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.
This week, Victoria University’s Salient published this cartoon. I would put it up, but the Victoria University Women’s Group had to remove it from Facebook page for “breaching copyright”.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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Just for curiosity, what would you say about a woman that did not find the cartoon offensive but actually funny?
I wouldn’t “say anything” about your straw woman. Any other thoughts to share?
Hasn’t the Uni year only just begun? And they’re kicking it off with a gang-rape joke? Bunch of deluded hipsters think they’re edgy no doubt…spare me. That old myth that women deserve rape if they drink to much is obviously alive and well….and according to Salienteers funny too! Pathetic. Buist is obviously quite a simple man if he thinks rape is simply something to be ‘avoided’ by women. Oh if only they’d just avoid being gang-raped! Sigh. Fucking morons.
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Editor of Magneto magazine here. I have never said any such thing and nor would I ever. That’s an appalling stance to take and a worse thing to have been quoted as saying.
Please check your sources and think twice about heeding them in future.
In fact, I instated the Magneto Crime Map in conjunction with the New Zealand police out of concern for such matters. I’ve printed several articles which outline the dangers of rape in Wellington. I’d go so far as to say that we’re one of the most safety conscious student mags in the country.
I strongly urge you to edit out that little snippet for fear that we pursue legal action.
And don’t be silly.
Hi Magneto Editor,
can you provide a link for the article this blog discusses? I’m happy to replace my summary of the concerns raised with Wellington Rape Crisis – which were communicated to you at the time, but received no reply – with your actual words.
I’d also like to link to the article written, I think in the next Magneto by another student, which strongly criticised your earlier piece for blaming rape victims for not avoiding rape.
I think “outlining the dangers of rape in Wellington” can be done in a number of ways, and the article I’m referring to, as you know from student response and the complaints received (and communicated to you) by Wellington Rape Crisis, was perceived as blaming women for being raped.
Thanks for giving me the opportunity to straighten this out.
I do apologise for my reactionary reply, above. I’ve done a lot of work in Magneto in the interests of safety, including the safety of young women. I found it unfortunate to see that some of that work had been misinterpreted.
I most certainly do not think that women sexually attacked are “stupid” nor “essentially deserved to be raped.” The conclusion that I do think these things was reached via speculation and, here, paints an inaccurate picture of my feelings on the subject and of me as an individual.
I can’t imagine the sort of person who’d say those things, and if I came across someone with that attitude, believe you me – I’d have a few words to say to them.
I have only the best intentions. I freely concede that my original (printed) message to “be careful” is not the solution to the bigger problem – I was simply echoing the New Zealand Police ‘Safe in the City’ campaign.
The subject is considerably bigger than simply ‘staying safe’, and I welcome the opportunity to discuss some of the alternate ways you mention to broach the issue.
Magneto magazine is an excellent forum for such discussion and so I hope we can develop a better relationship than the foot we got off on.
I welcome you [and any other readers] to submit material to Magneto for publish. And please feel free to comment on the online version of the Magneto article mentioned in your reply.
This can be found at:
Thanks David, I appreciate the approach you’ve taken with this too, and you have my respect for the article you’ve written. Good luck with promoting debate and ideas around how to stop sexual violence at Massey.
This week’s Salient shows that Buist still really doesn’t get it AT ALL. In a letter to Salient he’s now blaming the whole controversy over the cartoon on a “vindictive ex-flatmate” (his words). It’s truly pathetic.
And in the letter there is a revoltingly condescending line where he encourages rape victims who were revictimised by the cartoon to “seek professional counselling if they are not already doing so”.
Grant Buist’s cartoon is right on the money – you don’t need to be a misogynist like me to observe that many little first year girls DO wear tiny outfits and get apocalyptically hammered all over town, and many of them seem oblivious to the risks.
Perhaps a well-drawn cartoon, reasonably widely circulated in the Salient will prompt one or two of them to think about this? If so I would suggest that Buist’s work has done some tangible good, which is more than I would credit to this safe, trendy piece of outrage.
Richard – so what exactly are the risks involved in wearing shorts skirts? And are you equally concerned about “first year boys” getting hammered “all over town”.
If you can’t control yourself around young women in certain types of clothing then YOU need to get help Richard. How can a young woman know whether or not someone like you is going to be around? She can’t predict whether or not there will be men who think that it’s OK to attack women if they’ve been dirnking or if they’re wearing “tiny outfits”.
A more tangible good in this instance would be for you to learn some self control when you’re around young women. They should be allowed to wear whatever they like, and drink and enjoy themselves without being threatened with rape.