Zerlina Maxwell, a writer and Democratic strategist, appeared on Sean Hannity’s show recently to discuss violence against women in America and possible solutions, including arming them to help thwart attacks. Of course, Sean’s opinion was that if more women were packing heat, less of them would be victimized. When Maxwell pointed out that she was tired of being told what she should and should not do to prevent herself from being raped and suggested that we, as a society, need to teach men not to rape women, all hell broke loose.
Since her fairly innocuous statements, Maxwell, a rape survivor herself, has received a barrage of violent threats via social media sites like Twitter from incensed TEApublicans. Why are they so pissed off? Probably because she refuses to oversimplify a complex situation so that the answer is MORE GUNS.
Anyone who follows politics closely knows that one of the issues liberals have with conservatives is what we perceive as pervasive black and white thinking patterns. TEApublicans seem to have an almost compulsive need to turn dynamic real-life situations into the equivalent of sound bites. Women are raped? Give them guns! There is evidence to support the theory that right wingers are prone to simplistic, good vs. evil thinking patterns in books like Chris Mooney’s The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science- and Reality.
Many conservative Facebook pages have run with the story, rushing to make memes that imply Maxwell is an “idiot” who thinks simply telling rapists not to rape is the be-all, end-all answer to the problem–like this one from ForAmerica.
Is it really that hard to understand what Zerlina Maxwell’s point was though or, as per their usual rote reaction, are TEApublicans just being willfully ignorant? As far as we can tell, Maxwell wasn’t suggesting that telling men not to rape will keep all sexual assaults from occurring. Her point was that the focus needs to be taken off of what women should do to prevent being raped and onto what we’re teaching men about women, sex and power in our society. It seems logical that we should at least spend an equal amount of time letting men know, from the time they’re boys, that it’s NEVER okay to assault a woman–even if she’s passed out drunk and wearing a micro-mini skirt. It’s a better approach than only telling women not to drink or wear certain kinds of clothing because when we do that we perpetuate two lies: It’s the victim’s fault and men just can’t help but sexually attack women under certain circumstances.
The fact is that the vast majority of rape is perpetrated by someone the victim knows, not an insatiable masked villain hiding in the bushes–and it’s dubious, at best, to suggest that arming women will solve the problem. In the case of any rape, whether committed by a “friend,” boyfriend, husband, acquaintance or stranger, if a man is strong enough to overpower a woman and rape her, is he not going to be strong enough to take her gun, too?
As Maxwell pointed out during the Ed Show interview, the volatile reactions to her initial comments are actually illustrating the point she was trying to make to begin with:
It illustrates what I was talking about, right? So I’m speaking for millions of survivors out there and I’m saying that there is problem with rape culture and attacks on women, and then I’m attacked. I think it illustrates that we do have a problem.
We do too.
Watch Zerlina Maxwell, courtesy of MSNBC: