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Scheherazade in Blue Jeans
freelance alchemist
I write letters. 
22nd-Sep-2009 06:30 pm
Boondock/can't believe
Dear Bust Magazine,

I was dismayed to see the following on your Twitter today: "dont know about you but i'm getting a little tired of geting raped by my insurance company, lets demand a public option!"

Aside from the heinous grammar, I find the rape-jokiness of this very offensive. Whoever's doing your tweets should know better. I expect this sort of thing from Tucker Max, not from a feminist magazine.

The following post may help to educate the person doing your tweets:

I know I'm probably not directing this to the right people; I hope that you'll see that it gets to the appropriate people at Bust. These were the only e-mail addresses I could find at the site. And I apologize for not being more articulate, but frankly, I'm still upset by this complete lapse of taste. Oh, I've got a sense of humor. And I agree with the need for a public option, and have lots of problems with our health insurance system. But I fail to see how high co-pays and red tape are analogous to sexual assault.

I'd like a response, if possible. I see a lot of value in Bust, and don't want to jump straight to cancelling my subscription if the staff as a whole agrees with me that rape jokes are uncool. I hope that it's just the person doing your tweets that finds this hilarious - and that you'll find someone else. Because this stuff does not speak well of Bust.

22nd-Sep-2009 11:06 pm (UTC)
I am loathe to say this as I am sensitive to what has happened to you and all the work you do to help people that have been hurt. But, this comes off as overly sensitive and nit-picky.

This is not a rape joke, such as you linked to. Using the term "rape" as say "I am getting charged a lot for really bad service" is common parlance. It is not uncommon to have the term used in this way regarding any number of things. Saying "I got raped on the price of my new computer" is the same kind of statement. It is not a joke, it is not making light of anything. Really, it is trying to highlight how bad the person feels it is. By saying "dont know about you but i'm getting a little tired of geting raped by my insurance company, lets demand a public option!", their person is trying to convey how bad they feel they are being treated. Sure it is a severe term, but there is no malice in it. Like there obviously is in you link.

While I am sure you sent this message with good intentions, and I feel you should continue to make sure that rape victims are not maligned, or further abused, this was not really a good one to go after. Really this is a common term amongst most people. really.
22nd-Sep-2009 11:08 pm (UTC)
Really this is a common term amongst most people. really.

I know. And that's a problem.
22nd-Sep-2009 11:15 pm (UTC)
Really? See that is what seems overly sensitive. I sympathize with you and other rape victims. But really it does not allow you to dictate how people use a word. It's a word. Many words have many meanings.

It's like the word "lame" or "stupid" or "fuck". All of them have various meanings ranging from silly to very mean and hurtful. Context does matter.

The real point I am making is that by going after what is a common term you weaken your argument against things that really should not be said. You just become a person that when the word "rape" is used e-mails in and is ignored. Save your rage for truly offensive matters where you can really effect people. Piddly stuff like this is exactly that, piddly.
22nd-Sep-2009 11:22 pm (UTC)
The problem is that it isn't piddly stuff. It's the underpinnings of rape culture.

The only word you bring up that's vaguely analogous to how "rape" is being used here is "lame", and I disagree with how that one gets misused, too. Other examples are saying someone "jewed you down on the price" or "gypped you out of" something.

But really it does not allow you to dictate how people use a word. It's a word. Many words have many meanings.

True. But this word only has one.

And it's really not nearly as common as you think it is, outside of MMORPG chat channels.

Save your rage for truly offensive matters where you can really effect people.

Oh, this is not me raging. :) This is just me stating my displeasure. When I'm raging, you'd know it from three states away.

And I disagree that speaking up about this doesn't affect people. It's only when it's openly stated that this is not okay that people can learn.
23rd-Sep-2009 12:18 am (UTC)
It's like the word "lame" or "stupid" or "fuck".

Actually, it's more like the word "retard" or "gay" or "gyp" -- and I would also point out that "lame" is another problematic word.

The attitude that words which denigrate or dismiss an entire people/cultural experience are acceptable to use is not piddly stuff at all to anyone who is so dismissed.
23rd-Sep-2009 12:19 am (UTC)
First, she is not dictating how anyone uses the word, she is stating she is dismayed and also, I believe, attempting to educate. You are probaly right in that no malice is intended by use of the word, which doesn't mean that its use does not contribute to rape culture. For example, I used the word "gyp" until it was pointed out to me, nicely, that it's a harmful and racist term.

Second, you are right that context does matter and in the context of this being a feminist magazine the attempt to edicate is appropriate.

Third, in my fairly wide experience, it's not a "common term among most people." I've rarely heard it used, and I remember when I've heard it because it hits me like a slap in the face (yes, even though no malice is intended). I acknowledge that perhaps most people you know use it. I still doubt most people in general do.

23rd-Sep-2009 12:28 am (UTC)
But really it does not allow you to dictate how people use a word.

And you aren't allowed to dictate how other people feel about the manner in which words are used.
23rd-Sep-2009 01:37 am (UTC)
We as a culture seem to have forgotten that words have power.

I have had a few bad experiences, but I don't classify anything that was done to me as rape. And yet I am offended when I hear one guy laughing, clapping another guy on his shoulder, saying "Dude, you were raped" when the other guy lost a video game.

It completely takes away the seriousness and atrocity of what rape is.

And to sit back and say "well, that's just our culture" implies - no, I think it does actually indicate - that one does not understand the seriousness and atrocity, either.
23rd-Sep-2009 02:30 am (UTC)
I generally agree with you... I don't like to be nitpicky when it comes to tweets and off-the-cuff remarks and all, but as she pointed out this is from a feminist magazine. You'd think they'd be sensitive to the use of such terms. And actually, from what I've seen, they tend to be receptive to this kind of criticism. I think it's appropriate.
22nd-Sep-2009 11:11 pm (UTC)
Really this is a common term amongst most people. really.

Many does not equal most. Nor does most necessarily imply anything by itself.

Edited at 2009-09-22 11:12 pm (UTC)
22nd-Sep-2009 11:16 pm (UTC)
Yes, this; I caught that after.

It's a common term amongst some people. I don't know how many. But certainly not most.

Or maybe it's just that I primarily deal with people intelligent enough to know what the word "rape" does and does not mean, and precise enough to use the correct word to convey their meaning.

(Only slightly tangential: I referred to something as "cohesive" the other night, to Mark.
Mark: "You mean coherent."
Me, puffing up: "No! I mean cohesive!"
Mark: "You mean it adheres to itself?"
Me: "YES!" And I explained exactly how I meant that.
Mark: "Huh. Yes. That is the right word, then."
Me: "I know.")

Edited at 2009-09-22 11:17 pm (UTC)
22nd-Sep-2009 11:26 pm (UTC)
Ok, the nit-pick continues. Grammar policing is great and all but is not really serving a good purpose here.

Replace most with a lot, or "is easily recognizable". I can show that sentence to the majority of people and the meaning that will be derived is that the poster is upset that his insurance costs him a lot of money, and he would rather it be replaced by a public option. The vast majority of people would not find it offensive in the least. Now this may not apply to you, or the people you know. I would think that the folks that are close to you and you spend your time with would be as sensitive as you are.

But I really feel that the people you have written will look at the message and think that it is a silly complaint. I really think that you should not complain in this way as it leads to you and your comments becoming white noise, and that would be a shame. You really are a strong and good voice for your cause.
22nd-Sep-2009 11:28 pm (UTC)
I have to agree. As I've known it, "rape" has two connotations: one is the well known unwanted sexual assault of a person, and the other is causing widespread damage/devastation. I've heard connotation #2 many times in history classes from high school through college (typically referring to the aftermath of war/holocaust/extermination programmes/forced relocations/genocide), and I think it's an apt description of what happens to a people in those circumstances. I think in both cases, the psychological damage is similar-- consider how Pol Pot raped the Cambodian Nation, and just how broken and damaged many of those people still are today (some might even point out that the damage of people even went so far as to actually destroy them).
Maybe it's a bit of hyperbole to say someone's being raped by their insurance company, but having gotten less than 10% of what I've put into the insurance hole, I can certainly sympathize. On the other hand, this person may have been denied coverage for several dire medical issues for such a long time that the poster is feeling truly degraded, and that the situation is truly hopeless-- and I think that would qualify as being raped.
22nd-Sep-2009 11:33 pm (UTC)
I think there's a pretty huge difference between genocide and a high co-pay.

I understand how traumatic dealing with health insurance companies can be; I've had to spend years fighting for care and payment of claims. I've also been raped. Gotta say, I'm not seeing the similarity.

(Context matters, too; the Bust Magazine tweeter has a very silly-jokey tone in all of her stuff. If this had been a serious essay where she said she felt violated, I'd feel differently about it.)
23rd-Sep-2009 12:41 am (UTC)
(Context matters, too; the Bust Magazine tweeter has a very silly-jokey tone in all of her stuff. If this had been a serious essay where she said she felt violated, I'd feel differently about it.)

That may well be-- not having read that person's tweets enough to get a feel for their overall tone, I'm not in a position to comment. I agree that context matters, but I still maintain that "rape" is a perfectly viable expression for uses detailing extreme damage and destruction. (Dubya and his wholesale attitudes toward civil rights, "the war on terror", and environmentalism comes to mind. One could as easily argue he raped the fourth amendment as argue he used it to wipe his behind. Similarly, had drilling in the ANWR occurred, a pristine wilderness would have been raped for the sake of a few petro-dollars.) It's an expression that encapsulates not just the nuts-and-bolts occurrence, but encompasses the totality of the emotional response toward the occurrence, and speaks to the degradation of opinion toward the principal actors.
(Deleted comment)
22nd-Sep-2009 11:39 pm (UTC)
I agree with you on the tone. The rest of the tweets are similarly light:

"'St. Elmo's Fire' is being made into a tv show....no! The movie was perfect and now this! GRRR."

"Happy Birthday Lauren Bacall! (I know your're reading this) JK"
23rd-Sep-2009 01:14 am (UTC)
I'm boggled that this conversation is even happening. The word was used badly and ridiculously, Song has a right to send complaints about any damn thing she feels like, even if it IS something trivial, and until she gets to Orly Taitz levels of ridiculousity, no, NONE of this "weakens" her other positions. We're done here.
23rd-Sep-2009 01:18 am (UTC)
until she gets to Orly Taitz levels of ridiculousity

Which could be a fun performance art piece.
23rd-Sep-2009 01:21 am (UTC)
See, what you do is, you file a motion for a client who has not asked you to do so. When the judge laughs you out of court, and threatens to sanction and fine you if you file another one, and this is the awesome part, this is where everyone knows it must surely be theatre, you FILE ANOTHER ONE! And call the judge a traitor!

All of this is exactly like sending an email to a publication that claims to be a feminist magazine and uses the word "rape" in a casual tweet. And now you know.
(Deleted comment)
23rd-Sep-2009 03:33 am (UTC)
This made Shakesville today, too.
23rd-Sep-2009 04:10 am (UTC)
I don't actually disagree with you, really, at least that that was someone that really should have known better. But I'm curious, do you have the same reaction to the use of "murder" in a similar sense? I think that's a more analogous word than saying something is "lame" or "gay", if I'm making the difference clear.
23rd-Sep-2009 01:25 pm (UTC)
I had a similar thought--the whole noun/verb context vs. adjectives.
23rd-Sep-2009 09:45 pm (UTC)

To my utter dismay, as a young woman I had the habit of calling something 'retarded' at every turn. And then came the day I was asked politely to not use that term in a new friends household because their sister was, indeed, 'retarded' and they found it offensive.

I unfortunately found myself, despite wanting to be respectful, unable for a few days to stop saying the word - to my further dismay I found myself saying it more often at their house than any other. Obviously the friendship ended. But in time, so did my habitual use of this ugly word that I had picked up.

I have never felt more sorry in my life of picking up a horrid habit like that, and I never would have known if someone hadn't pointed out to me politely that it was offensive. Its not the large battles that win the war against offensive and traumatizing words such as that and others, its the daily small and peaceful stands we all make, every day, that change public use of those kind of hidden and unnecessary insults.
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