This Is Not a Post About Rape

This is not a post about rape, though it was prompted by one–or two–sort of.

It’s not a post about Doctor Who or science fiction or fantasy either, sorry.  I’ll get back to my usual Who-centric musings sooner or later, I promise.  What this post is about is how adding negativity to something that’s inherently negative just gets us deeper into negativity.*  It was, in fact, prompted by a discussion of rape.

Today I read a post by Kristin McFarland that really got me thinking.  Her article was in response to a John Scalzi post that I read and RTed and shared on Facebook a couple days ago.  You should probably read both so you’ll understand what I’m talking about, though if you’re easily triggered, skip the Scalzi piece.  Really.

Go ahead, I’ll wait.


Ok.  So McFarland’s piece really got me worked up.  It’s titled, in part, “How John Scalzi Pissed Me Off,” but it seems like maybe she’s less pissed at Scalzi himself and more pissed at the world in general for being the kind of place where white males have the podium instead of females, even when the issues discussed center around women.  As well she should be!  That’s the world we live in, and it does suck.  And hooray for everyone (McFarland and Scalzi included) who advances the discussion and does something to change it.

That said, I came away from the piece with a really negative feeling.  It seemed to imply that I suck because I enjoyed (well, that’s not the right word–appreciated is probably a better choice) and shared Scalzi’s post.  McFarland mentions a piece by Seanan McGuire that was shared around the ‘nets, but that didn’t get the high-profile views it deserves.  Well I don’t know who Seanan McGuire is.  She’s probably super-awesome.  Her piece is probably most excellent.  And I’ll almost certainly read it…someday.  Right now, my inner 9-year-old has taken over and she’s all huffy about being told I did something bad–that I’m in the wrong because I didn’t share a post by a person I’ve never heard of and because I did share one by someone I admire.  9-year-old E gets defensive easily and is currently saying “Fine!  I don’t care what you think!” and storming off to her room to read Nancy Drew.

So that brings me (finally) to my point.  When it comes to feminism and women’s issues and such, I agree we’ve got a long way to go before things are truly equal and fair.  I feel just as strongly that every single person who’s speaking out for that fairness and equality should be allowed their voice.  I don’t think any man speaking about women’s issues takes away my right (or anyone else’s) to do the same.

Should we help the less-heard women in the crowd reach a larger audience?  Absolutely!  Should that be achieved by silencing other voices who are speaking out for us?  I don’t think so.  I don’t even think that would work.  Silencing anyone scares me.  In my book it’s never okay to keep people from speaking their mind.  A world like that frightens me as much as a male-dominated one, if not more.  I feel that silencing men, especially when they’re on our side, is the wrong way to go about things–a step backward in fact.**  That’s the wrong approach.  Instead, we should work to make sure everyone is heard.

I think we all can and need to work together: girls and boys and men and women and the many good folks who eschew those labels altogether.  We’re all human beings, and we can and should all love and help each other.  Let our voices be heard.  All of them.  Let’s use the loud voices to lift up the quiet ones and use love and encouragement*** to make us all stronger.

All of us.



*Hey!  Just like in math!

**Or perhaps just a step towards something scarier, like I said.

***With a healthy dose of discussion and amiable critique!  I laud both Kristin McFarland and John Scalzi for contributing to the cause and fighting the good fight, each in their own ways.

23 thoughts on “This Is Not a Post About Rape

  1. Anna Rudschies says:

    I had exactly the same reaction to McFarland’s blog post & discussed it a bit with her on Twitter. You totally hit the nail on the head. Excluding men from the discussion and the fight is not just contra-productive, it’s sexist and that’s not okay, no matter which way the sexism goes. Some men are enlightened enough to fight with us and for us and we shouldn’t just let them, we should applaud them for it. That does not equal waiting for men to give us rights, nor needing a white knight (literally). It also doesn’t diminish the worth of a woman’s voice. In order to make progress, everyone needs to work together and I feel very strongly that gender should not factor into that fight, even if the fight itself is about gender equality and power.

  2. John Barnes says:

    “9-year-old E gets defensive easily and is currently saying “Fine! I don’t care what you think!” and storming off to her room to read Nancy Drew.”

    I am happy that 9-year-old E once existed, and hope that there continue to be many more of her, as they are one of the true sources of hope in the world. There is nothing wrong with being defensive if you have been attacked, even though it was by sort-of friendly fire.

    • Friendly fire is a good way to put it! All in all, I’m glad this discussion is taking place. It’s great to shine a light on things, so I’ll continue to send 9-year-old me to my room from time to time, but I’ll also be sure to listen to her when she’s got wisdom and wonder to share. :)

  3. Kristin McFarland says:

    Hello to a fellow fan of the Doctor! I’ll need to go back and catch up with your past posts!

    I think you’ve fallen into a straw-man version of what I was saying, or at least trying to say. I don’t want Scalzi or Whedon to be silent, but to use their bully pulpit to get more women to a larger audience on women’s issues.

    Consider the Doctor and River. I think the Doctor would say that if you have a question for a woman, River would be the one to ask, not him.

    Ultimately, I think we’re agreeing.

    Thanks for the response!

    • I admit, I focused on one bitty part of a bigger commentary. I blame 9-year-old E. :)

      I completely agree that it’s awesome when men (and women!) who have a large following do what they can to give others a leg up. I just worry that some women really do want to shoot down the men who want to help.

      Thanks for reading, and thanks also for helping keep the discussion in the sunlight. It’s great to keep people thinking and communicating!

      (Whovians unite! :)

    • Unfortunately, that’s not how your post reads and I think the number of comments you’re getting expressing this interpretation of the post is a sign that what you wanted to say isn’t what you actually presented to your readers.

      • Kristin McFarland says:

        I’m not sure that’s the case, as many of those comments argue to issues I didn’t bring up in my blog post.

        Thanks for the feedback!

  4. emmawolf says:

    I couldn’t even get through the McFarland post. She lost me at “Scalzi, Rothfuss, and Whedon are—right now—wealthy(ish) white men writing about problems only women face.” I know she didn’t really mean that, but combined with everything else, no. Also it seems pretty anti-feminist to me to say someone can’t or shouldn’t do something because of his or her reproductive parts.

    (and I can’t stand Buffy!)

  5. I agree with you- I read her post and felt like I was being chastised for liking the Scalzi post. I hadn’t read the McGuire post either, but decided to do so based on McFarland’s argument.

    So I go and read the post and I think it’s great. But it’s not on the same level as the Scalzi post. And I don’t say that because he’s a man, I just think that the discussion of rape in fiction is not the same as rape in the real world.

    Are both discussions important? YES. But let’s get real. To say that McGuire’s post should have the same bandwidth as Scalzi’s because they are both about rape is ridiculous. McGuire’s post is something that writers and readers can/will connect with but there is a huge population of people out there who have no desire or interest in reading about the process of writing or the choices that go into it.

    Scalzi, while also an author, presents his subject in a way that when shared with just about anyone, can be connected with and understood. It’s disconnected from his work as an author in a way that McGuire’s certainly is not. That’s, I think, where its power lies, to be honest, and why I feel like McFarland’s post comes off as a less than powerful argument.

    • Interesting. I haven’t read the McGuire post yet, but I definitely will eventually. You make a good point about accessibility. I have to assume there are some great female-written articles that are generally accessible that haven’t gotten the spotlight they should. This could just be a case of picking a poor example.

  6. UrsulaV says:

    Hiya! You don’t know me from Adam, but I want to chime in and agree with you. I was…bugged by the one post. Speaking as a woman, I want EVERYBODY to speak up about it!

    And more specifically, given that it’s men that are overwhelmingly likely to rape me, I am very glad that there are men out there talking at their other men and saying “Dude. This is not how it should work.” Because I feel like asking women to do all the speaking out against it is a slippery slope down to the whole “Take self-defense courses because it’s YOUR job to prevent rape.”

    No. It’s also men’s job not to be rapists. And it’s everybody’s job to speak out against it.

    (I, uh, also have a grumpy nine-year-old, although she is mostly bitter about the Narnia books.)

    • Thanks so much for reading! Your point about it being everyone’s job to…well, to NOT be a rapist, is a good one.

      I just re-read the Narnia books! I had to turn off the adult brain completely to enjoy them this time. Amazing how differently one can see things when one is older and has more worldly experience.

  7. I’m a guy. I read your piece. I thought it was excellent. And that’s all I have to say on the topic, thank you for allowing my input.

  8. This discussion and McFarland’s both serve to further polarize gender equality issues, rape, blog popularity, etc. I don’t care about polarizing gender equality issues cuz the subject is a very live horse I have spoken about. I just think our agenda focus is a little murky here. Major see-sawing by individual commentators, etc. Politicizing biological and anthropologically based issues, etc.

  9. Dan Kaufman says:

    Great article! Spoiler – I am a man, who supports women – I may be biased.

    I don’t really care WHO wrote the post, the fact that is effective is what really matters. If you strip of the name and it makes you cheer for the author, finding out what plumbing an author has should not change the effectiveness or truth of his/her writing.

    McFarland’s post irritates me as well. Although I can understand her frustration, we need everyone in this fight. It also makes me wonder what she thinks of white guys being active in the civil rights movement of the 60s. Yes, women should have more of a voice. Yes, they have to work harder to be heard. Men writing posts effectively advocating for women doesn’t detract from their cause, it adds to it.

    The issue is how we as a society view women and how we teach our children to view women. To make a positive change we need as many women, men,mothers,fathers, brothers, sisters….everyone! McGuire brings makes great points, but it is specific to rape in fiction. It doesn’t hit as close to home as Scalzi’s post related to policy and politics.

    • Thanks Dan. You make a great point about children. Kids (of both sexes) need to see women treated fairly and spoken for by adults of both sexes. Until that’s happened consistently for at least one generation, we won’t get to where we need to be.

  10. […] later retweeted another blog post by Fangirlknitscarf on his original post, and her reaction to Kristen McFarland who criticised the wide audience that […]

  11. Bee says:

    I think Scalzi’s piece is for men. I’m a pretty stubborn feminist and don’t really want anyone speaking for me, but I didn’t get the impression that he was. I got the impression that he was a man telling other men through his satirical letter that rape culture is bullshit. Men have to start telling other men that their rape jokes are wrong, that their cat calling is wrong etc. etc. etc.

    When I go to a slut walk or a take back the night march, I do not need or necessarily want men there but when I hear some douchebag at the bar saying that he “totally raped so and so in X video game”, I would be totally fine if another dude called him out on his disgusting behaviour. Politics and multi-player video games, for example, are full of men, is the one lady in the room really supposed to be the one to always speak out against sexism?

    Obviously, part of the answer is that both these environments should include more women, but maybe that’s an issue for another blog, another day.

    • There is also a semantics issue. “Moron” was once a medical classification for a person in a certain IQ range. people say it to each other every day but it would be appalling if someone used it for a developly different person. Somewhere I recently wrote that what was once called “Manifest Destiny” and encouraged would today be called “The Rape of the Hinterland”. I didnt mean to ruffle the feathers of anyone, but it also means “violent plunder”. It is tossed about too lightly of course as is the word “fuck” and many others. Even by myself

  12. Bee says:

    I tried to write my thoughts clearly, but couldn’t manage, so I’m going to let someone else do the work for me. Below is a quote which sums up some of my thoughts & feelings about it:

    “Yes, I understand that words develop new meanings, including meanings that come from distinctly unpleasant roots. I understand that using junk to refer to a man’s genitals doesn’t necessarily demean those genitals as trash (in fact, for me, this use of junk doesn’t suggest worthlessness at all). That is, I understand people who just can’t get the ‘worthless stuff’ sense of junk out of their heads when they hear someone talk about a guy’s junk, but I press them to see that others simply don’t see things that way (but have distinct senses for the word — well, actually, two homophonous words).

    But, still: contest-winning rape makes me uncomfortable. The question for me is what’s in someone’s head when he uses rape this way. If this use has become detached from the literal use for him, then the problem lies, I suppose, with me. But if it’s still a live metaphor for him (as, I suspect, it was for the writers of (2) and (3)), I’m appalled and offended.

    Even if the contest-winning use of rape has become detached from the literal use for someone, there’s still a problem in the larger speech community: a lot depends on how many people — and which ones — can’t shake the literal sense of rape. (These aren’t absolute matters, in which one set of speakers or another gets to stipulate which usage attitudes are “right”. It’s a complex negotiation.)”


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