Monday, September 27, 2010

Oh God, Antonia. You Don't Say

Antonia Zerbisias blames conservatives for "rape culture"

In a characteristically banal column published in the Toronto Star, Antonia Zerbisias muses about the alleged rise of "rape culture".

Seeing as how many people wouldn't be familiar with what Zerbisias means by "rape culture", it's worth reproducing the definition here. She invokes the definition offered by feminist blogger Melissa McEwan:
Rape culture is encouraging male sexual aggression. Rape culture is regarding violence as sexy and sexuality as violent. Rape culture is treating rape as a compliment, as the unbridled passion stirred in a healthy man by a beautiful woman, making irresistible the urge to rip open her bodice or slam her against a wall, or a wrought-iron fence, or a car hood, or pull her by her hair, or shove her onto a bed, or any one of a million other images of fight-f***ing in movies and television shows and on the covers of romance novels that convey violent urges are inextricably linked with (straight) sexuality."
Zerbisias' evidence for the alleged rise of rape culture is a number of rape jokes offered by the teenage son of University of Alberta professor Lise Gotell, a few accumulating on Facebook (including one invoking Superman, whom she incorrectly identifies as the "Caped Crusader"), and a number of rape scenes in various movies.

As with so many cultural critics, Zerbisias makes the error of assuming that the mere portrayal of a rape in film promotes it. When one considers that her argument refers to rape scenes in Descent, The Last House on the Left, and Observe & Report, Zerbisias' argument essentially deflates itself.

After all, the characters committing the rapes in each of these films are, unequivocally, not to be emulated. In two the films, the rapists are some of the most despicable victims in film history. In the third, the rapist is a paranoid schizophrenic.

Zerbisias being Zerbisias, she isn't finished there. Few Zerbisias features seem complete without a gratuitous potshot at conservatives.

Zerbisias doesn't merely want to chronicle what she considers to be the rise of "rape culture". She also wants to cast blame. And guess who she blames for the alleged rise of rape culture?

That's right. Conservatives.

Zerbisias first quotes Lee Lakeman of a spokesperson for the Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres.

“I do think the conservative agenda has a lot to do with this," says Lakeman. “We don’t see public officials standing up for women. We don’t see the denunciation of ordinary violence against women. We don’t see men being held to account in any way that speaks to the whole society’s values."

Zerbisias then quotes Gotell.

“In Stephen Harper’s Canada, women’s groups which could have provided a voice on these issues have been weakened or eliminated," says Gotell, making reference to cuts to advocacy groups. “That’s another explanation for the escalation of rape culture."

Naturally, neither Gotell nor Lakeman offer anything even resembling compelling evidence that conservatives are responsible for the rise of so-called "rape culture". Each prefers ideologically-soothing far-left rhetoric.

Naturally, Lakeman doesn't bother to explain how the conservative approach to crimes such as sexual assault has been any different from the alternative. Nor does Gotell bother to explain why it is that women's advocacy groups couldn't be bothered to raise their own funding after their ideologically-preferential government funding was cut off. (Restoring liberal neutrality to government.)

For Antonia Zerbisias, the interest at hand isn't an honest exploration of this particular topic -- it seems that her sole interest is in smearing conservatives. Evidence is an afterthought if offered at all.

In this particular case, no evidence is offered whatsoever, and it shouldn't be considered surprising.

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