10 Pop Culture Characters Who Stayed Friends or Lovers With Their Rapists

Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O Hara in Gone with the Wind

“Well, sure, he raped her. But it’s not a big deal. Rape, shmape. All friendships and relationships have their ups and downs. They can still be friends, or get married. Heck, maybe the rape could be the start of a beautiful love story.”

Does this sound like an absurdist attempt at ghoulish humor? It’s not. This trope is all over pop culture, and has been for decades. In some stories, rapes happen while characters are friends, lovers, or married, and the relationship goes on as if little or nothing happened. In others, rapes are the beginning of a happy relationship.

Here are 10 characters in pop culture who voluntarily stayed friends, lovers, colleagues, or spouses with the people who raped or tried to rape them.

*****

Thus begins my latest piece for AlterNet, 10 Pop Culture Characters Who Stayed Friends or Lovers With Their Rapists. To read more, read the rest of the piece.

10 Pop Culture Characters Who Stayed Friends or Lovers With Their Rapists

“I’m Not Being Sexist Or Racist! You’re Defining The Word Wrong!”

dictionary photo

Content note: sexism, racism, other systems of oppression, gaslighting, passing use of racist and sexist language

Tl;dr: Rejecting the definitions of sexism and racism don’t make them disappear.

“I’m not being sexist or racist! My friend isn’t being sexist or racist! That person I admire isn’t being sexist or racist! Sexism and racism means being consciously, deliberately bigoted. It means consciously believing that women or people of color are inferior. I don’t care how the words are defined by the thousands of researchers who have been studying this for decades — I looked the words up in a dictionary, and that makes me an expert. So stop saying we did something sexist or racist unintentionally, that our stubborn refusal to listen to women and people of color is sexist or racist, or that there are systems of oppression we’re perpetuating and participating in. You’re only sexist or racist if you openly say you are!”

When we talk about sexism, racism, and other isms, we hear this stuff a lot. It’s been coming up a lot in the shitty defenses of TJ Kirk, a.k.a. the self-styled “Amazing Atheist” (see Martin Hughes’ extraordinary takedowns for context). There are lots of arguments against it: I could rattle off a bunch in my sleep. But there are times when I want to throw up my hands and say, “Fine.

“Let’s concede the terminology. For the sake of argument, let’s say the words ‘sexism,’ ‘racism,’ ‘classism,’ ‘ableism,’ etc., only mean conscious bigotry and oppression. And let’s give another name to that other stuff. Let’s give another name to unconscious bias, to systems of oppression, to the stubborn refusal to acknowledge them. Let’s give another name to people who deny that they’re sexist and call women cunts; to people who deny that they’re racists and call African-Americans lazy thugs. Let’s call it (goes to random nonsense word generator, hits ‘refresh’ until she finds a word she likes) grimprom. Strenaviction. Yurity, Ooo, ‘yurity.’ I like that.

“Can we now have a conversation about yurity? Continue reading ““I’m Not Being Sexist Or Racist! You’re Defining The Word Wrong!””

“I’m Not Being Sexist Or Racist! You’re Defining The Word Wrong!”

Sex-Positive Does Not Mean Anything Goes

plus sign on keyboard

Content note: sexually invasive behavior, sexual harassment and assault, denial and gaslighting of same

There’s a talk I give on atheism and sexuality, and in the part where I start to talk about secular sexual ethics, I often make a joke. I talk about religious sexual ethics, and I jokingly ask, “Without God, are we looking at a sybaritic free-for-all, uninhibited by any constraints?” I joke about how some people might be hoping the answer is Yes — and then I say that the obvious answer is No. Of course we have sexual ethics, and of course we want to have them. A sybaritic free-for-all can be an entertaining fantasy, but we wouldn’t want a sexual world with no ethics, where nobody cared who got hurt.

It seems that to some people, this obvious answer is not so obvious. So I’m going to spell it out here:

Sex-positivity does not mean treating the entire world as a sexual buffet. Continue reading “Sex-Positive Does Not Mean Anything Goes”

Sex-Positive Does Not Mean Anything Goes

Why We Publicize Accusations of Sexual Misconduct

dam with water coming through dramatically

Content note: sexual harassment and assault, denial and gaslighting of same.

The dam is bursting.

In the last few days, several accusations of sexual misconduct on the part of Richard Carrier have been made public. Stephanie Zvan has collected and summarized the current ones to date; Skepticon has banned Carrier from their conference, “partly because of his repeated boundary-pushing behavior, including towards someone involved in Skepticon.”

I want to take a moment to talk about why we publicize these accusations. Tl;dr: We do it because we’re trying to make the community safer.

Those of us who talk about sexual harassment and assault, and other problems in the organized secular movement (and everywhere else, for that matter), are often accused of doing it for our own gain. We’re accused of doing it to increase traffic and boost our careers. And we’re accused of doing it to bring down people we don’t like. I’ve already addressed the first accusation: today, I want to speak to the second.

Richard Carrier was a friend of mine, as well as a colleague. We weren’t close friends, but we had a good social relationship and a good professional relationship. He’s been to multiple parties at our house (a fact that now gives me the creeps: I hate the thought that I may have exposed my friends to his behavior). We worked together at Freethought Blogs for a long time; we collaborated; we promoted each others’ work. And he was a public advocate for feminism and social justice within organized atheism. I was extremely distressed when I started hearing these accusations, and at first I didn’t want to believe them. But I heard more than one accusation, and some of my own conversations with Carrier made me uneasy about his sexual ethics. That’s when I began distancing myself from him, personally and professionally.

I’m not publicizing accusations against him because I don’t like him. I stopped liking him because I started hearing these accusations.

I’m going to say that again, in large boldface capital letters, since it seems to be all too easily overlooked:

I’m not publicizing accusations against him because I don’t like him. I stopped liking him because I started hearing these accusations. Continue reading “Why We Publicize Accusations of Sexual Misconduct”

Why We Publicize Accusations of Sexual Misconduct

Politics and Tragedies

Flowers, candles, and posters at 18th and Castro in San Francisco, memorializing Orlando shootings. Photo by Greta Christina.
Flowers, candles, and posters at 18th and Castro in San Francisco, memorializing Orlando shootings. Photo by Greta Christina.

They tell us we shouldn’t politicize tragedies.

When a man sees two men kissing and responds by walking into a gay bar with an automatic weapon and murdering 50 people, we’re told we shouldn’t politicize the tragedy.

When a man writes a 107,000-word manifesto detailing how and why he despises women and wants to murder and terrorize us, and proceeds to murder six people and injure fourteen others, we’re told we shouldn’t politicize it.

When a man murders nine people in a Black church and later confesses that he did it to start a race war, we’re told we shouldn’t politicize it.

When a hurricane hits a major U.S. city, and thousands of mostly poor, mostly black people are abandoned for days; when the evacuation plan assumes everyone has a car; when the Federal government’s emergency management agency is run by an incompetent boob, in a deliberately created political climate that holds the very idea of government in contempt; when the aftermath is rife with real estate speculation and other grossly predatory profiteering — we’re told we shouldn’t politicize it.

I could give you examples all day.

So here’s the tl;dr, the punch line: We didn’t politicize these tragedies. They were already political. Continue reading “Politics and Tragedies”

Politics and Tragedies

Learning By Arguing

Person A: “This thing is sexist, racist, classist, ableist, etc. Here’s a detailed explanation of why.”
Person B: “No, it’s not. Reasons, typically not responding to the detailed explanation, or even seeming to have read it.”
Person A: “Sigh. Yes, it is. Once again — here’s the detailed explanation of why. Warning you that my patience is wearing thin.”
Person B: “Gee, you don’t have to get mad. I’m just trying to learn and understand.”

If people want to learn, why do they think arguing is the best way to do it?

See, here’s another way this conversation could go: Continue reading “Learning By Arguing”

Learning By Arguing

“When the topic of misogyny comes up”: Meme from The Way of the Heathen

When the topic of misogyny comes up, and people change the subject, it trivializes misogyny.

“When the topic of misogyny comes up, and people change the subject, it trivializes misogyny.”
-Greta Christina, The Way of the Heathen: Practicing Atheism in Everyday Life
(from Chapter 16, “Why ‘Yes, But’ Is the Wrong Response to Misogyny”)

(Image description: above text, juxtaposed next to image of woman’s closed mouth)

I’m making a series of memes/ inspirational poster thingies with my favorite quotes from my new book, The Way of the Heathen: Practicing Atheism in Everyday Life. Please feel free to share this on social media, or print it and hang it on your wall if you like. (The image above is pretty big: you can click on it to get a bigger size if you like.)

Way of the Heathen cover
The Way of the Heathen is available in ebook on Amazon/Kindle and on Smashwords for $7.99. The audiobook is at Audible. The print edition is at Amazon and Powell’s Books, and can be ordered or carried by pretty much any bookstore: it’s being wholesaled by Ingram, Baker & Taylor, IPG, and bookstores can buy it directly from the publisher, Pitchstone Publishing. Check it out, and tell your friends!

“When the topic of misogyny comes up”: Meme from The Way of the Heathen

Snopes Debunks Clinton Armani Jacket Controversy, Unintentionally Reveals Gross Sexism At Heart of Culture

hillary-clinton-armani-jacket-speech-via-snopes

CLAIM: Hillary Clinton purchased a $12,000 Giorgio Armani jacket to deliver a speech about income inequality.

FACT: Women’s bodies are treated as public property, and women in all professions and walks of life receive unsolicited judgements on our appearance as part of our everyday lives. And it is literally impossible for female public figures to get this right. Female public figures will be criticized for look frumpy, for looking expensive, for looking stylish, for looking out of date. Our bodies are treated as public property, and our appearance is relentlessly judged in a system we can’t possibly win.

Okay, no, that’s not what Snopes said. What Snopes actually said was, “Outrage over an expensive Armani jacket worn by Hillary Clinton was peppered with inaccurate details.” Details are at the link. I’m just saying, is all.

COMMENT POLICY FOR THIS POST: This post is not a place to discuss Clinton versus Sanders. It is a place to discuss the sexism of how women’s bodies are considered fair game for public commentary. Violators will be dealt will harshly. Thank you.

(Photo from Snopes.com)

Snopes Debunks Clinton Armani Jacket Controversy, Unintentionally Reveals Gross Sexism At Heart of Culture

Sharing tables with strangers: Guest post by Donna Jay

This is a guest post by Donna Jay. Her opinions do not necessarily reflect mine, although they’re obviously sympatico enough for me to post this piece. Content note: sexism, sexualization of women. -GC

internet cafe shared table

A strange thing happened today. I asked to share a table with a man at a coffee shop. He agreed. I sat down. We arranged our items on the table. Our interaction stopped there.

Okay, maybe this requires a little explanation. You see, recently I started pushing myself to go out more rather than staying home alone, feeling sorry for myself. I had an injury that consumed my life. So I would go to the coffee shop to write or sometimes take up a stool at the local bar and grab a beer or head to the park to lie on the grass and read. While interacting with another human was a possibility, it wasn’t necessarily my goal. I was becoming homebound. The longer I stayed in the harder it would be to go out, so I pushed myself to go out.

In the course of my simple outings, something strange kept happening – men assumed I was trying to pick them up. The interaction above was remarkable for what it did not include. After I sat down I did not hear any of the following:

• I have a girlfriend
• I am married
• I am not looking to meet anyone
• You’re really not my type
• I prefer (insert size, age or ethnicity here) women

Yes, the simple act of asking to share a table in a crowded coffee shop was seen as an invitation. I was looking for the sex. Except, of course, I was not. I only asked to share if no tables were available. I was looking for room for my ass in a chair and my laptop or book and a pot of tea on a table. My desires were very simple.

Similar things happened at bars and restaurants. When I would take the only open seat that happened to be near a man I would again get informed of their relationship status. If unattached, I might get to hear how I, a fiftyish, large, white-appearing woman did not meet their fuckability standards. After all, I was neither petite nor exotic nor young nor . . . . I was once informed that I might want to try the back of the bar; there were guys there who might be more interested. Clearly back bar guys like to watch women drink a beer and read from their kindle or watch TV. The back bar guys are all kinds of kinky that way.

This happened so often I started to question how I was presenting myself to the world. Continue reading “Sharing tables with strangers: Guest post by Donna Jay”

Sharing tables with strangers: Guest post by Donna Jay

What the Bechdel Test Means — And What It Doesn’t

The Bechdel Test is not — repeat, NOT — the sole test of whether a movie (or any story) is sexist. In fact, by itself, it’s not even A test of whether a story is sexist. It is not a test of whether a story is feminist, or whether the writer or writers are feminist. It is not a test of whether a story has strong female characters, awesome female characters, or admirable female characters.

The Bechdel Test is a test of one metric, and one metric only: Does the story revolve around men, or do women have their own lives? And while it’s sometimes appropriate to apply the test to individual movies or other stories, in general it makes much more sense to apply it to the film industry as a whole, and to show persistent patterns in pop culture.

essential dykes to watch out for book cover

In case you’re not familiar with it: The Bechdel Test comes from a Dykes to Watch Out For comic strip by Alison Bechdel, later of Fun Home fame. In it, two women are discussing whether to see a movie, and one says she’ll only see a movie if (a) it has two women in it, who (b) talk to each other, (c) about something other than a man. (She says that the last movie she could see was Alien — two women talk about the monster.) Later discussions of the Bechdel Test have refined and clarified it: the usual standard now is that the two women have to be named characters (i.e., if Woman At Bar #1 discusses the overly-warm martini with Woman At Bar #2, it doesn’t count). It’s a ridiculously low bar, and yet large numbers of movies fail to clear it. The Bechdel Test sometimes gets cited as The Test For Whether A Movie Is Sexist — and in a classic straw-feminist tactic, the fact that it fails at this is given as a reason for why it should be dismissed entirely. So I come back to my point:

The Bechdel Test is a test of one metric, and one metric only. It tests whether a given story revolves around men, or whether women are depicted as having have their own lives even to a small degree. And while people sometimes bring it up with individual movies — “Why didn’t The Avengers pass the Bechdel Test?” “Does The Lego Movie pass the test?” — it’s much more a test of common pop culture patterns. When it’s applied to single movies, it’s usually in service of pointing out the pattern. And while sexist patterns of this form are often unconscious, there’s at least one report of this one deliberately being taught in film school.

Matrix movie poster
Here’s why I bring this up. Ingrid and I were watching The Matrix the other day (me for the first time since it came out in 1999, her for the first time at all). We started wondering if it passed the Bechdel Test; and rather than watch the whole movie again, we decided to go to one of the many Bechdel Test websites and discussion boards. On this particular discussion board, some people discussed whether the movie was lacking in strong female characters; or they objected to putting The Matrix in the “fail” category, since Trinity is a powerful character and therefore the movie isn’t “anti-female.”

Sigh. Yes, Trinity is a powerful character. But that’s not what the Bechdel test is testing. It’s testing whether women talk to each other about something other than men. It’s testing whether the story revolves around men.

It’s testing who the world is about.

If men talk with each other a ton about their mission, their jobs, which road to take, which guns to use, which restaurant to go to, which religion is true, which farts are funnier — and women only talk to each other about men — that tells you who the story is about. That tells you who the world is about. Continue reading “What the Bechdel Test Means — And What It Doesn’t”

What the Bechdel Test Means — And What It Doesn’t