Really? Oh, okay.

Hmm. Bit of a controversy brewing with the VUWSA Women’s Group. One of the members has taken offence at the above panel from yesterday’s Salient cartoon, claiming that it “depicts gang rape”, and is making some sort of formal complaint. I’ll find out what they’re annoyed about tomorrow. The scan I put up here yesterday has been copied without my permission to the Women’s Group Facebook page with the description “panel #3 flippntly pushes acceptance of sexual assaults during o-week events”.

Because, of course, it makes perfect sense that the author of some of the most fully-realised women protagonists in New Zealand comics would secretly have a pro-rape agenda.

I would spell out my repugnance at these implications using simple words to make absolutely sure everyone understood what I’m saying, but I’m not sure I’m required to if the allegation is obviously wrong.

Or if the allegation is a deliberate and malicious misrepresentation of the cartoon made by someone who knows me well enough to know that it’s wrong. Someone, say, like the only person I’ve ever had to ban from this blog and threaten with a trespass order.

…For example.

Actually, something good that may come out of this would be discussion of the issue I’m highlighting above – many 18-year-old girls get massively shitfaced during Orientation, and are preyed upon. If you look at the crime incident maps distributed by the police (which are sometimes reproduced in Magneto), you can see that many of Wellington’s sexual assaults are committed in dark alleys near Courtenay Place, where hopelessly drunk girls have stumbled while trying to get home. It’s entirely possible, considering how the Orientation issue of Salient is full of advice for first-years, that some girls may read this panel and think “Right. Something to avoid.”

Really, if there’s anyone who should be annoyed, it’s rugby teams.

(EDIT: After the massive amount of trouble the above paragraph has caused, I’d like to point out that there is no alcohol depicted in the cartoon, and the girl is not drunk. I mention drunkenness above because it’s “a factor in 66% of arrests for disorder, violence and sexual offending”* and an Auckland survey in the NZ Medical Journal in 1989 estimated “over a third of women who were raped were intoxicated with alcohol”**. That was before the drinking age was lowered in 1999, and is unlikely to have gone down.)
(ANOTHER EDIT: The editor of Magneto has pointed out on one of the blogs which reproduced the above paragraph that the Crime Map (which is on p6 of their Orientation issue) is drawn up especially by Magneto using police-supplied data.)
*Alcohol and Crime in New Zealand, Jeremy Wood, 2005, p6
World Health Organisation Substance Abuse Publications: Country Profile: New Zealand, 2005, p5

32 Responses to “Really? Oh, okay.”

  1. Well, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it was “For Example”, considering their toxic mixture of malice, narcissism and paranoid delusion.

    Make sure it’s sorted out ASAP, I’ve known people to maliciously keep an accusation hanging over someone’s head without resolution in order to stigmatise them by insinuation.

    I’ve always been cynical about people taking offence at something on the grounds that it “depicts” X with the word being used disingenuously as a synonym for “condones”.

    IMO, the strip clearly depicts an averted gang rape. You can make a direct comparison with the Safe in the City advertising campaign.

    To go all Godwin-ish, by the complainant’s logic, Stephen Spielberg is obviously an anti-semite because he “depicted” the Holocaust in Schindler’s List. Of course if he hadn’t depicted it, he would have been a denier.

  2. ludditejourno Says:

    Hey there,
    can you post the rest of the cartoon, I’d be interested to see it so I can make my own mind up.

  3. I prefer to avoid subjects like this, but I don’t see how something that increases awareness of rape can be a bad thing. I don’t think anyone could possibly be less cautious after reading this strip, but they might be just that bit more cautious.

    This strip is your friend, but since it isn’t dressed up like your friend, that makes it your enemy?

  4. ludditejourno Says:

    Whoops, just saw the whole thing in your previous blog, sorry. I can see the problem from VUWSA’s point of view I’m afraid – you’ve set up a whole raft of “comic experiences” for first year women, one of which is “contraception”. But you don’t really mean that, you mean avoiding gang rape.
    It’s not funny, it’s not promoting discussion of the issue, it’s not provoking any discussion. It’s trivialising women’s experiences of coerced sex and sexual violence, and seems a shame in the context of your other cartooning work, which I agree with you, often showcases more rounded portrayals of women than many other cartoonists manage.
    I’m curious as to your response to the criticism though? Would a genuinely-wishing-to-do-no-harm on this issue response typically be “I’m not like that really and anyone who says so is stupid and anyway I know who’s saying it and they are crazy”?
    I guess I get things wrong all the time – and I like to think when that’s pointed out I’m big enough to say so, and rectify it – anything else smacks of thinking you understand this issue better than women who have been multiply raped.

  5. The term “contraception” is used here to mean “avoidance of pregnancy”: using one’s wits and a solid door. It happens a lot at this time of year. It’s not meant to be funny, but arguably it is promoting discussion of the issue.

    The original Rake’s Progress was not a comedy, although with Hogarth’s love of caricature, it had strong comic elements. It was a cautionary tale. Ronald Searle’s 1955 version, which I’m using as a template, was a comedy, although the Rakes are often in unpleasant situations and meet gruesome and ironic ends.

    I know my response to this criticism isn’t typical, but I’m afraid in this particular situation the complaint has been raised by someone I know who has deliberately misinterpreted the message of the cartoon, and is purely malicious.

  6. Rhinocrates Says:

    “I’m not like that really and anyone who says so is stupid and anyway I know who’s saying it and they are crazy”?

    There’s a fine line between paraphrasing and putting words in someone’s mouth. I believe that you’ve crossed it.

    Admittedly you don’t know the particular, very obsessive person who’s name is omitted for legal reasons and if you did know them, you would agree that describing them as a few fries short of a happy meal would be an understatement.

    The accusation itself is woefully unsupported and consists of projection, and there is little in the way of reasonable response that can be made to an unreasonable charge. It’s a lose-lose situation where prejudice is concerned.

    But you don’t really mean that

    While you may be a telepath, I doubt it. If you have ambitions to be a professional journalist, I would be very careful about making such insinuations – it could get you into some very expensive difficulty.

    The statement is in any case based on an all too common fundamental misunderstanding of comics and of irony. Neither are inherently lightweight, both can be very very dark indeed, and it is a common dramatic technique to juxtapose levity and tragedy (eg., the Fool’s commentary in King Lear ) to heighten the tragedy.

    As Brunswick says above,

    I would spell out my repugnance at these implications using simple words to make absolutely sure everyone understood what I’m saying

    A certain amount of trust in the intellect and goodwill of the reader is used here.

  7. Rhinocrates Says:

    anything else smacks of thinking you understand this issue better than women who have been multiply raped.

    And that is simply moral blackmail, which is repugnant as you are now using rape to bully concessions.

  8. The person in question removed me as a friend from Facebook in spite of – or possibly because of – the fact that I didn’t take sides in the dispute between them. This, even though I was one of her few friends to show up and help her when she was moving one time. I don’t think this is the action of a rational person, and it’s understandable that Grant’s response is somewhat emotional, and that the legitimacy of the complaint should be bought into question.

    Before judging Mr. Buist, you should wait for his formal response rather than his Blog one.

  9. […] argues on his blog: Actually, something good that may come out of this would be discussion of the issue I’m […]

  10. The fast-moving world of anonymous journalism, eh?

  11. Rhinocrates Says:

    Nothing swifter than the self-righteous.

  12. Wow. That was really misinterpreted. I think I’ve just become a standard bearer for everything I hate about men.

  13. Rhinocrates Says:

    Opportunistically misrepresented.

  14. Hmm, I wonder why nobody has objected to panel 4? In the wake of the P-epidemic, surely it is irresponsible to depict drug-use?

    Instead of acknowledging these issues, would it be preferable to sweep them under the carpet? People should be talking about the issues that the cartoon raises, but they shouldn’t blame the cartoonist for raising them. In my opinion there is nothing in panel 3 that “pushes acceptance of sexual assaults”.

  15. Rhinocrates Says:

    Obviously you’re not listening to the little voices in your head.

  16. thomsedavi, I’m not going to get a formal response. Salient is apologising for any offence caused, and running an article on Why Rape Is Bad written by one of the complainants.

  17. thomsedavi Says:

    The ironic thing is, after reading ludditejourno’s comment on this page I was considering the possibility that the cartoon might be offensive to some people, but then they wrote the blog entry that demonstrates such an amazing lack of perception.

    How can ‘If you look at the crime incident maps distributed by the police… many of Wellington’s sexual assaults are committed in dark alleys near Courtenay Place’ be construed as an ignorance of the fact that not all rapes are reported? It cannot, unless you have an agenda and the inability to find a convincing way to address it.

  18. As a consequence of having a working brain, I’m aware that only a small percentage of sexual assaults are reported, and I refer to the crime incident maps because they are a verifiable sample. She’s rejected my defence, I see no reason to try to persuade her further. Life is too short.

  19. Knowing that the likely writer of the forthcoming article has a propensity to make maliciously defamatory and untrue allegations, it might be worthwhile pointing out to Salient’s editor that the article should not contain any personal references or misrepresentations of intention.

  20. No, this is a different writer, it should be an interesting article, I just hope it doesn’t mention this cartoon – I don’t want to be the misrepresented catalyst for a worthy topic.

  21. …or to be libelled on by the original complainant:

    So, it’s just ‘one more time round the block’ for the tired old argument that ‘girls bring rape on themselves’, and we should police women’s behaviour – not that rapists are criminals, and we should police men’s behaviours.

    I wonder when I’m going to see an off-this-blog response where the writer a) doesn’t have an agenda, b) has actually thought their response through, or c) isn’t a fucking moron?

  22. thomsedavi Says:

    From the person you are referring to…

    “So, it’s just ‘one more time round the block’ for the tired old argument that ‘girls bring rape on themselves’, and we should police women’s behaviour…”

    Apparently, raising issues for girls to think about is ‘policing’ them.

    I’m going to drop this subject now… it’s obviously not going anywhere and I have other things to do today.

  23. Thank you for your contribution. Check again tomorrow, when it’ll either have blown over completely, or turned into a massive viral shitstorm.

  24. girls bring rape on themselves

    Which is not suggested in the strip in any way. It seems that it’s (a) just a Pavlovian reflex, so that any mention of rape (implied, averted or otherwise) brings on every other possible corollary or (b) the author is using a sledgehammer to swat an imaginary fly and trying to use the tactic of insinuating guilt by association with other vile attitudes.

    The sad thing is that this is a very serious issue indeed, but again it’s being used by one individual to pursue their own agenda. It’s a pity that that person’s – let’s call her “For Example” (a cryptonym like “The Imaginary Purple Water Buffalo”) history of personal persecution and slander can’t be exposed… but then that exposure would be painful to you anyway, as it would bring up some very unpleasant memories.

    … and I’ve had word too of what For Example has said of me and I’m not very pleased, considering the support that I’ve given to that backstabber in the past.

    it’ll either have blown over completely, or turned into a massive viral shitstorm

    “If forty million people say a stupid thing, it is still a stupid thing” – Anatole France.

    I notice LJ has not reappeared, but returned to their blog to whine. All that talk about being big enough to admit mistakes applies in only one direction of course. If they have pretensions to being a journalist, they might want to familiarise themselves with defamation law if they are not to encounter some career-killing suits for making wild leaps of speculation about intentions.

    I’m glad that you’re relaxed enough to acknowledge that life is too short to waste educating children who refuse to learn, and not letting their persistence get to you.

  25. thomsedavi Says:

    I was wrong. The subject did go somewhere – it went even more insane. Comments from LudditeJourno’s blog entry:

    “Just for curiosity, what would you say about a woman that did not find the cartoon offensive but actually funny?”

    “I wouldn’t “say anything” about your straw woman. Any other thoughts to share?”

    ‘Straw woman’? Normally people who present a fallacious argument don’t actually understand what a fallacious argument is. And well done with completely evading the actual question. This is just fucking pathetic.

    Incidentally, as an experiment I asked A Girl I know to look at the cartoon and tell me what A Girl would find offensive about it. After a long hard look she said, ‘Maybe the third one, because it has sexual connotations? I don’t know.’

  26. …or to be libelled on Look, just do not go there, okay? How much confirmation do you need that For Example is a professional victim and moral blackmailer of the worst kind?

  27. Marcus Anderson Says:

    I think the use of any sort of rape reference needs to be very carefully considered, and treated with the utmost care, rather than slapped alongside hilarious panels about amphetamine binges and Witi Ihimaera.

    I think the reaction may be disproportionate to the offence, but it’s by no means ill-founded. I think you’ve shown an embarrassing lack of tact.

  28. There are some people it’s impossible to be tactful around. And, you know, I can’t remember the last time I “slapped” together anything.

  29. What an extraordinary beat-up.

    There’s no evidence of criminal activity, sexual violence, or rape in panel 3. I think the depiction of a front door as a form of contraception is quite witty.

    I think these agenda-pushers have far too much time on their hands.

  30. Finally! Someone who understands semiotics!

  31. Well the offence is easy enough for me to understand. The entire comic is about advice to women. When it comes to rape, women get the same advice all the time and I imagine it can get tiring. Especially if they don’t see men being advised on how to avoid inadvertently becoming a rapist (alcohol, peer pressure, mob mentality, cultural influences, misunderstanding of what rape actually is, etc.).

    Take a different crime.. stabbing. I don’t want to get stabbed, so you could advise me to walk around in a stab proof vest. Perfectly sensible. However it can feel as if you are letting stabbers off the hook. Even though it’s I that doesn’t want to get stabbed, I really feel that it should be the potential stabbers that need to change their behaviour, not me.

    Back to rape. I can certainly understand that some women would feel that it is the potential rapists (here depicted as a rugby team for some reason) that should change their behaviour rather than women. As such I can certainly understand why your advice-to-young-women comic can be hurtful in that particular panel.

    Even though crime is (in practical terms) inevitable, it really should be challenged. Changing our behaviour to accommodate criminals may keep us safer but there is something distinctly distasteful about that strategy in my personal (male, heterosexual) opinion. With rape I imagine that distaste would be even stronger because of a ‘boys-will-be-boys’ attitude that seems to run unchallenged in the public consciousness.

  32. Thank you for your well thought-out observations.

    I didn’t intend this to be an advice-to-women cartoon. Although Hogarth’s prints were intended to be morally instructive, they were also satirical observations on life in London. I’m leaning more towards satire here. It’s a satire of the potential hazards that await first years in Wellington.

    If there’s potential danger out there, I don’t see anything wrong with people being aware of it. The Orientation packs included nifty torches from the ‘Stick With Your Friends’ campaign, which project the slogan “Stay Safe in the City” in their light beam. You can educate men to change their attitudes and avoid offensive behaviour, but it’s never going to totally eliminate sexual assault. There will always be danger, and I don’t think it’s wrong to mention it exists.

    To use your stabbing metaphor, people shouldn’t have to wear stab-proof vests, but they should also know that potential stabbers are out there.

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