Monday, November 21, 2011

Missing Gender Narratives Regarding Penn State

[content/trigger warning: this post contains references to sexual assault and child sexual assault]

It can be precarious for feminist women to examine and critique instances of mass public outrage aimed at the rape of young boys (and the subsequent cover-ups). When those who are already widely perceived as being "man-hating" compare the outrage that occurs when boys are victimized by men to the apologism that often occurs when women are victimized by men, some will inevitably walk away with the message that Feminists Are Opposed To People Being Outraged At the Rape of Boys.

That being said, Historiann makes a good point:

"It’s gratifying to see so many sports writers and other male commentators decrying the culture of corruption that big-time men’s college sports breeds. Really it is. However, feminists have pointed out for decades that football teams are dangerous to women and that women get raped and their rapes covered up and denied by these same teams and their all-male, extraordinarily well-compensated leadership."

Likewise, a commenter here made a salient point:

"I wish I was shocked, but I've seen something similar first hand and I'm not at all surprised and wonder what else went on in that football program, because if they were willing to overlook child rape and abuse? They were willing to overlook everything."

I have seen conservative, anti-feminist male bloggers literally advocate for the vigilante murder of child rapists, and yet who rarely, if ever, talk about rape or sexual assault in any other context. Certainly not when football stars are raping women.

It's strange, but not surprising.

I contend that at least part of why people "overlook" things that feminists say is precisely because it's largely taken as a given that feminists are Hysterical Man-Hating Harpies Who Deserve To Be Ignored. It's absolutely no big fucking surprise, of course, to feminists that men would rape people and that other men would cover it up because More Important Interests are at stake. But sportswriters, male commentators, anti-feminists, and the general public pretend (?) to be so very shocked and appalled when things like this happen.

It's like, "Gee, can I just get a man to say what I've been saying all along so people will maybe take it seriously?"

I'm currently reading Dave Cullen's book Columbine, an account of the school shootings, and one thing that has stood out to me so far was that one of the killers repeatedly threatened and bullied another student. Like, there seemed to be some major warning signs with these kids. So much so that the bullied student's mother went to the police and tried to talk to the killer's parents multiple times so they would control their son. The father of the killer dismissed the woman as "hysterical" and instead believed that his son was adequately responding to his discipline.

(Hint: He really wasn't).

So, yeah. It's frustrating that feminists regularly note various warning signs that institutions and people are abusing power and that we live in a culture that entitles some people to rape, and have those warnings regularly dismissed and ignored because OMG Teh Feminazis Are SO SHRILL AND HYSTERICAL! That's why those accusations that feminists are "man-haters" are so ironic- not only because they're lazy (and usually a case of woman-hating projection) but because they further marginalize those who actually think and talk about this stuff on a regular basis, which further enables Penn State-like situations.

It also has not been lost on me, with respect to the big scandals, that the victimizers and those covering up for them have been, primarily, men. Penn State. The Catholic Church. The Boy Scouts. These are institutions that are male-centered, at least one of which is also male-supremacist. Gender seems relevant to note, but I haven't really seen it noted much and I'm not sure what that means. (Historiann also noted this).

Do other commentators think gender is irrelevant when it's men raping boys, and other men covering up that rape, so as to protect the reputations of other men and the institutions in which they dominate?

Do people think gender is irrelevant because they, perhaps without even realizing, don't really view men as having a gender? (Which would accord with men being thought of as the Default Human Being).

Do people just assume that if women had the institutional power that men had, then they too would engage in these sexual assaults and cover-ups? (And no, I'm not naive to the fact that women too can assault kids and abuse power, I'm just not sure there's been an equivalent situation with women raping people and having other women cover it up in order to protect women's power in major institutions...?).

I've certainly seen people bring up gender insofar as they want to blame these instances on "homosexuals," but that argument seems to mostly serve the purpose of exonerating heterosexual men from the category of predator and fixing gay men there. In addition to vilifying gay men, that tactic also suggests that men raping girls isn't a significant problem, because gay = predator and heterosexual = safe.

Is this how heterosexual male power perpetuates? Its preservation trumps all other concerns?

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