I have no idea who the female blogger "The Belle Jar" is. Five minutes ago was my first exposure to her. Her diary from March 18 -- which may have already been diaried here -- hit me so hard that I had to share it. She is writing about the aftermath of the Steubenville rape trial, where the rapists were given three short years (minus time served, even) and the media wept big greasy tears over How Their Futures Were Cut Short. But that's not what TBJ is writing about. She's talking about how people are using the meme of "that could be your daughter, wife, sister, mom who was brutalized, so show some sympathy" to try to get people on track. Laudable. I've said it, and you may well have, also. But here's the hammer-in-the-head quote. I'll give you a bit more below the fold, then you can read her entire post for yourself. This meme is actually harmful. Why?
What you are actually doing is perpetuating rape culture by advancing the idea that a woman is only valuable in so much as she is loved or valued by a man.
Yes. Yes. Exactly. It doesn't matter if she could or couldn't be someone in your family, or a valued friend.
Framing the issue this way for rape apologists can seem useful. I totally get that. It feels like you’re humanizing the victim and making the event more relatable, more sympathetic to the person you’re arguing with.I'm a semi-professional writer, and I stand back in awe when someone hits it so perfectly. TBJ framed it perfectly, simply, with anger and passion and outrage and love. Go read her post for yourself and give her some hits, maybe a comment or two. And let her know that here on DK, she is admired.
You know what, though? Saying these things is not helpful; in fact, it’s not even helping to humanize the victim. What you are actually doing is perpetuating rape culture by advancing the idea that a woman is only valuable in so much as she is loved or valued by a man.
The Steubenville rape victim was certainly someone’s daughter. She may have been someone’s sister. Someday she might even be someone’s wife. But these are not the reasons why raping her was wrong. This rape, and any rape, was wrong because women are people. Women are people, rape is wrong, and no one should ever be raped. End of story.
Wed Mar 20, 2013 at 6:57 AM PT: Thanks for the rec, folks. TBJ deserves it.
Wed Mar 20, 2013 at 7:15 AM PT: Some good discussion going on in the comments, and that, as it should, is sparking some thought in the casaba melon that sits on my shoulders. I understand that the meme "show some sympathy because that could have been someone you cared about" has value and is not inherently bad. It does, indeed, reach some people in a way that they may not have been reached before. I don't think it's necessarily "bad" or "wrong" to use. But I still think the crux of TBJ's argument is solid. Some people are just not altruistic/humane enough to understand why they should care about someone who isn't part of their "tribe." I get that, and I get that you use whatever means necessary to reach out to them. I also think that you have to combine the two arguments to ensure that they at least hear the thought that everyone has value, regardless of personal connection or not, and raping/hurting someone is intrinsically wrong. I don't disparage anyone using the "that could be your daughter" meme, and I don't think TBJ does, either.
Wed Mar 20, 2013 at 10:13 AM PT: Very sadly, and very interestingly, this same debate is playing itself out in the comments of the Litchfield County Register-Citizen, where two football players raped a 13-year old girl.