By Arturo R. García
Trigger Warning: Topics include rape, domestic violence and guns
As MSNBC host Ed Schultz illustrated on Monday night, the attacks on writer and political strategist Zerlina Maxwell were not isolated behavior: they were part of a larger culture of abuse seemingly encouraged at every turn by conservative forces. And all it took to incite the rounds of racist and misogynist slurs thrown at her, apparently, was for her to say this during an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity:
I don’t want anybody to be telling women anything. I don’t want men to be telling me what to wear and how to act, not to drink. And I don’t, honestly, want you to tell me that I needed a gun in order to prevent my rape. In my case, don’t tell me if I’d only had a gun, I wouldn’t have been raped. Don’t put it on me to prevent the rape.
Besides the usual Hannity inanity–he went from victim-blaming to boasting about his own gun expertise to dismissing Maxwell’s (accurate) point that most rapes are committed by people the victim knows–Maxwell said this latest debate stirred more than the usual back-and-forth.
“What’s different about this is the intersection between guns and rape and the underlying feeling that there’s a problem of rape culture in America,” she told Schultz. “I don’t view rape culture as a partisan issue. Rape happens to Republicans as well as Democrats.”
Maxwell and Schultz’s other guest, Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher at The Nation, also pointed out that, in a way, the Republican noise machine has proven her point: when she suggested that a culture that has attacked women in the past as a matter of policy should instead re-educate its men, the only response many of its inhabitants knew how to give was to attack–to defend its privilege.
Maxwell has also followed up with a piece in Ebony.com offering five concrete tips for teaching men not to rape. In brief, they are:
- Teach young men about legal consent
- Teach young men to see women’s humanity, instead of seeing them as sexual objects there for male pleasure
- Teach young men how to express healthy masculinity
- Teach young men to believe women who come forward and not to blame the victim
- Teach young men about bystander intervention
“I’m certainly taking steps to protect my emotional health, but I will not be quiet. Because I refuse to be bullied into silence,” she told Schultz. “The whole entire point of why I went on Fox to talk about this issue that I am so passionate about is because so many women are afraid to talk about it. That’s because they are blamed and shamed into silence, and I refuse–I refuse–to be silenced.”