*This blog is now defunct. I have moved to A Voice for Male Students. See you there! Thanks for your support. - TCM*

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Rape Hysteria by Students, Part 1 / Misandry in Education

It’s going to take a while to come close to describing the extent of the rape hysteria in education, and how it often translates into a form of misandry – sexism against men and boys – and often leads to a presumption of guilt against men and boys who are wrongly accused of rape. Since this is a very controversial issue and we’ll be dealing with a lot of information, I’d like to list some core values upfront that I hope we can all agree on:

1. There exists in the world both victims of rape and victims of wrongful accusations of rape, and both deserve our compassion and support. To that end, there is a balance to be maintained between the rights and dignity of accusers and the rights and dignity of the accused. The presumption that accusers by default are liars, or that the accused by default are guilty, is a form of prejudice (prejudice meaning pre-judging) that ultimately harms both sexes.
2. Men and women have the right to advocate for victims of rape and victims of wrongful rape accusations. It is not sexist to say that some women lie about rape any more than it is sexist to say that some men rape. What is sexist is the idea that we should exclude and silence an entire class of victims from the discourse on gender equity. 
3. Most men do not rape. Most women do not lie about rape. What this means is that generalizing about rape as part of “male culture” or “normative masculinity,” or about rape lies as a part of “female culture” or “normative femininity,” or any other phrase used to tar either sex with a broad brush, is not only not constructive, but also veers very closely to hate speech. That does not mean that both rape and false accusations of rape are not problems; they are problems. What it means is that such behavior is not the norm for either sex, and we need to work toward respecting each other by remembering that.

I think this is a fairly reasonable and balanced set of values. And starting from those values and discovering and owning up to where we stray from them will be the litmus test in addressing the phenomenon of misandry against men and boys in education. In every case of misandry, simply reverse the sexes and ask yourself if it would be acceptable. And if we cannot say that such a role reversal is morally justified, then something in academia needs to change.
It is my belief that the indifference and hostility in education toward men and boys wrongly accused of sexual misconduct started out as a genuine concern for victims of sexual assault. But somewhere along the way that compassion and advocacy for women transformed into a zero-sum game that divided men and women into separate and antagonistic sides, where those who came to dominate the discourse insisted that one “side” alone should prevail, and where advocacy for victims of rape too often came to include silencing an entire class of victims: those who are wrongly accused. Critics of those who advocate equality for men and boys often falsely characterize them as wanting to turn back the clock. On the contrary; we do not need to do away entirely with advocacy for women. What we need to do is keep a lot of what we have while progressing beyond some of the unhelpful and quite frankly sexist ways we go about it.

Given the stigma and ostracism that often afflicts those wrongly accused, and the persistence with which it will follow them (especially in the internet age), false and mistaken accusations of sexual assault have the power to destroy their means of educating themselves, making a living, creating loving and committed relationships, and becoming successful and productive members of society. Men and boys who are wrongly accused of sexual assault are spit upon, they are harassed and intimidated with threats of violence or death; some are chased, some are killed, and others kill themselves. In short, wrongful accusations have the power to ruin not only individual lives, but fracture communities. Therefore, it is something we need to take seriously. If you wish to learn more about victims of wrongful accusations of sexual misconduct, please visit the Community of the Wrongly Accused, the world’s largest blog giving a voice to victims of wrongful accusations.
The real problem with rape hysteria is not the hyper-awareness of the incidence of rape; it is the presumption of guilt against the person accused and the destruction of their due process rights that often come with it. For this video on rape hysteria by students, we’ll be focusing on what I believe to be, by comparison, more moderate forms of misandry, and while I believe that some of what we will discuss here, depending on your perspective, just slightly crosses the border into misandry, I believe it’s important to discuss it, because when we start talking more about faculty and administrators, we will see where the students are getting some of their ideas.

Anarticle in the Baltimore Sun tells us, YOU ARE ACCUSED of a shameful crime. Your accuser is unnamed. The time, place and circumstances of your crime are unspecified. No evidence is presented. You are condemned.

This isn't Kafka. At Brown University, a very liberal liberal-arts school in Rhode Island, a ''rape list'' scrawled on the wall of a library women's room names ''men who have sexually assaulted me or a woman I know.''

The list, started in October, names 30 men. As soon as janitors scrub the wall clean, someone writes the ''rape list'' on it again.

Lisa Billowitz of Brown Against Sexual Assault and Harassment calls the list ''an act of desperation in an attempt to get Brown to act responsibly and provide us with a system where we can air these grievances publicly as opposed to bathroom walls.''
Well if that is true, then she got the first half of it right. The second half was to condemn the idea of publicly branding 30 male students as rapists without anyone knowing whether they were innocent or guilty. But that’s not something she does. If anything, she makes rationalizations for it.
Anotherarticle in the Baltimore Sun asks, Are nearly all male students at the University of Maryland "potential rapists"? Women in a feminist art class here apparently believe so. About 10 of them plastered the campus with fliers last week listing the names of virtually every male student under the heading, "NOTICE: THESE MEN ARE POTENTIAL RAPISTS." Their decision to walk the murky line between libel and free speech sent the campus into an uproar. Yesterday, reporters, photographers and TV crews flocked to the sprawling campus in search of outraged students on both sides of the issue. University officials are trying to determine whether some members of the "Current Issues in Feminist Art" class or their teacher violated their codes of conduct, said Roland H. King, the university's spokesman.
The project began as a response to several sexual assaults on campus in the past year. To alert women to the pervasiveness of rape, the art students prepared fliers with names culled from the campus directory. Everyone with an identifiably male name, such as Tom or Mohammed or John, ended up on an alphabetized list. The women also set up large posters containing all of the names on the grassy mall at the center of the campus, where masked women put on an anti-rape play. They call themselves the Women's Coalition for Change but have not revealed their names.
Mr. King said it is unclear whether teacher Josephine Withers was involved in the project, which was not listed on her outline for the course. She did not return phone calls yesterday. The school administration considers the display "inappropriate" and an error in judgment, Mr. King said, but the case also raises thorny issues about free speech. "It certainly touches on key First Amendment issues that colleges face all the time, which is the balancing of individual rights with the right of free speech," he said. "One of the things that defines a college or university is that it's a forum where, more than in society at large, you can debate ideas. To do that, you have to include the people at the fringes as well as people at the center." When the students attached names to their display, he said, they moved into a "very gray area."
Sophomore Matthew Nowlin, 20, an aerospace engineering student, briefly considered suing when he found his name on the "potential rapists" list, fearing that his character had been impugned. It didn't take long for him to feel the ramifications of being included on the list. A woman who walked past him later that day looked at him with "fear in her eyes," he said. Now, he just wants an apology from the lists' authors. Yesterday, Mr. Nowlin helped organize a small rally on campus to talk about sexual assault. "I want to turn away from the anger this has caused and turn us back to the issue of violence on campus," he said. The anger, however, is the point, said several women who strongly supported the display but said they were not involved in it.
Erin Lane, 22, a senior economics major, and several of her friends discussed the project outside the Food Co-op in the student center. "A lot of people are very upset by it, but I think if a man was secure he wasn't a rapist, he wouldn't be threatened by this list," Ms. Lane said. "I think it's admirable that men in this school have been saying the word 'rape' and are being angry at the same time," said Jessica True, 23, a freshman from Takoma Park. "We're forced to accept the fact we're potential rape victims everyday," said Kelly Maron, 20, a sophomore from La Plata studying art and women's studies.

Question: what if a bunch of guys got together on campus and posted fliers around the university saying, “NOTICE: These women are potential rape liars,” and listed the names of many female students on campus they never met and knew nothing about. What if a female student who saw her name publicly put on such a list actually was a victim of rape? How would she feel? I would imagine that she would probably feel devastated at the lack of humanity.

And also, what do they mean by “potential”? I have seen these actions defended by those say that such statements are justified because, theoretically, everyone can perform the motor functions of the act of rape. Well, first of all, that’s factually incorrect, because it’s including the disabled and the handicapped among them. But beyond that, the word “potential” has different meanings. There is the potential of one’s body, but there is also the potential of one’s character; their strength of will and conscience. And call me crazy, but when it comes to rape, I don’t think everyone has it in them. And I think it’s bordering on sexism, if not the essence of sexism, to say that everyone does, so long as that “everyone” is all men.
But beyond that, it bears mention that the word potential doesn’t just mean “possible.” Let’s go to Thesaurus.com and search for synonyms. And guys, as I’m going through each of these, imagine that each synonym is immediately followed by “rapist” immediately followed by your name.
Words that mean the same as potential: abeyant, budding, conceivable, dormant, embryonic, future, hidden, imaginable, implied, inherent, latent, likely, lurking, plausible, possible, prepatent, probable, quiescent, thinkable, undeveloped, unrealized, within realm of possibility.

Language, as we all know, is not finite or fixed; it is, as they say, socially constructed. It can be read many different ways, and they know this. Indeed, since many of these Feminists likely study the postmodernist philosophies of deconstruction in the humanities (and in Women’s Studies in particular), they should know this better than anyone. When Feminists seek to raise our consciousness on the nature of sexual harassment and hostile environments, they often tell us that it does not matter how the message is intended; it only matters how it is received. And since they know that many will perceive the word “potential” not just to mean that it is possible for those they name to rape, but that it is likely for them to do so (a message which is reinforced by the big word “NOTICE” right in front of their name), they should certainly know better.
And we have to ask: how does this really help victims of sexual assault? It doesn’t. It doesn’t help anyone.
A similar event occurred at Oberlin college. The Toledo Blade, an Ohio publication, tells the story:
Earlier this year at Oberlin College, a group calling itself “Take Back the Night” posted signs across campus identifying a freshman as “Rapist of the Month.” The freshman, an 18-year-old studying philosophy, recalls the day the signs went up. He was getting his mail when he noticed students crowded in front of a bulletin board. They were reading a sign – a sign calling him a rapist. “My initial reaction was complete shock, complete disbelief,” says the freshman, who requested his name not be published. “My friends gathered around and said, ‘Hey, what’s this all about?’” He tore the sign down, along with several others on campus. The next few days were spent denying the accusation – to fiends, acquaintances, and the media. “I haven’t even dated at Oberlin,” he says. ‘I don’t drink. I don’t do drugs. I couldn’t have gotten myself in that kind of situation.’ Adds friend Stacy Tolchin: ‘"He’s probably almost boring."
Campus officials investigated but failed to find who posted the signs. The rumor is that it was a case of mistaken identity: the signs had the right first name but not the last. Many students at the small liberal arts school south of Cleveland say the signs went too far. ‘They tried and convicted him right there,’ freshman Ryan Maltese says. ‘For the rest of his time here, whenever he approaches a woman in any kind of romantic atmosphere, it’s going to be in her mind: ‘Did this guy rape someone?’’
Such tactics are not surprising, says junior Ted Chapman, sitting in the courtyard outside the Student Union. He says tensions have been so high the last couple of years that he has virtually quit dating. Friend Dave Roscky nods in agreement. Nearby, sophomore Emily Lloyd says men are missing the point. “So many women get their lives totally ruined by being assaulted and not saying anything. So if one guy gets his life ruined, maybe it balances out.” The man next to her, a long-haired freshman in glasses, disagrees. ‘All I can think is what would I do if my name was up there on that sign?’ he says. ‘What would I do?’ Ms. Lloyd shoots back: ‘Do you know what you’d do if you were raped?’ There is a tense silence as the freshman studies the grass in front of him. Finally, he looks up. "Well, I know one thing," he says, "I wouldn’t put up a sign."
“It balances out?” Here we have another woman who, just like Assistant Dean of Students Catherine Comins, believes that it does not matter if men have their lives ruined by false accusations of rape. It’s all justified – and why? Because some women are victims of rape. It should go without saying that both victims of rape and victims of false accusations of rape deserve our compassion and support. But this is not what this woman, nor what this particular group calling itself “Take Back the Night” believes.
At the University of Ottawa in Canada, a poster on the Women’s Resource Center welcomes male students to the campus by saying this:
“Steps to Preventing Rape. #1: Men should keep to well-lit areas. #2: Men should wear bells around their necks at all times. #3: Men should be accompanied by protection officers. #4: Men should refrain from putting drugs in women’s drinks. #5: Men should avoid attacking women.” And lastly, in all caps: “REAL MEN DON’T RAPE.”
So how long has this poster been up? A student newspaper at the University ofOttawa called The Fulcrum tells us inthe opening line: “FOR YEARS, A large poster hung in the window of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa’s Women’s Resource Centre (WRC) that made the following (among others) misandric statements on ‘steps to preventing rape.’” It then gives us a link to the photo of the posters.
Why do people do bad things? Usually, because they can. Those who posted this thought that the academic environment was such that messages of denigrating men would be tolerated. And they were right. For how many years exactly was this poster up? We don’t know. But too many. And let’s stop and think for second: if we were to live in a world where people who believe, say and do things like these were completely unopposed, what kind of world would that be? Is that a world we would want to live in? I hope we all see what is going on here: male students are being publicly insulted, humiliated, and ostracized, and they are told that they deserve it based upon their genetic code. And again, we have to ask: how does this message help victims of sexual assault? How does this help anyone? And if it’s not about helping victims of sexual assault, we are well within our rights to ask: what is it about?
On the other side of Canada, at Simon Frasier University, the Women’s Center hosts what they call the Male Allies project. On their website it says, “Though still in its conceptual form, the male allies project is the brainchild of the women’s centre designed to bring self-identified men together to talk about masculinity and its harmful effects on both men and women. We know that many men are concerned with the way masculinity denigrates women by making them into sexual objects, is homophobic, encourages violence, and discourages emotional expression. It is the hope of the women’s centre that the male allies project will help men address these concerns in conjunction with other men and allow them an opportunity to reimagine what masculinity could be.”
I wonder, what would it be like if we were to replace the “male and female” with “white and black”? What would that sound like? “The black allies project is the brainchild of the White People’s Centre designed to bring self-identified blacks together to talk about the social construct of blackness and its harmful effects on both whites and blacks. We know that many blacks are concerned with the way blackness encourages gang violence, the rape of white women, promotes drug use, theft, and general thuggery. It is the hope of the White People’s Center that the Black Allies project will help blacks address these concerns in conjunction with other blacks and allow them to reimagine what blackness could be.”
Where and when would you imagine a promotion of such a perspective taking place? Maybe in the South during the era of Jim Crow? Moving on.
At Princeton university, a female student who was an alleged victim of an earlier rape and a sex-assault victim advocate falsely accused a man of rape at a Take Back the Night rally, and her friends started a gossip campaign against the man she accused. But after he accusation became public and a formal investigation of her complaint turned up nothing, she printed a retraction in the campusnewspaper The Daily Princetonian,which is available online. I think it deserves to be quoted at length:
I wish to make the community aware that some of the statements I have made recently on the editorial page of The Daily Princetonian and at the Take Back the Night march have been incorrect. I believe it is absolutely essential that I clarify my story so that no unfair accusations continue to be made by myself or others against any of my fellow classmates or other members of the university community. Despite my comments to the contrary, I never brought any official charges of sexual harassment or assault against any Princeton student. Consequently, no student has ever been dismissed or suspended from Princeton University as a result of a sexual harassment or assault offense committed against me.
I never intended for anyone to be hurt by my statements and I wholeheartedly apologize to anyone who either took offense or felt as if they were personally injured by my letter and speech. Rather than attempting to achieve any type of revenge toward my alleged assailant, I made my statements in The Daily Princetonian and at the Take Back the Night march in order to raise awareness for the plight of the campus rape victims. Although I want sympathy and support for my fellow victims, I do not want to create an uncomfortable academic or social environment for any other Princeton University student. Because of these comments, a certain individual has been wrongly accused and is being pursued for a crime he did not commit. Although I have never met this individual or spoken to him, I would like to utilize this public forum to specifically apologize to him. In fact, the student I identified as my assailant in conversation with many members of this community was not the person who raped me. He coincidentally left Princeton on his own accord around the time I was raped but his leaving the university for personal reasons and my rape are completely unrelated.
I urge students who are knowledgeable of this situation to cease blaming this person for my attack. In several personal conversations and especially at the Take Back The Night march, I have been overcome with emotion. As a result, I was not as coherent or accurate in my recounting of events as a situation as delicate as this demands. I hope this letter definitively clarifies all questionable aspects of my story. Two years ago I made the decision not to prosecute the true assailant. Now I do not have the right to make unfounded statements about others. Therefore, I once again apologize to any individuals who have been personally injured or verbally attacked as a result of my statements. This statement is one I have chosen to make voluntarily. Thank you for listening.
Well, we do have to give her some credit for coming clean. At the same time, not only has she done incredible harm to an innocent male student by making a false accusation, she has done harm to victims of sexual assault.
There is something that needs to be said about gatherings and demonstrations by activist groups in general that applies in these cases. And that is whenever you immerse yourself within a peer group many of whom dogmatically believe every claim of victimization by a member of that group, and who you know will accept unquestioningly anything you say, so long as you claim to be a victim, there is a temptation among the less stable to get swept in the moment and just start saying anything that comes to mind. But you have to make sure that if you point the finger at someone in the middle of a frenzied mob of people, and accuse them of a crime (especially a crime of violence), once you point the finger at someone, there’s no going back from that point. She herself says that she got swept up in it, saying, that she was “overcome with emotion” in “several personal conversations and especially at the Take Back The Night march,” which interfered with her ability to make sound judgments.
Which leads us to a problematic mentality that is an undercurrent among some of these advocates, and the Boston rape crisis center (which supports the Clothesline Project, another anti-rape demonstration) just comes right out and saysit better than I ever could, saying “The Clothesline Project is there to provoke a reaction - but the thing about emotional reactions to traumatic events is that there’s no wrong reaction.”

Assuming that this center is speaking literally – and there’s no reason to assume otherwise - if someone is falsely accused of rape and they lose their jobs, their friends, or their marriages, would this rape crisis center support the idea that it gives them the right harass and intimidate every woman that claims to be a rape victim? No wrong reaction whatsoever? Tell that to the young man at Princeton who was pursued, ostracized, and persecuted because he was falsely accused of rape by someone who was “overcome with emotion” at Take Back the Night rallies that there is no wrong reaction. Tell that to the rape victims at that university who will now have a harder time being believed because of it.
There is an attitude among some that so long as they are victims of a traumatic event, or not even that – so long as they adopt the label of victim (no proof required) - they immediately shed all of their adult responsibilities, and no matter how much harm they cause to innocent people – whether men or women – they think it’s all ok. But it’s not ok. And with that being said, let’s talk about the Clothesline Project in our next video, where we’ll discuss more rape hysteria by students, before moving on to faculty and administrators.

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