Rape IS a serious matter and needs to be treated as such

30 04 2009

I’ve blogged about this before, but Mikki Halpin has a great piece on Alternet about how the word “rape” is thrown around so much that it trivializes and belittles its severity.  Rape is used to describe any bad experience, from taking a hard test to performing poorly in an audition.  When 1 in 6 women is the victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime and in America, a woman is sexually assaulted every 2 minutes,  rape is not a term to be taken lightly nor is it something to just throw around and laugh about.  As Halpin writes:

“The more we dilute this word, the more we play down the power of sexual violence,” says Angela Rose, founder and executive director of Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment, a group devoted to education and action surrounding rape. “It actually adds to the silence surrounding this issue because it diverts attention.”

…”People use the word ‘rape’ to hype an experience, such as Jon Stewart’s political critique of Jim Cramer’s financial predictions,” says Anderson. “The hype may grab attention, but it belittles rape.” This demoralizes victims, whose traumatic experience is now ranked along with a poor performance review or a hefty cell phone bill.

Rose agrees, saying, “The more we dilute this word, the more it will alienate and isolate the victims of sex crimes, who are often already additionally traumatized by sexualized reporting of rape in the media and a blame-the-victim attitude on the part of some members of law enforcement.”

Exactly.  Throwing around the word rape is certainly attention grabbing and will produce a response from people, but it can be very triggering for and insensitive to survivors.  Hapin finishes with:

A joke is not just a joke.

And rape means rape. When someone says, “I was raped,” there should not be multiple competing interpretations to the statement.

Once more: “The unlawful compelling of a woman through physical force or duress to have sexual intercourse.”

This is not a word that should be 
diluted, diverted or disambiguated. It is a specific word to describe a specific, horrific act. 
Let’s keep it that way, while working to reduce the need to use it at all.

Yes, let’s use rape when we are talking about rape, not a difficult exam, a bad audition, a bad business deal, etc.  Rape is a serious matter and it needs to be treated as such.  Continuing along this thread, rape cases need to be treated seriously and rape kits need to be tested.  Rape kits, or evidence collection kits, are not fun.  They are a six hour long intrusive, uncomfortable full body exam.  No one gets a rape kit done just for giggles.  Yet,

Stunningly often, the rape kit isn’t tested at all because it’s not deemed a priority. If it is tested, this happens at such a lackadaisical pace that it may be a year or more before there are results (if expedited, results are technically possible in a week).

So while we have breakthrough DNA technologies to find culprits and exculpate innocent suspects, we aren’t using them properly — and those who work in this field believe the reason is an underlying doubt about the seriousness of some rape cases. In short, this isn’t justice; it’s indifference.

It is indifference.  And people need to get over the false idea that rape is just a women’s issue.  It’s not.  It’s something that affects the entire community.

BioWare issues apology

30 04 2009

I’d like to issue a big thank you to our commenter Eric, who provided me with a link to BioWare’s apology for censoring the use of LGBT words and any LGBT discussions on their Star Wars game forum!

For those of you who dislike clickin’ links, BioWare, a game manufacturer, recently began censoring threads with LGBT topics (ones that were simply discussing queer sexuality in the Star Wars fandom) in their Knights of the Old Republic forum.  When people opened threads complaining about the locked threads, those threads were also locked.   Additionally, the very words “homosexual,” “gay,” and “lesbian” were censored out.  And Sean Dahlberg, the community manager, responded to complaints by stating very clearly that there was no queer sexuality in Star Wars, and so he would lock any of those topics.

Now, BioWare has issued an apology, given by Dahlberg:

I would like to personally apologize to “Elikal” and anyone I may have offended. My intention was not to demean anyone but simply to help promote a community that could discuss topics in a mature fashion. When I first built the word filter list, I added a variety of terms to the word filter that have been used numerous times in derogatory messaging. There were some words added to the filter that should not have been – we corrected this today.

I apologize for the confusion that this has created but I would like to be clear that there was never any intent to limit discussion. That said, I have overstepped my boundaries in my original statement and I sincerely apologize for doing so.

First and foremost, I’m very happy to see this apology, and also to see that the restrictions on discussion and language have been removed.  After all, as has been evident in our comments, as well as the comments all over the internet concerning what happened, there are plenty of queer Star Wars fans in addition to straight ones, and to say that queer sexuality has no place in a culturally significant fandom is to insult and discriminate against a large portion of the fan base (queer and straight alike).

Of course, this apology is flawed in many ways.  It is clear from the way in which threads were locked, and from Dahlberg’s initial statement, that the censorship was not to keep discussions mature, or to prevent people from using LGBT terms in a derogatory manner.  I’ve got experience with forums, and there are two general aspects of forum moderation that I’ve seen that completely negate this.  Firstly, moderators and administrators read threads before locking them; they don’t simply see a “bad” term in the thread name and lock it.  Secondly, censoring LGBT terms is in no way preventing (through language) the use of derogatory language.  While I do find it sometimes acceptable to censor, say, curse words (like shit and fuck), when dealing with forum members being idiots and jerks, it’s the responsibility of the moderators to dole out the appropriate punishment.

So, while I’m very, very grateful that Dahlberg has apologized, I’m frustrated with him for lying his ass off.  It’s clear, based on his first statement, that the censorship had to do with refusing to acknowledge the queer fanbase and disallowing any discussions about such sexuality.  Is it because these discussion weren’t “mature?”  Hell no.

I also find it just plain insulting that Dahlberg is insisting that everything he did came from good intentions.  Insisting that what he did was to promote mature discussion, that he never intended to limit discussion, and that he’s apologizing for “confusion” is simply dodging responsibility and minimizing what he actually did: bitch-slap queer people and allies.

I would prefer to have this obviously poor apology and a lift on the restrictions/censorship than have nothing.  I want to make that absolutely clear.  But this apology reveals that Dahlberg and probably his superiors do not understand exactly why the censorship was so unacceptable, and the ways in which they have seriously discriminated against the LGBT community.

As a way to express this sentiment, we should all go to the forums and start a half dozen topics about queer sexuality in the fandom.  Muahahahahaha!