Banter in the Garden
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Tea and Strumpets
Cross posted from my place. Trigger warning for rape culture.
Last week Act on Campus Auckland Vice President Cameron Browne told Tania Lim, a Green Party member to go “get raped” in a Facebook debate about politics.
Screenshots of the offending comments were doing the rounds on Tumblr, and people originally involved in the debate were expressing their outrage. But when I stumbled across it I was shocked that more people hadn’t noticed it and passed it on, so I reposted it on the Wellington Young Feminists’ Collective Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter and along with the original people involved we made some noise.
There are nearly 800 WYFCers on Facebook, and with us and the Aucklanders Twitter-bombing Browne, ACT on Campus and ACT MPs, we were a trending topic in Wellington and then New Zealand within an hour or so, and I was contacted by Stuff almost immediately.
ACT on Campus posted a pithy, defensive response stating that Browne had apologised but he needed someone to call him a WAAMBULANCE because all the Facebook commenters (including Lim) were being MEAN so of course he couldn’t be expected to post anything less than a rape threat.
Don Brash and Heather Roy publically admonished and distanced themselves from Browne’s comments, and Peter McCaffrey – ACT on Campus National President – commented to the media suggesting that the screencap of Browne’s original comments were deliberately cropped to leave out some kind of insidious provocation for such an abhorrent response.
The truth? Tania Lim had made this comment to Browne before being told to “get raped”. And she had never received a personal apology (he eventually sort of apologised in a ‘that’s not what I meant’ kind of way after an attempt at justifying himself, but he never apologised to Lim). Then, after Lim bravely disclosed her own experience of sexual assault, explaining to the media why Browne’s comments were particularly triggering, Browne’s friends decided to spew hate about her – calling her a liar and telling her (and all us other feminists) to harden up because we’re always crying rape.
After Stuff, NZ Herald and TV3 articles were published the issue pretty much died down. I have no idea whether Lim has received her personal apology yet, but the WYFC called for her to recieve one in our media release, and Wellington Rape Crisis also came out against Browne which was awesome. The camaraderie around the total inappropriateness of Browne’s comments was huge, with heaps of retweets by people around the country and a general feeling of distain at Browne and the readyness of ACT on Campus to defend him.
However, there’s something I just can’t get over. Running through this whole internet shitfight was the line from Browne and his supporters that we were completely overreacting, and we should just get over it. Browne had just meant, ya know, ‘fuck off’, and calling his comments rape-inciting was so totally overreacting and wrong. Also, labelling the ACT on Campus defence of Browne as rape-apologetic was, like, you know MEAN and stuff. So we should all just calm our tits, basically. (Sidenote, LOL).
Well fuck that. My tits will never be calm. They are positively rabid with the idea that telling a woman to “get raped” is as dismissible as telling her to piss off. One in four women in NZ will experience sexual assault in her lifetime, and it just so happens that Tania Lim is one of these women, but it wouldn’t be less offensive if she wasn’t. Also, I seriously doubt that Browne stopped to consider that men and non-binary folk get raped too, and that his comments may also be triggering to them.
A man wishing rape upon a woman (jokingly or otherwise) is an abuse of privilege in a most abhorrent way. Even though Browne might say that he really didn’t mean it like that – and his friends can come out and say that he’s the sort of dude who would never be okay with rape – he knew it was an effective insult. He knew that, because he knows that women are terrified of rape. People are terrified of rape. He thought it would silence her because it is one of the most horrible things you could wish on someone, especially a woman. And so he used it.
And, that is rape-inciting. Even if Cameron Browne isn’t sitting at home personally supporting rape in all it’s forms, he is abusing his privilege by utilising the fear of rape to silence a woman. He employed a brutal history of control by rape to shut Tania Lim up. Uttering the words “get raped” is inviting it on someone, jokingly or otherewise. And I don’t really care what he really meant to say.
I am also not overreacting when I say that members of ACT on Campus, lead by Peter McCaffrey, trying to imply provocation and generally be insensitive assholes (even in the face of Tania’s disclosure) are being rape-apologetic. The totally false implication that Tania had somehow said something that would make Browne’s comments more palatable is along the same lines of the ‘she was asking for it’ victim-blaming shit. The subtext of this accusation is that Tania was being a lippy bitch and Browne couldn’t help himself but be controlled by his emotions. Sound familiar?
A refusal to outright condemn Browne’s actions and demand that he provide a personal written apology to Tania Lim speaks volumes about how seriously ACT on Campus feels about rape. Which isn’t surprising given their history on the subject. But it’s something I won’t let die quietly.
Cameron’s smug tweets about being in Wellington if the WYFC “wanted” him, the trolling behaviour of other ACT on Campus members who joined the WYFC page, and the comments that target Tania’s credibility just show us all what entitled rape apologetic fuckwits they are.
So, no matter how many times you call this lady an over-reacting, lynch-mob-leading, ‘Bob McCroskie of the left’, I will never accept that the actions of Browne, McCaffrey and other members of ACT on Campus are anything less than harmful.
And you know what would have made me call off my ‘lynch mob’ in a second? An apology. A proper, personal, genuine apology to Tania Lim and others who he may have triggered with his comments. But Cameron was way too cool for that.
At least we can rest assured that a quick Google of Cameron Browne shows anyone interested just how cool he really is.