EDIT: After publishing this, I realized that with my focus on the comments section, I really managed to ignore the fact that the whole article I was pulling comments from was, itself, actually focused almost exclusively on the feelings of the rapists rather than the victim. So… yeah… not just a problem with the comments, but actually a huge issue with the way the verdict is being reported on by the media. And it’s not unique to the one article I was using, although CNN does seem to be at the centre of it. Kate Donovan sums up the problem well.
So I was having an argument on Facebook the other day about this article discussing how to combat rape culture by training men not to rape, and the guy I was arguing with was rejecting the idea that rape culture existed, or at least that it was widespread. After I provided a list of examples of victim blaming and rape culture he said the following:
[…] that’s another small group of people, I want to see where society as a whole condones rape. I can’t believe that the majority of people in the world are cool with rape, I just don’t think we’re generally bad people.
Which in a sense I get. If you haven’t been exposed to it, it’s hard to imagine that there are people out there who are generally happy to blame rape victims for their own rapes, or to excuse rapists. You don’t want to face it because it really sucks when you realize that it’s out there. But realizing the extent of the problem is an important step to solving the problem. So with that in mind, I want to present one little demonstration of rape culture and victim blaming at work.
You’ve probably heard about the Steubenville rape trial. If you haven’t, you should read more about it, but I don’t want to get into the details of the case here. What’s important for my purposes here is that it’s A) a recent news item that B) involves rape and C) is fairly high-profile.
So what I did was find an article about the recent verdict in the case. Literally any article. In fact, I went with the very first article that I stumbled across. I didn’t even read it. I just skipped to the comments to see how many examples of rape culture and victim blaming I could find. While trying to ignore anything that triggered my troll sensors, as well as trying not to take more than a few examples from any one username, I managed to screenshot 80 comments from 54 unique users before my browser crashed.
Obviously not the most scientifically-rigourous experiment, but that’s also not what I was trying to do. All I want is to give one little example of rape culture at work in one spot. What I do think makes this a powerful statement that demonstrates a wider problem is that I didn’t wade through a bunch of different articles until I found one with some horrifying comments. I didn’t have to. It was literally the very first article I found. And we’re not talking comments from some niche rape-apologist or MRA website. This is fucking CNN.
One last note before we begin, I should point out that there are also a lot of comments trying to fight rape culture and arguing against the apologists and victim-blamers in the comments. This does not defeat my point that there are still a lot of people who are quick to blame the victim. With a few hundred unique commenters in the couple thousand comments I read, I found more than 50. That is not an insignificant number.
So let’s begin. (Trigger warning for rape below the jump) Continue reading