By Arturo R. García
Tuesday afternoon portions of a new Rolling Stone profile of tennis star Serena Williams went online, but one section in particular set off red flags and trigger warnings online.
By Arturo R. García
As both Kat Chow at Code Switch and Slate’s Aisha Harris have pointed out, it did not take long for Charles Harris to join Antoine Dodson and Sweet Brown as the latest figure to be posted on many of our friends’ Facebook pages with notes like “Best. Interview. EVER.” or some variant of “HILAR.”
Like Dodson, what got Ramsey into this spotlight was being the right person at the right time and helping three women escape from a Cleveland home where they had allegedly been held captive for ten years. Three people have since been charged in connection to the crime. But what got peoples’ attention was his interview with a local station in which he described how he ran into one of the women, Amanda Berry:
There’s a lot to unpack in not just his account of not just his interactions with the suspect, but his statement that, “I knew something was wrong when a little pretty white girl ran into a black man’s arms.” (Not to mention the reporter’s cutting the interview at precisely that point.)
But that’s not what’s coming across in many people’s reactions to the story. Take, for instance, this comment I found on a friend’s thread:
I found this funny and I don’t think he’s a joke. It’s just cool the way he told the story. He was funny…not a joke.
And even as people are (justly) applauding Ramsey’s actions, authorities are already seeking to minimize his involvement. And the story of at least one of the kidnapping victims, Michelle Knight, is also getting far less attention than the other two.
So, this story is only just beginning to be told. But for now, let’s get your take on how Ramsey has been represented.
By Andrea Plaid
As a survivor of campus sexual assault, and as someone who became a feminist and an activist after my own experience of institutional apathy towards my attacks, I feel conflicted. I am so glad that this serious issue is getting more attention, but I am increasingly frustrated and almost scared by the lack of diversity that I see in the survivors receiving national media attention. As I look at photos and watch the media appearances of these resilient, brave survivors I can’t help to feel invisible. I browse a network of campus rape survivors who are working to combat institutional apathy towards rape victims and struggle to find other women of color who are like me.
By Guest Contributor Carolyn Edgar; originally published at CarolynEdgar.com
A week after rapper Rick Ross found himself in hot water over a lyric that was said to promote date rape, producer and director Tyler Perry found himself facing questions about a scene in his latest movie, Tyler Perry’s Temptation, in which a character appears to be forced to have sex against her will.
Except–oops. That hasn’t happened. And probably won’t.
While the Internet continues to explode with commentary about Ross’s offensive lyric, almost no one is talking about the disturbing “seduction” scene in Perry’s latest movie. In fact, of all the reviews I read of Perry’s latest–including several that were scathingly contemptuous–only one characterized the scene as rape, and even that reviewer dismissed the movie as camp.
(Spoiler Alert–spoilers to follow)
In the film, Judith (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) is wooed by Harley (Robbie Jones), a super-rich playboy who is obviously the Devil. We know this because Harley drives a red car and runs shirtless regardless of outdoor temperatures. But we really know Harley’s the Devil because Judith’s preacher mama (Ella Joyce, whose pinched facial expressions deserve their own billing) exclaimed, “That’s the Devil!” in an effort to drive Judith into Harley’s arms–I mean, discourage her from further contact with the man.
But I digress.
Judith and Harley are on Harley’s plane when Harley, in the most unsexy manner possible, lets Judith know that he wants to make love to her. Judith rebuffs him, saying they should keep things strictly professional. Harley grabs her, and Judith says “no” forcefully, a few times, which turns Harley on even more. He pauses long enough to say, “Okay, now you can say you resisted,” and then appears to rape Judith.
The next time we see them, Judith is snatching away from Harley and telling him she wants nothing more to do with him and never wants to see him again–all signs that the encounter on the plane was, indeed a rape. However, in the next scene, Judith sees Harley at her job and becomes angry when he does as she asked and ignores her. (Women are fickle, y’know.)
Suddenly, Judith is at home on her cell phone, berating Harley for not paying her any attention–while her oblivious husband (Lance Gross in dweeb drag) watches a basketball game in the next room. Harley demands to know if Judith’s husband is better in bed than he–and instead of saying, “Of course, since he’s not a rapist”–Judith flashes back to what passes for steamy lovemaking in a Tyler Perry movie. We’re then made to understand that Judith did indeed consent, or at least, gave in. Harley tells her he’s coming to get her, she invents a flimsy work-related excuse and leaves. Her preacher mama is shocked, but her husband doesn’t even look up from the game.
We next see Judith and Harley in a bathtub surrounded by about eight million candles–he’s the Devil, you know–and the proliferation of burning candles and steam means we’re supposed to imagine that some kind of hell sex happened, creating a whole different kind of fire hazard.
There are obvious differences between Rick Ross’s lyric and Tyler Perry’s film. Harley doesn’t slip a molly into Judith’s Champagne–he drugs Judith with bad lines. She is fully conscious–so conscious, she says “no!” several times, in fact.
The woman who half-heartedly resists the hunk’s advances until she can no longer deny her own desires and gives in, is, of course, a hackneyed and familiar trope of romance novels and soap operas.
Problem is, we don’t see Judith giving in. We do see her saying “no,” and Harley forcing himself on her. We don’t understand that she eventually acquiesced until the flashbacks.
And this is why Perry deserves some backlash–backlash he won’t get from mainstream media–for this scene.
Perry could have easily made Judith’s consent obvious. A breathless “Yes!” wouldn’t have completely removed the “ick” factor, but would have made Judith’s desires clear. Instead, Perry inexplicably chooses to leave the audience in suspense–briefly–as to whether or not an actual rape occurred, all while promoting the dangerous idea that a woman’s “no” is not really “no,” but merely part of the game of seduction. This scene puts Perry in such fine company as men’s rights advocates who argue that date/acquaintance rape is simply buyer’s remorse, and men who argue–as one man did on Twitter last week–that a man has to push to make sure a woman’s “No” is really “No.”
In real life, people who are sexually assaulted sometimes stop resisting to avoid further physical injury. Relenting, or giving in to what feels inevitable, is hardly the same as consent. As many people have said in the wake of Steubenville, “no means no” needs to be updated to “anything other than yes means no.”
Of course, Perry also is out to punish Judith for turning her back on the Lord. Judith’s downfall is foreshadowed when she starts dressing like Kim Kardashian and drinking alcohol. In this sense, it may not matter to the film’s overall morality message whether Harley rapes or seduces Judith. Either she consented, or she asked for it. Notably, Perry screened this film for 100 pastors prior to its release. They gave him their blessings. That fact may be more troubling than the film itself.
I admit Tyler Perry’s films are not for me. Perry has achieved tremendous success by making films that are not only not aimed at people like me, but which are derisive of ambitious, professional black women like me. I’m sure many excuses will be made for how this pivotal “seduction” scene isn’t rape, or how I’m just a hater–the usual response to those who criticize Perry’s movies. Whatever.
Still, if we’re holding entertainers to account for their words and images, we should be consistent. Perry is as responsible for the images he puts on film as Rick Ross is for the words he puts on a record. And both deserve to be called out for promoting a patriarchal view of sex in which a woman’s consent is irrelevant.
Hosted by Tami Winfrey Harris and Andrea Plaid
Tami and I, joined by Renee from Womanist Musings and Fangs for the Fantasy, watched this week’s ep in horror: yes, at Peter Campbell’s state of perpetual swaglessness and Weiner’s needless explanation of Don’s sexual hardwiring, but most importantly, the frosted lipstick on the lips of Phyllis, Peggy’s Black executive assistant. And you can read on in horror, knowing that we got lots of spoilers in this roundtable…
Tami: Lots of collaborations in “The Collaborators”: the sexual sort, the political sort (North Korea and the Viet Kong), the business sort…
We talked about the theme of evolution, death, and aging last week. I think those things continued in this week’s episode of Mad Men. The gigolo persona that seemed so sexy and exciting in early seasons is getting old and starting to stink.
Renee: Only if you mean running in as many ways as possible, from the lives which the characters have created. For me it was another sign that what people are told to want, or rather what will make them happy, is not, in actual fact, what they need or desire.
Tami: It occurs to me that we’re just months past the Summer of Love when this episode occurs. And the ethos of “free love” seems to have filtered down from counter-culture into the suburbs and tony Manhattan living rooms. Even good Midwestern girls and middle-aged, Catholic doctor’s wives are trying to get a piece. But “love” really isn’t free when you’re a grown up.
Hosted by Tami Winfrey Harris and Andrea Plaid
***TRIGGER WARNING: Rape***
Mad Men‘s season premiere got Tami and me–and guest ‘tabler Renee Martin–thinking about how much Mad Men is about aging: yes, about how we physically and emotionally age–and how different decades of life meant different things in, well, different decades–but also how institutions, like Sterling Cooper Draper Price, get on as the founders get on in age, and US society itself gets on with mediating changes, like the counterculture of hippies and wars with people of color. Conversation and spoilers after the jump.
Brittney Cooper deserved better. All women deserve better. Women should not be afraid to voice their opinions for fear they’ll be called a “ratchet hoe” or “bitch” as I was by Kweli defenders during our exchange.
Kweli ducked and dodged challenges all week abruptly ending discussions with women he deemed too angry or vulgar.
A woman I follow on Twitter acknowledged she tweeted him abrasively because the ongoing discussion of rape triggered her. Kweli struck back just as I’d witnessed during his exchange with dream hampton a few days earlier. The woman admitted fault, but her apologies, though appreciated, made me uncomfortable. As the overwhelming victims of sexual assault and primary targets of rape culture, women shouldn’t constantly be asked to stretch ourselves across gaps in knowledge. Women need freedom to express our feelings without admonishment. Those who call themselves allies are responsible for understanding the contexts in which they speak; they are responsible for recognizing the structures of power from which they derive their privileges. And if this all sounds like too much to ask, then, perhaps, they should reconsider their claims to social justice work.
- From “The Problem With Our So-Called Allies,” by Kimberly Foster
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:
“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.”