#IBelieveHer: Reddit, The Guardian, And How Society Really Treats Rapists. *Trigger Warning*

A couple of days ago, Reddit ran a conversation, asking rapists about their perspective of assaults they’d carried out. Following Megan Carpentier’s article on The Guardian’s infamous Comment Is Free, detailing the conversation, I found myself heading over to Reddit to read the thread myself. Between Reddit and The Guardian, an interesting perspective emerged. On Reddit, rapists were forgiven, excused, and told they were now “great” guys. On The Guardian, the CiF saw an attack on feminism, the definition of rape and comments asserting that those rapes didn’t happen. Even when men admit to rape, there’s still people in the corner, claiming that it’s a false claim.

I felt nervous about the idea of a forum giving a voice to rapists. Seeing as so many rape survivors end up silenced, I personally think that the one narrative that doesn’t deserve a public airing is the unedited voice of the rapist. As a user of Reddit said: “Giving a voice to shitheads who don’t even feel any remorse about what they did isn’t a good thing.”  And he’s right. A lot of these rapists, telling their stories, didn’t show any remorse, tried to blame the survivor, and tried to claim that they were as much victims of their crimes as the women they’d raped had been.

But for the rapists who aired their stories, a more interesting narrative unfolded in the responses. We began to see how far some men would go to excuse rape. Memorably, AntiDamage tried to argue that pressuring a woman into sex wasn’t rape. It is.

Coercion is a concept I feel that many people overlook. Whereas the rape apologists claim that feminists try to widen the definition of rape, I’d argue that rape apologists try to narrow the definition. To me, rape is simply defined as a man penetrating another person who does not wish to be penetrated, with his penis. Simple, leaves no questions. If your partner doesn’t want sex, it’s not your place to try and change her mind. If you pressurise her into sex she doesn’t want, that is still rape.

One thing that struck me through the stories where men had claimed they’d stopped just short of raping a woman is how many  of them had claimed it was seeing something in her face, usually fear, that made them stop. But there lies the problem. Were these men so removed from the woman they wanted sex with – the woman they believed wanted sex with them- that at no point they chose to look at her face? It highlights our culture that objectifies women – the person you’re having sex with no longer matters enough for little gestures, such as looking at your partner. Women are becoming products from a standard factory line in too many men’s eyes, designed to be in a constant state of consent. It’s why the “she didn’t say no” line of defence is so dangerous. Women are not autonomous, and consent is not a guaranteed right. Assuming a woman wants sex with you is a dangerous viewpoint – If you don’t want to be a rapist, assume a woman doesn’t want sex with you, until she proves otherwise.

But the most important thing Reddit proved last week was simple, and a message feminists have been trying to get across for ages. The men, relaying their stories of how they’d raped women, were telling stories of how they’d raped acquaintances, whilst in a domestic setting. Reddit proved what we’ve been saying all along – Rapists aren’t lurking down every alleyway; they’re not deranged psychopaths. They’re the friends who we trust, the boyfriends, family acquaintances. For all the “Not My Nigel” arguments that women throw about in defence of their partners, the men of Reddit have proven that, yes… It really is our Nigels who pose the threat.

In Defence of The Stay At Home Mother

The Guardian, and subsequently Cherie Blair, have proved quite effective in allowing me to perfect my procrastination skills, I must admit. But, some things do need saying. Cherie Blair, according to The Guardian, has been criticising women who choose “rich husbands and put their children before their career”.

Now, the Stay At Home Parent argument is one that has caused a huge conflict in myself. As a lone parent, being a stay at home parent means that I’d be reliant on the benefit system. However, as an unqualified individual (I left my first university degree in 2005, after a Marxist moment, in which I realised my career path at the time wasn’t about making people happy, but instead, about making profits) I’d be destined to a life of low paid jobs. My mother, during my visit to see her after leaving Mini-Dragon’s father, couldn’t work out which daughter would be more disgraceful; the one reliant on income support until Mini-Dragon started school, or the one who would be working every hour God (that’s what we call Tesco these days, right?) sent to provide Mini-Dragon with a decent childhood. So, I did what any logical person in that situation would do, and headed back to university. Shortly after, my mother turned grey…

Anyway, my point here is that mothers, whether lone parents or partnering with their child’s father, are criticised at every available turn. When my sister-in-law expressed a desire to return to work, my mother protested strongly about the idea of my nephew (aged nine months at the time) being put into childcare at such a young age. My sister-in-law was criticised and guilt tripped about returning to work, despite my brother’s job barely covering the bills. Yet no focus was placed on my brother. Women are, at every turn of their life, to be criticised. Men, instead, are to be praised.

To an extent, I understand Cherie Blair’s criticism of stay at home mothers. But this is a small extent. Instead of feeling that stay at home mothers should be criticised, I feel that the work industry, which makes it so difficult for mothers to return to work should they choose to stay at home for any length of time, should be criticised. The work industry, which makes it more difficult for working mothers to progress, should be criticised for regularly holding mothers back in the workplace. We’re told we have equality in the workplace, that mothers cannot be held back because they have children. However, it doesn’t always happen.

Before Mini-Dragon came along, I worked for a retail chain for a short while. Around three months into the job, a chance for a promotion arose. I found myself up against a single mother and a woman in her 50’s. Being in my early twenties, with no outside commitments, I was granted the promotion. The single mother, I still believe, was more qualified; after all, the promotion was in baby sales, and what did I, a non-parent at the time, know about sitting up all night with a teething baby, or how to treat colic? I mean, raising a child is no mean feat.

When my brother was made redundant earlier this year, he elected to become a stay-at-home parent. For various reasons, he ended up returning to work last week, but upon his telling of his plans to become a stay-at-home parent to our mother, he was immediately asked why he wouldn’t be looking for work, so his wife couldn’t drop out of work. Luckily, he defended his wife’s decision to work. But over the following few weeks, he found himself constantly praised and patronised for being a stay-at-home parent. He found mothers marvelling at how he could possibly manage potty training his son, the laundry, and even his ability to cook full meals on his own came under marvel. This was despite the fact he’d previously been a chef…

We still see raising children as “women’s work”. Which is why we allow it to be criticised so extensively. But we also see women who choose to put their careers in the spotlight as “neglecting” their children in one manner or another. It isn’t feminism to criticise a woman who stays at home to raise her children. What we need to do is begin to see the value in women staying at home, and view them in the same positive light in  which we view stay at home fathers. Once we stop berating women, no matter their choice with regards to work, we’ll see a greater equality in the workplace, with mothers who choose to work finding it easier to progress through their work.