Rape Threats As Silencers: Not Working

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If you have somehow forgotten how much misogyny there is here on the internet, read “Giving Boneheads a Bad Name” by Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon. Amanda discussed this post by Twisty about what happened when a UNH student wrote a letter to the editor of the University of New Hampshire (UNH) student newspaper, “The New Hampshire.” The link to the actual letter and the responses it garnered is now broken. In the interest of preventing rape threats from succeeding at silencing a gutsy feminist, I give you Twisty’s account, which in pertinent part reads as follows:

The student, Melissa DaCosta, writes to discuss the misogyny expressed by a safe-sex flyer posted on her dorm bulletin board. Her thoughtful and measured letter, entirely free of what those who enjoy male privilege usually call”shrill feminist man-hating,”seeks to point out that the scenario represented by the flyer reinforces antediluvian attitudes about male dominance. She is careful to temper her argument by doing what we’ve all done in order to mitigate the inevitable smackdown by proponents of the status quo: she admits that her point may seem small, and then tries to explain why even small instances of sexism matter.

DaCosta describes the flyer thusly:”The advertisement from Health Services, calling for safe sex, reads, ‘Whether you’re the catcher or the pitcher, always wear a glove!’ with a picture of a smiling woman holding a catcher’s mitt and a man holding a bat next to her.”DaCosta’s objections are several, but they center chiefly around the tired old sexist trope of women as receptacles.

“To consider,”she writes,”the act of sex as a subject/object encounter, as this advertisement does, where a woman’s role is to ‘catch’ a man’s ‘pitches’ is degrading, disgusting, and completely beyond the type of behavior I expect from an institution of higher learning.”

DaCosta hadn’t seen nothin’ yet.

Veteran blamers will be unsurprised to learn that the responses (numbering beyond 200 at this writing) to DaCosta’s letter exploded like a piss balloon dropped from a frat-house window, except that instead of piss, the balloon was full of the violent misogyny and asinine wisecracks we’ve come to expect whenever a woman dares to buck the Dude Nation worldview. The vast majority of the commentary : the work of larval boy-brains, the possessors of which, despite their desperate parroting of the psychotic ideology of their pornsick daddies, uncles, and pop stars, are somehow allowed to freely roam a state university without electronic GPS ankle cuffs : opine that DaCosta is a”stupid cunt”who suffers from insufficient”deepdicking.”

You might think this is an exaggeration, and since the letter and the replies have apparently been taken down it would be hard to prove otherwise, had not the same thing happened to Amanda Marcotte after she wrote about it, which you can read about here. I cannot emphasize enough how much I admire the courage of Amanda Marcotte.

I read DaCosta’s letter and the comments thread that followed at “The New Hampshire” when Twisty posted about it on December 6th, and I tried to convince myself that maybe it was the work of a few disturbed individuals, but the registration requirement at the site suggested otherwise. I can’t imagine what life on the UNH campus is now like for the student, who courageously signed her name to her letter, unlike the horrific torrent of cowardly thugs who responded.

–Ann Bartow

Update: Another awesome feminist student had a letter published in The New Hampshire in today’s issue. I reprint it below because the link is wonky, there is a registration firewall, the newspaper may take it down as it did DaCosta’s letter, and I think it needs to be read:

Thanks to Miranda Fillebrown, feminists are now alerted to the fact that an employee of the university, an RA, thought it appropriate to make woman-hating a Res Life social activity. I am referring to the way this RA set up miniature golf for his floor with a graphic image of a woman as “glory-hole” –”made to be violated.” The incident should put all feminists on this campus –faculty, staff and students — on alert. Here we have a student — the RA in question– not only employed by the university for a leadership position among his peers, but as Fillebrown’s letter makes clear, is trained by the administrative offices (Res Life) to act in accordance with the codes of civility as appropriate to this leadership role. This student not only used his position to express his woman hating, but to virtually glory in it, as it were. This RA felt it was acceptable, if not terrific fun, to broadcast the old but very alive notion of woman-as-hole-to-be-penetrated and man as predatory penetrator. Such taken for granted dynamics of heterosexual sex were more subtly displayed through the “well-meaning” efforts of Health Education and their safe sex poster as critiqued by Melissa DaCosta in her Dec. 1 letter to TNH. DaCosta rightly calls attention to the sexist meaning of the slogan (and accompanying graphic) about sex as a game of “pitcher” and “catcher” (Guess who is depicted in which position?). Responses to her letter on the TNH website comments section prove that her analysis is right and perfectly mirrors the “glory-hole” display. The comments range from “she needs a d**p d***ing” to “she needs a phallus between her legs.” Well frankly, this has been the standard response by men to feminists since feminists first took the stage at anti-Vietnam War rallies to call for Women’s Liberation: “Take her off the stage and f***K her.” Guys, can you at least come up with something original? Now, dear readers, if your immediate reaction to my words is, “But not all men are like this,” listen up. Examine why my (and other feminists’) words arouse your indignation, if not ire, and NOT say the incidents I have described. All the incidents taken together make one message resoundingly clear; when women dare to speak out against male dominance, we will be shown our place — as a “glory hole,” a “glove,” a thing to be violated. And, if we do not speak up, we will be shown our place as a “glory-hole” etc. Whether feminists or not, whether protesting or not, men will and do remind us every day of our “place” as their subordinates. And male allies will be reminded (as they are in the comments to the DaCosta letter) that they are wimps. So, isn’t it better to speak up? Staff, faculty and students — make your demands to the university loud and clear. Is anything less than firing the RA, if not expelling him, acceptable to us? Whether you are a teacher or student, talk about this issue in your classes; organize networks of feminist protestors. Neither the university nor university-funded organizations can or will be advocates, given that not getting sued will be the interest trumping civil rights on any occasion. All feminists should join the Women’s Union and be thrilled that such an organization now exists. We are in dark times right now, but as one of my feminist mentors used to say, wouldn’t you rather go out in flames than just wither away?

Kathy Miriam

Update 2d: See also “Rape is Logical” at I Blame the Patriarchy.

Update 3d: See also “I am so tired of being despised for my gender” at The Dees Diversion, where Diane wrote a great post that includes these important words:

If you are a woman or a girl, speak up. If you are a man or boy who believes women and girls are human, speak up. If you are a parent, you will have to fight what is being taught, both overtly and covertly, by the schools and churches in your community. If you do not fight for your daughters now, they will never learn to fight for themselves.

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0 Responses to Rape Threats As Silencers: Not Working

  1. april.b says:

    Thanks for posting this. I hadn’t heard anything about it.

  2. pearlg says:

    The responses were disgusting. It’s amazing what passes for an argument among today’s college students.

    You’d think that they’d at least be able to stick to the facts: the catcher (the smart strategist) usually tells the pitcher (an idiot with a good arm) what do to do.

  3. Ann Bartow says:

    pearlg – your comment is admittedly fairly mild as trollish snark goes, but not funny to me.

  4. coldwar23 says:

    well since you didn’t bother to print the original “witty” letter I can only assume it is utter shite and you are trying to snowblind us with the typical 3rd wave post-modernist intellectual superiority complex (Telling others they are too ignorant to make decisions while allowing yourselves derisiveness.) WTF did this blogpost have to offer the world outside of some in-house back-patting (akward yes). How is that any kind of expansive thinking? I can only assume dressing “punk” as well as thinking said vein must be exhausting for people. Think of this as an experiment in unreality for some of you out there. It would have made the blogs as some kind of amazing “vindication” if enough people to fit in a RAZR camera’s tiny optics show up to whatever shit-awful “awareness” event of the week. Now, because of some anonymous hoodlums we are going to have to rewrite society? Anyone with half a brain and a day’s worth of experience “IRL” or even “e-life” should understand that not everything is perfect and if you say/do something dumb and attention-whorish you will be flamed… Like me. Here. See if I ever come back. What a bunch of whiny ass bullshit that could have been spent better somewhere else. Like sitting in a chair, googling ‘feminist torrents’ to suprise my Women’s Studies (soon to be PhD) ‘life partner’ and finding this gem, on my 5th screwdriver and after a long day at work. LOL I just want someone to walk away with the understanding that all of this seemingly important BS is nothing more than pedestrian Chomsky posturing and that it shouldn’t be feared. These issues are only important to those that deal with it, like any issue, and this is no different. Some people like to go to the Renaissance fair for fried turkey legs and follow the fair to do so. Is it important??? To them. But you give one of them a videocamera and then it becomes “an important social critique on the socio-political constraints of avian-fucking-Keynesian, supply side economic limitations constructed bilaterally through the current Bushocratic tsarist stances on bisectionality”. And everyone gets a pat on the back. It feels good. It is almost as much hardcore pr0n0graphic as Faux News (as it is called) and WTF is treeware????? Someone should be responsible for this tripe.

  5. Ann Bartow says:

    Well if you had actually read the post you would understand that the link went dead, so I didn’t have access to the letter, because the newspaper that posted it got tired of trolls like you.

  6. coldwar23 says:

    So I am a troll because I disagree with you? Nice try. Why not reply to my other, much larger complaint towards the muddled tripe that passes for important feminist issues. And btw, http://www.archive.org has a wonderful wayback engine that lets you pull up caches of websites that are no longer hosted currently. I read the letter. It made me cry. I’m off to watch some “breeder pr0n” before I start on the crossword. Take care!

  7. Ann Bartow says:

    You are a troll because your language is abusive. Interesting chioce of e-mail address too. You seemed to promise in your first comment not to return, but of course that turned out to be a lie as well. Last comment you’ll post here, anyway.