Archive for the ‘mainstream media fail’ Category

Even if Julian Assange is exonerated to the satisfaction of all and sundry, it will still be true that:

  1. Michael Moore, Keith Olbermann, and plenty of other people with far less influence have published information about Assange’s accusers, including their names and enough personal information to allow the truly sadistic types to locate and harm them. (Though I suppose some might make the argument that this would be a form of justice if the accusers were lying. Because women who lie about being raped deserve to actually be raped. We’ll give them something to lie about!)
  2. Michael Moore and others have mischaracterized the nature of the accusations against Assange, repeating the tired “sex by surprise” and “broken condom” rumors rather than acknowledging that Assange is actually accused of using force to hold one woman down and penetrating another while she was asleep, acts which would be considered rape under any definition. (Well, unless you’re Naomi Wolf. And if you’re Naomi Wolf, please, for the love of god, get a GRIP on yourself.) This was perhaps slightly understandable when the accusations first aired, when the reporting was spotty and Assange’s attorneys were making disingenuous statements and no one had yet thought to ask Professor Google about whether the Swedish legal code really criminalizes unprotected consensual sex (for crying out loud, of course it doesn’t; as Kate Harding said on Twitter, “Seriously, where the hell do @MMFlint, @KeithOlbermann & friends think Swedish babies come from?”), but by the time Michael Moore got around to sneering about this on Countdown there was just no excuse for repeating that mendacious bullshit.
  3. Sady Doyle and various other feminists who have spoken out on this subject have been subjected to rape and death threats. Speak out against rape culture and watch, amazed and repulsed, as various misogynistic creepy-crawlies slither out of the woodwork to try their damnedest to make you regret it.
  4. Trolls (many of whom were clearly men tweeting from fake or anonymous accounts; what are they afraid of? It’s not like they’re going to be threatened with sexual violence) are posting rape jokes and other pretty vile stuff under the #MooreandMe hashtag because, oh lolz, you guys, there are like so many women who have been raped reading those tweets right now, and we will make them so sorry for that, we will remind them that they’re not safe, not anywhere, not ever. And it’ll be hilarious.

None of these things will cease to be true at any point. None of these things will cease to be completely and overwhelmingly fucked-up at any point.

And women like me who have been fortunate enough never to have been raped are watching this unfold, and some of us are feeling that sinking dread, that nausea, that comes with the realization that if we ever are raped, this is also what we will face if we make the mistake of thinking we deserve to be heard. I can’t speak for all of those women, but I know that for me, at least, this has been horrifying enough to witness even from my relatively comfortable vantage point. I’m not an accuser and I’m not high-profile enough to draw attention; I’m nobody, really, just some person tweeting and re-tweeting and clicking links and snickering at Keith Olbermann’s repeated flounces.

But I’m also watching very, very carefully. And wondering who will rape me, and how much society will punish me for it.

I know that regardless of the outcome in this situation, I have nothing to answer for. I wonder if rape apologists can say the same.

So. Julian Assange.

Is that guy blond, or what?

There have been plenty of smart people who’ve written plenty of smart things about the allegations of rape against Assange. I may or may not have something smart to add to the conversation, but first I want to link to the two best pieces I’ve read on the subject so far, which each approach it from a different—and worthwhile—perspective: the first is from bfp at flipfloppingjoy, and the second from Maia at Capitalism Bad; Tree Pretty.  They’re both excellent posts, but I’m grateful for bfp’s in particular because it led me to interrogate my own feelings on this subject a bit more closely and to understand what is and is not valuable about the way I’ve approached it.

My response when I read about the allegations, and the reaction to them, was entirely reflexive. The part of me that hates the way that we talk about rape, and rapists, and rape victims—the part that wrote this post—went straight into myth-debunking mode. And while I think that’s useful and appropriate, for reasons I’ll elaborate on in a bit, it’s also something that requires some deliberation. Because that discussion cannot be about criminal retribution. I agree with bfp completely—and have said as much in the past—that an appeal to the state to dispense justice carries with it terrible consequences. Ultimately, whatever power we invest in the state is power that will, as bfp said, be used against us.

But that doesn’t imply that consequences shouldn’t be discussed at all, because consequences can be part of prevention. What I think it does imply is that we should work to redefine those consequences as something to be enforced by the community, rather than by the state.

And that means talking about rape culture.

Rape culture attempts to protect rapists from social consequences, e.g. shame and isolation, by normalizing, minimizing or flat-out denying instances of rape. This is made easier or more difficult by the rapist’s power relative to the victim’s, because power bestows an assumption of credibility and credibility determines who will be believed and supported. So to some extent rape apologists work to widen that power/credibility gap, and anti-rape activists work to narrow it. One way this often plays out is that victims are slandered and made unrapeable. This is why rape prevention so often focuses on deconstructing narratives about victims, e.g. what they look like and how they act, because those narratives exist to narrow the definition of “rape victim” until it excludes almost all women and precludes the possibility that they will be taken seriously if they step forward.

But there’s another way to widen that gap, and it can be even harder to confront because it relies not on defaming victims (something which runs the risk of being perceived as unjust) but on delineating the boundary of “those who commit rape” in such a way that all assumedly-decent people will fall outside of that boundary. This implicitly strengthens the credibility of many men who are accused of rape by stipulating that rape is not something they could possible have committed. Put another way: if rapists are terrible people, it simply follows that people who are not terrible cannot be rapists. And thus men who are viewed positively by their communities as a result of their social privilege— “good” men; “family” men; “pillars of the community”— cannot, by definition, commit rape. Which not only robs their victims of the chance to be heard and believed, but also ensures that rape accusations will only ever be taken seriously when leveled at men with very little social privilege to begin with. And this simply reaffirms our belief that those men, themselves, are hardly human.

We’ve essentially defined rape out of existence except to the degree that acknowledging it suits our purposes, and allegations against men like Julian Assange and Roman Polanski provide an opportunity to confront that dynamic in a way that can receive wide exposure. So I do think that this is an important discussion to have. Undermining rape culture is a necessary part of, as bfp says, “ending rape to begin with, rather than punishing after the fact.”

But. While this discussion is important, I also think it’s a bit of a red herring.

Because Julian Assange is not WikiLeaks.

The former is being held without bail in Sweden; the latter is the focus of a far more ominous and dangerous campaign being conducted in the form of denial-of-service attacks, the freezing of accounts, and government disruption of the public’s attempts to support the organization financially (whether online or via snail mail). The fact that Assange has been subjected to politically-motivated persecution (and he clearly has; to believe otherwise would require some fairly naïve assumptions about the importance typically given to the prosecution of rape as a crime) is in large part a result of his success at making himself the face of WikiLeaks. This was arguably a bad decision on his part, and it’s not one that we, the public, are required to affirm by continuing to conflate the individual and the organization.

WikiLeaks would be stronger, and Assange himself would likely be safer (though I suppose the damage is done on that count), if the two were thoroughly decoupled. If we’re invested in the fate of WikiLeaks as an organization, we need to be aware of the threats being posed to it directly. Concern for Assange is understandable given the possibility that he may be extradited to the U.S. and forced to stand trial for espionage, so I’m not advocating that we all maintain a position of cold indifference to the risks he faces.

But we can’t preserve transparency by defending Julian Assange any more than we can end rape by punishing him.

Images from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/r_sh/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/nigsby

The verdict in the Oscar Grant trial was read yesterday: involuntary manslaughter. Sentence of four years possible, with two years likely (and possibly three to ten more for the charge of using a gun).

Let’s all take a moment to reflect on the fact that Michael Vick received a 23-month sentence for dogfighting charges.

Rather than embarrass myself trying to form the sort of cogent analysis that’s already been provided by people like Adam Serwer and the writers at Color Lines, I’ll just point in their direction. Racialicious also has a fascinating post up juxtaposing quotes and images from the aftermath of the trial, including the much-anticipated “violent protests.” Luckily, the police arrested upwards of 80 for such devastating crimes as “failure to disperse,” so we know shit’s being handled. I almost expected to hear that some unfortunate protester had been shot by an overzealous officer who’d missed the “Slingshot or Semiautomatic? Learning What the Fuck Weapons Look Like” training course, thereby bringing us full circle. Glad to be wrong about that.

Probably unsurprisingly, I agree with the afore-linked posts, and most of the other left-wing and progressive coverage of the trial, that this outcome only resembled justice in the most remote sense, and then only because it was the first conviction of its kind. In particular, I’m appalled that Mehserle’s stated defense is actually being treated as anything but nonsensical. Even if he truly were so incredibly bad at his job that he honestly mistook his gun for his Taser, both at the point of drawing it and at the point of firing it—in which case, please never issue this man any weapon more dangerous than a Super Soaker ever again—there is simply no reason for him to have pulled any weapon in that situation. Oscar Grant was lying on his stomach, handcuffed, surrounded by multiple police officers; it’s difficult to imagine a situation in which any individual could pose less of a threat, and he no more deserved to be Tased than he deserved to be shot. The weak excuse that Mehserle supposedly saw Grant reach into his pocket for a weapon doesn’t hold even a drop of water—what on earth would have been Grant’s motivation for pulling a weapon, even if he’d had one? Again: handcuffed, lying on his stomach, surrounded by police officers. He’d lived 22 years in this society as a black man. Surely he was perfectly aware of the risk to his physical safety posed by the police in any situation, let alone one that highly charged. I suppose this explanation of Mehserle’s conduct was accepted as valid by the jury (and the media) because, well, we all know that black people just aren’t very smart. Dude reached into his pocket and got shot. Why should we be so surprised? Bell curve, people. Bell fucking curve. (Do I need to make it clear that this is sarcasm? I guess it wouldn’t hurt.)

Nearly all mainstream media coverage of the trial has been terrible, if instructive, in that it’s concerned itself so much more with the supposed riots (“Riots are expected any second in Oakland!” “Riots are happening right this very second in Oakland!” “Here are some pictures of a window in Oakland that is broken right this second from the riots that totally happened just like we said they would!”) than with the actual verdict. Not surprising, and only disappointing if you expected better.

I didn’t. But there are people I did expect better from, and one of them disappointed me terribly yesterday. Silvana Naguib, who blogs at Tiger Beatdown under her full name and Bitch Ph.D. under her former pseudonym, M. LeBlanc, posted what struck me as two unbelievably wrongheaded tweets:

Once again, pretty uncomfortable with entire twitterstream bemoaning a guilty verdict. By a jury. #thishowjusticeworksyall

I am glad that everyone seems to know that mehsehrle should spend life in prison b/c they watched a video. This is why we have trials.

I want to preface this by saying that I’ve been an M. LeBlanc* fangirl for years; she’s one of my all-time favorite writers. She strikes me as one of the least-myopic big-name feminist bloggers and I’ve always admired her integrity. In fact, this post, which I linked to in a previous entry of mine, has actually done quite a lot to shape my opinion on the intersection of feminism, racism, and the justice system. And I simply can’t reconcile the person who wrote that linked post with the person tweeting that we should all sit down and be quiet and accept the Grant verdict because a trial by jury equals justice, by god, and so what if you actually watched Mehserle shoot an unarmed man in cold blood; what are you going to believe, the scales of justice, or your lying eyes? And the fact that the jury was purged of African-Americans** is irrelevant, because shut up, that’s why.

She caught a bit of heat for her tweets, including from me here, and responded to her followers at large here. I tried again here; no response. It was a surreal exchange, to say the least. To see M. LeBlanc, of all people, implying that one can’t question the outcome of a trial in which a white police officer shot a black man with no provocation and was subsequently convicted of the mildest form of manslaughter by a cherrypicked jury unless one can point to a flaw in procedure honestly left me wondering if someone had hijacked her Twitter account. Does this really need to be explained? That context matters? That racism almost certainly informed the actions of the defendant and the views of the jury? That this is likely true even if the jury doesn’t stand up and say, “We declare Mehserle innocent because we think Grant had it coming and his life really isn’t worth a damn to us anyway because he’s black”? Not every trial will have a Mark Fuhrman, and systemic racism does not always manifest itself in obvious ways that we can point to and yell “HA! RACISM!” If, as Adam Serwer wrote, every single one of those jurors agreed that Mehserle’s fear of Grant was justified because Grant was black, that may not be a procedural error, no. But it’s also not justice.

And that dig about the Youtube video? Ridiculous. I’ll go out on a limb here and say that the details of the case would have raised many hackles even without recorded evidence of the murder, because we’ve been down this road before. (Sean Bell, anyone?) With that evidence, even the most obstinate have to admit that something went very, very wrong in that BART station on New Year’s Eve; that video is probably the only reason we have a conviction at all. We all saw Mehserle shoot a prone and restrained Oscar Grant in the back, and the resultant outrage was undoubtedly a driving force behind the finding of accountability. So now that outrage is mock-worthy? Now we’re just an angry mob with a “thirst for blood“? Is it even possible to be more insulting towards the people who would question the assumption that a police officer’s actions are de facto justified and that a black man’s life is worth nothing?

I do understand her intent. She’s making the point that the court of public opinion can’t be trusted to determine guilt, and that this is why we have juries and the right to a fair trial. But I’d argue that the public’s trust in that process has been undermined by these sorts of outcomes. To declare, “This outcome is a result of the proper functioning of the justice system, and therefore represents justice” begs the question of whether the system actually exists to dispense justice in the first place, particularly for those who have been deemed expendable by the state. Those of us who challenge this verdict believe it does not. If she wants to argue that it does, fine, but it seems to me that she’s arguing against both historical context and her own previous statements to the contrary. And if anything strikes me as knee-jerk, it’s her tweets ridiculing the rest of us for giving a damn.

At any rate, yes, someone was definitely wrong on the internet yesterday. But so many other people were right, and more good reading on the subject can be found here, here and here. The Department of Justice has also announced that it will be conducting its own investigation of the murder, and a civil suit is likely, so there may be other opportunities for some form of justice in this particular case. But that doesn’t address the larger context of racism and state violence which ensures a never-ending supply of Sean Bells and Oscar Grants. And I worry that we’ll forget about this until it happens again, at which point we’ll forget that it’s happened before. Unless we make the effort to remember.

*Still have a hard time thinking of her as Silvana.

**I mistakenly tweeted that Mehserle was convicted by an all-white jury; it did include people of color, but no black jurors.

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The verdict in the Oscar Grant trial was read yesterday: involuntary manslaughter. Sentence of four years possible, with two years likely.

Worth noting that Michael Vick received a 23-month sentence for dogfighting charges.

Rather than embarrass myself trying to form the sort of cogent analysis that’s already been provided by people like Adam Serwer and the writers at Color Lines, I’ll just point in their direction. Racialicious also has a fascinating post juxtaposing quotes and images from the aftermath of the trial, including the supposed “violent protests” that swept Oakland after the verdict was read. Said violent protests, according to such outstanding media outlets as the Huffington Post, seem to have consisted mostly of the looting and ransacking of a Foot Locker and a jewelry store. Oh, and someone set a few trash cans on fire. Beware the incendiary rage of the urban minority population!

Luckily, the police arrested dozens of people for “failure to disperse,” so we know shit’s being handled. I was almost expecting to hear that some unfortunate protester had been shot by an overzealous officer who’d missed the “Slingshot or Semiautomatic? Learning What the Fuck Weapons Look Like 101” training course, thereby bringing us full circle. Glad to be wrong about that.

Probably unsurprisingly, I agree with the afore-linked posts, and most of the other left-wing and progressive coverage of the trial, that this outcome only resembled justice in the most passing of ways, and then only because it was the first conviction of its kind. In particular, I’m appalled that Mehserle’s stated defense is actually being treated as anything but nonsensical. Even if he truly were so incredibly bad at his job that he honestly mistook his light and non-holstered Taser for his heavy holstered gun, both at the point of drawing the weapon and at the point of firing it—in which case, get that incompetent asshole off the streets, for fuck’s sake, and please never issue him any weapon more dangerous than a SuperSoaker—there is simply no reason for him to have pulled any weapon in that situation. Oscar Grant was lying on his stomach, handcuffed, surrounded by multiple police officers; it’s difficult to imagine a situation in which any individual could pose less of a threat, and he no more deserved to be Tased than he deserved to be shot. The weak excuse that Mehserle supposedly saw Grant reach into his pocket for a weapon doesn’t hold even a molecule of water—what on earth would have been Grant’s motivation for pulling a weapon, even if he’d had one? Again: handcuffed, lying on his stomach, surrounded by police officers. He’d lived XXX years in this society as a black man—surely he was perfectly aware of the risk to his physical safety posed by the police in any situation, let alone one that highly charged. I suppose this explanation of Mehserle’s conduct was accepted as valid by the jury (and the media) because, well, we all know that black people just aren’t very smart. Dude reached into his pocket and got shot. Why should we be so surprised? Bell curve, people. Bell fucking curve.

Nearly all mainstream media coverage of the trial has been terrible, if instructive, in that it’s concerned itself so much more with the supposed riots (“Riots are expected any second in Oakland!” “Riots are happening right this very second in Oakland!” “Here are some pictures of a window in Oakland that is broken right this second from the riots that totally happened just like we said they would!”) than with the actual verdict. Not surprising, and only disappointing if you expected better.

Obviously, I didn’t. But there are people I do expect better from, and one of them disappointed me terribly yesterday. Silvana Naguib, who blogs at Tiger Beatdown under her full name and Bitch Phd under her former pseudonym, M. LeBlanc, posted what struck me as two unbelievably ignorant tweets:

XXX

XXX

I want to preface this by saying that I’ve been an M. LeBlanc* fangirl for years; she’s probably my favorite writer on Bitch Phd’s blog. This post, which I linked to in a previous entry of mine, has actually done quite a lot to shape my opinion on the intersection of feminism, racism, and the justice system. She strikes me as one of the least-myopic big-name feminist bloggers and I’ve always admired her integrity. So those tweets were a bit… disconcerting.

I simply can’t reconcile the person who wrote this post with the person tweeting that we should all sit down and be quiet and accept the Grant verdict because a trial by jury equals justice, by god, and so what if you actually watched Mehserle shoot an unarmed man in the back; what are you going to believe, the scales of justice, or your lying eyes? Oh, and racism has ceased to exist, apparently. So the fact that the jury was purged of African-Americans and that a non-trivial percentage of the jurors (I’ve heard between one-fifth and one-half) had relatives in law enforcement is irrelevant, because shut up, that’s why.

She caught a bit of heat for her tweets, including from me here, and responded to her followers at large here. I tried again here; no response. It was a surreal exchange, to say the least. To see M. LeBlanc, of all people, imply that one can’t question the outcome of a trial in which a white police officer shot a black man with no provocation and was subsequently convicted of the mildest form of manslaughter by a cherrypicked jury unless one can point to a flaw in procedure honestly left me wondering if someone had hijacked her Twitter account. Does this really need to be explained? That context matters? That racism almost certainly informed the actions of the defendant and the views of the jury? That this is likely true even if the jury doesn’t stand up and say, “We declare Mehserle to be innocent because we think Grant had it coming and his life really isn’t worth a damn to us anyway because he’s black?” Not every trial will have a Mark Fuller, and systemic racism does not always manifest itself in obvious ways that we can point to and yell “HA! RACISM!” If, as Adam Serwer wrote, every single one of those jurors agreed that Mehserle’s fear of Grant was justified because Grant was black, that may not be a procedural error, no. But it’s not justice.

And that dig about the Youtube video? Ridiculous. I’ll go out on a limb here and say that the details of the case would have raised many hackles even without recorded evidence of the murder, because we’ve been down this road before. (Sean Bell, anyone?) With that evidence, even the most recalcitrant have to admit that something went very, very wrong in that BART station on New Year’s Eve; that video is probably the only reason we have a conviction at all. The world saw Mehserle shoot a prone Oscar Grant in the back, and the resultant outrage was undoubtedly a driving force behind the finding of accountability. So now that outrage is mock-worthy? Now we’re just an angry mob “out for blood”? Is it possible to be more insulting towards the people who would question the idea that a police officer’s actions are de facto justified and that a black man’s life is worth nothing?

I do understand her intent. She’s making the point that the court of opinion can’t be trusted to determine guilt, and that this is why we have juries and the right to a fair trial. But I’d argue that the public’s trust in that process has been undermined by these sorts of outcomes. “This is justice because it was dispensed by the justice system” begs the question of whether that system actually can be assumed to dispense justice consistently, particularly for anyone who’s been deemed expendable by the state. Those of us who challenge this verdict believe it can’t. If she wants to argue that it can, fine, but it seems to me that she’s arguing against both historical context and her own previous statements to the contrary. And if anything strikes me as knee-jerk, it’s her tweets ridiculing the rest of us for giving a damn.

You know, I consider it a testament to feminism that misogyny is becoming so darn sneaky.

At first blush, this article actually seems to contain something which might resemble actual sympathy towards women and the complicated relationship we have with our bodies. It’s patronizing, granted (“All right, fellow dudes, time for me to do a little explainin’ about the ol’ ladybrain!”), but it seems almost sincere, really. Guys don’t get what it’s like to live in a female body, argues the author, one William Leith. They aren’t steeped in the same toxic brew of incessant marketing campaigns, impossible standards of thinness, and photo manipulation; they’re “not at the mercy of corporate manipulation on remotely this scale.” He even goes so far as to acknowledge the iconic significance of the female body and its function as an aesthetic object subject to the cultural gaze. The guy’s no Germaine Greer, but I’d call that Feminism 101.5, at least. And he isn’t wrong that women are simply held to a higher standard, and yeah, most guys don’t get it because they aren’t really required to.

So what should we do with this knowledge of the unique pressures to which women are subjected?

Uh, revert to gender essentialist crap about our caveman ancestors, I guess:

But why are women so much more vulnerable to pictures of perfect bodies than men?

In his book The Evolution of Desire, the American psychologist David Buss goes some way towards explaining why this should be so. Since the Stone Age, he explains…

Whew, I was starting to worry that all of this beauty stuff was cultural! Evolutionary psychology to the rescue! Why don’t I go ahead and sum up the rest for you, so you can spend that extra three minutes, I don’t know, eating a delicious cupcake, instead of having to ingest the regurgitated chunks of pseudo-science ejected by Mr. Leith.

It turns out that women are right to be insecure about their looks, because men value youth and beauty because FERTILITY, DUH, and guys just don’t understand that pressure because women are (of course) hard-wired to prefer older dudes. So if you’re a man, you don’t have to do anything other than, um, age? And possibly learn how to spear mastodons in a very manly way? Or something? It’s totally biological, is the thing, and wow, it kind of sucks to be female, doesn’t it? Let’s hear some sympathy! Let’s try to understand why the ladies have meltdowns by reading some Naomi Wolf and completely missing the point about how beauty is a fucking social construction, subjective and ever-shifting so as to more easily trap each woman in her own private purgatory of obsession, despair and, above all, consumption.

Pieces published in mainstream media outlets which purport to explore the destructive power of the beauty ideal always, always fall back on the Just-So School of Social Critique: yep, the status quo sure is unfortunate, but we’re just kinda hard-wired this way and there’s nothing to be done about it, so tough bananas. Because an acknowledgement of the fact that the ideal is culturally mandated would raise a whole host of scary questions about why it exists, and to what purpose, and for whose benefit.

What’s interesting to me—and this is why I decided to write about this here, because sexism in the Telegraph isn’t really a rare enough occurrence to warrant firing up the keyboard—is that feminist theory seems to have penetrated the mainstream enough that it’s considered wise to acknowledge the pressures women face to obtain physical perfection, but articles like this one make it clear that there’s a certain line that just can’t be crossed. Which, to me, throws the whole farce into even sharper relief than avoiding the subject altogether would. Drum up sympathy for the impossible position women are in, sure, but suggest that this position is anything but inevitable? Out of line. Thank god for evo psych! How would we walk that tightrope without it?

But, really, what the fuck do I know? I’m just a feminist, hard-wired to be grumpy and critical of all of the poor William Leiths out there, emissaries from the land of Female Neurosis sent to educate the benighted citizens of Dude Nation. Me? I’ll probably die alone. Trampled by a mastodon.

Look carefully at the title of this article.

Then read the article itself.

Am I missing something here, or is this headline in no way supported by the actual content? The headline claims that Zoe Williams hacked Facebook and is now in jail after falsely accusing her ex of rape. But the story itself only states that she falsified a Facebook message from her ex to herself which “threaten[ed] her if she did not drop the rape charges.”

And this therefore proves that the rape accusation is false? This proves that he didn’t rape her? What?

Williams admitted to fabricating the Facebook message, but I see no evidence (either in the Huffington Post article, or the Telegraph piece it links to) that she confessed to also having fabricated the allegations themselves. Her attorney made the following statement: “She felt the police were not taking seriously the complaints of rape she made to them, so she decided to invent this message and sent it to herself in the hope that it would strengthen her complaint.” Knowing what I do about the criminal justice system and rape cases, I misdoubt that she and her charges probably were, in fact, treated dismissively by the police (as most rape charges are, regardless of their merit or lack thereof). Which means her fabrication of the Facebook message is entirely in keeping with a narrative in which the rapes actually occurred.

That said, it’s also in keeping with a narrative in which she accused him falsely. I’m not claiming that the rapes did occur, either. I’m mostly interested in the open-and-shut tone of the media coverage and how little there is to support it; without a very careful reading of what Williams actually said versus what’s implied, anyone reading these pieces would come to the conclusion that she admitted to making the whole damn thing up. Rape coverage in mainstream media is uniformly terrible, of course, but I find this example particularly illustrative of our society’s willingness to believe that women who make rape accusations are all lying sluts who want to ruin a man’s life out of petty female vindictiveness.

You see a similar dynamic at the intersection of rape and mental illness. Victims with mental health issues may make claims of rape or sexual assault which sound bizarre or are clearly impossible (e.g. claims of being raped “psychically”, or by aliens, or by government agents who can walk through walls), and rape crisis advocates may simply shrug and funnel them to mental health service providers. But that the claimed assault is impossible does not necessarily preclude that a real sexual assault may have occurred in some other form. This may be the victim’s way of processing the trauma from the event, or it may be the only way she’s capable of expressing what was done to her. And yes, it’s possible that she wasn’t actually assaulted. But we can’t write off certain victims simply because they don’t act the way we think victims should.

Aside from the complicating factor of mental illness, rape victims may also be, quite simply, assholes. They may be dishonest, or manipulative, or cruel, or bigoted. They may be verbally abusive to health professionals or advocates. They may be volatile and angry and rude. In other words, they may be flawed human beings. Because, as it turns out, flawed human beings can be raped too.

I know next to nothing about Zoe Williams. And I don’t really need to know anything about Zoe Williams other than those things which are demonstrably true: she made an accusation of rape against her ex. She hacked his Facebook account to send a message to support her claim of rape. She admitted to having done this and is now serving four months in jail for, presumably, defamation. In a society where women who reported rape to the police could expect to have their charges taken seriously, yes, her actions would be quite damning, but we don’t live in that society. And while the falsified message should of course be thrown out of court (and no doubt would have been, had the case been pursued), its existence really doesn’t prove a damn thing one way or the other.

I do understand the argument that her actions call her credibility and integrity into question. But immoral liars can still be raped; shouldn’t the facts of the case, rather than the plaintiff’s character, be the determinant of guilt or innocence? I reject the idea that unblemished virtue should be sine qua non of one’s designation as a believable victim, that any woman who has ever told a lie (or who is not a white middle-class modestly-dressed virgin who’s disinclined to drink heavily) can therefore be safely presumed to be lying about having been raped.

Because if I were a rapist, that would make it very easy for me to select my victims, wouldn’t it?

Not sure how I missed seeing this when it first made the rounds. Apparently, if you are female and over 30 and you don’t think having kids sounds like a terrible idea, well guess what: TIME TO FREAK THE FUCK OUT. Your eggs! Your precious, precious eggs! They’re already 90% gone!

Exclamation points!

I actually have very little to say about this article that hasn’t likely already been said by every feminist blogger in creation, but I found this particular quote from a Dr. Marie Savard, “medical contributor”, to be darkly amusing given the context:

Q: Is there anything you can do to slow down the loss of fertility?

A: You can’t reverse the biological clock, but Savard said there are certain factors within your control that have an impact upon your fertility.

For example, stopping smoking, keeping your weight down and controlling stress can all slow the loss of fertility.

That’s right. Control your stress, ladies. I mean, first you’ll want to panic about the fact that it’s probably already too late for you to have your very own adorable chubby infant(s), but once you’ve finished doing that, chill out, already.

Dr. Savard, by the way, recommends that you have kids “the sooner the better”. Which… what? Really? So it’s better to start having kids the second you start menstruating than to wait until you’re a fully-functional adult? Is this woman a right-wing plant?

This is all pointless, anyway. Women want babies. That’s really all we care about. Everyone knows this. So it’s not necessary to use scare tactics; just leave us to our own devices, and we’ll start having babies earlier and earlier, and we’ll have more and more of them, and we’ll also voluntarily give up our educational goals and our careers and our dreams of self-actualization so we can stay at home to change diapers and iron our husbands’ shirts.

It’s in our nature!