Let me introduce you to some of my friends.
More importantly, let me introduce you to their rapists.
One of my friends at Guilford Tech was raped by his father. One of the guys I worked alongside was raped by his older brother’s best friend. One of the guys I’ve met at N.C. State was raped by his first boyfriend. I have a friend who was raped by her ex-husband, and another friend who was raped by her boyfriend. One of my very best friends was raped twice–by people she didn’t even know.
And people say there’s no such thing as rape culture.
Only days ago, at the E3 gaming conference, a “male producer” working on the game Killer Instinct made some apparently off-the-cuff comments during a live demo that some called a rape joke.
Actually, they were rape jokes–and anyone who says otherwise should read this article.
Have you read it yet? Don’t worry. I’ll wait.
When I heard the news, I was disgusted. I got into a conversation about it on Facebook and remarked, “I feel like this is a great opportunity to start a petition on Change.org demanding a public apology from the guy,” but soon added, “I’d be nervous to be the figurehead, though… I never have liked the spotlight.”
Another friend told me if I wasn’t willing to be the figurehead, I needed to take a step back and re-evaluate the cause, its needs, and mine–and I felt suddenly shameful. I have friends–more friends than I can count, more than I want to count–who have been victims of this twisted world we live in. If I can’t stand up for them, some of the nearest and dearest people to me, how could I stand up for anybody?
I was shown this TED Talk, redefining the “women’s issue” of rape as gender issues, specifically men’s issues–in that most rapists are men, and standing idly by, as guys, we are the ones most enabling this violence to thrive. He framed “sensitivity training” as leadership training, and it made me realize–like my friend had said–I needed to reframe myself around the issue, or else let it go all together.
And I couldn’t let it go. So I’m embracing it.
I prepared an awesome letter for my petition and asked one of my friends to review it for me before I posted it:
During the recent Killer Instinct demonstration at Microsoft’s E3 press conference, a video game producer made offensive comments referencing rape. These comments, whether scripted or off-the-cuff, perpetuate a culture encouraging sexual violence–especially among the youth and young adults who play video games–while promoting disrespect toward women everywhere.
For a high-ranking professional to publicly make these comments reflects poorly on his leadership and ignores the thousands of victims of sexual violence–victims who are not just women, but men and children. When “jokes” like these are laughed at and accepted, it makes the statement that sexual violence is acceptable, but sexual violence is never acceptable.
I believe this producer needs to take responsibility for what he’s said and publicly appologize for these comments. Sexual violence is no joke.
She gave me a few tips for additions, but it was late, so I went to bed. And for the next two days, I allowed life to sweep me away–still afraid to become the figurehead for something that could–and probably would–become much larger than I could manage. Except today I vowed to start that petition, to demand at last an apology.
Except MicroSoft has already made an apology, and I still can’t find the guy’s name to address my petition specifically to him. After all–as if this isn’t enough proof of the rape culture we live in–every news story covering the incident referred to the perpetrator only in passing as “a male producer.” We’ve taken so much energy to turn the victims of rape into the sole focus of the discussion that professionals who make these insensitive and disgusting comments aren’t even named–they’re just anonymous bystanders in the end.
Except they’re the ones most to blame.
The latest U.S. Census Bureau data, from 2009, says more than 1 in 1923 women and 1 in 25,000 men are victims of forcible rape–which excludes other forms of rape and sexual abuse. If these figures were included, it’d jump to 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men.
And people say there’s no such thing as rape culture.
A few weeks ago, at LeaderShape, I got into a discussion about sexual abuse and domestic violence and how, from a sociological perspective, the problem is not sexuality, but power. Our modern culture has knocked down the confines of “traditional female roles” and this ostracizes young boys and men, perpetually upping the stakes of what it means to be a man–and in so doing, glorifies male violence and domination. This gender dichotomy and closed-mindedness encourages sexism and homophobia and perpetuates a rape culture in which women are seen as little more than property and rape is an acceptable expression of power and masculinity.
This is, mind you, but one of the many factors and causes, but it’s no less legitimate because of that. To end our rape culture, we must change our culture from the bottom up: Gender and sex equality are natural prerequisites for this evolution, but so is awareness and leadership. We need men today to stand up a say, “Stop, I’m not supporting this.” We need new voices in this debate, and especially, we need male voices to join the cause. Only by working together, as women and men, victims and allies, can we make the ground move and create a culture wherein rape is not the norm, wherein “rape” is not a descriptor of our culture, but a heinous crime no less than murder.
I’m taking a stand today. Whoever this “male producer” is, I want him to step forward, take responsibility, and help to undo the wrongs he’s committed not only to the woman he was playing against, but to all of us, our friends and families and our children especially. And if anyone can find his name, I will start that petition. He’s a leader in his company, and that means he is obligated to act like a leader and responsibly accept what he’s said and apologize for it.
And if you still don’t believe in rape culture, read this.
I’ll have a box of tissues ready when you return.