Martha Thomases: Rape Is the New Black
The front page of a newspaper is usually reserved for the most important news. So you can imagine my surprise when, on Saturday (admittedly, often a slow news day) the New York Times featured a front page story on HBO’s hit series, Game of Thrones.
As you’ll see if you click on the link, this wasn’t a business story about how successful the pay-cable series is. Instead, the article discusses the many times rape is used as a plot point. Amazingly, the writer for Times, along with a bunch of other people, thinks rape is a bad thing.
You kids might be too young to remember this, but there was a time when rape wasn’t considered to be a serious crime. Too often, the law decided women and other victims deserved to be raped, that they “asked for it” because of their style of dress or previous behavior. Or else a man was so overcome with lust/love that he couldn’t control himself.
Then, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Third Wave feminists started to question this perspective, most famously, Susan Brownmiller. Brownmiller, along with others, redefined rape as a crime of dominance, not lust, a way for men and others to brutally assert their power.
(Her book is important, really good and, while I disagree with some of her conclusions, I very much admire her research and analysis. You could do worse with your time than read it.)
I think that is the perspective the producers and writers and actors et al. have on Game of Thrones. Rape is definitely portrayed as something barbaric. I’ve never once thought, “Hey, that looks like something cool to do. Those must be the good guys.”
Unfortunately, there are still a lot of people who continue to believe in the old view of rape. This isn’t limited to those we generally define as uneducated idiots, but includes people in power, such as ministers and judges.
And, unfortunately, a lot of people in comics.
I’ve already written too much about a situation that happens way too often in our industry. A woman becomes noticed, whether it’s because she walks into a comic book store or writes comics or draws comics or dresses as a comic book character or writes about comics. Some men, boys and others who feel threatened strike back, metaphorically (and sometimes literally) with their threatened little dicks.
Think I’m being paranoid? Well, if I am, so is Jonah Weiland, the owner of Comic Book Resources. He was so appalled by the threats on his site that he changed the policy on what could run on his message boards. Good for him. It’s his site, and he is taking responsibility for the tone he sets.
I’m urging all of us to be responsible for the tone our industry sets. Others do. Just the other day, the Feminist Majority Foundation staged a demonstration with Jay Leno and others against the Beverly Hills Hotel because it is owned by the Sultan of Brunei, a country that treats women and LGBTQ people like animals. Maybe we can get them to show up the next time a convention fails to protect cosplayers against similar idiots.
In the meantime, I leave you with the example of cartoonist Donna Barr. She’s fed up with the demeaning comments, the threats of rape and other physical assault, and she’s treating the latter like the criminal activities they are. She’s leaving a paper trail with local police departments. Like a lot of old, radical hippies, I don’t always think to trust the police to protect me.
She did, and I can’t wait for some moron to call her bluff.