Entering The Arena: The Right Wing Attacks on Zerlina Maxwell
This was an International Women’s Day present. This sista, a contributing editor at The Grio, a Democratic strategist, a rape survivor, a feminist, and soon-to-be attorney, had the guts to get on Hannity‘s show this weekend. Zerlina Maxwell got dead into the faces of those who watch Faux Noise about where the responsibility for rape truly resides, and especially about changing the culture of rape by instructing, educating and enjoining men and boys not to rape women and girls under any circumstances. Some of what she said she has already laid out here below in Ebony and at ColorLines:
1. Teach young men about legal consent: Legal consent is number one for a reason. Without it, sexual contact with someone is rape whether you intended to rape or not. A woman who is drunk, unconscious, sleeping cannot give legal consent. And it’s not about a woman simply saying “no,” it’s really about making certain she’s saying yes.
2. Teach young men to see women’s humanity, instead of seeing them as sexual objects there for male pleasure: There is a reason why women are shamed into silence and teenage boys in Steubenville, Ohio are caught on camera laughing about gang raping an unconscious girl at a party. The dehumanization of women spans all areas of American life.
3. Teach young men how to express healthy masculinity: The question that’s being asked about what women can do to prevent violence against them is the wrong question. It’s not what can a woman say or do that can prevent being attacked. We need to turn that paradigm
4. Teach young men to believe women who come forward and not to blame the victim: The vast majority of women do not report their rapes to the police and many more only tell one or two people in confidence.
5. Teach young men about bystander intervention: Both Men Stopping Violence and Men Can Stop Rape (male anti-rape groups) have bystander intervention workshops for men of all ages. “It’s about community accountability,” says Pandit, “We require men to talk to other men in their lives and tell them about these programs. It is important that we have community networks that hold men accountable.”
I am particularly on board with Nos. 3 and 5, especially when it has to do with black youth. Of course, I have been asking this question for decades, just what is black masculinity? How can we reinforce what is good and reject what diminishes us as individuals? One thing for sure, it certainly isn’t masculinity that is being hawked on the airwaves in the form of music videos, films and CDs and online music. Entertainment, yes—but not masculinity. How can we teach our young men and school mature adults that there needs to be a culture that does not reject the humanity of women and girls beyond what is learned in church, at home or on the streets?
And I am sick and tired of men and boys who go along by not saying anything with their friends running trains and abusing young women and girls, knowing that it is wrong. They need to act on that sense of right and wrong, forget wanting the approval of others, brave the possible repercussions, and stop rape when it is occurring. It’s not easy, but they need confirmation and reinforcement that there is alternative, moral, and right behavior.
Zerlina Maxwell has also been attacked by the wingers for her audacity for saying that it doesn’t always take a gun to stop rape, but that men and boys must also take a stand against rape and the proliferation of rape culture. One other thing: despite his usual modus operandi, it appears that the Fox News host that we progressives sometimes nickname Klannity wasn’t responsible for whipping up the attacks. Maxwell more than held her own in this argue fest, which probably also dismayed the usual suspects. No, Sean Hannity looks almost benign in this debate compared to what happened and who said what next. However, even before the Democratic strategist left the cable airwaves, the hate speech and death threats from the one-track mindless rose at a great height like Alice’s pack of cards and rained angrily down on Maxwell.
The mere notion that maybe men need to be involved in the conversation about sexual violence earned Maxwell instant disdain, anger – and a lot worse. The Blaze called her remarks “bizarre”and the Washington Times reported that she’d “argued against women arming themselves.”Deeper down on the Internet, the responses got even more scathing, from bloggers who said she’d been “oversimplifying” to the Twitter trolls who told her she ought to get raped. Thanks for the feedback, Internet dopes. Why would anybody think that you need some sensitivity training?
“I knew going in I was going to get a lot of pushback,” Maxwell says. “I didn’t think I would receive rape threats. I can’t even go on my Facebook page; it’s full of people wanting to rape me. It’s too triggering. The amount of insensitivity is shocking.”
Not that she and others weren’t expecting it; girlfriend is definitely on record saying that she will not be silenced and that she will continue to debate the right wing media on their home ground, Fox. The level of virulence was yet another matter entirely, sometimes encompassing race hate as well as misogyny. In other words, these viewers practically lost their flipping minds. Like Katrina Vanden Heuvel said, Fox News is the looking glass through which these haters love to preen at themselves, as if they have no blemishes or defects. When that reflection is skewed, or doesn’t give them the pretty, flawless picture that they are used to, the knives come out from everywhere against the person who has harshed that view: from the right-wing Twitterverse, FB, Rightblogosphere, you name it.
These kinds of online threats are not simply cowardly and repulsive, they also may be criminal. In New York, where Maxwell resides, a person who “[w]ith intent to harass, annoy or alarm a specific person, intentionally engages in a course of conduct directed at such person which is likely to cause such person to reasonably fear physical injury or serious physical injury, the commission of a sex offense against, or the kidnapping, unlawful imprisonment or death of such person or a member of such person’s immediate family” is guilty of stalking in the third degree, and may be punished by up to one year in prison. At least some of the attacks on Maxwell also could qualify as hate crimes, which would lead to a higher sentence.
Additionally, under federal law, “[w]hoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing any threat to kidnap any person or any threat to injure the person of another, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.”
I was not happy that Maxwell’s commentary on rape did not necessarily touch on how rape impacts women of color, especially since the new Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) finally extends protection not only to lesbians and gays and transgendered women, but to Native American women who could be prey for outsiders. I didn’t like it that when Maxwell was guesting on The Ed Show, it appeared—to me at least—she had to mainstream it for consumption in order for viewers to get the message without necessarily inserting too much about race (thus risking turning some of the audience off).
And while I respect Vanden Heuvel and her work, I think she was there to confirm that what Maxwell was saying was factual, as well as present another aspect of the controversy. This is a device I’ve seen with the media for over thirty years, especially when someone like a black woman seems to take on/up a “white” issue like feminism to the airwaves. Feminism certainly belongs to all women, but with the media and with the mainstream, they still think of a black feminist or other feminists of color as people from Mars—and sometimes just as threatening.
Maxwell certainly was the nearly silent embodiment of what was being said in more ways than one on The Ed Show. It wasn’t completely her fault that she had to “dumb it down,” but frankly, after seeing years of this, I am understandably just another tired black woman.
Be that as it may, the big picture for me has always been that American society still does not believe that black women can be raped, all the way from slavery up to now. (There are two sides of that coin of American racism—one, that black women are easy sexual prey and two, that black men are rapists.) That any man or boy, white, black or purple, could dehumanize a black woman or girl as if they were some kind of subspecies or worse, a mindless, soulless thing. What gets me about the right-wing anger is that they would discount Maxwell without thinking about their own sons, daughters, sisters, nephews, grandchildren and cousins—even themselves—because men can be raped as well.
Furthermore, since much of this anger at Zerlina Maxwell is being expressed by mostly heterosexual white males, the last resort for them would be to pick up a gun in revenge and blow the accused perp away, rather than starting from jump teaching and emphasizing by example that human beings, particularly girls and women, are not to be raped, that men do not own women’s sexuality or their bodies. That is, that there are other options for people to insure that violence does not happen to other individuals. No, the scenario that the Faux Noise bunch likes to revisit time and again that violence will be met by violence, preferably gun violence. Sorta like a Western.
Again, wearing the “wrong” clothes or walking in the “wrong” neighborhood or being in the “wrong” situation does not invite rape. Rather, it’s what is already in the mind of the perpetrator that makes a rapist. Rape is not seduction or love, it is the negation of both. It is a terrorist act. It is about rage, subjugation, and hatred. And it is almost the same kind of hatred that is being expressed against Zerlina Maxwell, to the point where these people openly advocate that she be raped and abused all over again until finally she “gets” what they are talking about, which is the preservation of their right to own guns. This faulty logic renders their whole argument about having the power to protect themselves and others from harm rather meaningless, don’t you think?
- We Stand with Zerlina Maxwell: Commentator Flooded with Hateful Threats after Hannity Appearance (clutchmagonline.com)
- The right not to be raped is a human right. (kingmidgetramblings.wordpress.com)
- Zerlina Maxwell, rape prevention, and guns (ahmongwoman.com)
- Telling Men Not to Rape and the Rape Threats That Followed (slcfeminist.com)
- Rape Victim Has Nerve to Suggest That Maybe Men Should Be Taught Not to Rape (jezebel.com)
- Feminist Confuses Fox News Host By Suggesting That We Teach Men To Not Attack Women (upworthy.com)
- Thank Democratic Strategist for Standing up to Right Wing Myths about Rape (forcechange.com)