Mils Muliaina, rape culture, and sharpening my pitchfork

The news that a former All Black had been arrested in connection with a sexual assault case did not surprise me in the slightest.

It cannot surprise anyone who pays the slightest bit of attention to professional sports. Whether it’s rugby, league, soccer, the NFL, it’s seems there’s never a week without a player, a group of players, or an entire team being accused, and sometimes convicted, of assault or rape.

There are almost no details of the charges against Muliaina so far. But that hasn’t stopped people rushing to pre-judge the case.

And no, I don’t mean me and my merry band of evil Twitter feminists.

This is the thing with high-profile rape and assault cases: you don’t actually see people saying “oh he definitely did it” (unless, you know, he admits to doing stuff which is quite clearly rape). But you might see people pointing out that this kind of thing happens a lot. And you might see people like me pointing out that the rate of false reports is very low. Or that the public response is usually antagonistic towards victims. And that this antagonism makes it incredibly difficult for other victims to step forward.

We’ll probably say those two words which are a red rag to a misogynist bull, “rape culture” – which is really nothing more than a way of summing up all the above.

We don’t say a thing about Mils Muliaina, whether he’s guilty or innocent.

But we’re obviously the people doing the pre-judging of the case.

Not the people who say the accused is “a gentleman and a family man” but the complainant is “probably a gold-digger”. Not the journalist in the story linked above who talks about what a “great job” Muliaina has done. Not the people who accuse feminists of “getting out their pitchforks”.

Before we even know the slightest detail, the framing has already begun. He’s a hero. No one could possibly believe he’d do it. He’s a great man. Everyone likes him. Pillar of the community. Role model for young men. There’s got to be an explanation for this, and the only credibly one involves him being completely innocent. There are clearly two sides to every story (and we will only discuss his one!)

And the unnamed, unknown complainant is at best written off, and at worst already being castigated as a villain intent on bringing Our Man Mils down.

Maybe this is mistaken identity. Maybe this is a mix-up. Maybe Mils Muliaina is as pure as the driven snow, and maybe this is the incredibly rare case of a malicious false complaint.

It’s far too early, and we know far too little, to say yet.

So why are so many people – people on his side – already jumping to conclusions?

QOTD: Boganette on Thomas the Tank Engine

An epic rant from my good buddy Boganette on Thomas the colonialist tank engine and Sodor the capitalist nightmare:

Sodor is quite frankly a capitalist nightmare. Trains are sent to the scrapyard if they’re not Useful. And we all know what that means – it means they’re executed. They execute workers who don’t work hard enough! Anyone who isn’t Very Useful is goneburger. There are no unions in Sodor that’s for sure. And that’s not even the most fucked thing about Sodor either. Don’t get me started on how lacking the representation of women is on the show. The women trains are actually girl carriages. You don’t need to have a masters in gender studies to read between the lines on that one.

Read the whole thing, it’s beautiful (and makes me dread having kids and getting first-hand experience of the Watching One DVD Over and Over parental hell).

It pairs well with Giovanni Tiso’s 2009 post, Reverend Awdry’s Revenge:

The titular hero of the modern cartoon and toy empire, Thomas, turns out to be an insufferable character with an inflated sense of self and an overriding desire to grow up to become, in the words that he often parrots from his master, ‘a really useful engine’, and therein is encapsulated the bludgeoning moral of conformity and compliance of the whole thing.

I have a younger cousin who, from ages 2 through 7, demanded a “Thomas and Percy”-themed birthday celebration. They were terrifying all-blue-and-green-everything times.

QOTD: Andrea Grimes on what men can do

From I Made a Joke About Guns and a Man Threatened to Assault Me at RH Reality Check:

I don’t need men to individually and personally step up to protect me. I need them to collect their fellow dudes and actively work, every day, to end widespread cultural misogyny and to improve the lives of non-cisgender-dude people the world over.

Good dudes of the world, please hear me out: Not actively being a sexist shitbag as an individual is not enough. Because somewhere, somehow, the guys who dedicated themselves to harassing me—many of them under their real names on Facebook—have brothers, dads, uncles, golf buddies, tennis partners, co-workers, favorite bartenders, and an entire universe of dude friends and acquaintances, all of whom have failed to make it clear, either through their words or their actions, that this kind of behavior is not OK.

Hat-tip to friend-with-locked-account on Twitter.

When someone brings up sexism (or racism, or any form of oppression) the response is so frequently personal: “Well I’m certainly not sexist (or racist, etc)! How dare you call me sexist! You’re the real problem here!”

The problem about pervasive, ingrained prejudices and systems of power is they’re like the Force: invisible, inside all of us,* binding us together. This makes it easy to brush off: “Look, he didn’t call you a bitchslutwhore, so you must be reading the sexism into his statements!”

But sometimes sexism really, really isn’t invisible, and the least you can do, dudes, is challenge it when it’s right in front of you.

 

*The Star Wars expanded universe ysalamiri can shove off.

QOTD: Pratchett on privilege

The parents of two pupils from St Bede’s College got a court injunction so their sons could row in a competition. The school had cut them from the team after they were given formal warnings by Police and Aviation Security about jumping on the baggage conveyor at Christchurch Auckland Airport.

Which just brought to mind a quote from the Terry Pratchett novel Night Watch:

“That’s the way it was. Privilege, which just means private law. Two types of people laugh at the law: those that break it and those that make it.”

In a post-9/11 world where you aren’t even allowed to joke in the line for passenger screening, the rules clearly don’t apply to the sons of rowing commitee chairmen from decile 9 integrated schools.

Or Cabinet Ministers.