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Pussycatdoll feminists (?) and rape April 4, 2007

Posted by andyw in feminism, Pussycat Dolls, rape.
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This is a post about a personal experience that a (regular?) feminist has with a pussycatdoll feminist. I tried looking up what that term means, but I couldn’t find anything (maybe the author coined it?). It seems to mean young woman who self-labels as a feminist, attacks older feminists for being hated, and wears lascivious outfits. The author takes a really aggressive stance towards them, and most of the comments take a paternalistic (ironically enough) attitude towards them. Or at least that’s my characterization of the article (which is similar to a rant). Are pussycatdoll feminists an actual cultural phenomena? If so, are they really to be characterized in such a completely negative fashion as this article does?The most interesting point that I found in it was about the pussycatdoll feminist’s position on rape: “Sometimes they take a fresh new approach and defend the rapist, because we’ve all spent too much time discussing the victim and that gets kind of boring, doesn’t it? Besides, it’s so depressing and it makes the men twitchy.” While I obviously would make no attempt to “defend the rapist” because it’s boring or makes men twitch to do otherwise, I do think that this kind of comment (and the general mentality behind it which I think is present in many more people, if to a lesser degree) undermines an actual discussion of rape.

Comments like this seem directed against articles like this one entitled I Fell for a Man Who Wore an Electronic Ankle Bracelet.

We were discussing that article in the Men’s Project last night, and the general consensus (I think) was that the article had a number of problems (I was particularly struck by the ridiculous tests that the boyfriend had to go through). However, we decided that what was most damaging was not the article itself but that it appears in a forum that doesn’t allow for a critical commentary on it. In other words, the basic perspective the article takes (that rapists aren’t always uncomplicatedly evil people) is one that deserves to be heard – and almost never gets heard. The first article’s perspective seems to be (and I may be misrepresenting it) that the second kind of article ought not be heard, or is (at least) anti-feminist.

I would just like to make the point that rape is a complicated issue, and that seeing things from the perspective of the survivor is inevitably going to distort things (as will seeing things from the perspective of the rapist — a, perhaps justifiably, very charged term; not to mention the problem that outsiders can’t know the veracity of accusations with complete certainty). However, I think a very important point is revealed by the New York Times article, one that probably won’t get paid attention to without a place for a critical discussion surrounding the article. Not all rapists are evil, and, in fact, many male rapists have the exact same kind of personality as a vast number of men do (indeed, the particular rapist portrayed in the Times article seems to be perhaps even more sympathetic than many men). That is a fact that needs to be discussed. There are a number of other facts that also need to be discussed, because rape is a complicated issue (for instance, both of the article completely ignore male and female homosexual rape). It is also a very emotionally charged issue. So, my question for the Men’s Project was: how can we generate a forum for a critical discussion of rape that would show it in its full complexity (or at least with more complexity than it often is currently)? Silence around this issue makes all stories about it take on a representative function (the Times story is more likely to be seen as representative of all rape cases, instead of being simply a singular story about a few unique individuals) that is harmful for any genuine understanding of the issue, but a number of kinds of conversation are potentially harmful to those involved in rape cases. We have to respect feelings, and yet it is imperative to actually talk about this issue. Perhaps most challengingly, the forum would need to reach people who aren’t already knowledgeable about the issues (the average person who is fairly similar to the Times rapist but hasn’t been charged with rape). Is such a forum possible? What could be its dimensions? Should it try to educate just on a local level, or should an attempt be made at the national and international level?

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