#isupport88: The reproduction of rape culture

ISupport88

Photo from sportsmockery.com

*Warning: explicit language included in this post.

Chicago sports journalist/broadcaster Julie DiCaro has come under recent fire for her reporting of the Patrick Kane case.  She received a litany of abusive tweets and death threats from the Kane supporters, and one rather specific tweet about her movements that forced her to briefly stay away from her office for fear of actual retribution. Not that it should matter, but DiCaro also happens to be a survivor of rape. In a piece for Sports Illustrated, she points out, as all females who dare enter the world of sports learn quickly: “You may not share your opinions while, at the same time, being a woman.”  I hope we can agree that it becomes difficult for professional radio anchors to do their jobs when they are unable to offer their opinions.  And let’s be clear that DiCaro, like many others, has not actually assumed that Kane is guilty, rather she has simply not assumed his innocence, which is really the cause for the sh*tstorm.  Unfortunately, probably all women who have ventured an opinion about a game at a bar, tried to coach a male athlete, or have had a male teammate have learned to expect some form of resistance to merely being in these particular spaces.  Importantly, it’s not necessarily the fact that our opinions are often dismissed – it is the manner in which they are dismissed, with threats of rape, physical violence, death, and otherwise unsavoury name calling, that is truly troubling.

Arguably, social media must shoulder much of the blame for the reproduction of our misogynistic culture.  However, one look at the EverydaySexism account, should, debunk the theory that people only say these types of things behind the safety of their keyboard because, as any female runner or biker can tell you, the same kind of threats and insults exist in our everyday material world.  DiCaro writes, “While it is tempting to write off the men who send violent and demeaning tweets with a ‘don’t feed the trolls mantra’ there is something larger at work here. Simply observe hashtags such as isupport88…” So I did.

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Problem A: I’m sorry, is this criminal investigation impeding your sports fandom?  The problem, ironically, is that all we focus on is hockey or [insert sport here], and we don’t actually talk about the social issues that exist within them.  Maybe we wouldn’t have rape accusations occurring on a daily basis if masculinity wasn’t such a taboo subject to broach in mainstream media. As was recently written about in a post for SB Nation:

The use of the terms “distractions” and “non-factor” indicates exactly how this matter has been handled by the Blackhawks and the NHL.  Hockey is the priority, and endangering the product is unacceptable.  The safety of the alleged victim? Just a distraction.  Educating players and fostering a culture where sexual violence is condemned? A non-factor.

The title of this article was, “The NHL has a responsibility to suspend Patrick Kane,” and it articulated (as I will echo here) that the League has a responsibility to err on the side of caution. This was the first comment made on that article:

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So, it’s not that he disagrees with their opinion – simply that their opinion is stupid. Awesome.  Actually, we are waiting for the legal process to take its course; however, the Blackhawks have a responsibility to wait along with us.  Take a lesson from the CBC when it had to eventually admit that it “failed to provide its staff a workplace ‘free from disrespectful and abusive behaviour,'” after the whole Jian Gomeshi debacle erupted.  The independent investigation concluded that because the CBC had not dealt with previous complaints and allegations of harassment that “CBC management condoned this behaviour.”  Again, these were allegations and Gomeshi recently pleaded not guilty in court to his five charges but when you don’t take allegations seriously then you are condoning, what may turn out to be, criminal behaviour.  The CBC certainly could not just let Gomeshi keep working because, just like freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom from consequences, innocent until proven guilty doesn’t mean that there are no consequences that come with a criminal investigation. It means that you are not guilty but that you are under suspicion. So let’s suspect! Not accuse, but suspect.

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Problem B: Notice how many of these tweets are from women?  Perhaps, this should not be surprising since the Blackhawks have one of the biggest female fan bases in the NHL but if rape (alleged or otherwise) cannot bring together women from all walks of life there is little hope for any kind of meaningful women’s movement. Sadly, rape culture is equally perpetuated by both men and women. Is it any wonder that the majority of rape cases go unreported, or take years to come out (#billcosby) for fear that no one will believe them? Yes, some women lie about rape but lying is not a gendered phenomenon, which means that we should treat men with equal suspicion when such allegations occur. Shouldn’t we?

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Problem C: Since when are previous achievements and/or commodification proof of someone’s innocence? Does one bobblehead mean he could possibly be a rapist, but two bobbleheads and a stuffie solidify his purity? So you have a lot of Patrick Kane stuff, good for you. I’m not really sure how this is relevant except to prove your blindness to the fact that rape happens on a daily basis, and that your guy might actually be guilty of such an offence. By posting pictures of your bobblehead collection you are basically saying that you value your toys more than a woman’s safety. Wait. What’s that? The Blackhawks are having a Patrick Kane Bobblehead night scheduled for January 24th, 2016? THIS is exactly what has so many reporters and bloggers angry, the fact that business operates as usual when there is a criminal investigation going on.  I wrote elsewhere, in reference to Darren Sharper’s NFL Hall of Fame consideration, that:

It would seem a logical extension of this conversation to ask what if [he] had murdered [someone]? … But, really, what this question does is demean the value of women and rape because the real question is – why aren’t allegations and charges of rape bad enough to warrant the same kind of fear, criticism, and disdain that a mere accusation of murder or child molestation can create.

There cannot be a division between what happens off the ice and what happens on it.  Ignorance may be bliss but, in this case, it also enables the reproduction of women’s oppression and marginalization.

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Problem D: Nicky Nuts obviously doesn’t understand that rape has nothing to do with abundance or lack of “puss” one has available to him because it is all about power and entitlement.  It’s not a quantity issue.  If you are wondering where these inflated entitlement egos come from, perhaps this story about the shady side of NCAA recruiting will help shed some light on male athletes and their relationship with women, alcohol, and drugs.  When you offer women’s bodies to men at a young age you are not only recruiting them for your team, you are recruiting them into a form of toxic masculinity that reproduces the notion that women are merely for use, abuse, and the occasional sandwich.

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Problem E: Are we saying that the guy who stepped onto the ice at training camp to cheers and who has been playing in pre-season games is a victim?  How about we look at it this way, if his accuser lies – she’s a “flithy lying whore,” and if the accusation is true, then the popular assumption becomes “she was probably asking for it.”  Kane will still have his name etched on the Stanley Cup and would probably still be considered/eligible for the Hall of Fame one day, just like the aforementioned NFL player, Darren Sharper. Is having a tarnished reputation sucky? Yes, of course. But being a victim of rape is something that one carries with them forever and there is no vindication from it. There is no verdict, no sentence, or sponsorship withdrawal that can give someone back their humanity. As John Wooden once said, “Character is what you are, reputation is merely what others think you are.”  It is Kane’s character that is in question, not his reputation.

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Problem F: This is a TERRIBLE use of the term rape. And, I have heard it on university campuses used by undergrads (both male and female) as if it’s a normal adjective. It’s not. For example, I have heard a student say, “I just raped that exam.”  When did rape become acceptable slang?  This usage perpetuates the nonchalance that society already has towards rape.  Stop it immediately.

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Problem G: Who has been rushing to conclusions? When the media reports a criminal accusation that is called reporting.  Those who rush to defend Kaner with only their faith are the ones rushing to conclusions. Also, there is important context missing here because the majority who suspect that Kane might be guilty (those “social justice/media warriors/feminists” – notice how these are used as insults) don’t actually want Kane to be guilty because that means a woman was raped. It’s not a winning scenario. If he is found guilty, and that is unlikely with the circus that is this case, a young woman would have been raped.  I will not raise my fist in the air in celebration if he is ever found guilty.

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On the flip side, those who tweet for his “freedom” and “innocence” don’t want him to be innocent for the benefit of his accuser. They seem to wish ill will towards her for causing such a “distraction.”  They want Kane to play. They don’t want #justice because if they really wanted justice then they would want a fair trial and for Kane to be part of that trial.  Not going to trial is very different from being innocent. And again, innocent until proven guilty just means that he doesn’t go to jail, it doesn’t mean that you get to live your life free from suspicion. Yet, many have applauded and woohoo’d his presence when that evening’s events are still in question.  If Kane is guilty of rape, whether legally convicted or not, you are standing and cheering for his behaviour both on and off the ice.  You are cheering for his entitlement.  Unfortunately, we may never know the truth, so wouldn’t it be wise to err on the side of caution and not accidentally woohoo a rapist? This is where the Blackhawks organization needs to step up and take that option off the table until the investigation has concluded.

This situation, I think, is not dissimilar from the reactions of many Twin City marathoners to the announcement of the #BlackLivesMatter protest.  Some racers are up in arms that #BlackLivesMatter would bring their political cause to a white dominated, wealthy sporting activity to raise the conversation about race relations. So they took to social media and threatened violence against black people, while also trying to claim that they themselves are not racists. As the Angry Runner points out:

So you’ve spent a lot of money.  Maybe you’re going for a [personal record].  Maybe you’re trying to hit your 50th state.  I’d be worried too. However, stating that you’re planning to assault someone really just validates why BLM is doing this to begin with: you’re saying that finishing a race matters more than someone’s life.

With a similar type of contempt, Kane fans have lashed out at reporters and the accuser with violence for disrupting their…what? Hockey pool fun? No game or race should be worth more than someone’s safety or dignity.  Whether Kane is innocent or guilty is beside the point. Rather, the significance of this media spectacle is that we, as a society, are unable to have meaningful discussions about rape and masculinity where heroic athletes are concerned; the possibility cannot even be entertained.  By pointing out the possibility and occurrences of rape, we crazy “social justice/media warrior/feminists” are trying to make the world a safer place, for both men and women; yet, the mere attempt at this discussion somehow creates a violent environment unto itself, one that further polices the movement and voices of women.

While #isupport88 has a nice ring to it, those who use it might as well tweet #isupportallegedrapists because that’s exactly what is being encouraged.  Through this collective hope for Patrick Kane’s “innocence” and/or “justice” the world becomes more hostile against all women, not just his accuser.  If this is your goal, then congratulations. If not, then #letstalk.

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3 thoughts on “#isupport88: The reproduction of rape culture

  1. This article is atrocious.

    People don’t have to prove their innocence. That’s not how the system works you silly little girl.

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