Monthly Archives: May 2015

Talking About Rape Badly

brother

Congratulations on graduating, Emma Sulkowicz! Now, can we stop tormenting someone who was exonerated?

Now, there is one thing for standing against misogyny, but there is also harassment. There is also, bullying. And while Emma’s story is one of a girl standing up against her rapist and the institution that won’t allow for justice, there is also the story of Paul Nungesser, the accused rapist, someone who has been bullied and labeled a “rapist” despite there being zero proof other than accusations. She has a very compelling story of rape. But an interesting story is just that, an interesting story.

Then there are the text messages. Emma and Paul had a consensual, casual, sexual relationship prior to the “rape” incident. This amiable relationship continued for a couple of months after the incident. There are Facebook messages that show Emma initiating contact with Paul several times in a friendly manner. These are messages that she herself has corroborated. She offered to provide deeper context to the messages, but has since retracted that offer. As far as I can tell from the media, there’s also no evidence or eyewitness testimony of her changing attitudes after the incident as well.

Being friendly to your attacker does not prove he’s innocent. It doesn’t prove he’s guilty either. In fact, it does not prove anything. All it does is place doubt to claims of rape. And aside from the messages, is there any other evidence that would prove the claim? Mathematically alone it doesn’t look good for Emma. There is one evidence that suggests Paul’s innocence, zero for guilt.

The university didn’t find her claims credible. The NYPD didn’t think there was enough evidence to press charges. That should have been it. While not ideal, that’s roughly how the way justice in the country should work. Someone makes an accusation, authorities determine whether there’s enough evidence for a case, if there’s none, the accused is then exonerated.  The accuser should not be allowed to harass the exonerated party.

Worse, the media should not crucify the exonerated by publicizing the story and insinuating that he got away with sexual assault. The New York Times, Salon, the Huffington Post, Jezebel, the Nation… so many news outlets dug into the story for all of its scandalous bits. They often fail to mention that the accused was exonerated. Perhaps Paul was indeed guilty, and perhaps the university should have done a much better job at investigating the case, but a public flogging is not justice.  We don’t hang people without a trial nor use scarlet letters (yes, there is irony here, but Emma chose to carry her scarlet letter, Paul was given his).

What’s ironic is some people supporting Emma is quick to judge the veracity of her story due to the media they consume and will be equally dismissive of the outlets that would counter her claims. “Who could believe Nungesser when he runs to the Daily Beast?” Of course, this is also a current symptom of people only following news outlets that reinforce their ideology, but saying something like, “who would believe him, his story is from breitbart.com?” is just as dismissive and as close-minded as something a “patriarchal misogynist” would say when countering rape stories. How about examining the counter-arguments regardless of the messenger? (to an extent)

Shame on the university art professor as well for allowing Emma to stage her harassment under the guise of performance art! There is neither art here, nor justice. What little art there was is overshadowed by the possibility of inflicting lifelong torture to someone who was exonerated. Hurting reputations and destroying lives is not art. And as for justice, Emma is not exactly acting with clean hands. I don’t want to underestimate the impact of the “rape victim” label, but for Emma, what other names come with that label aside from what I assume are glowing marks on her art project? Artist? Activist? Feminist hero? I’m not saying that she is not truly a victim, nor am I saying that she made up the whole thing for an art project, but would she be in the zeitgeist if she never lugged around that mattress? This wouldn’t be the first time an artist, in lieu of a lack of talent, would front a cause for publicity.

If Paul was a cynic, instead of hiding, he should’ve countered with a different performance piece, one that highlights the plight of the innocent accused. Just look at the Innocence Project. Doesn’t its mere existence suggest that we as a society have a tendency to rush to judgment regardless the costs?

The friendly Facebook messages and the long period before reporting the incident are countered by Emma’s supporters with a defense that I wholeheartedly agree with, there are no perfect victims. Yes, there are none. While I was never a victim rape (sexual assault and harassment, yes), I have many friends who were, and none of them went to the police. Some stayed in denial, some dealt with it years later, while some don’t even realize they were raped. It takes a lot of courage to immediately report an incident. But the victim’s courage should not overshadow justice for the accused. Accusers should not be immediately given the benefit of the doubt simply because they overcame something tremendous. The justice system still gives benefit of the doubt to the accused, otherwise’ we would be living in Arthur Miller’s ‘The Crucible.’ The goal is to be somewhere in the middle of the two parties, where both the accuser and the accused have equal opportunities.

Feminism is a good thing. We as a society should be doing more to fight for the rights of women. I also believe that incidents of sexual assault are underreported. There should be more support for victims regardless of gender. What troubles me is this new wave of feminism and the surge of “social justice warriors” who overreact to certain social issues or approach them in a manner that is counter to the general good. Feminism is neither a twisted form of egalitarianism (equality of outcome as opposed to equality of opportunity) nor misandry, but you would be confused if you looked at the Internet. The same way newly-converted and superficial feminists are muddying the meaning of the word, so does Emma Sulkowicz harms the feminist movement. Her narrative does not strengthen and support female victims of rape; it introduces more doubts to their claims.

And while people often have no idea of how to talk about rape, lugging a mattress around and crying victim is not the way to go about it either.

Update:

Apparently, she now released a videotape that if you watch with intent counter to hers makes you equivalent to participating in her “rape.”

If she hasn’t lost you before, she should lose you by now.

First off, by releasing something on the Internet, by the very nature of the Internet and of the act, you are giving the public consent to do whatever they want with that information. This skewers the very definition of consent. When celebrities’ phones were hacked and their images were leaked online, viewing the stolen images contributed to their victimhood. They didn’t have any control over very personal images. But when someone “leaks” a sextape, ala Farrah Abraham, then there’s no victimhood. The release of the sextape serves to benefit the ones on video. There is consent, there is benefit. Emma Sulkowicz stands to benefit from the release of her sextape. It’ll keep her in the limelight (thanks to Salon and Huffington Post), feminists will continue parading her as a hero, and she will gain some art cred for whatever its worth.

What bothers me most is that as an artist, you do not control the dialogue. You do not dictate to the viewer that they are wrong for seeing your art one way instead of another. It’s the first lesson: art is subjective. Alot of great works from classical masters are pornographic in nature, but we see them as higher art. And now, to tell viewers that they are viewing a piece wrongly, and worse, that they are essentially rapists by proxy is not art. It’s activism at its worst. It’s what I notice some feminists these days have succumbed to instead of meaningful dialogue. If you don’t agree to their sentiments 100%, which can range from reasonable feminist issues that I myself agree with to frantic misandry, then you are contributing to their oppression.

I refuse to look at the video, but luckily, there have been other news sites that have looked into it and made images or gifs of it. I refuse to contribute more clicks. But let me address some of the questions on her preface:

Searching:

Are you searching for proof? Proof of what? I am not searching for anything. In fact, when I first heard about this story, I wanted desperately to believe Emma and looked for evidence to support her claims. I found none but accusations.
Are you searching for ways to either hurt or help me? Not really. But is anyone helping the accused? No one is perpetuating the stigma of a “rape victim” to Emma more than Emma herself. And in perpetuating that label, she also perpetuates the label of “rapist” to the accused who was exonerated.
What are you looking for? I’m looking for an end to this drama. Sadly, I don’t think it’s gonna happen anytime soon.

Desiring:

Do you desire pleasure? Not from this. I honestly get my sexual kicks from something else.
Do you desire revulsion? Is this to counteract your unconscious enjoyment? See above.
What do you want from this experience? I really don’t want to experience this. But I can tell you want people to either feel guilty for clickbaiting or simply being curious. You put content out there that is designed to titilate and then accuse people of rape by being titilated. This does not help real victims. This does not help the anti-slutshaming fight.

Me:

How well do you think you know me? Have we ever met? This is a dumb counterargument to anything. Think about it. Don’t you think this can be applied to any situation?

Do you think I’m the perfect victim or the world’s worst victim? A victim has not been established yet. If anything, Paul Nungesser appears to be a victim in this case.

Do you refuse to see me as either a human being or a victim? If so, why? Is it to deny me agency and thus further victimize me? If so, what do you think of the fact that you owe your ability to do so to me, since I’m the one who took a risk and made myself vulnerable in the first place? No one has been denied agencies. No one. The school and the police looked at the case. Emma Sulkowicz had the agency to complain anytime after the incident. She had the agency to drag Paul Nungesser’s name in the mud. No one is stopping her from doing anything, including releasing a sextape.

Do you hate me? If so, how does it feel to hate me? I don’t hate Emma Sulkowicz. I’m annoyed. I’m annoyed at the art professors and the art critics that see any of this as art. I’m annoyed at people cynically using “art” as a shield for anything other than art, in this case, a cry for attention and a tool to persecute Paul Nungesser. I’m annoyed at Internet news Websites continuing to use this story as clickbait. I’m annoyed at lazy feminists that don’t examine this issue, believe Emma Sulkowicz without batting an see, and not see how this case is truly counter to their cause. I’m annoyed at people who forget that a person is innocent until proven guilty.

Emma Sulkowicz says that she’s infuriated with the name “Mattress Girl” and wants to go beyond that point. Releasing a sex video referencing rape is not the way to go about it. This is almost trolling for attention. And really, if “Mattress Girl” is infuriating, how infuriating is it compared to the label “rapist?”

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Nothing on TV

David Letterman announces that he will be retiring from the LATE SHOW with DAVID LETTERMAN on the broadcast tonight, Thursday, April 3 (11:35pm-12:37am, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS ©2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved

David Letterman announces that he will be retiring from the LATE SHOW with DAVID LETTERMAN on the broadcast tonight, Thursday, April 3 (11:35pm-12:37am, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS ©2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved

This hit me much like Seinfeld did on its last show. It’s just entertainment, but it breaks my heart a bit knowing that the Late show is now gone. It is a sadness not just for a show ending, but a bit of mourning since it serves as a marker for time past. We are now at an age, when the Late Show with David Letterman is no more. And to the more extreme, it is a reminder of the inevitable. Everything ends. Enjoy every sandwich.

I guess the next show’s end that would affect me as much would be Conan O’Brien’s show, that and the Howard Stern Show on satellite. Here’s hoping both shows last far long into the future.

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Subway Hero

Fake_Antigue

Saw this over the weekend. Someone was peddling “antiques.” Now I know that many of these “antiques” are made in China, are probably not even a year old, and are probably being sold more than ten times the price they were bought, but who would buy these things? It’s neither antique nor porn. Where exactly does a person put these?

I don’t mind fake “antiques” btw. I would buy them and have them in my house as long as they’re being sold at a reasonable price. Don’t tell me something is from the Ming Dynasty and that I’m getting a deal at $500. Just tell me it’s from a distributor in China and I’ll gladly buy it for $50.

Being in Asia, the anachronism of the bronze figures kinda reminded me of plastic figures like the one below. Again, as a practical matter, where does one display such things?

anime_figure_butt

I try not to stare at disabled people, I really do. I’m sure that many of us have that compulsion to stare at disabled people not because they are oddities, but to make sure that they are okay, just in case they need our help. We’d swoop right in to save the day like Supermen. We don’t stare directly, but we steal glances through peripheral vision, much like men would steal glances at exposed cleavage. The staring (or monitoring) is not in itself malicious. It comes from a good place. It’s empathy. We are concerned about our fellow human beings. It’s not something we do to the “normals” but hey, they’re disabled!

But all too often it truly is just arrogance. Of course they’re okay. They don’t need your help. They were fine many years before they encountered you.

I had a moment like this in the subway over the weekend. There was a blind man in the car. At first, I thought he was a beggar, but then I realized he was just like everyone, a passenger. He was standing right by the subway car door, waiting for his stop. I was trying to have a conversation with the person I was with but I can’t help but steal glances at the blind passenger. Maybe he’ll need help.

Then he fishes out a smartphone from his pocket. I thought it was odd because I assumed he would require something more tactile, but then he placed the phone close to his ear as he typed. Lesson learned: the blind can use smartphones. Butt out of their lives.
As if to make the point clearer, as he steps out of the subway car (bumping to one or two passengers), I noticed that he has a dragon tattoo on his right arm. He’s not so helpless as to not appreciate body art. He clearly doesn’t need my help. He’s doing fine without me.

A person who did need my help was a girl on her phone outside the station who didn’t realize her skirt was caught on her purse and was unwittingly giving everyone a view of her underwear. Who knows how long she’s been walking around without anyone telling her. She was embarrassed, but was glad someone alerted her to it.

It’s not the blind who needed help from me that day. It’s one of the normals.

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That Drawing Sucks

sleeping_around

Everybody dreams. Everybody talks in their sleep now and then.

Little late, but congratulations Alberta! Perhaps there’s hope that Canada would be back to its pre-Harper form. With all the focus on oil and protected areas being opened to exploration, Canada is starting to look more and more like the United States. But out of nowhere, the most right wing and oil-rich province elected NDP to power after decades of voting Progressive Conservative (what a misnomer!).  There’s hope that yes, it’s not too late for Canada.

There’s been a lot of debate regarding drawing the prophet Muhammad and the difference between what Charlie Hebdo does and what Pamela Geller and her group has been doing. This is the difference: Charlie Hebdo is calling out all religions, Pamela Geller and her group is calling out all members of a religion and labelling them as savages. They are asking for moderate members of Islam to denounce the actions of the extremists, and without blinking an eye, calling every member of the religion a savage.  How can you get someone on your side when you spit right in their eye? There is no debating with this kind of rhetoric. They’re just as far gone as the extreme Islamists even though they are absolutely free to espouse any hateful sentiment and that people should not be killed for drawing anything.

What the shooters in Texas did is reprehensible. They might’ve done it over religion, but I believe that with their mental instability, they would’ve murdered for some other causes if the religion wasn’t there.

To call the incident as something uniquely Islam would be extremely dishonest. All religions have their sacred cows. To say that there is something about Islam which drives commands people to kill is not examining other religions or newspapers honestly. This is what makes Bill Maher’s take on the religion a little superficial. At the moment, drawing the Prophet Muhammad is the sacred cow for Islam. I doubt if most members of the faith would be driven to murder, maybe they would be insulted and annoyed, but extreme fundamentalist members of the faith see it as a hot button issue that would drive them to excessive action.  But this is not unique to Islam. Extreme fundamentalist members of the Christian faith see women practicing birth control as a hot button issue that would drive them to excessive action. Moderate members might be offended by gay marriage or contraception/abortion, but extreme members see it as a drive to murder. And if you look at the two sacred cows, one could even argue that a woman practicing birth control is more normal than drawing an ancient prophet.

Take the actions of Pamela Geller and her group. They intentionally goaded mentally unstable extremists by having a drawing contest of the prophet Muhammad. It’s intentionally mocking their sacred cows. And for what? Freedom? Not one person has ever had a birth control contest to goad mentally, unstable Christians simply for freedom. Commentators like to point out the urine-soaked Virgin or what not, and yes, no violence occurred. But there’s violence in other issues. Extreme members of the Christian faith are bothered by what people do out of necessity (birth control) or what people do out of love (gay marriage/adoption). Doctors just simply provide women the help they need, and news actors like Bill O’Reilly send insane followers to ultimately kill people like the late Dr. George Tiller. And then later, Bill O’Reilly rants about the dangers of Islam. It’s not a urine-soaked virgin, it’s doctors helping women.

That’s a mighty fine log you got in your eye there.

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Morning Oddity

Special_Flowers

I created a page for my skeleton/tentacle drawings (http://josephmreyes.com/Lou.html). The series is still work in progress but it’s a stage where pieces are already shown in some galleries. The name’s an amalgam of my best friend Jordan Miller (http://www.jordanlmiller.com/) and artist Lou Valcourt, whose works with icons I saw years ago but was kinda embedded in my memory. The idea heavily influenced the series.

So the boxing match was a big dud. I can see why boxing isn’t so popular these days. All that hype for a game of keep away. Not that I blame Mayweather. He’s not about to hurt himself when he’s got millions to enjoy regardless of whether he wins or loses. It was like watching a fight between Bill Gates and Carlos Slim. “Hey Carl, let’s not hurt each other so much. We still have awesome lives to after this.” I guess this is the difference between UFC and boxing at the moment, and why UFC is more popular. The fighters are hungrier.

What was interesting though is what happened to our table before the fight. So we’re sitting in a sports bar in Seoul, a bar popular among expats. It was me, my wife, and a good artist friend. This Korean guy goes in and out of the bar looking lost. He’s dressed like he’s going to work (not relaxed at all) and carrying bags of who knows what. So the first time I saw him walk in, I assumed he was delivering something. But then he keeps coming back and not saying a word to anyone. Being the only brown person in the bar at the moment (it was 10:00 am), he goes to me and asks where the “Filipino bar” was at. He said he wanted to watch the fight with Filipinos.

I pointed out a Filipino restaurant in the area, but they weren’t open to show the fight. My friend directed him to a different neighborhood where he guaranteed Filipino bars would be showing the fight, and off he goes.

Now, what would a Korean guy want to watch the fight for in a bar filled with Filipino strangers? What was the pay off? Was it to cheer for Pacquiao? Most of the people in the bar we were at were cheering for Pacquiao, and there were a handful of Filipinos there as well. Why specifically look for Filipinos? It’s not like Filipinos cheer differently. It would be equally strange to go looking around for a “black bar” in order to watch the fight with black strangers.
Again, this guy got dressed, packed some stuff, and went out at 10:00 am on a Sunday telling himself, “I’m gonna specifically look for Filipinos and watch the most boring fight in the world with them.”

Strange people. My wife blames me for the weird encounter. She says I attract strange people. I tend to agree.

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