Being An Actor Does Not Make it Okay For You To Be A Stalker – That Jamie Dornan Interview

Jamie Dornan - 50 Shades of Creepy Stalker Dude
Jamie Dornan – 50 Shades of Creepy Stalker Dude

There is a BBC drama called ‘The Fall’, starring Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan. I hadn’t watched either the first or second series at all yet, and after an interview Dornan gave recently to the LA Times, I very much doubt I ever will now.

This is a really bad reveal‘, he says, as though he were disclosing that he once owned a pair of paisley print trousers, and not telling the world that he once stalked a woman to ‘get in to the role’ of a serial killer. Specifically that he ‘followed a woman off a train, and lurked behind behind her’ for a distance. You know, just to see how it feels.

(Which was ‘exciting, in a dirty kind of way’, just in case you aren’t sure just how extremely creepy this whole interview became).

I wonder if Mr Dornan has given any thought at all to the woman he so casually and thoughtlessly exposed to his stalking? I wonder if it has even occurred to him that the woman he followed and ‘lurked’ behind for what must have been several minutes or more, might have noticed – and how stomach churningly, heart-stoppingly, marrow-to-jelly terrifying it would have been for her if she had?

“I’m sort of not proud of myself. But I do honestly think I learned something from it, because I’ve obviously never done any of that. It was intriguing and interesting to enter that process of ‘what are you following her for?’ and ‘what are you trying to find out?” ~ Jamie Dornan

But never mind the potential fear of the woman who was the target of this little ‘method acting’ experiment, because the man ‘learned’ something (although what he learned, and what value that had, is clearly doubtful).

I doubt that Dornan would have been so flippant, or so prepared to reveal what he did to the woman he stalked, if we did not live in a society so ready to excuse such behaviour, or so eager to make entertainment of the daily violence and harassment that all women have to deal with on a daily basis  – whether that be cat calls or verbal abuse, or the kind of violence that puts a woman in jail if she tries to defend herself from it.

If we lived in a world where such behaviour was understood for what it is – the abuse of gender power and privilege for personal gratification – he would never have engaged in that behaviour, far less admitted to it.

But we don’t: and because we don’t Jamie Dornan can stalk a woman and get away with it.

This is rape culture. This is not okay.

Sexuality Does Not Equal Power. Child Does Not Equal Sex Object.

Rape culture is real, and it is pervasive, and once you recognise and see it, you cannot un-see it. It yet another stunning example of the media aiding and abetting the saturation of rape culture, a number of news outlets reported that a 12 year old girl (who has since been found), had ‘ran off’ with an older man.

Let us be clear: she had not ‘run off’ with him. She had been lured, and it will quite likely transpire that she had been groomed. She is 12 years old – a child who, however tall for her age, however pretty or older than her years she might (to some) look, is rightly protected by law on that basis. The adult responsible for taking her from her home has abused the power that he has both as an adult and a man.

We see this situation repeated ad nauseam in the press: teachers who have taken advantage of their students are given ‘sympathy’ because society fails to recognise that the abuser has made a choice to use and abuse the young person concerned. Other adults talk about young children using their burgeoning, and insecure sense of their sexuality, as if this were some kind of  power; time and again this is deemed as somehow the source of the power – and the ‘problem’ – in the situation, with the adult (usually male) deemed as too ‘weak’ to resist the onslaught of such ‘temptation’.  (‘He was depressed’; ‘he was having problems at work/in his marriage’, ‘he was having a hard time’ and so on).

Society sexualises children in myriad ways, making commodities of their bodies, and is then shocked when abusers make the choice to consume and abuse them – and because society has a skewed and unhealthy view of what power is, inevitably, the child is blamed or disbelieved.

But sexuality does not equal power.  And a child is not ever a sex object.

How is this not obvious? Why does it even need to be said?

 

 

People As Things – The Excuses We Are Still Making For the Patriarchy And Why They Wont End Rape Culture.

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“There’s no greys, only white that’s got grubby. I’m surprised you don’t know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.”

“It’s a lot more complicated than that – “

“No. It ain’t. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they’re getting worried that they won’t like the truth. People as things, that’s where it starts.”

Exchange between Granny Weatherwax and  the Quite Reverend Oates, Carpe Jugulum, by Terry Pratchett

I love the Discworld series of books- I have done for years and if I had to pick a favourite character, it would be probably be Granny Weatherwax. Sometimes I muse that if any character were most like the author Terry Pratchett, I would like to think it was Granny. She’s not at all cuddly or conventionally lovable, but she’s tough and smart and has a far bigger heart than probably most of her community realise. And whilst she has carefully cultivated a reputation that keeps people respectful (and slightly nervous of her), she’s a true servant to them.  She heals, cares for, and watches carefully over Lancre, the true extent of what she does so often hidden behind peoples assumptions and wild imaginations. She’s practical, doesn’t suffer fools at all (let alone gladly) – and she knows and understands people. And whilst she would probably have little time for my faith (The Omnian religion in the Discworld series is a mirror of the Christian church in it’s medieval fire-and-brimstone-and-now-trying-to-be-more-liberal-Anglican form), I have a sneaky respect for her ‘headology’.

And Granny Weatherwax  is bang on the money about sin – it starts when you treat people as things.

********

The fight to dismantle rape culture is a fight to dismantle the patriarchal power structures which, on the one hand, men created so that men had the power and privilege to shape, grow and rule over much of society – and when they abuse that power, to coddle, excuse, justify and rationalise that abuse in whatever form it has taken. When a man has beaten his partner or wife, raped, molested or abused a woman or child, we are as a society very able (and very well trained) in providing those excuses so that, often, even the man who has abused rarely has to lift a finger to provide them himself. It’s a Pavlovian response.

A woman is killed and the man has been ‘driven’ to it by something she supposedly said or did; a child is molested and abused, but that child had ‘presented as sexually mature’, or wore the wrong clothes, or hung out with the wrong people, or had a ‘record of bad behaviour’. A woman is raped, but she had been out drinking so energy and times is expended arguing about consent because of that somehow means it was ‘too hard’ for the man to know if consent had been given.

The victim becomes both recipient of the violence, the rape, the killing – and the person responsible for it. The man does not need to take responsibility – occasionally, rarely, he might see the inside of a prison but mostly society hands him some rationalisation and offers hope for him to rebuild his life, often with sentiments along the lines of ‘he’s not usually that kind of man’.

The excuses we give the abusers and murderers, the rapists, and the molesters are legion. But the truth is, they made a choice. They chose to rape, molest, kill, abuse, take advantage of, and inflict trauma. They chose it over any number of other choices that could have been made at that time: society has afforded them power – and that is how they have chosen to use that power in that moment. When people are merely things to the person with the power, it is a too-easy choice to abuse that power. And with every rape, every murder of another and trans and cis woman, a choice has been made.

Anything – anything at all – other than a full frontal recognition of rape, abuse and violence against women and children as the choice of the rapist, is simply another excuse that he can use. I have said this before: and I am about to say it again – rape (and sexualised violence and abuse) are abuses of power. They are choices, made by the men who perpetrate them. They are choices made as conscious decisions.

Yes, it is a terrifying truth and one I had to face too, and I recognise the desire which we as women have trained into us: to provide the understanding about why it happened, specifically why the man who raped and abused us, did it. Patriarchy demands that we as women provide the ‘understanding’ because that is part of the toxic nature of our relationship with misogyny. It is part of that Pavlovian response drilled in to us – men do stuff and its our ‘job’ as women to ‘understand’ why they do that stuff. And every time we say, in anyway shape or form, men rape because they have a penis, we do so because we have been conditioned to understand and excuse men’s behaviour.

But we don’t have to understand anymore; it is not our responsibility as women to understand the choices men make, because down that pathway excuses and justifications await.  We have to fight the conditioning that says we are supposed to ‘understand’. Yes, when the man has used his penis to rape with, it is a hard truth: but genitals have absolutely nothing at all to do with the choice to rape. Penises don’t make the choice to rape. MEN do. Penises don’t have brains – MEN DO.

My rapist made a choice. He was not at the whim of ‘uncontrollable’ desires. He didn’t do it because he couldn’t control his penis. He did it because he made a choice. And that’s HIS responsibility to bear not mine.

And not yours either.

I don’t say this for my sake, or to anger people. I know how unpopular my opinion is.  But there are women who are victims of rape and abuse –  Trans women and trans women of colour – who are the victims of the patriarchy, misogyny, transphobia and racism that abuses, rapes and kills them. Their voices are ignored and their right to healing safe spaces made harder because we think in the very terms that patriarchy trains us to think. (And that includes refusing to see or accept them as women). And it means that not only is the fight to end rape and the culture which perpetuates it made harder, but that some women are shut out by other women.

I want gendered violence to end: women and children are dying because of it and I want life in all its fullness for all women. But until we accept that saying men rape because they have a penis is handing men who rape just another excuses, not only we will continue to fail in any efforts to stop rape: we will let down, abandon and isolate whole groups of women and perpetuate victim blaming in to the bargain.

Sin starts when you treat people as things. We have to stop treating people as things.

 

 

 

 

A Judge Without Judgement – A Child Without Justice: On The Stuart Kerner Sentence. (CN)

A young 15 year old girl gets a crush on a teacher. She makes her crush known to the teacher concerned, a married man who has one child with his wife and another on the way. Instead of making sensible choices in order to protect the child, he chooses instead to use the girl’s crush and abuse her trust in him: he has sex with her (a problem because she is 15 and he is an adult) at the school and at his home. Because she has a crush on the teacher, the girl believes the activity to be acceptable. She wants to ‘feel special’ – like many young vulnerable girls, she wants to feel loved. She ascribes romantic ideals to the ‘relationship’ and says it was ‘written in the stars’.

Then someone finds out (because in a school nothing stays hidden for long), and the police get involved.

The teacher denies it and calls the girl a liar. Her ‘friends’ call her a ‘stalker’. The judge calls her manipulative, and also says that she is a ‘stalker’ who groomed the teacher.

The teacher is described as a ‘well respected man’, of ‘exemplary character’, that he was ‘under pressure’ and ‘gave in to temptation’.

And once again the sympathy, focus and attention is given to the abuser, whilst adults who should know better think that the child who was exploited by the adult because of her crush is somehow in possession of special powers; that she is, in fact, assumed to have power because  of the adults desire to exploit her.  She is not understood as, treated as or respected for being the victim.

The teacher is even affirmed by the judge, and the media frame the abusive, exploitative behaviour of an adult male as an affair – as a forbidden relationship that got found out.

She was 15. If anyone truly believes that a grown man’s desire to exploit her for his personal benefit somehow gives her ‘power’ in that dynamic, then you need to ask yourself why you think that.

The sentence is now under review.

 

 

One Last Open Letter to Ched Evans – Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Dear Ched Evans

So today, as the latest attempt to re-enter the world of football fell through, you issued a statement which included a ‘wholehearted apology’ for how your actions of that night affected ‘many people, not least the woman concerned.’

Not least, indeed, Mr Evans.

You state that those people who have repeatedly doxxed (revealed the identity of) the ‘woman concerned’, abused her, and terrified her to the point of requiring one, then many more, secret identities are not your supporters and that you ‘condemn their actions entirely’.

So this last open letter to you is – very simply – a request to back up your words with deeds. Let your yes mean yes, as Jesus would say.

The campaign website funded and run by your Father in Law openly encourages people to hunt down your victim with the promise of money if they can come forward with specific information. It is already under investigation by the Attorney General for using certain CCTV footage, the legality of which is questionable.

The father of your victim has bravely spoken out at least twice about how frightened he is for his daughter, for the effect of this abuse, for her life lived on the run when she did nothing wrong – as she tries desperately to heal from what was done to her.

The CCRC have your appeal – there is no further need for the existence of that website.

If you mean what you say, ask for that website to come down.

Sincerly

Ali Wilkin

 

Update: At some point yesterday, the website was heavily sanitised, with all link and sections removed so that nothing but the landing page is left remaining. However if you google ‘Ched Evans Website cctv’ then link on the website can still be accessed – so that is not good enough. It remains a tool which can be used by those who either hope to cause a young woman harm, or hope at the very least hope to receive cash. So it still remains a tool for the mob (that’s the actual mob in this case) to bully and hound a victim of crime.

So I repeat – the whole website, if your words are to mean anything at all.

Further Update: Most of the links – particularly the CCTV footage and references to tweets sent by the victim – have been restored. It would appear that the site was simply being updated whilst they added the brief statement from Evans following the withdrawal of Oldham Athletics offer.

You have claimed, Ched Evans, that you condemn the actions of those who have engaged in the most severe harassment and abuse of that woman. You have claimed to be ‘sorry’ for the effect that night had on her.

Whilst that website remains up, then this is clearly untrue. Whilst the facility exists for the bullies you claim to disown to abuse your victim, this is clearly untrue. Whilst cash is being offered ‘for information’ which provides a financial incentive to hunt her down, on line or anywhere else, this is clearly untrue.

#IBelieveHer – In Defence of Radical Belief pt 2: Why @SpikedOnline Is No Champion of Free Speech

Brendan O'Neill - saving the world for straight white men one article at a time.
Brendan O’Neill – saving the world for straight white men one article at a time.

 

All of the articles linked to require a trigger warning and content note for mentions of rape, misogyny, transphobia, homophobia and racism. I have used ‘do not link’ for most of them.

And so we come to Spiked Online, edited by Brendan O’Neill, whose journalistic outpourings can also be found in the Telegraph and The Australian.  He’s a ‘libertarian’, which means that he has no interest at all in liberty for anyone except white heterosexual men. 

It doesn’t really do to read too much (if anything) over at Spiked – the need to stand under a shower afterwards and scrub yourself raw isn’t one I choose to indulge that often, and generally Spiked sits in its own corner of the internet, attracting similarly like minded folk as they complain endlessly about how their rights to be pseudo-intellectual straight white male arseholes are always being attacked. And since we live in a democracy, even pseudo-intellectual straight white male arseholes need somewhere to go and let off steam without bothering anyone too much.

So I usually ignore the BS but O’Neill has set himself as the great champion of free speech: it is with a total lack of surprise that I find that this not to be true.

It probably doesn’t help matters very much that O’Neill clearly has an issue with women (who should just shut up) and homosexuals, (who he thinks are big old meanies). Not surprisingly he’s pretty transphobic  and is prickly on the subject of racism too: he thinks that talking about racism is a Very Bad Thing That Will Make It All Worse.  His libertarian views are, therefore, rooted in making sure that everyone stays white, male and straight and where people are unable to comply with this, he is simply trying to make sure that if they insist on being women, queer and black that they do so as quietly as possible and without making too much fuss about it.

Brendan O’Neill is a patriarchal monolith, and so it is no surprise that his understanding of free speech is shallow: he also has something of an obsession with mobs despite the fact that he couldn’t identify a mob if one were coming at him with flaming torches and pitchforks – which is what, in his latest missive, he imagines women campaigning against rape to be. He also imagines that they wear white sheets, gather at Klan-type rallies and are responsible for general fear-mongering and man-lynching.

#IBelieveHer is his latest target in his quest to prove how dreadful women are; after one of Spiked journalists  made last months dismal offering on Ched Evans (“he should be allowed to rehabilitate! but without rehabilitating! because he claims he’s innocent!” – a truly Gordian knot of thinking which is dumb in a faintly irritating way), O’Neill is clearly frustrated that we women are not taking on board the message that we are a ‘mob’ who should be thoroughly ashamed of ourselves. He has therefore decided to monster us in the most trigger-happy manner he can: by making women who choose radical, victim centred belief analogous to the KKK.

Let that sink in for a moment.  O’Neill is saying that women who protest against rape, who choose to believe the victim when statistically speaking they are probably telling the truth, and who want some sensitivity shown to the victim should they decide to report, are to men what racists are to black people.

(Historical note: the KKK raped – and encouraged the raping of – black women with the same ferociousness with which they lynched black men. So for O’Neill to use this premise is pretty disgusting and appallingly a-historical).

It should be immediately obvious – to anyone with firing synapses – that O’Neill doesn’t understand the structural nature of oppression, and at best couldn’t care less about the widespread nature of rape, abuse or domestic and intimate partner violence. Heaven forefend that liberation from oppressive structural rape culture should mean that he has to show them some consideration!

In O’Neill’s world, challenging the rape myths which shame victims and stop them from coming forward is not a free speech issue – but those who try and change that culture are threatening free speech: it is the vengeance of the dreadful harridans who are out to deny freedom to men everywhere! Trying to get justice for rape victims and speaking out about the low conviction rates isn’t free speech: it is mob rule, the tool of horrible harpies who want men’s heads on a spike as a warning to all! We’re making them out to be rape apologists, and their feelings are hurt!

Or something.

Free speech does not extend, in O’Neill’s world, to the women and children who are abused or on the receiving end of domestic violence, but can’t speak out because society shames them, and sends them implicit and explicit messages that it is all their own fault. Free speech does not extend to black people speaking out against racism, to people who want to express their gender identity, to people who simply want to choose to marry, or who want to not be raped.

In O’Neill’s world, freedom and liberty are not for those people at all.

Brendan O’Neill and Spiked are not qualified to champion free speech because they do not believe in free speech. #IBelieveHer does not threaten free speech and any argument that it does is implicitly based on a desire to protect male privilege.

 

 

 

 

BBC Norfolk’s Nick Conrad Thinks He’s A Slave to His Penis and Blames Victims on #ChedEvans Discussion

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Nick Conrad of BBC Radio Norfolk

“I’ve got to be so careful of what I say, I don’t want this to be explosive…” 

As if enough idiocy and nonsense hadn’t been spoken already in relation to consent, rape culture and the whole sorry mess that is the Ched Evans saga – enter BBC Norfolk’s own Nick Conrad, proving that not only is victim blaming alive and well, but that allowing men to think that they are incapable of self control and slaves to their penises is a toxic combination when talking about the causes of rape.

The full quote can be viewed here, and believe me it is not pretty: every possible trope, every imaginable victim blaming cliché is trotted out, from the hoary old ‘prick tease’ myth to the ‘men are slaves to their desires’. The thinking is incredibly reductive, the level of victim blaming simply incredible.

Mr Conrad needs to spend some time with domestic violence and rape charities learning exactly why he is both capable of self-control, and why a woman is never ever to blame for rape.

You are not a slave to your penis Mr Conrad.

An Open Letter to Ched Evans about your ‘Supporters’.

Dear Ched Evans:

It has been another week on social media of women being threatened with rape; another week of not being able to challenge the rape culture, of not being able to speak freely, without being verbally abused.  Supposed Sheffield United (TW) fans continue to use vile words to undermine any woman who dares speak out against rape.

Two weeks ago, the father of your victim had to speak out because your video plea to be allowed to ‘get on with your life’ and play football, along with the continued harassment of his daughter via social media which led to requiring to take on yet another identity, is having a devastating emotional impact on her. He is frightened for her, worried that she won’t get through this.

But still your supporters come at her.

We know (how could we not) that you claim to be innocent, that you claim that your victim consented – although you certainly never asked her if she wanted to have sex, or of she wanted to be filmed, and she was certainly in no position to answer the question even if you had.  Yet despite all your claims of innocence, you have stood silently by whilst your supporters have engaged in abusive, threatening behaviour, against your victim and a raft of women who have exercised their own right to free speech and dared to challenge such behaviour.

Even if you genuinely believe you are innocent, that is no longer the point: you have your family, a support group, solicitors, lawyers, private detectives and a future father-in-law bankrolling a campaign that has its own website.

What does your victim have? She had to be taken away from her family, her friends, her home town: she can no longer live under her own name: your campaign seems determined to grind her further down, perhaps in the hopes that she will break completely.

You want to get on with your life, you say, but you seem to want to do that at the expense of your victim. All that abuse, all that harassment from your fans: well, when you have such well oiled, well funded campaign machine, your silence about what your fans do makes you look like a bully – the worst kind of bully: the one that is behind the scenes getting other people to do his dirty work for him.

And every bully should be told to stop. Especially the ones pulling strings behind the scenes, especially the ones who stay silent whilst others do the bullying on his behalf.

In the context of what has – and is being done – to you victim, your pleas to be rehabilitated ring hollow; the site of your sorrowful face as you plead for another chance acts only to belittle the woman you raped and continue to victimise, through your campaign and your fans. Yes, a petition was launched against you: but what did you expect? That people would simply keep quiet in the face of all of that, and turn the other way whilst you continued on without a seeming care for any of that?

Whatever the outcome of your latest appeal, and whether or not Sheffield United decide to re-sign you: stop this.  Remember that your sentence is not yet done.

If you are serious about rehabilitation, about making amends, about taking responsibility and earning another chance – close the website, or ask those who fund it and run it to do so. Tell your supporters and fans to leave the victim alone. Tell your fans to stop threatening women just because they don’t like what we say.

If you have any shred of decency in you: put an end to it, now.

Sincerely,

ali

Update 21/12/2014: Hartlepool United’s new manager – Ronnie Moore – has expressed interest in signing Ched Evans, thereby unleashing fresh headlines and speculation which will undoubtedly cause further pain to the woman Ched Evans raped.  This is, simply, cruelty, justified by those who – like Moore – care only about the goals Evans might score, than any pain caused to his victim (and indeed, many rape victims who find these discussions, headlines and speculations immensely distressing).

So I posting this open letter again, and I would like to thank everyone who has shared this previously. Sometimes the only option is to stand up to the bully.

 

Dear Fellow Cisters – It Wasn’t A Penis What Did It, It Was A Man (CN/TW)

This post is one of the most personal I have written, and yet at the same time is not really about me. Nevertheless it discusses rape so I urge you first and foremost to take care of yourselves.

I am cis-gendered. When gender and genitals, or gender and sex, are conflated, it is not I who is hurt by it. By sharing this, my small hope is that I can help and support – not hinder or speak for or over – the transgender sisters, gender queer and gender fluid folk whose identities are too often questioned . (If  I fail to get that balance right, please tell me.) There is another woman I want particularly to stand in solidarity with today too…

Although I don’t follow the writer Sarah Ditum on twitter, I saw this tweet a little while after she had sent it, and for some time now it has been on my mind – or rather, how to frame a response to it has been on my mind. Whilst I had been aware of a feminism that framed rape in such a context I had rarely seen it put so bluntly. However I wasn’t sure if I could find the language for how it troubled me, without either attacking Ditum (which would be counter productive and needless given that we had almost no previous interaction), or talking over the transgender women whose narrative is their own to frame.

Tacking rape culture – calling it out, speaking up, joining my voices with other women’s to challenge it and break it down to help work toward a society where everyone can live more safely – is something I have been doing more and more recently. There are many reasons why I have become more engaged in that conversation, not the least of them being that I was raped repeatedly by a former boyfriend during an abusive relationship. More accurately, it was less to do with the fact of being raped than it was about not being believed, and the attitudes which I (like so many other women) have faced as we struggle to process when they try and deal with what has happened to them.

I chose not to report what happened. We weren’t living together, and it was harder even than now for women raped by their partners to get justice: marital rape had only just become illegal following the 1991 R v R ruling, and the prevailing attitude within law enforcement to domestic abuse and rape not exactly encouraging. Yet whilst I knew that the chances of a conviction were remote, this was not the prevailing reason why I chose not to report.

***

One of the things which I am most grateful to twitter for is how it has helped me both re-engage with my feminism, and helped to confront within myself both how white and cis-normative it had been. My relationship with feminism (not unlike many women) has been complicated, and it was my Christian faith which also played a big part in helping to re-frame it. Like many women of faith, we find no contradiction at all between the call of Christ and our feminism. And like Christ, the call of standing with and for ‘the least of these’ sharpens both our praxis and narrative as feminists.

And whilst I struggle to understand why some people want to define women in conservative ways, and deny to women who they are because of being assigned male at birth, I have to be honest and say that it was not for that reason initially that Ditum’s tweet bothered me so much. Nor was it the fact that my ex-boyfriend also used numerous objects to rape me with, although memories reared their head when I read it. It was because it was so entirely at odds with what I thought even the most ardent anti-trans feminist understood: that rape is not a crime of sex, but a crime based of the abuse of power.

My ex raped me. He could have chosen not to. He could have chosen to walk away, to sod off somewhere and find a more constructive channel for his never-ending quest for control; he chose instead to manipulate me and demonstrate power over me. He could have chosen to question why he wanted those things, he could have chosen to explore within himself why he wanted my humiliation through repeated violations, rather than my comfort and happiness.

Instead he made a choice to hurt me because that was what he wanted. His penis didn’t make that decision. He did. Reducing men’s decision to rape to the random behaviour of a set of genitalia diminishes what rape is, and makes it harder for its victims to name the problem and reclaim the agency and autonomy being raped has taken from them.

But I am not the only woman who has been raped, for whom such penis-orientated attitudes have made the ability to find comfort and community so much harder, even amongst other women. In a sense, Ditum’s comment was just the visible tip of the iceberg of dangerous and bad assumptions which make it harder for women to be believed, even by other women.

Some of you reading this may be aware of a trans*gender woman, a twitter engineer called Dana McCullum who was recently convicted of raping her wife. McCullum raped and violated her wife, not because she has a penis, but because she chose to exercise power and control in an abusive manner.

But the truly appalling aspect of this is not that McCullum is transgender. It is that that focus on this aspect (which happened because feminists forgot what rape is truly about), took away the support that should have been accorded to her wife.

So now I want you to read her story, the one she has had to tell because we helped to make it harder for her. I want you to listen to her, to her story, to the struggle she has had to find agency and identity. I stand in solidarity with her.

When we think that rape is about genitals and sex, we don’t just make stopping it harder. We make it harder for the victim, for the one person we are supposed to be there for. I know that we all want rape to stop. We all want rape culture dismantled so that the women and children on the receiving end of rape and abuse to be safer than we were. We want rapes victims to have all the support they deserve so that they can heal.

But we won’t do that if we are not honest, with ourselves and with each other. If we want to ‘name the problem’ then we actually have to understand it so that we can name it correctly: it was a man who raped me, not a penis;  and it was a woman who raped M, not a penis. The name of the problem is not ‘penis’.

It’s name is patriarchy.

Dear Michael Portillo: A Challenge to Rape Myths Is Not A Challenge to Free Speech

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”  George Orwell

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Freedom of speech – that is, the right to express an opinion without restraint, or fear of being censored – is something which people value. The fundamental ability to be able to give voice to our individuality, to speak what we think without fear of sanctions, intimidation or threats of violence, and express beliefs however unpopular, is something we all prize.

Given that this is a right that white cis-gendered men have little problem accessing here in the West, and a right that they have indeed taken for granted, the irony of a privileged white man voicing concerns that freedom of speech is under attack because some women have called out a rape myth is.. well, really very unedifying .  As trans* and cis gendered women on the internet know only too well, being able to speak without fear of being targeted by people who have no problem threatening them physically and sexually, and abusing them on the grounds of gender, race and sexuality is still a right which has yet to be acknowledged – let alone accorded.

It was with some degree of self-restraint therefore, that I failed to throw a heavy object through my television last night when Michael Portillo expressed his concern that the BBC had issued an apology in the wake of remarks by Michael Buerke, prior to the transmission of the Moral Maze on Wednesday evening, which discussed whether or not Ched Evans – the convicted rapist who once played football for Sheffield United – should be allowed to return to professional football.  Portillo, it should be noted (who is not on Twitter and probably not aware of the value, worth and effectiveness of online activism), was also on that Moral Maze programme, and his position could be fairly described as being in favour of Ched Evans returning to football.

However it is specifically his remarks at the start of last nights ‘This Week’ programme – on which he is a weekly panellist – that I am addressing.

Essentially Portillo felt that the ‘twittersphere’ (who by implication are some sort of nameless mob) had levered an apology by itimidation from the BBC for Michael Buerke’s remarks, that this was an issue of free speech which the BBC had a duty to preserve, and that these storms of protest acted to limit what people could say.[Note: Once it is available on iPlayer again (for some reason it is currently not available), you will be able to listen to what he says, but I think that what I have given here is a fair summation.]

First – and foremost – the reason that Michael Buerke’s comments caused such upset and were rightly challenged both by individuals and groups such as Rape Crisis and Ending Victimisation and Blame, was because they are well worn, and highly damaging, rape myths which effectively lay the blame for the rape on the behaviour of the victim. In the context of the way in which victims of rape generally – and the woman raped by Ched Evans specifically in this particular instance – face condemnation and judgement because of those myths, challenging comments which were at best insensitive was the right thing to do.

In the context of the torrent of abuse and harassment which family and supporters of Evans have metered out to Evans victim – a woman who may have to change her identity for a second time – this was in no sense an issue of free speech.

Rape silences its victims every day. I would therefore ask Michael Portillo if genuinely believes that there is a ‘right’ to speak an opinion which enables a culture to silence victims of rape? Is he aware that [CN] those who claim to believe in free speech [TW/CN] refuse to accept that rape myths are just that, and do not recognise or understand the damage they do?

In order to live in a world where everyone can be safe and free, and individuals free to speak, there are times where we must understand where our priorities lay – and we must not be afraid to stand by those priorities. The BBC were right to issue an apology.