaths of women, in certain regions. And so on. I was concerned that the term “rape culture” applied in the US watered down consideration of the more severe end of this distribution.

It did not take long, however, for me to realize this was a rather bone-headed way of looking at it. For one thing, the actual definitions of rape culture in use do not in any way limit its application to those extreme and horrific cases. Also, culture is complex. We tend to collect data, make generalizations, and see solutions at societal levels such as entire nations or even continents, not at the level of “cultures” which are, in any event, edgeless complex interconnected entities despite the common use of the shorthand term (“culture”). The elements of rape culture can be in place in a country or region where rape is more rare, or more common.

An excellent definition of rape culture is provided by Marshall University’s Women’s Center:

Rape Culture is an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture. Rape culture is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence, thereby creating a society that disregards women’s rights and safety.

Rape Culture affects every woman. The rape of one woman is a degradation, terror, and limitation to all women. Most women and girls limit their behavior because of the existence of rape. Most women and girls live in fear of rape. Men, in general, do not. That’s how rape functions as a powerful means by which the whole female population is held in a subordinate position to the whole male population, even though many men don’t rape, and many women are never victims of rape. This cycle of fear is the legacy of Rape Culture.

The same web page goes on to provide examples (i.e., blambing the victim, tolerating sexual harassment, inflating false repe report statistics, and so on) and also provides a few tips to combat it (changes i language, social engagement, critical thinking, respect, etc.).

Rape culture is a thing, and it applies in the US. The fact that it probably actually applies everywhere (Do you know of any exceptions? If so please elaborate in the comments below!) does not actually water down the definition but rather, exposes the underpinnings of rape culture as a human-wide problem. This indicates it either stems from the basic evolutionary biology of humans or ubiquitous common cultural features of human societies (such as a self perpetuating patriarchy) or, more likely, a causal structure that exists independently of our post hoc notions of nature and nurture.

Politically, rape culture has another aspect; it is a touchstone to the inimical false debate between so-called “Mens Rights Advocates” and basic humanistic, including feminist, values. To get a feel for this check out the definition of “Rape Culture” in Wikipedia, and scroll down to the “Criticisms” section. Here we see one of the points Miri addresses in her post; the recent RAINN report’s assertion that while cultural factors may be important, “… it is important to not lose sight of a simple fact: Rape is caused not by cultural factors but by the conscious decisions, of a small percentage of the community, to commit a violent crime.” This is problematic because it asserts that individual decisions arise somehow outside of the purview of enculturation, which I’m pretty sure is nearly impossible. The statement “It is estimated that in college, 90% of rapes are committed by 3% of the male population, though it is stipulated that they do not have reliable numbers for female perpetrators.” may be technically correct but a) the percentage of the subset of society under consideration (in this case those who are in college or living on college campuses) is not a measure of the importance of a relevant cultural driver, and b) note the MRA dog whistle – “it happens to us men too.”

The Criticisms section sites Caroline Kitchensi’s ironically titled opinion piece “Its Time to End ‘Rape Culture’ Hysteria.” Kitchensi is a researcher at the American Enterprise Institute, a right wing “think” tank which is exactly where I would look to find a female willing to fill stinky shoes of an Mens Rights Advocate for the purpose of toning down public discourse on rape. The section also brings in the critique by Christina Sommers, libertarian anti-feminist. And so on. I’m not claiming here that these criticisms are invalid or should not be heard (though I quickly add that I disagree with them). I’m just pointing out that the use of “rape culture” invokes the MRA counter-argument (to almost everything) as its main counter-point. This is what we see in many other areas of public discourse as well. If the main critique of a new study on anthropogenic global warming comes from other climate scientists that’s one thing. If the main critique comes from the usual cadre of science denialists many in the employee directly or indirectly of the petroleum and coal industries, that’s another thing. The litany of critiques of the “rape culture” idea in the seemingly well updated entry in Wikipedia comes from the usual suspects, not from within the sociological or anthropological, or even criminological, communities where spirited debate about almost everything is the norm. This does not prove anything but it is a clue.

One could argue that “rape culture” has become a dog whistle for feminism, or even a particular brand of feminism. That might actually be true. But any concept that tries to link cultural context to appropriately scrutinized individual behaviors is going to get dog whistled by the opposition.

Go read Miri’s post and pay attention to the links to key resources concerning rape.

Warning, rapey themes and strong language, go away if you can’t handle that.

Which is worse, rape threats or lightening up about rape threats? Since I hardly ever get rape threats and the ones I get are absurd, it is not really for me to say. The question here, is what does a woman who is active on line and gets numerous and scary rape (and other) threats feel about those threats vs. advice from allies(ish) who say “don’t worry about it, just leave that behind.”

This is tricky stuff, because the overt strategy one takes can vary depending on circumstances and there are a lot of valid strategies one can choose, but few strategies one can foist on others.

A person who is outspoken about a particular issue and receives threats over that issue could take those threats very seriously, calling in authorities, hardening defenses, counter-agitating or counter-activating, and so on, while publicly not talking about the threats at all, or perhaps very publicly brushing them off.

Or, the recipient of the threats could do something very different, bringing the details out in the open, making clear to her audience what is happening and why it is wrong, and making the whole thing very public, in order that people know. And maybe that people change. Or, at lest, that social expectations change ands some people shut up.

These two strategies differ in a number of ways. The former strategy may effectively neutralize some of the threats, those from attention seekers who are themselves paying attention, perhaps, but it will do little to stop or slow down threats from your basic miscreant. The latter strategy is likely to generate more threats because, simply, more jerks become aware of a particular target, but the public strategy serves a larger, very important purpose of educating people to the fact that these things happen, and not only that, but they happen commonly and are rather severe to say the least.

It is really up to the person who is at the receiving end of this horrible stuff to make that decision. One thing can be said, though: because of the dynamics of interaction on the internet, the woman who calls out the harassers in order to move us all forward, in the general direction of civilization (which is slowly being reinvented on the Internet) and widespread social justice, is ultimately hurting herself for the benefit of others. When a man does that sort of thing, Internet society calls him a hero. When a woman does that sort of thing, Internet society at best questions her motives, but commonly does worse. She is labeled as a cunt.

Here is my friend and colleague Rebecca Watson laying out her position on this issue in her most recent YouTube vlog, “Dear Guy Who Wants Me to Stop Talking About Feminism“. She addresses the question that is the title of this post.

I’m not embedding Rebecca’s video here because I want you to GO TO HER YOUTUBE CHANNEL and watch the video there. That way, if you feel like leaving a comment, you’ll be there. I assume most, perhaps all, readers of my blog will be supportive and thoughtful. Otherwise go fuck yourself, OK?

Thank you very much that is all.

This is a movie, narrated by Jodie Foster, produced by Robert Redford, directed by Pamela Green and Jarik van Sluijs, about the first woman director ever. She made the first narrative film ever. She also invented movie stars. Oh, and the thing where you have sound? She was the first to use synchronized sound. She did a lot of things first, and no one has ever heard of her. Many of her films were destroyed, others misattributed to others. This is one of the most amazing stories of modern culture I’ve ever seen. Can’t wait ’till the actual film comes out.

More information is here and here.

Did you know that there is a “Lesbian Apocalypse” coming? No? I didn’t either, but apparently there is one. From Wipedia:

Catherine “Cathy” Brennan is an attorney in the state of Maryland and a prominent supporter of “trans-critical” radical feminism. Her main accomplishment in this regard is coauthoring a letter to the United Nations, insisting that trans people’s gender identity should not be legally recognized and protected. She is also a frequent columnist for Baltimore OUTloud’s LGBTQ blog section, which she uses to warn of the coming “lesbian annihilation” at the hands of “the queers” and trans people and stridently argue against legislation protecting gender identity.

I received a note from Secular Women linking to a petition to the Southern Poverty Law Center asking for the SPLC to treat Brennan’s organization as a hate group. Having never heard of trans-critical radical feminism, I worried at first that this was one of those awful breakdowns among allies (in this case, feminists) over how some issue or another is being handled, which had escalated to the extreme outcome of labeling a group with different views but within the same movement as a hate group. This didn’t seem like something Secular Women would do. So, I followed the links and read up on it a bit, and apparently this is a thing. Here’s the letter I got from Secular Women:

Southern Poverty Law Center:
Monitor “Gender Identity Watch”
as a Hate Group

As a feminist organization, Secular Woman promotes gender equality. We stand against and combat sexism, hate, intolerance, and misogyny.

Transgender women are women.

Cisgender women are women.

We do not, in any way, view the existence of transgender women, genderqueer individuals or transgender men as a threat to the safety of women, female identity, or the goals of feminism.

As intersectional feminists we acknowledge the privilege that cisgender people experience. We aim to dismantle the axis of oppression that this represents.
Unfortunately, not all who claim the label “feminist” agree with us. They do not represent us and we reject their actions and views as unethical and devoid of reason.
We stand in opposition.

Members of our community have been targeted by trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs). Personal information such as former names, current legal names, and photographs have been compiled and displayed on the website “Name the Problem”. Several of the entries are self-attributed to “Pegasus” (“PegasusBug” is a pseudonym of Cathy Brennan, the head of Gender Identity Watch). This information was presented alongside reports describing rapists and batterers of women.

Countless others, including members of transgender advocacy groups have reported similar treatment, as well as other alarming behavior, such as Cathy Brennan contacting employers, schools and medical doctors of transgender women, girls and young men.

This is unacceptable.

It is anathema to our vision of a future in which women have the opportunities and resources they need to participate openly and confidently in every aspect of society.
Cathy Brennan’s tactics, as described, are reprehensible, reckless, and irresponsible as they have the potential to embolden violence and harassment of those she targets and to result in job loss and other discrimination informed by the open knowledge of the target’s transgender status.

Refusal to afford transgender women inclusion, safety, and civil rights is a form of misogyny that is antithetical to feminism.

We invite fellow feminists and secularists, as well as others concerned, to proactively affirm the inclusion of all women as women. Condemn the toxic ideologies used to rationalize hate, fear, and discrimination based on gender.

Stand with us in petitioning the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to track the activities of Cathy Brennan’s Gender Identity Watch as a hate group in accordance with SPLC’s stated mission.

Signed in Solidarity,

Secular Woman
Stop Abuse Online
Skepchick

Trinity Aodh, Melody Hensley, M. A. Melby, Veronica K. Berglyd Olsen, Kim Rippere, Mary Ellen Sikes, Dana Lane Taylor

Please sign the petition here!

Click through to follow the documenting links. Sign the petition.

Update: Never mind, Never mind! Scientific American Blogs has taken down Dr. Stollznow’s post. So, I guess everything is OK now! False Alarm, everyone go home. Nothing to see here.

Say you are a woman in the Skeptics or Secular movement, professional, possibly working for one of the big organizations. If you are sexually harassed (or worse), the way you get your voice heard is, apparently, to blog your heart out, or use an anonymous tumbler.

That is wrong. Organizations such as JREF and CFI should have been places that were safe, and that would facilitate and amplify your voice as needed.

But CFI and JREF have been run by members of the Misogynarchy. So that has not been possible.

With recent revelations and events, perhaps the Misogynarchists will move aside and those with 21st century, instead of 19th century, sensibilities in these matters will take over and organizations that claim to support rational thinking, humanism, and such will stop being brokers of meat markets and instead be places where progressive voices can be heard and women (and men) can be not only safe but also find advocacy.

I once suggested that DJ Grothe resign. I now demand it. People seemed to be less intent on suggesting resignation for Ron Lindsay after he royally screwed the pooch a couple of months ago by forgetting his role as a leader, but now, really, he should too. Not because of these new revelations. But because the whole damn patriarchy has to go.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’ve provided a list of essential links, in the order you should read them, below. Enjoy. Or, more likely, get a little sick to your stomach and then perhaps break something or feel really sad for a while:

<ul>
  • “I’m Sick of Talking about Sexual Harassment!”
  • <li><a href="http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/files/2013/08/“I’m-Sick-of-Talking-about-Sexual-Harassment”-_-MIND-Guest-Blog-Scientific-American-Blog-Network.pdf">PDF of the above linked post.</a></li>
    
    
    <li><a href="http://skepchick.org/2013/08/ben-radford-accused-of-sexual-harassment/">Ben Radford Accused of Sexual Harassment</a></li>
    
    <li><a href="http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/08/07/trying-to-overcome-my-male-pattern-blindness/">Trying to overcome my Male Pattern Blindness</a></li>
    
    <li><a href="http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/08/07/carrie-poppy-tells-all/">Carrie Poppy tells all</a></li>
    
    <li><a href="http://www.morethanmen.org/2013/08/07/dj-and-me/">dj and me</a></li>
    

    Added: Ron Lindsay’s response defending CFI.

    Usually I don’t mention books unless I’ve read them, but I thought a lot of my readers would be interested in a volume I have only heard about: Defiant Daughters: 21 Women on Art, Activism, Animals, and the Sexual Politics of Meat.

    Here is the description:

    When The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory by Carol J. Adams was published more than twenty years ago, it caused an immediate stir among writers and thinkers, feminists and animal rights activists alike. Never before had the relationship between patriarchy and meat eating been drawn so clearly, the idea that there lies a strong connection between the consumption of women and animals so plainly asserted.

    But, as the 21 personal stories in this anthology show, the impact of this provocative text on women’s lives continues to this day, and it is as diverse as it is revelatory. One writer attempts to reconcile her feminist-vegan beliefs with her Muslim upbringing; a second makes the connection between animal abuse and her own self-destructive tendencies. A new mother discusses the sexual politics of breastfeeding, while another pens a letter to her young son about all she wishes for him in the future. Many others recall how the book inspired them to start careers in the music business, animal advocacy, and food. No matter whether they first read it in college or later in life, whether they are in their late teens or early forties, these writers all credit The Sexual Politics of Meat in some way with the awakening of their identities as feminists, activists, and women. Even if you haven’t read the original work, you’re sure to be moved and inspired by these tales of growing up and, perhaps more important, waking up to the truths around us.

    Including a foreword from Carol J. Adams herself, this collection of fresh, bold voices defies expectations and provides rousing support for the belief that women have the power to change the world around them for this generation and those to come.

    This is the year of the woman in the US Congress and elsewhere, despite the best efforts of some to make sure that the opposite happened.

    This is the year in which the Right Wing carried out the most anti-woman campaign ever since suffrage, or at least, so it would appear, along with a continued attack on non-hetero persons. A defining moment in this campaign occurred in February, when the Republican controlled House carried out a nearly comical hearing on women’s reproductive rights. Continue reading

    Secular Woman is a organization that just formed, and is currently filing for 501(c)(3) status. I just joined it and you should to. Here’s the mission statement:

    Mission

    The mission of Secular Woman is to amplify the voice, presence, and influence of non-religious women.

    Vision

    Secular Woman envisions a future in which women without supernatural beliefs have the opportunities and resources they need to participate openly and confidently as respected voices of leadership in the secular community and every aspect of American society.

    Values

    Humanism

    We embrace human-centered ethics informed by reason and science. We reject dogma, superstition, pseudoscience, and religious authority as sources of morality and truth.
    We hold that all human beings are entitled to freedom from others’ religious ideologies in living their lives, engaging with service providers, and interacting with government.

    Health & Sexuality

    We support every person’s right to bodily and sexual autonomy. Gender expression, sexual orientation, and matters of intimacy are for individuals to determine.

    We view age-appropriate, comprehensive, medically accurate health and sex education as vital to responsible decision-making by young people.

    We oppose all attempts to criminalize or limit access to comprehensive reproductive services such as contraception and abortion.

    We affirm that everyone has the right to feel safe, confident, and secure in their personal and emotional interactions. We oppose harassment, bullying, objectification, and other forms of aggression both physical and non-physical in all settings.

    Family & Relationships

    We hold that each person has the right to seek happiness through consensual relationships that enhance their lives.

    We support full marriage equality nationwide.

    We embrace diverse concepts of family and parenthood. Love and security come in many forms.

    Feminism

    We abhor the use of religion as a justification for the oppression of women.

    We insist that women have basic and human rights that are equal to those enjoyed by men, including equal opportunity and equal pay for equal work.

    We hold that women are entitled to full and equal participation in all levels of government.

    Secular Community

    We desire a secular movement enriched by the presence and influence of many kinds of people. We wish to be instrumental in increasing gender diversity within the secular community.