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Response to Brickbat (Original post)

Fri Jan 4, 2013, 12:36 PM

6. Is Steubenville footage the 21st c version of fire-hosing African Americans?

Like others, I am simultaneously heartened--actually, I teared up about it this morning--to see so many MEN gather in Steubenville who not only don't think sexually degrading females is funny or "the slut's fault" but who are willing to get out there to protest this behavior. I'm in my mid-40s and this is not the world I grew up in. Even in the 80s we were sexually harassed in school, on the street, in stores, on jobs, with impunity, and God help you if you drank too much. It was always your fault. At best, it seemed men hated rape of "the good girls," but any girl who deviated was held responsible. Anything less than self-depreciation and constant ego-boosting of males was enough to make you a bad girl. We policed ourselves, and internalized a lot of those standards. Don't get to be too (smart, pretty, non-pretty, strong, athletic, self-reliant, reliant on female friendship. . . anything). Standing out in any way made you at fault--the corollary to the Shador. Visibility made you responsible for men's reactions to you.

But this is re-raising for me the larger issue of media ecology and how these new technologies are liberating as much as demeaning.

I first became an "antipornography feminist" in the late 80s. While I've parted ways with some of my compatriots from those days on some issues (w/r/t to consenting adults), of course the ways digital technologies have amplified if not fueled sexual objectification, violence, child trafficking, etc., through instant access and a huge profit motive, have been more upsetting by the year (as I've raised daughters and watched in horror as their environment is saturated by documentation of females being grossly abused).

I'm thinking this footage is so disgusting to Americans' sense of themselves that I'm beginning to wonder if giving these soul-less female-hating f**ks digital media with which to saturate the world with sexual crime documentation--with their rape ideology-- is finally forcing males and a lot of females to "take sides."

More and more, I hear and read sincere arguments and concerns about sexual violence and objectification of women from men from all walks of life and ages that I would have only heard among my feminist friends 25 years ago. Granted, maybe I perk up more when it's from a man.

But maybe this horrible event is like the firehoses and German Shepherds being deployed against African Americans in Birmingham. Once it was filmed, the "decent" people in white America had to wake up from their comfortable ignorance about what non-whites were suffering in the Deep South. Just like now, there were overt racist haters, but there were lots more whites who unconsciously benefited from the privilege of being white (as I have) while generally trying to be decent human beings. They/we were just clueless. Sometimes that's worse, but it gives you something to work with--a person's basic desire to be a decent human being, particularly when confronted with the possibility that one's been unintentionally selfish and hurtful.

To see so many fundamentally decent but formerly clueless guys wake up like this--even as it's taken this horrific sacrifice of this poor girl--is truly heartening. I cannot believe so many men are out there on the streets protesting about females being treated this way. I really didn't expect to see that level of awareness in my lifetime.

Alphabetic literacy, print literacy, photographs and video, and now these media, as has often been said, are as complex as the humanity that developed them. The confounding element with pornography is the use of the media itself as the tool of oppression . . . Firehoses and German Shepherds were accidentally filmed. The sheriffs didn't firehose their Black residents and circulate that to their white friends so they could have orgasms to it and further humiliate other Black residents. The act of recording sexual abuse--making the female an object whose privacy and subjectivity is perpetually violated by being simultaneously one man's trophy and a million men's thing--is another tool of direct abuse. It's not just a recording of it.

But all of that aside, these horrific videos may usher in an Anita Hill-like sea change, and probably more.

(If only Hill had had an iPhone recording when Clarence Thomas asked her about the pubic hair on her Coke. . . of course, he would have still probably referred to it as a "high-tech lynching."

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Brickbat Jan 2013 OP
seabeyond Jan 2013 #1
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polly7 Jan 2013 #5
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