The student press does not have a good history when it comes to discussion of violence against women. Typically they minimise, make jokes about, and blame women for rape in particular. Last year Wellington Rape Crisis received a number of complaints about an issue of Massey’s Magneto which featured the editor telling women who walked home alone at night they were stupid and essentially deserved to be raped.
The cartoonist, Grant Buist, is also responsible for Jitterati, which I’ve admired here before.
Please go have a look. It’s an attempting-to-be-funny depiction of a first year woman’s experiences at Uni, and features a panel called “Contraception”, in which the young woman “narrowly avoids impregnation by rugby team during Orientation” and is shown standing behind a door with a rugby boot and arm trying to push the door open.
Salient have received complaints from at least one member of Vic Women’s Group. They say the cartoon minimises the impact of sexual violence on women by portraying it as funny, and that it is a depiction of attempted gang rape.
So far, so good. Mr Buist obviously is showing attempted gang rape, and obviously is trying to be funny.
He argues on his blog:
Actually, something good that may come out of this would be discussion of the issue I’m highlighting above – many 18-year-old girls get massively shitfaced during Orientation, and are preyed upon. If you look at the crime incident maps distributed by the police (which are sometimes reproduced in Magneto), you can see that many of Wellington’s sexual assaults are committed in dark alleys near Courtenay Place, where hopelessly drunk girls have stumbled while trying to get home. It’s entirely possible, considering how the Orientation issue of Salient is full of advice for first-years, that some girls may read this panel and think “Right. Something to avoid.”
Really, if there’s anyone who should be annoyed, it’s rugby teams.
Here is the nub of the cartoonists argument – which you really should read in entirety, since essentially he does not engage with the criticism – that he is helping young women realise that they need to try to avoid being raped.
By making fun of rape as a kind of multiple contraception.
If this was a genuine attempt to deal with rape, there are so many options. Making fun of rapists core beliefs, rather than minimising how terrifying it would be to have several men you did not want to have sex with, much larger than you, trying to make you have sex.
How about starting with poking fun at rape myths? Women “ask for it” when we wear short skirts – then why does sex not happen everywhere, all the time?
Men have uncontrollable sex drives – then why did Viagra need to be invented? So they could bolster up their uncontrollable sex drive again?
Sports teams gang raping women is about being a “real man” – then why do they need an audience, and why do they want to watch one another, and why do very few people point out how implicitly homo-erotic this all is? What men who wish they could have sex with men do, to prove how much they want to have sex with women, how much “mastery” they have.
I’m also surprised that an alternative cartoonist who often makes fun of the Police hasn’t recognised that “crime maps” reflect rape reported to the Police, not rapes committed. The Police themselves estimate they only get to hear about 10% of rapes in Aotearoa.
Most rapes take place inside, from a man known to the victim, not because drunk girls “stumble on their way home”. They happen because one person doesn’t care about another person’s bodily integrity, prioritises their own sexual desires, and/or gets off on making someone else do what they want.
I am disappointed- but unsurprised – Salient published this. I’m disappointed they are not, so far, recognising the concerns raised carefully by the Vic Women’s Group member(s). If you share these concerns, the editor can be reached at: email@example.com.
But given Grant Buist is claiming to want to raise awareness of sexual violence, I’m absolutely gob-smacked at his failure to recognise the problems with his cartoon, and get into some real dialogue about it – from his comments so far, he has a big learning opportunity.
Update: Please see what Magneto have done since this was written, for an example of responsible student media.