[TW: rape] I have gotten one question repeatedly from young men. These are guys who liked the book, but they are honestly confused. They ask me why Melinda was so upset about being raped.
The first dozen times I heard this, I was horrified. But I heard it over and over again. I realized that many young men are not being taught the impact that sexual assault has on a woman. They are inundated by sexual imagery in the media, and often come to the (incorrect) conclusion that having sex is not a big deal. This, no doubt, is why the number of sexual assaults is so high.
Laurie Halse Anderson, author of Speak, on the question “Have any readers ever asked questions that shocked you?”
Read that again. Read it again, and again, and again. Over and over guys have asked her why Melinda was so upset about being raped. This is a girl who went to a party with friends. She was thirteen. She had a drink, because everyone else was. And a senior held her down and raped her while she was too drunk to get away.
And guys don’t understand why she was upset.
Read that again and then come back and tell me again why I should just shut up and take a joke when a comedian blows off rape as a big deal, or women’s bodies are casually treated as commodities in media. Remind me why I shouldn’t care about the very real harm that society’s treatment of women and sexual assault does.
I posted this originally to the SMOF list but I feel like it might be useful in a broader context as well. I’m certainly not the first person to say these things, but maybe I’m the first one saying it where certain people will hear it?I’ve got a concrete tip to try to make conventions an ever so slightly more welcoming, diversity-friendly space: Stop using “politically incorrect” in earnest. And frankly, considering how bad irony seems to translate across cultural boundaries in this context, you should probably stop using it altogether. Certainly stop using it in program descriptions or official convention materials, which I’ve seen at least a half-dozen times in as many years in the conventions that I’ve attended. Reading it in those contexts makes me feel like I’m chewing tinfoil.Am I saying “politically incorrect” is an offensive term? Not at all. But in my experience, it is used nowadays to near-exclusivity by people being angry that they not “allowed” to be bigoted in public without social repercussions. It’s a signifier, a dogwhistle to the racist right (whether or not the user so intends it), a little bit like the Confederate flag and the state’s rights movements being signifiers of country-fried white American bigotry. If someone comes up to me on the street with a Confederate flag trucker cap and a pamphlet about state’s rights, I’m assuming that they have a white hood in the closet and an emergency cross-burning kit in the trunk. Is that certain? By no means. Am I risking throwing the non-racist, Alabama-loving strict constitutionalist out with the Klan’s bathwater? Yes. But I’ll take those odds.Similarly, if someone starts ranting to me about “political correctness”, I’m going to class them in the same rough pool as “doesn’t believe in evolution” and “thinks minorities don’t read books”: Probably an idiot, odds of racist tendencies also very high.Try this little experiment out for yourself: Whenever you hear someone use “political correctness” in a sentence, substitute “consideration for the feelings of others”. For
"political incorrect" substitute "totally inconsiderate of the feelings of others". If the sentence makes the speaker sound like a jerk the second way, it also probably makes them sound like a jerk the first way. Consider:"They made me change my T-shirt because it was politically incorrect""I was denied a promotion because I wouldn’t kowtow at the altar of political correctness""Calling me out for making a dirty joke to my friend in a public space is just political correctness gone crazy""I’m not going to police my vocabulary just because you think it’s politically incorrect".