The Howe Sound Women’s Centre (HSWC) approached a number of Whistler bars earlier this year with the “Don’t Be That Guy” anti-rape campaign. The plan was to produce “posters depicting strong visuals and messaging that sex without consent constitutes sexual assault” and put them “in men’s washrooms in bars and pubs throughout Whistler.”
The “Don’t Be That Guy” campaign launched in 2012 and resulted in a 10 per cent drop in sexual offenses in Vancouver, according to Vancouver’s Deputy Chief Doug LePard*. This was the first time the VPD had seen a decrease in years. The rate of sexual assault in the Sea to Sky corridor (i.e. the Whistler/Squamish area) was apparently three times higher than in Vancouver during 2000-2009. In Whistler, sexual assaults went from six in 2011 to 15 in 2012 (domestic violence rates went up as well). It’s clear that this is an issue that needs to be addressed.
Whistler is a favorite party-spot for douchebags (think of the bar scene there as a kind of Granville Street for snowboarders) so the campaign seemed a natural fit. Also, any bar is a natural fit for “Hey Guys Stop Raping”-type campaigns, as predators and men who care more about their penises than they do enthusiastic consent tend to prey on incapacitated women.
Initially, bar owners said they supported the campaign. As reported by The Question, Joey Gibbons, owner of a number of Whistler bars, including Tapley’s, Buffalo Bills, the Longhorn, and Garfinkel’s, said, “This initiative aligns with the values of our industry.” Once he saw the actual posters, though, he decided they were “too edgy.” A few of the posters had already gone up and *gasp* made some people feel uncomfortable, according to Gibbons.
Here’s a common thing I encounter as a feminist — most men think they like the idea of not-raping. Most of them will say, if asked “Oh yes! Of course I think violence against women is wrong and bad” and “Those men over there doing all the assaulting are bad and unlike me.“ Likewise, most men, when asked if they support “women having the same rights as men” will respond by saying, “Uh, yeah?” at which pointed they are gifted with a box of cookies and a t-shirt that reads: “This is what a feminist looks like!” And therein lies the problem with a definition of feminism that doesn’t include “end patriarchy and violence against women.” Just saying that you “support equal rights for women” doesn’t make you a feminist. It doesn’t. Anyone can parrot that basic idea and few men will literally respond to the suggestion of “equal rights” by saying, “You know, no — I actually think women are second-class citizens who shouldn’t be allowed to vote.” But when pressed — like, when asked if they are willing to give up porn or strip clubs or the right to objectify women — you’re more likely to get a less enthusiastic response from all these so-called feminist men. The “equal rights” definition of feminism basically tells men that they can be feminist without ever changing their behaviour or the way they think about women. Ending sexual assault (and patriarchy!) is going to take an actual change in behaviour and social norms. And that’s probably going to feel a little “uncomfortable.”
The idea behind the “Don’t Be That Guy” campaign is that it shifts the blame from victim to perpetrator (and specifically addresses “alcohol-facilitated sexual assault”). It doesn’t tell women to not get drunk or not walk home alone at night. It doesn’t tell women how best they can avoid getting raped because, as evidenced by the history of patriarchy, there is little any woman can do to avoid male violence. Male violence is a choice men make, not women. So it’s understandable that men who think they are for sure progressive (or at least liberalish-thinking) and, you know, totally think #rapesux, when confronted with the reality of rape and the fact that rape is the fault of men who rape — men who hang out in their bars, at that — would be unenthused.
I’m sorrynotsorry, but if you’re not ready to “feel uncomfortable” then you’re not ready to understand and confront rape. Rape is more than “uncomfortable” for victims. The global epidemic of violence against women is pretty “uncomfortable” for women. If your main concern, with regard to confronting male violence against women and sexual assault is to avoid making men “uncomfortable” then you cannot for even a moment pretend as though you have any real interest in addressing the issue. Because actually you don’t give a shit about women. Actually you care more about men’s “comfort” than you do women’s safety and well-being.
I guess now the HSWC has had to come up with a new, less confrontational campaign that doesn’t make Whistler bros “uncomfortable.” Gosh I only hope that all the supposed not-raping men are gonna be doing doesn’t put them out to much or ruin the party-vibe at Buffalo Bills.
*I'm told these stats are problematic and that the VPD has been challenged with regard to this quote/information.
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