May 1st, 2014The Speech That Could’ve Been
Content Note: This post discusses The Day the Laughter Stopped. The usual trigger and spoiler warnings apply.
Two weeks ago, we attended the German video game awards, Deutscher Computerspielpreis, where The Day won an award as Best Not-Quite-Serious Game. The speech I gave was not entirely what I wanted it to be, but before we get into that, have a look at it here (English captions available):
Time vs. Crabman
Now, if you’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing me talk, you know that I’m sloooooow as all hell. I tend to think carefully about each sentence I’m about to utter, trying to find the best possible phrasing to make my point clear and comprehensible. Which takes time. Lots and lots of time. And usually still doesn’t work. Turns out though that time isn’t one of the things you’re getting all too much of when giving speeches in a tightly-planned public event. We were, in fact, repeatedly reminded not to exceed 90 seconds, as it would mess with the schedule of the evening.
Fair enough. I understand that, and rules I understand I adhere to as best as I can. It’s not exactly easy to say anything useful about something as important and complex as rape culture in that short amount of time though, and it sure doesn’t get any easier when you’re incapable of planning ahead and talk at the speed of paint drying.
Still, while the previous category was announced, I quickly wrote a little speech that contained all the important details, had Hackenstein ok it, and was all ready to go when I entered the stage and suddenly found myself face-to-face with a big-ass timer that was already down to 00:54. Slightly less time than I expected. Much less time than I needed. But, after a few long moments of “OMG WHAT AM I GOING TO DOOOOO,” I just started rattling down the things I wanted to say, right until I noticed a big, red-flashing 00:00 in the corner of my eye. (That pause when I start to talk about the rules we enforce on women? Yeah, that’s the moment.)
So I did my best to wrap it up as quickly as possible, which naturally meant that I didn’t get around to one or two points I think were important to really drive the whole thing home.
The Speech That Should’ve Been
So what’s missing? Well, lots, but these are the two big points I wish I could’ve been clearer on:
1. The Meaning of Normalized Assault
Rape is not treated as a horrendous crime. Instead, it is treated as a fact of life. Women are told that it will happen to them unless they act the way society (read: men) deem appropriate. They are also told that it will only happen if they do something wrong.
Meanwhile, nobody seems concerned about the fact that there are apparently so many rapists around that pretty much all women are in danger. Their only concern is what women might possibly do to attract those rapists. But even if those ridiculous rules — which might as well be summed up as “Don’t get raped!” — worked, avoiding a problem is not the same as fixing it. Hiding from a rapist doesn’t make them go away. They’ll still be there, and sooner or later they will find a victim. You simply can’t hide everyone forever.
But as backwards as that is, it’s not even the worst part yet. The most harmful effect of this, in my eyes, is that normalizing assault changes what constitutes assault itself. Since “we all knew what would happen” if you didn’t follow the rules to the letter, not doing so must surely mean you wanted it to happen. Now couple that with the belief that rape can’t possibly happen unless the victim did something wrong, and we have a situation in which rape isn’t rape unless you avoid it.
2. This Is Our Fault
We are responsible for this. All of this. We might not have personally created this system, but each and every one of us who buys into, goes along with, or simply refuses to challenge this status quo that protects rapists and dooms victims is responsible for keeping it going. There is no way not to play a part in this. There are only those who try to take action, to recognize the faults in their mindsets and adjust their attitudes, and those who stand idly by, or worse, actively promote rape culture. But even if not being an actively horrible person is certainly a good thing, standing idly by is still supporting rape culture. Rape culture thrives on silence. After all, if they are never exposed for what they are, rapists are free to continue harming others, and if we don’t talk about this problem, we will never be able to fix it.
So we can’t stay quiet. We have to speak up. We have to change. We have to stop questioning and seeking fault with the victims and start listening to their stories. We have to stop making excuses for rapists and hold them accountable for their actions. We have to stop saying, “There’s two sides to every story” — a false accusation rate of 0.6% suggests otherwise. We simply have to stop ignoring this problem. And if we don’t, we have to accept responsibility for our part in keeping it alive. It is on each of us to decide whether or not we’re comfortable with that.
In the end, I suppose getting some of it out is better than nothing, and the feedback I’ve been getting has been overwhelmingly positive. But the fact remains that I have done nothing to deserve this platform I get to speak on, and not making the absolute most of the privilege I’ve been granted seems like a slap in the face of those who have been dismissed and ignored their whole lives. This is why I’m not ok with “all right,” why I’m upset I didn’t do better, why I’m devastated I can’t get it to reach more people.
This also brings me to the last and maybe most important part of this discussion:
I’m grateful and ecstatic that my words could reach and affect a few people, but I’m not at all comfortable accepting praise and thanks for speaking out. I’m not personally affected by this and I’m not saying anything that hasn’t already been said a thousand times over by those who are, those who really deserve praise and attention: the victims. The victims who tell their stories even though they know it will be picked apart, dismissed, and viciously attacked by a depressingly large portion of society. The ones who have already suffered through horrible abuse, yet open themselves up for even more abuse in order to help and protect others. I can’t imagine anything more brave and courageous than that.
So please, pay attention to the ones it’s happening to. Don’t question them. Don’t argue. Don’t try to reason their pain away. Just listen to them, learn from them, and focus on what’s causing pain in the first place. Don’t be part of the problem.
Listen to the victims.