MP Michael Fabricant: Just Another Violent Man

Michael Fabricant is just another violent man who knows perfectly well that threatening a woman with physical violence won’t result in any punishment to him since violence against women is “just a joke”. And, we won’t hold him accountable for such an abusive statement because, hey, he “apologised”.

Let’s be very clear here: Fabricant didn’t just say something silly or ‘off the cuff’. He made a very clear threat which doesn’t need to be followed with actual physical violence. Fabricant knows perfectly well that he doesn’t need to actually intend to carry through the threat; he knows that he can count on several millennia of male violence against women that has silenced women for the threat to be real. This way Fabricant can ‘pretend’ it’s a joke and not something he’d actually do.

It’s just bullshit though. Men say this shit because they actually believe that violence against women isn’t a real crime. As with the “die in a fire” meme, the speaker doesn’t actually have to be planning on setting the specific target on fire for the threat to be real. These aren’t statements are real threats because women are punched in the throat every single day. Women are set on fire, or have their bodies set on fire, every single day.  We don’t know if we will be the woman that experiences the violence on this particular day or if we will experience it another day. We just know that male violence against women and girls is endemic and most men don’t give a shit about it.  The men who support his apology can pretend that they to won’t ever commit violence against women, even though most of them will be perpetrators. Those who choose to be bystanders and ignore the problem are just as culpable as those who perpetrate it.

Men who did give a shit would be calling out Fabricant right now. They wouldn’t just be asking for an apology. They would be demanding he be suspended from his party pending a formal review and Fabricant undertaking mandatory training on violence against women via either a national or local specialist service such as Women’s Aid or Ending Victimisation and Abuse. They would be calling for all politicians to undergo specialist training before being allowed to vote on services on violence against women and girls. They wouldn’t be labelling Fabricant’s threat a ‘joke’ or ignoring.

Men who actually give a shit about violence against women and girls should be spending tonight writing letters to Fabricant, his party and his constituents office making their anger clear. They would be writing letters to editors or publishing articles on why this is a real threat of violence against women.

They wouldn’t be minimising Fabricant’s threat.

 

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The “Die in a Fire” Meme is both Male Violence and Hate Speech

I’ve written numerous times about how the “die in a fire” meme used by transactivists (both those who are Trans* and those who self-define as cis) is a deliberate invocation of the mass murder of women by fire throughout history. It is chosen because fire has been, and remains, a way in which violent men control and punish women. It is used today by men committing domestic violence just as it was 400 years ago to punish women deemed ‘witches’.

Telling someone whose politics you dislike to “die in a fire” is replicating male patterns of violence and control. Telling anyone to “die in a fire” is a deliberate and malicious silencing tactic. I do not accept the theory that there is ever an appropriate time when this threat is acceptable, nor do I believe that any class of people are ever so oppressed as to make this statement acceptable.

Today, Sian published a very personal post on having experienced having her hair set on fire as a teenager. Until I read this post, I had thought only of fire in terms of domestic violence and the control of women throughout history. I hadn’t thought of the times in junior/ high school when boys thought it was “funny” to threaten to set fire to my hair. I hadn’t thought of the times that all of my friends were threatened or the time my stepsister’s hair was actually set on fire. I hadn’t made the connections in my own mind between the threats made about fire by boys and how often fire was actually used to punish and control my friends: particularly by burning homework or books.

In all the times I have written or spoken about unspeakably hateful the “die in a fire” meme is, I hadn’t made the connection with my own experiences. I had othered the threat so as not to have to think about just how real that threat is – not just for abstract women online but for myself. These people bandying about the “die in a fire” meme are deliberately triggering women’s experiences of male violence in order to shut them up – no dissent is ever allowed and any questioning immediately requires a threat of violence.

These threats are real. They are not just words or justified by ‘oppression’. They are nothing more than male violence. If you struggle to understand how fire is a violent threat, then please read Karen Ingala Smith’s blog which names the 16 women in the UK whose brutal murder either involved fire or who were set on fire after their deaths between January 2012 and December 2013.

And, think about how many women are either killed in a fire or their bodies desecrated by fire on a daily basis on our planet.

“Die in a fire” is hate speech. It is hate speech used to silence women and it is used to kill women.

 

Good Men Project write to Elliot Rodger

The Good Men Project continue their official policy of misogyny by publishing an open letter to Elliot Rodger. I’ve included the whole text below because you genuinely wouldn’t believe me if you didn’t read it for yourself.

Darrell Milton writes to Elliot Rodger about, among other things, why being a 22-year-old virgin is not a big deal.

 I tried watching Elliot Rodger’s last video this morning. I have been putting it off because I assumed it would be disturbing. And although it goes for about six minutes, I couldn’t get through the whole thing because I think the guy was a loony and his words were making me feel really uncomfortable.

 

Because it’s totally acceptable to use disablist language and complain about actually listening to misogyny making you uncomfortable. Try living with it FFS. Like women do every single freaking day – misogyny which the Good Men Project perpetuates on a daily basis with the woman-hating drivel they post (and not just that horrific article written by a rapist who argued his right to get drunk was more important than him not raping women whilst drunk).

I haven’t written an open letter on my blog before, but I thought this time I would. This is not just to Elliot Rodger, but to all of those young people, both young men AND young women, who feel that their life is over simply because at the age of 22 they are still virgins.

Excellent, so how about starting by not writing for the Good Men Project who believe women are nothing more than fuck-toys.

Before I start my letter, here are the opening lines of his video, and it’s the only bit I could watch before turning it off…

This might be pernickety of me but as a general rule of thumb it’s a good idea to watch the whole video before making assumptions about what the man may or may not have said.

 

“Hi. Elliot Rodger here. Well, this is my last video. It all has to come to this.

Tomorrow is the day of retribution, the day in which I will have my retribution against humanity, against all of you.

For the last eight years of my life, ever since I hit puberty I have been forced to endure an existence of loneliness and unfulfilled desires all because girls have never been attracted to me. Girls gave their affection and sex and love to other men but never to me.

I am 22 years old and still a virgin. I have never even been kissed by a girl. I have been through college for two and a half years, more than that, and I am still a virgin. It has been very torturous.

College is the time when everyone experiences those things such as sex and fun and pleasure, but in those years I have had to rot in loneliness. It’s not fair…”

There is plenty more of this depressive crap. But that’s all I could stomach. I feel sorry for him, I really do. I don’t know all the variables behind what makes a guy go mental just because he’s still a virgin, but what I have learned in my 40 years is this: How your life is at 22 is not how your life will always be. So I thought I’d write this letter… ***

If only Darrell had watched the whole video and not just the first bit, then he’d know that Elliot wasn’t just upset at being a virgin. It’s usually much easier to know the “variables” when you’ve actually bothered to listen to what Elliot said.  He was in a homicidal rage at still being a virgin and blamed women for it instead of the fact that clearly no one wanted to sex with him because he was an abusive narcissist. Plus, the whole misogyny and racism. Elliot wasn’t homicidal because he was a virgin. The fact that you assume that speaks volumes about you.

And, really Darrell, could you not have spared a teeny tiny bit of sympathy for the SIX people Elliot murdered? Or the 13 he gravely injured?

Dear Elliot, You should have given it time. You really should have. So you were still a virgin at 22, I know guys who were virgins well into their mid to late twenties and one that I know who lost his virginity after he turned 30. These men are very happy in their life now, all being married, and all having kids (so I guess they had sex, dude).

Again, with the virginity thing as if having sex would have cured Elliot from being an abusive, violent narcissist. Really Darrell, you aren’t making yourself sound like a good man. Hell, your obsession with Elliot’s virginity is as concerning as Elliot’s obsession with it.

Leaving high school or going through college still a virgin isn’t a big deal. I’m sorry Hollywood made you think otherwise. Movies like American Pie, Superbad, The Girl Next Door, Sixteen Candles, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Weird Science, and the 1980′s classic Porky’s aren’t based on reality. You DO NOT have to lose your virginity by any set time or period of your life.

I can’t recommend highly enough watching the WHOLE video and reading his manifesto because, Darrell sweetie, you’ve missed the point of them completely – at a truly embarrassing level.

I know that you pined after that blonde girl you had a crush on. Mate, I’m sure you’ve heard the expression before, and I’m sorry to go all cliché, but there’s plenty more fish in the sea. As I wrote in a blog post 10 days before your murderous rampage, maybe the perfect person for you, your (to go all Disney) one true love, isn’t living in Santa Barbara. I think you needed to get out of there.

Guess what Darrell – there may be literally billions of women on the planet but neither Elliot or you deserve to be in a relationship with them. In fact, it’s pretty clear from Elliot’s manifesto that he was absolutely not a man to date because he was violent, abusive and wanted to kill them. Generally speaking, most women don’t want to date men who want to kill them. Strange as that may sound to you.

Travel. Meet new people. Back pack through Europe. Meet a nice Norwegian girl who thinks like you, enjoys the same music you like, will share her pickled herring with you, whatever. (Actually, I wonder if you actually knew the things that you liked yourself. I mean besides “hot chicks,” I’m pretty sure your manifesto would have been filled with things you hated rather than things you actually liked).

I may get a little repetitive here but, really Darrell, read the fucking manifesto because you sound like a complete fucking dickhead at this point.

I’m not going to lie; sex is great. Well, it can be. It can also be a bad experience both for guys and girls. For me, making love is more important. Maybe my mindset is the product of all those women’s magazines I used to read waiting to see the doctor or dentist (or at the mechanic, come to think of it), but having sex with someone you are in love with is the most awesome part of sex. Don’t look for someone to simply fuck. Look for someone to love. That’s what you should have been doing.

Shall we review the: “Elliot isn’t entitled to fuck any woman he wants  because he was clearly violent and abusive” rule. “Making love” does not cure men of being abusive dickheads. The fact that you seem to think this will help Elliot’s violent tendencies in any way shape or form makes me fear for your partners.

You said girls have never been attracted to you? I bet you’re wrong. I bet there were plenty who thought you were a decent guy (back when you were) and that’s all that mattered to them. But maybe these girls didn’t fit your ideal woman. Sure you have to be attracted to someone to some extent, but I am a firm believer in what I call “love goggles.”

You know what I’m going to say here don’t you, Darrell: you haven’t read the manifesto or watched the video and you’re talking complete fucking shite. Elliot had a long history of violent and abusive behaviour. He was a misogynist. At no point was Elliot ever a “good man”. Your inability to understand this from just watching the first minute of the video makes me worry about your comprehension skills.

Love goggles are like beer goggles only unlike beer goggles, they don’t wear off when you’re sober, they only stop working when you fall out of love. When you find your true love, those love goggles turn into love contacts and they adhere to your eyeballs so that someone society deems average is the most attractive thing on this planet. That’s love mate. That’s what it can do to you.

Honestly, I can’t even here.

I know this letter has been written too late for you, but I hope that all the other wannabe Elliot Rodgers out there can read this and learn from your mistake. You didn’t need to go there. You didn’t need to kill innocent people just because things weren’t going your way.

Holy shit. I am so glad you aren’t in charge of public health policy or the psychiatric care of any individuals. What you’ve just said is exactly what Elliot thought. He thought it was a “mistake” that no woman wanted to have sex with him. It wasn’t a mistake. He was a violent man and he is precisely the kind of man who would have abused his partner and then killed them if they tried to end the relationship.

Mass murder is not a fucking mistake. What the fuck is wrong with you? Seriously, seek some help yourself.

And sure, in cases like this, there are many people who will take to social media and say what I just said but add “You should have just killed yourself, you selfish prick” or something like that. No, that’s wrong. Seek help. Talk to your friends. Talk to your parents. Talk to a professional who can help you. Heck, talk to me. I will listen and I will repeat what I said above as many times as you need to hear it.

Jesus Fucking Christ, you are the LAST PERSON ON EARTH any man thinking what Elliot thought should speak too. I can’t tell if you’re just really fucking stupid or as dangerous as Elliot but you need help. Immediately: for stupidity and being a male violence apologist.

There’s nothing wrong with being a 22-year-old virgin. But there’s plenty wrong with being a 22-year-old murderous arsehole.

And there’s plenty wrong with a man who genuinely believes that Elliot killed 6 people as a mistake because he was upset at being a virgin.

Get your head out of your ass. Get a therapist and grow the fuck up Darrell.

 

We need to talk about systemic male violence not the “work of a madman”

Note: I will no longer be publishing any comments which erase Rodger’s responsibility for committing mass murder or want to pretend that misogyny doesn’t exist.

 

UPDATE: I wrote this when the media was reporting 6 women murdered by Rodger. The victims are as follows:

I have left the post as written because this is still a case of misogyny and male entitlement.

 

6 women have been murdered* and 7 more injured in Santa Barbara in a drive by shooting late Friday night which is currently being attributed to a man called Elliot Rodger.** Rodger got into his car and proceeded to shoot to death 6 women and injure 7 other women. Rodger was also killed Friday night but we do not yet know if his gun-shot was self-inflicted or from a police officer on the scene.

Sheriff Bill Brown has already referred to this mass shooting as ““the work of a madman” and suggested that we will soon learn “how disturbed this individual was”. Despite there being no evidence, as yet, that the perpetrator suffered a mental illness, and the statistical unlikelihood that a perpetrator of such extreme violence does have a mental illness, the police officers investigating the crime and the media reporting it are assuming that Rodger must be mentally ill. After all, “normal men” don’t murder women every single day (unless of course we count the 2 women a week murdered by current or former partner; women and girls brutally murdered by men during home invasions and robberies; the women raped and murdered in war zones and disaster areas; or any of the hundreds of thousands of examples of fatal male violence against women and girls every single day). The media is reporting that Rodger has Asperger’s Syndrome as an excuse for his killing but there is no clear evidence of a link between  Aspergers and such extreme forms of violence. Whether or not Rodger’s has a formal diagnosis of one of the very few mental illnesses which has links to perpetration of violence is to be seen, however, assuming that a man who murders women must be “mentally ill” is to ignore the real pattern of fatal male violence.

The media narrative in play is not one of open investigation of the brutal murder of 6 women but rather a poor, depressed man driven to murder because of sexual inadequacy and the refusal of women to have sex with him.  Granted, Elliot Rodger’s “confession video” is all about how girls aren’t attracted to him and how he will “punish them”. Rodger’s video is a performance of male entitlement . We live in a culture where men feel entitled to own and control women’s bodies: where men are raised  to believe they have the right to full access to women’s bodies whenever and wherever they want. This mass shooting of 6 women by one man is part of a culture of toxic masculinity. It is part of the spectrum of male violence against women and girls that includes everything from young boys pulling girls ponytails when they are 5 to snapping bra straps when they are 13 through to street harassment, domestic violence, rape and murder. This mass shooting of women to “punish them” is not unusual. We have seen it in the massacre of 14 women at a Polytechnique in Montreal. Every time a man brutally murders one women – we ignore or make excuses. When a man murders many at once – we make better excuses for them.

So far, media coverage has gone for salacious and unnecessary facts whilst erasing the clear evidence of misogyny. The Telegraph has gone with this headline:

California drive-by shooting: ‘Son of Hunger Games assistant director’ Elliot Rodger suspected of killing six

Obviously, the movie the perpetrator’s father worked on is more important than the 6 women murdered. Business Online went for crass with:

Business Online Forum For Sexually Frustrated Men Reacts To News That Mass Shooter May Be One Of Their Own

As if Rodger’s “sexual frustration” is a valid excuse for murdering women or his membership of an anti-pick up artist website ‘real’ evidence of his misogyny (as opposed every other think Rodger did on a daily basis which would have demonstrated it) . USA Today used a more factual headline but focused exclusively on language which blames women for Rodger’s crimes. Much of the media has insisted on pointing out that the area where the 6 women were murdered was “a known party area” insinuating that the victims were somehow responsible for being in the wrong place which caused their deaths rather than the Rodger’s choosing to kill them.

The media have taken great pleasure in quoting from Rodger’s youtube video where his hatred of women was quite clear:

the crime of living a better life than me

love you, to be loved by you, … i’ve wanted sex, I’ve wanted, love, affection, adoration. You think I’m unworthy of it and that’s crime that can never be forgiven. … You denied me a happy life and in turn I will deny all of you life.

What is also clear is Rodger’s entitlement to women’s bodies; not that the media is discussing this. Instead, there is some rather gleeful coverage of Rodger’s status of virgin and all the mean, nasty girls who refused to have sex with him driving Rodger to commit mass murder. There is no real question that actually Rodger was never entitled to have sex with any woman he wanted; that no man is entitled to have sexual access just because they desire it. This is nothing less than rape culture being perpetuated by a media desperate to make excuses for a violent man.

I’ve watched the video several times and I have yet to see the media refer to this quote:

I hate all of you sexually active men.

After all, Rodger didn’t kill any men and suggesting that he might have wanted to might cause unnecessary panic. It’s perfectly normal for men to kill women who “reject” them or who “make them jealous”.  Men don’t deserve fatal male violence; women do. Within our toxic culture of masculinity, it is perfectly reasonable for men to kill women. It isn’t for men to kill other. They do kill each other but it’s a problem that requires studies.

The mass murders committed by Rodger will remain mainstream news over the next few weeks covered by global media. It will not differ from the coverage for the last 24 hours: Rodger *must* be mentally ill regardless of any evidence to the contrary; that this is an “abnormal” event which is not linked to the clear spectrum of male violence against women and girls experience every day. We will hear lots of coverage of Rodger’s celebrity friends who will express shock and horror despite the fact that Hollywood, as with the rest of the world, is riddled with violent men who make the choice to harm women. We won’t hear very much about the 6 women who were brutally murdered or the 7 who are injured. We won’t hear of Rodger’s pattern of violence against women and girls – and there will be a pattern. We won’t hear about it because his friends, family and acquaintances will have minimised his behaviour over the years – just as they minimised the behaviour of all other men.

We live in a world of systemic male violence against women and girls. Rodger is no different than so many men who believe they are entitled to sexually access the bodies of women and girls and who blame women and girls for saying no. Rape culture means women and girls aren’t allowed to say no and any woman or girl who does deserves what happens to them. We will hear excuses for Rodger and we will hear lip service to the term toxic masculinity but no real attempt to actually deal with the problem of male violence.

Questioning toxic masculinity means questioning our capitalist-patriarchy. And, no man who has power within our culture is willing to change anything that might interfere with their power.

Men who kill choose to kill. Men who rape, assault and torture women choose to do so.  Rodger isn’t abnormal or mentally ill. The video he released on YouTube is the same justification given by millions of men who choose to harm women: it’s women’s fault for believing they are human too.

This is misogyny: the crime, the media coverage and the men desperate to excuse a killer.

UPDATE: I’ve not changed the text since I first published it. This is information released overnight:

  • police have confirmed that Elliot Rodger was the perpetrator.
  • he stabbed 3 male roommates in his apartment before beginning his shooting spree
  • he then headed to a sorority but was denied entry.
  • Rodger then shot two women  on the street
  • he drove away shooting one more male victim
  • and then shot himself
  • there is a document written by Rodger here detailing his plans

 

*The names of the victims have not yet been released. I will post them as soon as they are.

**I’ve seen Rodger’s name spelt as Elliott, Elliot and Eliot. I’m using the spelling given in the Telegraph which is the first coverage I’ve read.

These are the women murdered in Montreal by Marc Lepine

  • Geneviève Bergeron (born 1968), civil engineering student
  • Hélène Colgan (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
  • Nathalie Croteau (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
  • Barbara Daigneault (born 1967), mechanical engineering student
  • Anne-Marie Edward (born 1968), chemical engineering student
  • Maud Haviernick (born 1960), materials engineering student
  • Maryse Laganière (born 1964), budget clerk in the École Polytechnique’s finance department
  • Maryse Leclair (born 1966), materials engineering student
  • Anne-Marie Lemay (born 1967), mechanical engineering student
  • Sonia Pelletier (born 1961), mechanical engineering student
  • Michèle Richard (born 1968), materials engineering student
  • Annie St-Arneault (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
  • Annie Turcotte (born 1969), materials engineering student
  • Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (born 1958), nursing student

 

This is why the “Die in a Fire” meme constitutes VAWG

This morning, a headline on the BBC announced: 3 small children were killed in a house fire. The sub-heading read: 2 adult women and 3 small children killed. There were very few details released about the incident at first. My instinctive response to this information was that the fire was started by a man to punish an ex-partner and that the two women may have been in a lesbian relationship. Clearly, this is a massive assumption based on no information whatsoever except that fire is a common weapon used by men to murder women or murder their children as punishment.

More details have been released in the last few hours and the victims are Shabina Begum, the children’s grandmother,  Adhyan Nazim, 9, Amaan Nazim, 7,  Anum Parvaiz, the children’s aunt, and a nine week old baby girl. The children’s mother survived the fire. At this moment, the cause of the fire is unknown. 

My immediate assumption that this fire was set deliberately to punish a woman was not unusual. Many women across twitter were worrying that this was a deliberate fire. And, this is why the “die in a fire” meme constitutes VAWG. It isn’t just a random threat: it is a real and common way for women to be murdered throughout history. It isn’t just “one of those things people say”. It’s a deliberate attempt to frighten women into silence. There is no acceptable excuse to use this language. Ever.

The fire in Sheffield which took the lives of 5 people may turn out to be a tragic accident but that doesn’t change the immediate fear women had in response to the news: the fear that another family has been destroyed by male violence through the use of fire.

The “die in a fire” meme is triggering for women and it is not acceptable.

The Obsession with perfection is violence against women

I love Jean Kilbourne. I can’t even remember when I first saw her work. I think it was in high school on a field trip to Toronto when we saw one of her recorded speeches. It does matter how many times I read her or watch her videos online.

The Obsession with perfection is violence against women: it is part of a continuum of male violence which teaches women that we simply aren’t good enough unless we pass the patriarchal fuckability test, which is impossible.

It’s well worth checking out some of her other videos:

Killing us Softly 3:

 

 

And, If you haven’t seen Miss Representation yet, do so now:

 

Monster house: Reinforcing VAW in a Children’s Film

My kids have watched this film a few times while I’ve pottered about around them listening but not really listening. It is incredibly dire with the over-protective mother and emotionally distant father routine. Honestly, it’s like Feminine Mystique: The Animation. This Halloween, though, I actually sat down and watched it. And, whimpered. Followed, swiftly by rage. Lots and lots of rage. I haven’t actually binned the film as I don’t want other children to watch it so it’s joined Scooby-Doo meets the Harlem Globetrotters in my box of Evil Films.

The film starts with a young boy spying on his neighbours with binoculars. Now, technically, the boy is spying on his evil toy-stealing male neighbour but his father seems to be under the impression that the boy is looking at women with his binoculars. Apparently, it is totally normal for young boys to spy on women and then wank. It’s not at all creepy or, you know, sexual violence. I may have shrieked in rage at this point. After I said, WTF is that doing in a children’s movie. They don’t actually say wank but the implication is there.

Mom and Dad then piss off leaving the boy in the charge of a baby-sitter who hates him. Baby-sitters boyfriend, who is a pillock, rocks up and sexually assaults the baby-sitter. Yep, it’s a kids movie where the boyfriend pins his girlfriend on the couch to force her into having sex with him. Now, she does kick his ass out of the house telling the boyfriend that he lacks respect for women which would be good if the next morning the she doesn’t go looking for the abusive boyfriend because she loves him. We couldn’t possibly have a film where a sexually abusive boyfriend gets the boot. Permanently.

Then, along comes a new girl who is the same age as the young boy: about 12. There’s a lovely line where she responds to the boys confusion by asking if they are mentally challenged because if they are, she’s certified to teach them baseball. I may have been whimpering at this point in sheer rage.

Oh, and the basic plot of the film: house is possessed by the spirit of a dead woman who steals children’s toys which land on the grass around it. The old man is her husband and he is only “evil” because he’s trying to protect the neighbourhood children from his dead, morbidly obese circus freakshow of a wife. Because, you see, that is why is she is angry and frightened. This woman spent her life in as a freakshow act in a circus where people paid money to come and laugh and humiliate her. She dies by falling into the foundations of the house as its being built because she is paranoid about being humiliated; a fairly justified paranoia. 

FFS, the entire point of the movie is that the evil house is possessed by the frightened and angry spirit of an emotionally abused and tortured woman. The children destroy the house and the old man thanks them from saving him from his evil dead wife. 

I actually can’t believe that anyone could think this was a good film. But, then, I don’t understand why people watch reality TV. To me, that is nothing more than the 21st century version of a 19th century freakshow. We are invited to laugh and jeer at vulnerable people and we pay to financially support their exploitation. It doesn’t feel like much has really changed in 200 years; just how we exploit the most vulnerable members of our communities for our entertainment: in reality television, the music industry and pornography.

And, I can not stress how guilty i feel having allowed my kids to watch this without knowing just how awful it really is.

I Never Said Yes – a documentary

I’ve only just watched BBC 3’s documentary I Never Said Yes by Pips Taylor. I’ve been putting it off mostly because I knew how much it would upset me but actually it disappointed me far more than it upset me. I wasn’t expecting a radical feminist expose on rape but I was expecting something less, well, naive. The questions Taylor posed were interesting:

… what happens when a victim does want to report an attack or rape here in the UK? Do victims have enough support to help them through their ordeal? What is it like to experience our justice system?

But, they were also self-evident questions to anyone who has experienced sexualised violence or has an interest in the criminal justice system and its treatment of victims. It left me wondering who precisely were the target audience of this documentary. I would have thought that the only people interested in watching would have been people in the two former categories. It’s not a subject matter likely to appeal to those with no relevant experience or interest. The mish-mash of survivor stories, interviews and voice-overs was disconcerting and far too Daily Mail rather than in-depth journalism.
The most powerful part of the documentary was the five survivors Taylor interviewed who, simply, deserved more time. There was simply far too much information incorporated into a one hour documentary: the survivors competed with police and attorneys with the focus flipping between personal experiences of rape, to the failures of the criminal justice system and rape myths. It felt like a whistle-stop tour with the survivors merely addendums to to Taylor’s pontificating. They should have been the focus; not Taylor.
Now, I grant you that part of my problem with the documentary is that it definitely fit into the new “shock-doc” television which takes serious problems and bounces them about like balloons in between voice-overs, bad scene settings and “re-enactments”. It was a documentary on rape. It does not need a re-enactment or scenes cut to pop-art to make a “point”. I loathe this type of television as much as I hate reality television as it assumes the audience is too dim to understand what the “experts” say so it requires, usually, someone incredibly chirpy to repeat their words; as if chirpy makes it easier to understand.
What really annoyed me most was Taylor’s handling of an interview with a group of young men. She was asking questions about consent but let the young men bandy about rape myths without really challenging them and, consequently, it ended with the suggestion that men are just “bad” at reading signals. Taylor even repeats this in her BBC blog on the documentary:

The problem that shocked me most of all was young peoples’ attitudes towards consent and what is and isn’t okay. Young people are the most vulnerable, yet it seems that there is a lack of communication amongst them.

Rape is not a communication “problem”; nor is it about inadequate boundaries. Rape is about power and control. Men who rape, rape because they can. Not because they are confused by a woman in a short skirt dancing with her friends.

Taylor may have been looking at the devastating consequences of rape myths on the ability of rape survivors to access the criminal justice system but she let some seriously bad myths go unchallenged; as when interviewing a defense attorney who suggested some rapists deserved lesser sentencing because of their “good” character. Technically, she critiqued this theory in one sentence in a voice-over but she never directly challenged the defense attorney. Having a “good” character should not be a defense to rape; nor should it be considered a mitigating factor. A man who rapes can not, and does not, have a “good” character.

And, ending her blog with this:

Although people regard rape to be a depressing subject, meeting the survivors has shown me a hopeful side – that victims can regain power.

Well, its just cringe worthy. Considering the interest in changing and challenging rape laws and rape myths, this documentary could have sparked a series of thought-provoking documentaries exploring the issues in more detail. Instead, it felt like pulp fiction.