I’m trying to articulate my thoughts. They are jumbled, scattered, yet so, so clear in my mind. It’s the words that aren’t coming together right. Like a jigsaw puzzle, I am turning each piece over, observing its defining characteristics, and hunting down its precise place.
I grew up in Eastern Washington, in a large city, with a bustling downtown and a conservative heart. I have fond memories of it, in general, but nothing I can point out specifically that makes me wish to return. After a stint on the coast, reconciling my liberal tendencies with my conservative opinions, I could visit it fondly and find it, dare I say, quaint. What a sweet place this is. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to bring our kids back here to raise them. Not that it happened, but the thought was nice.
So, imagine my surprise when a friend forwarded me a story about a new bar in my conservative home. A bar serving a drink called Date Grape Koolaid. Ugh. Okay, so some pig wants to make a buck off rape culture. Gross. I really thought, at first, that I would leave it be. I’m not raising my kids there. It’s not MY problem. They’ll never see MY money. But, not one to leave things to lie, I popped over to the business page, to see what was up.
It is so sad to see humans with so little empathy for one another that they can callously joke about an abusive act of dominance against another person. To read, not only remarks from the business owner, but from the general population telling peaceful protestors who are survivors of rape to get a life, get over themselves, to get a sense of humor.
All they wanted was the name to be changed.
Instead, true to the rape culture dominating our society, they were shamed. Belittled. Ridiculed.
I took to social media, as many others finding out about the story had, and continue to do, and shared my thoughts with friends who still live in the area. Send this guy a message. Make this drink disappear. Get this place shut down.
IMMEDIATELY, I received this comment:
“Its a free country, did you spend a little to much time on the coast?? Taking away people freedoms is a little more serious than a stupid drink name. Your a writer, what if someone was telling you what you can and cannot write about?”
I. was. baffled. If sending a business owner a clear message that he won’t make money off of jokes about other peoples’ abuses is considered akin to denying basic rights in our country then I DON’T WANT TO BE PART OF THIS COUNTRY ANY MORE.
This person went on to compare closing the business to being force-fed religion, and even accused me of denying my Pagan beliefs of ‘Live and Let Live.’ Side note, it’s, As It Harm None, Do As You Will, and it does NOT apply to this. Making light of rape IS harmful. Period.
Thankfully, other friends came to my aid. Points like:
“Freedom of speech is to protect you from being trampled on by the government. This is not a freedom of speech issue. He has every right to name his drink that. I have every right to protest it.”
“We are on the cutting edge here of getting rid of the ideas that it’s okay for men to do whatever they want to women. Just like Dr. King had to fight to get rid of the idea that it was okay for white people to lay a beat down on people of color whenever they wanted to – just to keep them in their place. Is it okay to name an alcoholic beverage a “funny” name when a lot of depraved acts are done and then “but I was drunk” is a means of defense? Do you not see the dangerous correlation here?”
“I understand they’re attempt at capitalism but would people react as passively if they made it about race instead of rape? Both are distasteful except one makes fun a crime that far too often goes unreported.”
Once others jumped in on the discussion, I received a personal message from the original commenter. We talked a bit more, though at that point it was more of a futile beating-my-head-against-the-wall attempt at getting him to ‘hear’ me. At one point I made the remark that maybe it was just impossible for him to understand if he had never felt truly threatened, and then he asked this question:
“What happened to you, Jessica?”
And I had to end the conversation.
THAT is rape culture. If I am not a victim, I am not allowed to have an opinion. If I am a victim, well, my story needs to be heard so I can be told I should have been able to prevent it, I should have been able to avoid it, I should have, I should have, I should have…
And giving money to guys who want to joke about it? Literally buying into the joke?
“It’s very likely that in some of these interactions with these guys, at some point or another someone told a rape joke. You, decent guy that you are, understood that they didn’t mean it, and it was just a joke. And so you laughed.
That rapist who was in the group with you, that rapist thought that you were on his side. That rapist knew that you were a rapist like him. And he felt validated, and he felt he was among his comrades.”
Click on that text. Read that link. It’s not long, but it says SO MUCH that needs to be said.
Rape culture isn’t going to get rid of itself. And it sure as hell isn’t going away if we leave it to others to fight the battle for us.
You can find updates to the struggle my hometown is having in getting this abhorrent drink and business removed by following the (peaceful) boycott group’s facebook page here.