*pops open can of worms*
(but can of worms is not related to US politics so change is as good as holiday?)
Sooo.... South of Forgiveness, Thordis Elva and Tom Stranger.
Has anyone else watched the TED talk, read the book, seen/heard any of the interviews, etc etc?
I have so many feelings about this whole thing.
Obviously, if Thordis Elva - a long-time rape awareness activist - found that the best way for her to heal was to reach out to Stranger 20 years later, meet in South Africa (the neutral middle point between her Iceland and Stranger’s Australia) forgive him, and write a book with him, then all power to her.
But something wary, watchful and worn-out in me is a bit squicked out at how Stranger, a handsome, middle-class, educated, articulate and likable white person, is getting applause and headpats just for, um, admitting that twenty years ago he raped his girlfriend.
I stress that I understand it was all Elva’s choice how to go about this, and if it’s been healing for her then that’s fantastic. But from descriptions of their interactions and the book, it seems like she did basically all the emotional labour of this reconciliation.
And I’m sorry, but there is absolutely nothing remarkable about society giving a rapist a pass, especially a nice-looking eloquent middle-class one.
I just feel.....uncomfortable.....in a way that I’m really struggling to articulate.
I don’t like that victims of sexual assault can talk and disclaim until they’re blue in the fact, and are disbelieved, gaslit, derailed and mansplained to. But one dude comes along and admits that yeah he did actually force himself on his girlfriend that one time, and what a brave beautiful poignant story, how brave of him, and how brave of her - this is how rape narratives should go, if only other rape victims could be so high-minded and gracious as to be able to forgive.
It just seems like Stranger especially is addressing this all on a very small and personal level, focusing on rape as an act in a vacuum between two teenagers, when if he really wants to use the book deal and position as the Repentant Rapist he’s been given to do good, I’m sure he could say a lot of loud useful things about toxic masculinity, misogyny and rape culture.
Hopefully that will come.
TL;DR Okay, so a rapist has admitted he’s a rapist. Now what?
Here’s the TED talk.