Category Archives: media bollocks

Let’s question why men want anonymity for rape defendants

Content note: This post discusses rape, sexual assault and rape apologism

Fresh off the back of his own trial for a series of sexual offences, Nigel Evans has called for anonymity for defendants. Evans got off as his own defence put his behaviour down to “drunken overfamiliarity”, and throughout the trial he came off as at the very least a massive creep and young people are more likely to be on guard around him in the future.

Evans’s plea is one much repeated among those who seek to protect perpetrators of sexual violence. The call comes up again and again, a repeated screech. The thing is, the evidence shows that anonymity for defendants in sexual offences only protects rapists and abusers.

Between 1976 and 1988, the UK had anonymity for rape defendants. It led to a number of practical problems, including a very major and horrific one: if a rapist escaped custody, there was no way of warning the public that a dangerous rapist was on the loose. There’s also the very important fact that when a perpetrator is named, more survivors tend to come forward. Take for example, the case of John Worboys, the “Black Cab Rapist”. Once Worboys was named, a large quantity of survivors came forward, which helped to convict him. Before this, the police had dismissed allegations against Worboys from survivors who came forward individually.

The evidence shows clearly that anonymity for defendants only helps rapists and abusers, so why are men so keen to defend it? Even as I tweeted about Evans, I was besieged by men–the sort of men who thought themselves good, rational types–saying they believed in anonymity for defendants. Two equally irrational lines of argument cropped up: first, the tired old one about false allegations, and second something about equality.

The thing about false allegations is dull and takes seconds to puncture. The rate for false allegations is low, possibly lower than most other crimes. This persistent myth calls open season on rape survivors, and makes it harder for them to come forward. Clinging to this myth harms only survivors, and it is a completely irrational belief to hold. Men should be more worried about dying from alcohol poisoning than being falsely accused of rape.

As for equality, fuck that shit. The anonymity protection for survivors is a tiny nod to the fact that the system is entirely stacked against them. Anyone who thinks adding on anonymity for defendants is equality doesn’t understand what the word fucking means. They’re calling to stack the system further against survivors.

So with these two irrational arguments punctured, we need to wonder why men are so keen to protect rapists and abusers. My own personal theory is that they know in their hearts they, too, have something to hide. They remember that night where she was too drunk, they remember that boy who was far too young, they remember that time they had to wheedle and fight for it. They remember these things and they feel afraid, afraid that one day someone might be empowered to speak out. They can pretend away that any allegations would be false, but the truth is that these things were lines crossed, and deep down they know it.

It’s the only way I can explain why men are so persistent in pursuing something with no founding in evidence. Why else would they support something which only protects perpetrators?


Why I tweeted a picture of my boobs

Followers on my Twitter may have noticed that I stuck up a topless picture. I’d love to say it was a picture of my boobs, but in fact it was only one of them, as my baps had an argument shortly after they sprouted, and haven’t spoken since.

You don’t tend to see norks like mine in the media, widely-spaced, outward-pointing and subject to the laws of gravity. In fact, you don’t see many boobs at all in the media, and when you do, it’s a very narrow range: they’re almost invariably attached to white cis women, and a certain size and shape. And when they’re presented, they’re almost always sexualised. Tits, according to the media, are sex objects. We don’t see the way they swing when you bend down to find a clean pair of socks, or the way they hang as we take our bras off after a long day. We don’t see the fun of boobs, or the fact that they can also be used to feed babies. When we’re shown boobs, we’re expected to approve of their sexiness, leer a bit and enjoy patriarchy.

The media has control over presentation of breasts, so nothing is going to change. They like having the monopoly. And it’s for this reason that our views of boobs are restricted to how the men who own these publications–the lad mags, page 3, and so on–want to see boobs. It’s a male fantasy, a sense of entitlement.

Social media, of course, presents a major challenge to the traditional media model, and this is where we can really make things happen. I posted a picture of my baps in a fairly innocuous photo, and I’d love for others to do so too. Let’s flood the world images of the genuine diversity of our bodies, and show that nudity isn’t a shameful thing at all. There’s a hashtag–#normalisenudity–and a tumblr. A few people have already participated, and I’m inviting you to, if you feel safe doing so (the tumblr will accept anonymous submissions).

Given the current state of things, given the way capitalist patriarchy has controlled nudity, I can completely understand how terrifying this is for some. I posted a picture of my jubblies because I can as well as wanting to flick a v-sign at capitalist patriarchy. But if you want to join me, please, please do. Let’s try to reclaim and normalise nudity.

ETA 03/04: Welp, men have gone and trolled the hashtag, so maybe avoid that. The tumblr’s still going strong if you want to use that though. Also, the fact that men pissed their pants over this shows that it’s threatening them :)


This is the most misogynistic thing I’ve seen today

Above is a video for the No More Page 3 campaign, and it is the most misogynistic thing I have seen today.

In case you don’t want to watch it, the narrative centres on a man buying a copy of a certain tabloid newspaper, and being stalked around by a topless woman every time he opens the fucking thing, which has a devastating impact on his family and leads to his young daughter making some paper mache norks. It’s so fucking ghastly and misogynistic I’d think it an April Fool, were it not uploaded a few weeks ago.

The whole thing reeks of largely discredited scarlet woman tropes as well as deliberately sexualising children. It’s the sort of thing I’d expect to see made in the 1950s: sexy lady destroys innocent family, and it’s all her fault. The man is not held accountable; indeed, he looks just as perturbed at being relentlessly tailed by the Page 3 girl as the video invites us to be. The blame is laid squarely on the woman, not anywhere else as we are invited to stare at her and mutter to ourselves that she shouldn’t be there.

And let’s talk about sexualising a child, because you know what publication has never, to my knowledge, put out images of little girls wearing false breasts? The Sun. Or, indeed, anything else I can think of, except that fucking video. Yes, we’re meant to be horrified by it, but do you know what I really don’t want to look at? Images of little girls wearing false breasts. Most of the internet and print respect this. Of course they couldn’t have gone for a girl just taking her top off and being cool with it: it was their intention to sexualise this child’s body as much as possible while simultaneously saying “look how terrible this is”. It’s like the Sidebar of Shame in the Daily Mail, except they’re seriously expecting us to fall over and applaud their feminism for this.

It’s sadly not uncommon for initiatives like this to fall back on objectification and sexualisation. In Playing The WhoreMelissa Gira Grant explains that this is the dominant discourse in carceral feminist initiatives against sex work: that sex workers are expected to be seen but not heard, that when they are not being held up as victims, they are being held up as the enemy. One can also draw parallels to PETA, who like to treat women like meat in order to make people eat more vegetables.

Make no mistake: this is what is going on in this video. Somehow, No More Page 3 have managed to produce something that manages to be more objectifying and misogynistic than what they claim to oppose.

___

ETA 1553 01/04/14: The “official” campaign account have distanced themselves from this video following complaints due to its misogyny. This marks a reversal on their original position, where they tweeted it excitedly. It is worth noting that while the “official” campaign do not endorse it, this video is not incompatible with any of their campaign talking points.

ETA 1612 01/04/14: The official account also allegedly deleted a tweet describing the video as “fantastic”. As I said before, there is no way this video is incompatible with the main talking points and aims of the NMP3 campaign. I would really like for NMP3 to engage with and talk about why using the imagery and tropes in this video is as misogynistic, if not more so than NMP3.

I’d also like to clarify that, when I refer to “No More Page 3″ throughout this post, I’m not necessarily referring to the “official” campaign, but the movement itself, which, being ostensibly grassroots, ought not to be limited to a single Twitter account!


A rant about street harassment


In which I review a book that I read: Playing The Whore

Since I heard that Melissa Gira Grant wrote a book about sex work, I’ve been desperate to get my grubby mitts on it. Having now read Playing The Whore: The Work Of Sex Work, I want to recommend that every single one of you reads this fucking book.

Weighing in at just 132 pages, I’m astounded Gira Grant managed to pack in so much vital–and radical–analysis in such an accessible format. Central to her thesis is the concept of a “prostitute imaginary”, a cobbled-together bundle of myths which occupies our minds. These myths are systematically examined and dismantled through a feminist lens. Everything you thought you knew about sex work is a lie, it seems. Did you know, for example, that among a sample of over 21, 000 women who do sex work in West Bengal, there were 48, 000 reports of violence perpetrated by police, but only 4000 perpetrated by customers?

Gira Grant has a theory as to why this may be the case. The forces of public imagination surrounding sex work run strong. Misogynists, law enforcement and feminists alike view a sex worker as always working, as nothing but a sex worker. She (as Gira Grant points out, this stereotype is always of a cis woman) is somehow deviant and subjected to stigma for her deviance. Simultaneously, focus is on representations of sex, rather than the concrete. We only see sex workers being arrested, or peek through a peephole to see what we want to see. With all of this going on, the voices of sex workers can easily be ignored, creating this situation:

These demands on their speech [in testimony in court and the media], to both convey their guilt and prove their innocence, are why, at the same time that sex work has made strides toward recognition and popular representations that defy stereotypes, prostitutes, both real and imaginary, still remain the object of social control. This is how sex workers are still understood: as curiosities, maybe, but as the legitimate target of law enforcement crackdowns and charitable concerns–at times simultaneously. And so this is where the prostitute is still most likely to be found today, where those who seek to “rescue” her locate her: at the moment of her arrest.

The book travels in a spiral, revisiting the same points over and over again to the joint problems of violence and coercion from law enforcement, and how other women, especially feminists, aren’t helping–and in fact, attempts to rescue can often make things worse, such as demonstrated in a case study in Cambodia, where attempts to “rescue” sex workers have led to many women being dragged away to “rehabilitation camps”, repurposed prisons where women have died or set to work long shifts behind a sewing machine.

A lot of what we as feminists have been doing wrong is related to “whore stigma”, which Gira Grant explains goes beyond simple misogyny:

The fear of the whore, or of being the whore, is the engine that drives the whole thing [a culture which is dangerous for sex workers]. That engine could be called “misogyny”, but even that word misses something: the cheapness of the whore, how easily she might be discarded not only due to her gender, but to her race, her class. Whore is maybe the original intersectional insult.

It is a desire to reverse away from “whore stigma”, which predominantly affects sex workers, but can also hit women who are not sex workers, which links with a lot of problems within mainstream feminism: Gira Grant theorises that it is no coincidence that feminists who are anti-sex work are also often transphobic. And, likewise, anti-sex work laws are often used against trans women and women of colour, from unfair targeting for stop and search, to disproportionate incarceration.

It makes for uncomfortable reading at times, this litany of our own mistakes as feminists, and perhaps nowhere is it clearer than in an analysis of objectification, and the feminist line that sex workers increase objectification of women. The evidence upon which these assumptions rest is dealt with in short order, and Gira Grant highlights the dehumanisation and objectification of sex workers at the hands of women, as silent props, and, often depicted in a frighteningly demeaning fashion.

In dismantling the myths, Playing The Whore offers glimpses of the reality of sex work, the diversity of all that this umbrella covers. The book explains neatly how sex work fits in among other forms of work, of how once upon a time, sex workers and housewives were sisters in arms. At times, I wish the book were far longer, as I feel as though there are tantalising hints of analysis to come which never quite develops but is merely teased. Although this book is neither explicitly anti-capitalist nor explicitly ACAB, conclusions of this nature bubble under the surface, never spelled out, for this is not quite within its scope in its current form.

This book is a must-read feminist book. I would go so far as to place it as a crucial Feminism 101 text. The first feminist book I ever read way Ariel Levy’s Female Chauvinist Pigs, whose ideas I am still struggling to unlearn, as it gave me a shameful attitude towards sex workers and femmes for years I will never get back. Playing The Whore casts a critical eye on patriarchy while actively dismantling the stigma many women face, and teaches the central feminist values of listening, and solidarity. For readers more versed in feminist theory and praxis, it allows us to evaluate our past mistakes and encourages us to rebuild on more solid ground. By rights, this book could and should shake up feminism for the better.

But sadly, I fear it will not, for I fear the forces Gira Grant outlines are too powerful to be brought down by this smart little book. We have had centuries of clinging to a prostitute imaginary while coming up with numerous excuses to silence the voices of sex workers. I believe that this book will largely be ignored by the mainstream with their stake in speaking for and over sex workers. A recent review of Playing The Whore by a liberal cis white feminist took umbrage to Gira Grant’s centring of sex workers in a book about sex work, and decided that she would rather read about “demand”. Mainstream feminism wants sex workers decentred from discussions directly pertinent to their livelihood, it wants to keep sex workers on the margins. It will not listen.

Gira Grant knows this, which is why she concludes with a rousing cry for decriminalisation, in the hope that the rest will follow. This conclusion, and the solidarity Gira Grant asks for are concrete things which we as feminists who do not do sex work can support.


Dear Amanda Marcotte

Content note: This post discusses rape

Dear Amanda Marcotte,

I read your piece in Slate justifying a decision to incarcerate a survivor of rape to force her testimony with a kind of slack-jawed disgust, slowly morphing to a deep and visceral sense of terror.

I was horrified to read what happened to the woman who, having survived something so vile, was arrested and incarcerated until the trial. My heart shuddered at the thought that could happen. And the bile rose up in my throat as you said, over and over again, that this was all right. You say that in domestic violence cases, a lot of survivors recant their testimony because of the abuser, and go on to speculate that perhaps this is what happened with this woman. You say that there’s nothing that can be done to heal this in time for lawyers to get what they want, as though that’s the important thing here. You pretty much out-and-out blame women who do not comply with the justice system for any future violence that may be perpetrated.

Your article is sickening and frightening to me, a rape survivor who never reported what happened to me to the legal system. I’ve had to deal with many shades of bullshit from rape culture in my time, but you’ve given me something new to feel horror over. It had never occurred to me that some people might decide to blame me for any other things that might be perpetrated by that man. It had never occurred to me that the state could lock me up if they wanted to for not wanting anything to do with them, and self-professed feminists would cheer them on. I know that men who rape often don’t stop at one. And yet, what happened to me was deeply personal and I chose to deal with it in the way that made me feel safest. I feel like, for the most part, what I needed to happen, happened: all I wanted was him out of my life and to not have to talk about it in great detail to anyone.

As a feminist, I believe that the needs of the survivor are the only thing that matters in any instance of sexual violence. The way of starting to heal a deeply personal violation is also deeply personal, and deeply individual. For some survivors, this might be the route through the legal system. For others, it might be making sure everyone knows the name and face of the perpetrator as a warning. For others, perhaps recognition of what happened and reconciliation with the perpetrator is possible. For others, maybe setting the perpetrator on fire. It’s individual, it’s unique, and all of these are valid if that’s what the survivor wants.

Under rape culture, the wants and needs of survivors are ignored twice. First, in the initial violation, and second, in the response. We have our autonomy completely stripped of us by a state which supports and enforces rape culture, by peers who support and enforce rape culture, and, apparently, by people who consider themselves prominent feminist commentators who are also doing their best to sweep the wants and needs of survivors under the carpet when they get a little inconvenient.

So fuck your “greater good” guilt trip. Any greater good which involves kidnapping and incarcerating women is not worth it at all. Fuck your decision to ignore the wants and needs of survivors; you are just as bad as the rest of the rape culture which spawned your ideology. Fuck your supporting a move which will only put survivors off speaking out about what happened.

There is only one thing that matters, Amanda Marcotte, and that is what survivors want. Our role, as feminists dismantling rape culture, is to support each individual survivor unconditionally, in whatever course of action she chooses. Any other course is just rape culture, rebranded.


People I will never have sex with, ever: creepy white-knighting body hair enthusiasts

Hairy girls, rejoice! We’re not smelly and unattractive after all. Let me introduce you to our hero, Jon-Jon Goulian who has written an article in Vice, explaining exactly why we’re sexy.

I am going to assume the best of Jon-Jon, as I am in a charitable mood this morning, and imagine that his intentions are kind. Unfortunately, the effect is nonetheless something that makes my minge cringe. The article is framed around a conversation that the author had with a friend, and how this friend finds body hair on women gross, and how Jon-Jon explained that actually body hair is OK.

The framing is in and of itself pretty problematic, and is a subtle form of negging. Jon-Jon is making it clear that while he finds body hair on women sexy, other men are disgusted by it. The outcome of his conversation makes this obvious: his friend remains unconvinced, despite Jon-Jon’s impassioned arguments. This is what the friend (who, again, I am going to charitably assume is real, and not an authorial wingman) concludes:

“The reason you believe that women don’t freely choose to be hairless, and have simply been brainwashed by advertisers into believing that hairlessness is what they really want, is that you don’t believe that hairlessness is sexy. And just about every other man in America disagrees with you.”

The message here is that Jon-Jon is the only man who can ever love a chick with a hairy bum. And we ought to be grateful, because he will ride to our rescue and defend us.

The thing is, Jon-Jon’s fascination with body hair on women is fairly creepy, and articulated in a way that is more than a little bit reminiscent of James Joyce’s love letters. Here is a sample:

A woman with a hairy body has essentially four vaginas—two armpits, the asshole, and the vagina itself.

Yeah, no. Biological improbabilities aside, ew. Just ew.

There is a certain level of squick in knowing that certain parts of your body are being fetishised: that you, yourself, are irrelevant, because all this guy is into is your pitfluff. It’s just objectification: there is a marked contrast between someone enjoying the smell of your furry bush because it’s your furry bush, and someone enjoying the smell of your furry bush because it’s furry bush. And, to be honest, Jon-Jon’s florid excitement over carpeting makes me want to run as fast as I can in the opposite direction.

On top of all of this, there’s his presumption that we hairy chicks care what men think about us. He clearly believes his opinion on our bodies is important enough to pitch to a magazine. He clearly thinks we’re in need of defence, a much-maligned minority who need him to smite the unbelievers with his sword. In truth, we’ve got this. We really do. We’re not damsels in distress, in need of a man to protect us from patriarchy. And we don’t need validation from a man.

I get the feeling Jon-Jon wrote that piece in the hopes that suddenly all the fluffy ladies will drop their knickers, but the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. The whole piece just feels gross, objectifying and patronising. It’s like journalistic bonerkill, and has taken me from not knowing who the hell Jon-Jon Goulian is to adding him to the list of people I will never have sex with, ever.


In which Brendan O’Neill is, obviously, wrong again (and a weeping poxy chode)

Regular readers will know that I’m hardly a fan of Brendan O’Neill. And so it gives me no surprise to report that once again, he is seeping wrongness everywhere, this time about the Olympics up at Sochi.

Brendan’s got his knickers in a twist that everyone has come out in support of gay rights, and there are rainbows everywhere, and wonders if it’s just an excuse to get at Russia, and doesn’t think all of that will make a blind bit of difference to the level of support for Putin. You can read some highlights here, because fuck off am I going to link to it.

Now, I’ve also been pissed off about the ubiquitous rainbows and wondered if these hollow gestures are mostly an excuse to get at Russia, and I doubt it’ll change Russian policy. However, there’s a key difference between these critiques: I’m not a colossal raging homophobe, but Brendan O’Neill is. See, ultimately Brendan’s problem is that all of this is laying the groundwork for a big queer takeover, and the pink tanks will roll in and massacre red-blooded straighties like Brendan and Putin. Seriously.

“Over Sochi, the same sense of camp disgust with gruff blokes is being expressed, only this time an army of both straight and gay Westerners are wagging a finger at the backward antics of super-hetero Putin and his dumb, automaton supporters among the Russian masses.

[...]

“Where once the world was divided between the civilised and the savage, now it’s split between the gay-friendly and the homophobic. Welcome to the era of Queer Imperialism. How long before a Western nation goes so far as to bomb a country that is insufficiently gay-friendly?”

Now, I wish for nothing more than for the Queer Empire to have Brendan O’Neill shot into the sun with our special bespoke glitter cannons, but unfortunately, we have neither the resources nor the infrastructure to do this. Once again, we see Brendan O’Neill is fighting against imaginary enemies. I’d feel sorry for someone so deeply paranoid and terrified all the time, were he not such an obnoxious, gaping shitcake.

And it’s sad in a way, because perhaps Queer Imperialism is a good word for the direction that homonationalism–the incorporation of queerness into neoliberal values–seems to be taking. I propose, in fact, that we steal that phrase off of Brendan O’Neill, because it will piss him off and it kind of neatly articulates the problem. Nations don’t care about queer rights, unless it is an excuse to condemn others. The evidence stacks up day by day: here is the only the most recent story I have seen from the UK–who haven’t sent the Prime Minister to Sochi it would look bad–on how queer asylum seekers are forced to prove their sexual orientation. Queer Imperialism isn’t by the queers or for the queers: we’re instrumentalised as a barometer of human rights, and an excuse where needed.

Of course, Brendan O’Neill is just trolling, but the reason his trolling is so effective is this level of homophobia is how some people think. They think of us as colonisers, rather than colonised. And it is stupid and wrong, but really prevalent. And that’s why I took the time to respond to it, even briefly.


So you care about Sochi? Here’s some other shit to care about

I’ve been seeing a lot of people concerned about the Sochi Olympics, what with Russia’s frankly disgusting attitude towards LGBT rights. Many of these are the sort of people who I don’t usually see doing much for LGBT rights–or indeed broader human rights. And so I feel it’s necessary to point a few things out.

I’ll start with doing something I haven’t done in a while–quoting MediocreDave, who has managed to condense the issue very neatly:

Where is the outcry on these deportations of LGBT people–as I write, Jacqueline Nantumbwe faces deportation to Uganda, where there is a life sentence for being queer and corrective rapes are common. And she is not the first to be victimised in this fashion. Dave has succinctly put why this may be:

There are two things you need to think about when criticising Sochi without a broader analysis. First is that most nations are shitty towards LGBT folk. Their laws may pay lip service to LGBT rights–same sex marriage, anti-hate crime legislation and so forth, but that doesn’t mean their citizens are very good. Let’s look beyond the UK’s attitude towards deporting queers, and to a pile of other hideousness. This is a country where the national press can merrily print transmisogyny with impunity, and with little attention paid to this because the media just don’t give a fuck. This is a country where queer people are mass arrested before large spectacles. This is a country where heaps of unending bullshit are faced by bisexuals, and even the leading lobbying group for queer rights completely ignore and erase trans people. If you’re not furious about how things are here, then I am seriously side-eyeing your intentions as you tweet another fucking petition about sponsors of the fucking Sochi Olympics.

As an aside, if you’re the sort of person who is sharing things about how TOTALLY HOMOEROTIC Putin is, or how KINDA GAY sports are, to “highlight hypocrisy” or whatever the fuck you’re trying to do, congratulations, you’re a homophobic pisshole.

The second thing you need to be pissed off about is the Olympics on the whole. Bluntly put, they’re not a very nice thing to happen to a city. In London, a lot of people lost their homes in order to build a park they’d never be able to afford to visit. Some of those who kept their homes had missiles put on their roofs. And during the opening ceremony, almost 200 people were arrested for riding bikes. And was the world watching aghast, threatening to boycott as this happened to London–or any other city which has hosted the Olympics and faced similar problems? Not really, no. This is a world, after all, that doesn’t freak the fuck out when a country with more than two million people locked up in prison hosts the Olympics.

I’m not saying don’t be pissed off about Sochi and Russia. I’m saying, be more pissed off. Be critical of everything. Stand with LGBT folk closer to home, or further away. Stand against these games which form an excuse for gentrification and human rights abuses. Use your anger at Russia as a spark, and ignite the flames for a greater understanding of broader struggles.

And for fuck’s sake, I’m not going to sign your fucking petition.


Why #ibelieveher is so vital

Content note: This post discusses rape, child abuse and rape apologism

It happens every time a famous man is accused of sexual violence. A torrent of rape apologism as patriarchy gets in gear to maintain itself. The steps to this dance usually the same: the tango of smearing and blaming and conspiracy theories goes on. Those of us who seek to overturn rape culture are getting better and better at advocating for an ethos wherein survivors are believed. We say “I believe her”, because we know that it’s more likely for a man to be hit by an asteroid than it is for him to have been falsely accused. We say “I believe her” loudly, proudly and publicly to oppose the status quo.

And it looks like we have made great headway in publicly expressing our support for survivors, because the backlash has begun.

Obviously, there’s the standard drivel from the standard misogynists, the well-choreographed dance of “no evidence” which misses the point entirely, but Suzanne Moore has stepped up to the plate with an attack on the very core of “I believe her”. In a confused piece surrounding Dylan Farrow’s brave public words about the child abuse she experienced at the hands of Woody Allen, Moore decides that those tweeting in support of Dylan are a “mob” and a “kangaroo court”. While Moore says she is inclined to believe Dylan, she thinks people should not be tweeting publicly that they believe her and fixates on some sort of putative superiority of the justice system. It’s already been explained why Moore is flat-out wrong in comparing mass gestures of support and solidarity for a survivor with a kangaroo court, and it’s also worth noting that Moore might have a bit of an axe to grind regarding Twitter which has blurred her judgment and stopped her from understanding the very basic ethos of “I believe her”.

First and foremost, “I believe her” is a reaction to the way rape culture is stacked. When it comes to sexual violence, too often there is no physical evidence, the smoking gun that “proves” that it has happened. Traditionally, under patriarchy and rape culture, this works in favour of the accused. It is their denial that is believed, rather than what the survivor has said. “I believe her” takes into account the balance of probabilities and turns it on its head, starting from a position of believing that what the survivor says happened is true, because statistically speaking, it is overwhelmingly likely to be the case. To speak out about an experience of sexual violence is not a thing taken lightly: we all know that when we do this, in the court of public opinion we will be, for the most part, utterly eviscerated, because rape culture is a juggernaut.

Most of us don’t want to engage with the legal system, because we know what it’s like. We know that it is these beliefs lurking in the back of people’s minds, codified. And we know how that is instrumentalised by rape apologists, that if we cannot engage with the legal system, or if we the legal system fails us, that means that we as survivors are the ones lying. It is no coincidence that so much of Moore’s piece focuses on how Dylan Farrow’s case was thrown out of court, or that we should focus on a better legal system, because the notion of starting from believing survivors and how the legal system works are diametrically opposed.

The aim of “I believe her”, then, is not to directly work within the legal system to make it better, because the legal system is but one manifestation of rape culture. The aim of “I believe her” is to throw down a challenge to a notion as old as patriarchy: that the accuser, not the accused is the liar. From a position of believing a survivor, it is easier to speak out, to intervene however the survivor wants, and to start to dismantle the millennia of social conditioning to which we have all been party.

I was silent for years about what happened to me, afraid of not being believed. Then I learned about how some people start from a position of “I believe her”. It was interesting: the woman being believed was not me. All there was to go on was her words. What had happened to her was nothing like what had happened to me. But it empowered me to speak out nonetheless, to tear through the silence.

And this is why it’s so important to make loud and public declarations. Survivors see and hear it. Survivors see that society is no longer a monolith of blame and wild accusations of lying based on no evidence whatsoever. Survivors see hope, and are more likely to come forward.

Silence is the biggest weapon patriarchy has in keeping rape culture alive, and “I believe her” starts to tear down this wall and encourage and empower survivors to speak out.

Because of this, it is crucial that we resist the attacks on this notion, the slurring it as “mobs” and “kangaroo courts”, because it isn’t. It’s solidarity in the face of patriarchy, and we should be proud that it is starting to terrify those who would rather we shut up.


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