July 13, 2012

daniel tosh still not funny, news at 11

Filed under:, , , , — cwage @ 1:32 am

Jezebel has a decent article about the whole Daniel Tosh thing. (The aforementioned link will explain it if you have no idea what I'm talking about, but long story short: Daniel Tosh made some jokes about rape, got heckled by someone saying rape is never funny, and then made a "joke" about her getting gang-raped.)

I think the Jezebel piece is more or less spot on, but I think the entire article could have been more succinctly written as "be funny". Yes, "only make jokes about rape if they are mocking rape culture and not victims", but that's only one way to go about it, and it's just another way of saying what's important. Which is: be funny. Simply riffing on rape for shock value is not funny, unless you're a developmentally-disabled 13 year old misogynist in the making. They especially whiffed on their justification of Louis CK's joke, which basically boiled down to "well, Louis was making jokes about rape here, but he's funny, so we know he doesn't mean it."

Daniel Tosh's crime wasn't that he made a joke about rape, it was just that he wasn't funny, which is forgivable. Beating the dead horse of the bit and being hostile to a heckler? Maybe less forgivable.

March 10, 2011

rape culture

Filed under:, , , , , — cwage @ 3:27 am

I don't know why, but rape and rape culture seem to have been cropping up in my reading material a lot lately. I don't know if it's just coincidence, or maybe my broken google reader recommendations or what. I spent a good long while reading about and contemplating the Penny Arcade "dickwolves" controversy. If you don't know what that is, I'd recommend reading the previous link, but in a nutshell, it boils down to: Penny Arcade dudes publish a comic joking about dickwolves raping people in the night, and feminist blogs criticizing it for promoting rape culture (because Rape is Never Funny) and the whole thing becomes a giant clusterfuck of Internet retardation escalating to the point of death threats. (via twitter, but still).

Skip forward a few months, and I'm contemplating the meaning and ramifications of Odd Future's choice of misogyny and rape as subjects. Is it art? Is it saying something? Is it promoting "rape culture"? Food for thought.

Then my friend Melissa sends me an article about Colin Meloy's persistent rape-culture-promoting misogyny. Wait, what? Colin Meloy? The Decemberists? Come again? But no, really. I could crudely paraphrase the article's angle as: Colin Meloy writes a lot about bad things happening to women a lot. He does it ironically by framing it in old-timey cadence and language. But if you strip away the irony, it's just violence towards women. Thus he's a misogynist. Well, yes, if you .. remove irony, it becomes no longer ironic. Funny how that works. Colin Meloy also pens epics involving plenty of other Bad Things to all sorts of non-women -- but hey, let's not mention those, because that would undermine our point that Colin Meloy is a rape-culture-promoting woman hater, right?

So, excepting for the Odd Future thing, which is arguably a little more complicated, most of these examples are stupid. Colin Meloy writing about a woman prostituting herself is not condoning it. A comic with a joke about dickwolves (which are imaginary, by the way) raping is not promoting rape culture. When I came to this conclusion, it angered me, because not only is it stupid to accuse them of promoting rape culture -- it's actively dangerous.

Why? Rape culture is a real thing. In many very real ways, we do live in a rape culture, where misogyny and rape are subtly or overtly condoned. It's a real thing, and it's a very bad thing. So when you have bullshit like this taking the spotlight of attention, we have a very real signal-to-noise problem. There are actual ways in which rape culture and misogyny are promoted, and they are insidious and hard to identify. But when they are, they should be confronted headon.

Which brings me to this story about the gang-rape of an 11 year old girl in the New York Times. Many have identified some pretty odd and mysterious choices by the author, best explained by this recent Mother Jones article. Short version: the story refers to the men (18 men that raped an 11 year old girl) being "drawn into" the rape. The story includes only 3 quotes: one bemoaning the destruction of the community, one asking where her mother was, and another bemoaning the destruction of the community. And lastly, an account that "some said" she hung around a playground, and "they" noted that "she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s". The relevance of this (unsourced) quote is unclear. It's also unclear why we could get an unsourced quote blaming the victim, but not a sourced quote of anyone empathizing with the 11 year old girl that just got raped. Not one.

When I first encountered this story, it was via a petition on change.org -- a petition which, incidentally, is a little over the top and calls for some silly actions, but I digress. When I discussed this article with some friends, they dismissed it out of hand. It's the New York Times, come on. They are just reporting. If "some say" that the 11-year old girl dressed like a 20-year old, it's their JOURNALISTIC DUTY to report that. Apparently, though, it's not their journalistic duty to get even one quote from someone saying "hey it sure is fucked up that 18 guys raped an 11 year old girl". I mean hey, it's just the New York Times, right? The discussion then derailed into some brief criticism of change.org and how froufrou their causes look, and the conversation fizzled. I'd characterize their response as "eh, just another bullshit accusation of rape culture".

What I'm getting at is: people are used to accusations of misogyny and promoting rape culture being complete bullshit. Because so, so many of them are. And now, when one legit and valid example of real rape culture is highlighted, it gets lost or dismissed out of hand. I'm not excusing the dismissal, because it's lazy, and it's not that hard to read the article and see it. But to me this is a real problem.

Rape is a terrible, terrible thing. But it's not the only terrible thing, and it's not sacrosanct. People are going to make comics, pen songs, write novels, and tell jokes about rape -- just like they do about many other terrible things. And when they do, it doesn't (always) mean they are promoting rape culture. Constant misplaced/false accusations of it are only muddying the stream to the point that no one can see clearly -- and they're shrugging in apathy instead.

So, you know.. stop it.

March 7, 2011

misogyny, homophobia, butt rape, and the odd future of hiphop

Filed under:, , , , , , , , , , , — cwage @ 5:24 pm

I've been listening to a lot of the catalog of Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, aka "Odd Future" -- the hiphop collective out of LA that is garnering a hefty amount of critical acclaim, and no small amount of criticism for their dark and brutal lyrical content -- often centering around dark murder/rape fantasies, misogyny, homophobia, and so on. For a brief intro, see the lyrics to Blow, or VCR. Much has already been written, so I won't reiterate what's already been said.. The charisma and appeal of the music itself is undeniable -- and it's the primary reason that people are so excited. But not everyone is convinced. In one corner, we have the apologists, decrying criticism by pointing out that one of the members (Syd, their producer) is herself a lesbian, and drawing parallels to predecessors like Eminem, Cam'ron, Clipse, et al, whose lyrical content is alternately fictional or at least not meant to be taken at face value: shocking for shocking's sake. In the other corner, we have the (usually sympathetic) critics, who acknowledge the musical prowess but are not content to dismiss the content as childish antics or shock-value provocation: rape, homophobia and misogyny are problems that are simply too real to chuckle at or turn a blind eye to.

My jury is still out, but I think my take is pretty well summarized by feministmusicgeek:

This brings me to the major source of my boredom, which emanates from being too grown for this nonsense. I don’t think Odd Future are subversive. I think they need to grow up. I would like them to broaden their scope, hone their skills, and diversify their lyrical content. I don’t necessarily think they should get into message rapping or “elevate their people” or any of the other things white liberals ascribe to young black people who make them uncomfortable. I also think that some folks’ objection to the group’s rape narratives stem from the racist myth of the black sexual predator, which the group may be responding to. However, I think I’m meeting people more than half-way on that one. Because I never, under any circumstance, find rape funny. I also cannot abide by any of their casual homophobia and jokes about ass rape.

To me, there’s little difference between the intent of many of their rhymes and what the kid who sat next to me in the first grade was trying to accomplish by flipping his eyelids. Or what a high school acquaintance was after when he said that girls who get raped should just lay back and enjoy it. Or why young men (Tyler among them) develop obsessions with A Clockwork Orange (I recommend they read Gary Mairs’ critique of its legacy before donning bowler hats). Or what a group of homophobes are up to when they wail on a couple of gay men leaving a bar. It’s supposed to seem bad and cool, but it’s just childish and frequently awful. And please don’t tell me that as a feminist I have no sense of humor. I do. I’m also really funny when I go off on a rant or spill queso on my shirt. I’m just not laughing because you aren’t funny. You can do better. Odd Future can do better, but I’m not willing to give them the mantle of the new big thing until they do.

I'm inclined to agree. There are a lot of things going on here -- the debate in a lot of ways reminds me of the Penny Arcade "Dickwolves" controversy. I read a lot about that whole thing and I think I can safely say I sided pretty heavily with the Penny Arcade dudes. Rape (or anything else) is not offlimits for art -- and that includes humor. As for Odd Future, it's pretty clear that they're not actually kidnapping, homophobe ass-raping misogynists. But I'm also just not convinced that anything worthwhile (with respect to the shock value) is being said.

Aaaaaand then you have Nostalgia, Ultra, the new album by Frank Ocean (a OFWGKTA member), which is a pretty solid more-straightforward R&B effort that's worth checking out on its own. It certainly provides an interesting contrast to the rest of the OFWGKTA material.

Further reading:

July 14, 2008

Question of the Day

Filed under:, , , — cwage @ 4:11 pm

I just saw this fly by in my logs:

75.187.103.203 - - [14/Jul/2008:15:52:38 -0500] "GET /2005/11/06/blue-balls/ HTT
P/1.1" 200 10033 "http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&safe=off&client=firefox-a&c
hannel=s&rls=org.mozilla%3Aen-US%3Aofficial&hs=M7U&q=%22blue+balls+cause+rape%22
&btnG=Search" "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 6.0; en-US; rv:1.8.1.15) Geck
o/20080623 Firefox/2.0.0.15"

In layman's term, someone searched for "blue balls cause rape" and arrived at my blog. I hate to see an inquiry go unanswered. So, the question for today, kids, is: does blue balls cause rape?

Short Answer: No.

Long Answer: No, you sick, sad little fuck.

I hope this has been educational.

February 1, 2007

rape

Filed under:, — cwage @ 11:57 am

Is the use of the term "rape" in the case of an 11-year-old delivering "severe vaginal trauma" (no other details were given) to a 14-month old appropriate?

Discuss.

An update in response to Rachel's question explaining a little why I bothered to ask this question:

I’m not suggesting anything, necessarily — I don’t know enough about the case, really, since very few details were given, but that’s why I thought it was interesting that the word “rape” was used without much detail. I just wanted to throw the question out there to see what sort of responses I got. What I find interesting is that everyone focused on the violence and horrificness of the act to justify it as rape, and not questioning whether or not there was an element of sexuality. I.e. — was there sexual intent on behalf of the 11 year old? Was it mimicry? Was she a sexual abuse victim herself (probably, as noted above)? Would it still be rape if her violent act had been one of bodily mutilation in general (perhaps or perhaps not including the vagina). Does inflicting injury to a sexual organ alone make it rape?

This is purely an academic discussion, of course — one of semantics, but.. I think semantics are important with a word as powerful as rape — do we dilute its meaning as a word that has come to represent an endemic form of sexual violence that represents a real social problem if we apply it everywhere there are sex organs involved, regardless of intent? Probably not, but it’s worth thinking about.