Sunday, July 21, 2013

Let's not blame Eve because Adam ate the apple

They countered with a parody campaign, ‘Don’t Be That Girl’. It’s a response to the 2013 ‘Don’t Be That Guy’ anti-sexual assault campaign.

The goal of ‘Don’t Be That Guy’ is to reduce the incidence of sexual assault by reaching out to perpetrators in its target demographic, 18-25 year old males. The campaign uses bold and direct posters to address the specific problem of sexual violence where alcohol consumption plays a major role.  The message is unequivocal: no consent or sex with someone unable to consent is sexual assault. 

Men’s Rights Edmonton has taken exception to the message. Using the images and layout of the ‘Don’t Be That Guy’ posters, the group has altered the language to disseminate their message: women lie about rape.  

The group’s website defends the posters. One post presents the view that there is a “present imbalance in the collective psyche” that the group is challenging with the “pro-male message” of their posters.  The “pro-male message” is that women commonly make false accusations about rape and this makes men the victims.  The other post rationalizes that the campaign raises awareness about false allegations.  While the group is correct that false allegations of rape damage the lives of those wrongly accused and constitute a wrong, it demonstrates a skewed view of the nature and frequency of sexual assault.

Men’s Rights Edmonton would have Canadians believe that false allegations are the norm when in fact they are rare. Through propagating the myth that women frequently lie about rape, the group reinforces the culture of violence against women, condones rape and rationalizes it by placing blame on the victim. The first blogger quoted above, in a callous show of disdain, dismisses victimization as “that tired out chestnut”, rhetorically demanding, “Victim? What victim? Give proof.” In this view, the real victim is almost always the guy.

The suggestion that a woman is responsible for her rape is to blame Eve because Adam ate the apple. In this prelapsarian myth embedded in the collective psyche, Adam points the finger at Eve and protesting his innocence exclaims, “She made me do it.” It is an unconvincing denial of responsibility and a display of moral immaturity.

‘Don’t Be That Girl’ exposes a deeply subconscious attitude, that of ‘woman as seducer’, which has been part of the collective psyche for millennia.  Regrettably, 1 in 5 Canadians still hold this view, and think that women provoke sexual assault either by their actions or appearance.  Although not the intention of ‘Don’t Be That Girl’, the campaign places the onus for rape on the woman.

The members of Men’s Rights Edmonton who support, endorse and proudly defend the campaign might be naively oblivious to the very real problem of sexual violence against women; it is much more likely that they are willfully blind.  ‘Don’t Be That Girl’ demonstrates the necessity for ‘Don’t Be That Guy’.

Men’s Rights Edmonton has a peculiar idea of what constitutes an acceptable method of advocating for men falsely accused. Their tactics are offensive and dangerous; the parodic campaign is an affront to both men and women. To unabashedly transform an anti-sexual assault campaign into an attack on the integrity of women is a strange way to promote the dignity of men.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Reading in the dog days of summer

It's a beautiful hot sunny summer's day. I've had my run, worked in the yard, and as soon as I complete this post, I'm going to pick up my book, ensconce myself under the shade of the gazebo and read.  

Renaissance poetry
As part of my summer's reading, I have set myself the goal of completing Dante's "La Commedia" (as the scholars call it).  It is not a work that I feel competent to appreciate on my own, so I have been watching lectures on it. (I found a wonderful, and free, course on Academic Earth; in addition, I have the "Great Courses" DVD lectures. There are several websites where readers can access the poem and commentary.) 

Fortunately, not every text requires the guidance of a scholar. Nor would I want my summer reading to require such extensive effort; that would lessen the pleasure of  reading for the sheer enjoyment of it on a blistering summer’s day.

Classic fiction
My book club always reads at least one classic work of fiction each year. This year we tackled “The Master and Margarita” by Mikhail Bulgakov, a novel that I first encountered in university. This thought provoking and funny book has entire websites devoted to it. While some readers may want to delve deeply into its political, economic, social and cultural contexts, the novel can be read for its highly original and macabre story - the devil’s visit to Moscow. 

Historical fiction
Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, providing the book is well researched. I always turn to the back of the book to check the bibliography and the author’s acknowledgement before I select a piece of historical fiction. I have no problem with artistic license; I just want to know where and why an author has altered the facts. 

Kimberly Cutter’s “The Maid”, a novel about Joan of Arc, is a realistic portrayal of Joan’s life from the time she first hears voices until she is condemned to death.  Initially I was lukewarm about this novel, but after listening to Mary Himes interview Cutter on “Tapestry” I had a better appreciation for the book. Or maybe I was just impressed with Cutter’s dedication to her subject. Prior to putting pen to paper, Cutter retraced, on horseback, Joan’s historic journey to meet Le Dauphin.

Contemporary fiction
In the contemporary fiction category, I was taken with “All the Names”, by José Saramago, the Portuguese writer who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1998. Once I overcame the long paragraphs that lacked the conventional punctuation that guides readers of English, I found the story totally engrossing.  The main character, Senhor José, works at the equivalent of the Vital Statistics Office. He becomes obsessed with an unknown woman. His quest to find her, which is really a quest for intimacy, becomes increasingly surreal. 

I am a fan of well-written biographies; for me, this means that the author does more than merely provide a chronological retelling of events. I like something that integrates facts, events and analysis. Robert K. Massie’s “Catherine the Great: A Portrait of a Woman” fits my criteria for a well-constructed biography. Adding to my enjoyment, this biography reads like a novel, and in Massie’s skillful hands Catherine comes to life. 

I would be remiss if I neglected to mention something in the theology/spirituality category. Ronald Rolheiser OMI has written a wonderful series of meditations on the Eucharist. The book is not a dogmatic treatise on the sacrament. It discusses Eucharist as a mystery central to the life of faith and it considers the many ways in which Christians understand Eucharist. As always, Rolheiser writes in plain language and illustrates his insights with story. “Our One Great Act of Fidelity: Waiting for Christ in the Eucharist” is a must read for those who seek to deepen their understanding of Eucharist. 

Now, it's onto Canto X for me.