I obviously in no way want to insinuate that rape gifs are anywhere near as egregious as the act of rape itself - especially since much of their disturbingness is that they trigger the greater horror of an experienced rape for many women - but as I've been following the rape gif phenomenon here on Jez since it started and in many ways these rape gifs really serve as a microcosm of our rape culture and how it works.
So far, from what I can see,
- It's an ongoing issue that everyone knew about, but did little to address. The very foundational system that it was setup on allowed and promoted it happening.
- It affects women disproportionately and was directly targeted at women and a women's site, in an attempt to make them feel smaller, less powerful, less safe, and silence them.
- The way to report it was widely unknown, changed frequently, and often seen as pointless, since they continued to happen repeatedly.
- It was dismissed as something that was silly to be bothered by - something that was normal and that we should have expected.
- The best way to get attention to the issue was to dramatically publicize it to get the media and wider community involved in order to bring pressure on the entities that were supposed to be doing their jobs.
- Some members of that entity (the Gawker editorial and tech team) specifically encouraged them to do so, knowing that without this pressure they wouldn't get the internal support and resources they needed to address the issue.
- Reporting the issue a high risk decision to the victims, including unwanted attention and potential professional and personal consequences.
- Those affected were widely derided, and the harassment of them actually continued and grew after the issue was reported; reporting the issue actually did make life harder for them.
- Other people who seemingly were uncaring started complaining now that they were also being affected; the issue is only real when it's happening to them.
- The system repeatedly placed any potential negativity to those who might be perpetrating it as a greater concern than the issues faced by the victims.
And I'm sure there are many, many more similarities out there and we will continue to see more as things progress. If I've missed any obvious ones, I'll gladly throw them up there!
So what can we learn from this? Is there any chance that this can serve as a safe and interesting example to those who don't believe that rape culture exists or understand how it works?