George Will Isn’t Alone in Rape Apologism, Progressives

(TW for Rape Apologism, Slut Shaming, mention of rape threats, mockery of such, etc.)

Like most, I haven’t cared about George Will for over twenty years. He belongs to the Old Guard conservatism, the Martini Republicans like George H W Bush and Sandra Day O’Connor. When the fireball cons like Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich and George W Bush became the face of the American conservative movement, most of us forgot about Will and his bow-ties and boring baseball analogies. So color me shocked that he wrote such an inflammatory piece defending Rape Culture. I’m not surprised, though, that he would defend Rape Culture and mock survivors or say that most claims of rape are faked in order to “elevate the status” of college women – just that he would go all out in 2014. Because whether or not we’re aware of it, Rape Culture is alive and well in not just conservatism but even the most progressive of spaces.

Rape Culture is not just a specific action or thought, it is the elements and the whole of what surrounds us that implicitly and explicitly normalizes, excuses, defends, supports, or condones acts of sexual violence and those who rape. It is what allows at least 1 out of every 6 women to have been raped sometime in their lives while only prosecuting a minuscule percentage of rapists. An aspect of Rape Culture is the teaching that bodies do not belong to the individuals – and specifically that women’s bodies do not belong to women, but to men. This attitude is also big on blaming sexual violence victim, and on talking about the assailant as if he (usually a he but not always) is a victim himself. This culture also says that “boys will be boys” and thus frees them from responsibility while holding females accountable for actions that males take upon the bodies and persons of females. This is but a brief overview of an outdated mindset, but we can see that George Will and his kind are just the tip of the iceberg.

Also to be held as an example of the prevalence of Rape Culture is the formerly-esteemed Washington Post. They published and promoted this awful piece of unscientific, anti-journalism trash. They could have made the decision to pull the article. It’s filled with rhetoric that endangers rape survivors and those who’d be willing to report. Considering that 97% of rapists do not spend a day in jail and 60% of rapes are never reported, articles like George Will’s are dangerous in their own light. The fact that this was sanctioned and published by a mainstream news publication rather than by Rush Limbaugh makes it all the worse. WaPo gave George Will and his horrible article legitimacy and helped to normalize a dastardly Rape Culture narrative.

Another indication of Rape Culture is in the normalcy of online and in-person rape threats targeting women. A few weeks back, I wrote an article about the conservative movement to derail Trigger Warnings. For my troubles, in this very space I was called some misogynistic and anti-homosexual terms and slurs. The thing about this is, this rarely happens to me as a heterosexual male. If I were a woman, let alone a black woman, I know I’d be regularly receiving not just slurs but death and rape threats. Obviously, some threats are from unhinged ultra-conservatives who write for Breitbart, etc. But what kind of noise and how progressive media talks about women who get rape threats via Twitter can be despicable. If someone calls me a “P*ssy” on the internet, yes, I can be offended and all. But that’s not a threat. And threats are meant to be lived outWomen on the internet get real live threats to their bodies, to their well-being, to their families, to their homes. Sometimes those threats are carried out and considering the history of rape as a means of warfare and dominance and population control, why wouldn’t anybody be concerned about these threats?

Sarah Kendzior is no light-weight. In addition to taking on anti-union bosses on a regular basis at Al-Jazeera, she’s also gotten death threats from dictators. She also receives rape threats regularly because, well, she’s a woman on the internet. While she rarely talks about them, they do happen. She talked about it once, in conversation with a fellow leftist/activist. And it was a left-wing/progressive website that decided to mock her for it (Kendzior’s version is here and a version with links here. Another side of the story can be seen here, though.) Kendzior made it explicit that she felt her safety and well-being were being belittled and mocked and yet several writers and editors felt it necessary to defend what they were doing rather than retract and then clarify. That is an aspect of Rape Culture.

Recently, progressive media outlets like Think Progress have taken more notice on how women’s and girl’s bodies are being policed through such things as school dress codes and how they are being shamed for not strictly adhering to male-dominated rules. Notice that school dress codes for men are usually relegated toward professionalism – tucking in shirts and the like. But the dress codes for females are based on how they distract or attract males. These codes are not necessary for preparing children and teens to the adult workforce, and they really have little to do with education. School dress codes are largely obligatory and are designed for the benefit of the school administrators. When students find these rules to be restrictive and prohibitive of their own selves and bodies, they should be allowed to protest. After all, this is the role of education according to progressive ed leaders like John Dewey and Paulo Freire – to cultivate thinking citizens.


But to hear some grown men tell it, Think Progress and these students were just whining. “Students are supposed to abide by the dress code and if boys were showing their bra straps, they’d be sent home too.” Sure. The point is that girls wearing clothing they felt was comfortable were reminded by the staff that their bodies do not belong to them and they are responsible for how teen boys act and think around them. The point is that girls have special rules for the clothing they wear and are given special excuses to send them home for the way they wear the clothes because they give boys that funny feeling. Because the boys can’t stop staring. Because they are led to believe that they own girls’ bodies.

Another objection I saw from progressive adult men was that the opinions of 15 year old girls shouldn’t matter on what and how 15 year old girls should be treated. But yet, a grown ass man’s opinions should be? This tells us who is important in this scenario, who is listened to, and who’s lived-in experiences are ignored for the gut reactions of adults who get to ignore teens when they were never even in their shoes.

I was never a teenaged girl, but I can tell you I would not like to be blamed for the thoughts and actions of others when I don’t directly cause them. Nor would I want to be held responsible for others’ reactions to the very presence and appearance of my body. This is the underpinning logic of Rape Culture: that men cannot control themselves and that women and their bodies need to be controlled so that men don’t just go all willy-nilly sexually assaulting.

It should not have a space in our society. Let alone in progressive circles.


17 thoughts on “George Will Isn’t Alone in Rape Apologism, Progressives

  1. “Kendzior made it explicit that she felt her safety and well-being were being belittled and mocked . . .”

    She “felt” this even though the article, by the feminist Amber A’Lee Frost, which you don’t even bother to quote, said THE EXACT OPPOSITE. Frost wanted to enhance the “censure” of the “violent aggression” of rape threats not in any way diminish them. It’ just basic reading comprehension. Have you actually read the Frost article that allegedly kicked off this whole fiasco?


  2. Kendzior’s account of this whole thing, from beginning to end, reeks of dishonesty. No one mocked her for rape threats — all that anyone did was criticize her choice of language that seemed to minimize a rape threat by saying the guy was a “brocialist.” In other words, the article was saying that Kendzior herself had made light of a rape threat, and that we should take rape threats more seriously. Right or wrong, Kendzior’s reaction was unbelievably dishonest — to accuse Jacobin of having “mocked” her rape threat was the precise opposite of the truth (Jacobin, if anything, was frowning on Kendzior for herself having mocked it).

    Read Matt Bruenig’s and Fredrik DeBoer’s blog — if Kendzior has received more rape threats, that’s a damn shame, but she has been so serially dishonest about everything else that it’s not clear whether such threats even happened.

    • Wait, so Jacobin was Tone Policing Kendzior for a tweet about her own rape threats that she made directly in correspondence with K Shibata. When Kendzior said “Hey, no, don’t make this public,” Jacobin editors and writers went ahead and gaslighted her?

      I’m failing to see how this makes Bruienig, et al., look good.

    • Nope, when Kendzior initially complained, Jacobin pulled the link and put up an apology. Kendzior’s dishonest attacks only escalated thereafter. Lots of folks are still waiting for her to apologize for having accused Jacobin and Salon writers of sending rape threats, having accused Elizabeth Stoker of racism (?!?), and all the other vicious slanders that Kendzior has been spreading in her non-stop attempt to bring more attention to herself (despite her claim that more attention will just bring more rape threats).

  3. This post also shows how much Kendzior’s reckless and dishonest rhetorical attacks make it hard to believe anything she says:

  4. Actually, I think “tone policing” is a good description of what Jacobin was doing. They were tone policing Kendzior, or at least using her as an example of the kind of tone they objected to. Which may have been wrong or whatever, but it’s a far cry from ridiculing her, let alone being rape apologists.

    • Exactly. Disagree with tone policing all you want, but for Kendzior to say that they had “viciously mock[ed] my potential rape” or “mock[ed] my rape threats” or “used rape threats to me to belittle me, humiliate me and defame me” is just inexcusable dishonesty.

      It escalated the situation (and not surprisingly so!), completely undermining Kendzior’s claim that “I have learned that to draw attention to rape threats produces more rape threats.” If she was worried about more attention being drawn, she would have done the exact opposite of what she did. She would have accepted Jacobin’s immediate retraction of and apology for the link, instead launching an endless stream of dishonest tweets using the term “rape threat” so as to draw as much attention as possible.

  5. Shorter replies to this point:
    she’s just being hysterical and if she didn’t want to draw attention to her rape threats, she shouldn’t have made a big deal about it.

    Thanks for proving my premise, y’all.

    • Just wanted to very humbly propose that not all disagreements with a person who is experiencing rape threats are morally equivalent to A) tone-policing that person; B) disbelieving that person; C) facilitating further threats to that person; D) “disciplining” that person for heterodoxy. There has been a tendency throughout the past week for people to flatten out differences and turn this into an all or nothing affair. Yet believe it or not, it is possible to simultaneously sympathize with Kendzior for being rampantly attacked and to sympathize with Elizabeth Stoker for being smeared as racist. And before you call me out for false equivalence or for diminishing the obvious horror of the rape threats — I’m not saying those two things are the same — however I submit that it is possible to have empathy for more than one person and more than one kind of wrongdoing at a time.

    • Not “hysterical” — she’s lying through her teeth, indisputably, on repeated occasions. And for the second time, we have no reason to think that she’s gotten any rape threats other than her words, and unfortunately, when someone who repeatedly lies about her enemies also says she got rape threats from them, there’s no reason to believe her.

      Otherwise, how about this statement: “I, WT, have received rape threats from Kendzior herself and several of her followers.” That statement is not true, but if I said that, would I automatically be beyond question? Would no one be able to express doubt without being accused of apologizing for rape? More than that, would I then get a free pass for saying any other lies I wished to say about Kendzior and her followers? After all, you can’t express disagreement with someone’s lies and attacks if they have ever claimed, with zero evidence, to have gotten rape threats.

      Is that the standard you really want to apply? Easy way to shut down debate and hand over victory to the most dishonest people, then.

  6. You don’t mention that Jacobin removed the link and unequivocally apologized 30 minutes after Sarah first tweeted about it. Nobody defended the inclusion of the link; the editor of that piece and the head editor both apologized immediately. What my sister-in-law Megan defended was the text of the article, not the inclusion of the link.

    And by the way, you’re linking to Rusty Foster’s summaries at Newsweek to explain this thing? Do you realize that in [] he published Megan’s private letter to the editors — without her consent — in which she reveals that she herself is a rape survivor? That they refused to take down this letter for over 24 hours? Megan is my sister-in-law, and I learned about her rape from a sleazy Newsweek reporter that you apparently consider to be some kind of reliable feminist ally to cite. Pathetic.

  7. 1) Jasdye, is it “tone policing” when Sarah Kendzior viciously labels a survivor of rape — which she knows! — as a “rape apologist”? Can you find a single damn instance where Megan Erickson defended rape? See Kendzior’s tweet of June 10th, 7:39pm. Archived here:

    2) Frost, with a subjective qualifier (“And I think . .”), mildly objected to using the silly term “brocialist” to characterize the sort of asshole capable of the “violent aggression” of a rape threat. This cannot be construed, in any charitable reading, of attempting to “mock,” “belittle,” or “humiliate” the receiver of those threats. Are you actually claiming this, or are you saying the Kendzior had a feeling utterly divorced from the words that Frost wrote? Have you bothered to read feminist Amber A’Lee Frost’s original piece? Have you bothered to check her twitter feed to see the threats of physical violence she’s gotten from Kendzior supporters?

    3) Twitter is a microphone to the whole damn world. Each and every tweet. Can anyone who knows how it works — let alone someone who’s worked for the Clinton Global Initiative — seriously claim that a tweet was private?

  8. Reblogged this on Barefoot Christian Faith and commented:
    Welcome to the additional fruits of the curse that befell humanity following the incident in the garden. This is a major reality check people, and one we should be proactively discussing and addressing as citizens of the Kingdom of the Living God. – RK

  9. Pingback: Over at Patheos: Progressive Brands, Sexism & DudeBro Politics: #CloseGamerGate | Political Jesus

  10. Pingback: Over at Patheos: Progressive Brands, Sexism & DudeBro Politics: #CloseGamerGate | Unsettled Christianity

  11. Pingback: On being a thing | Sarah Kendzior

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