General Lee Speaking, This Meme Is Awful

KermitDukesCosby

You know, because of idiotic memes, I cannot even look at Willy Wonka’s grinning mug without wanting to punch something.  Now they’re trying to ruin Kermit the Frog for me too.  Bastards.

We’ll talk more about Bill Cosby and Subway in a moment, but let’s start with The Dukes of Hazzard, a television series that originally aired on CBS from 1979 to 1985.  The show followed the adventures of Bo and Luke Duke, cousins on probation for transporting moonshine.   Their trademark vehicle, which they used to commit shenanigans and to jump over stuff, was an orange 1969 Dodge Charger called General Lee.  The General Lee, as you might expect from the name, featured a large Confederate battle flag on its roof.

The cable channel TV Land started broadcasting TDoH reruns on June 10, 2015, but pulled the program just three weeks later in the wake of the Charleston shootings.  Although TV Land gave no public explanation for their decision, the show was yanked in the midst of increased public scrutiny regarding the modern display of the Confederate battle flag.  Confederate flag supporters and Civil War revisionists (but I repeat myself) cried foul, arguing that the flag didn’t stand for racism and besides, them Duke boys never meant no harm.  People who know how to use Google responded with crushing evidence that the Confederate battle flag was very much a racist symbol at the time of its creation, and that it had been resurrected by an organization with racist goals.  Granted, nobody is claiming that The Dukes of Hazzard itself was a racist show, but it did prominently and proudly feature a racist symbol.  Unwilling to admit defeat even in the face of overwhelming evidence, flaggers launched an immediate tu quoque campaign.  Their goal: to find unsavory slobs whose related franchises were nevertheless still available for consumption, and to hold them up as shining examples of liberal hypocrisy.

If you were looking for unsavory, you could hardly do better than Bill Cosby.  Bill Cosby, once America’s beloved father-figure, lived a second life as a serial rapist.  According to the allegations of more than fifty women, Bill Cosby harassed, threatened, and drugged women to make them have sex with him.  That’s rape, ladies and gentlemen.  It doesn’t get any more clear-cut than that.

Like the Confederate-flag-festooned General Lee, Bill Cosby was featured in a popular television show from the 1980s.  The Cosby Show originally aired on NBC from 1984 to 1992, and it literally made NBC’s Thursday night lineup.  The Cosby Show was in the top ten Nielsen ratings for all but its final season; still, when one thinks of the show now, one must consider the fact that even while Cosby was filming it, he committed multiple acts of sexual assault, including rape.  Clearly the man is scum.

So TV Land should be ashamed – ashamed – to continue airing a television show featuring a man who, by all accounts, is a monstrous rapist, when they pulled The Dukes of Hazzard for nothing more offensive than a decoration on the roof of a garish car.

Except…TV Land is not airing The Cosby Show anymore.  That’s right, TV Land pulled The Cosby Show in November of 2014, again, without an official explanation.  One assumes that TV Land wishes to avoid controversy – and they aren’t alone.  In fact, many media outlets pulled programming featuring Bill Cosby, and some canceled planned projects.  You would be hard-pressed to find Bill Cosby’s face on any TV channel, unless you’re watching a news story about another one of his victims shedding light on his terrible, terrible past.

Interestingly, both The Dukes of Hazzard and The Cosby Show are still available on several digital services, including Amazon, Netflix DVD, and Hulu, none of whom have announced their intentions to drop either program; ergo, the double standard that the meme tries to suggest simply doesn’t exist.  The most-talked-about network that gave the axe to the goose, gave it to the gander as well.  If other, smaller networks decided to keep one show while ditching the other…well, that is for them to explain.

Now then, let’s talk about Subway, shall we?  Subway also found itself at the center of controversy recently when its long-time spokesperson, Jared Fogle, became embroiled in a sex scandal of disgusting proportions.  Fogle, apparently not content to let Bill Cosby be the ickiest person in the world, was arrested on charges of possession of child pornography and paying for sex with a minor.  Subway severed ties with Fogle before the proverbial excrement hit the cooling device, but now the question becomes: How much did Subway know about Fogle’s actions before letting him go?

At least two people claim to have alerted Subway that something was wrong with Fogle prior to the FBI investigation that exposed his sick deeds and officially ended his career as Subway’s pitchman.  One of the whistle-blowers was a Subway franchise owner.  She says she met with upper management to alert them that Fogle had asked her about the possibility of having sex with her underage cousin, and that he had admitted to paying a 16-year-old for sex.  She suggested – very reasonably, I think – that Jared’s image and merchandise should not be displayed in Subway stores, nor should he be allowed to interact with children.  Despite her conversation with the higher-ups, Subway made no immediate move to distance itself from Jared Fogle.

Rochelle Herman-Walrond, a Florida radio host, says she spent four years recording conversations with Fogle, who allegedly confided in her about his deviant interests.  She says the information she provided to the FBI was crucial in its investigation of Fogle.  She claims to have warned Subway about Fogle’s creepy behavior via an online form, but she never received a response.  Subway denies knowledge of either woman’s allegations.

Assuming that both women are telling the truth, then somebody at Subway knew about Fogle’s problematic behavior long before it became public, yet Subway failed to act.  That is a very big problem.  In that case, we must shift the question: To what extent is Subway culpable in this tragedy?  And what should we, the conscientious consumers, do about it?

It’s a difficult question to answer.  Subway publicly denounced Jared Fogle’s actions.  It’s not like they’re digging in their heels in the immediate wake of public controversy, unlike some fast-food chains I could name.  Still, one suspects they could have acted sooner – they should have paid more attention to the troubling claims brought to them by those two women.  Ultimately, I suppose, the consumers will determine whether Subway escapes from Jaredgate relatively unscathed, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to insist that Subway face some very close scrutiny regarding its delayed response to the Jared Fogle case.  At the very least, it may be time for an overhaul of Subway’s communication policies and a changing of the guard in the upper echelons of management.

Would it be appropriate to boycott Subway, in the same way that LGBT-supporters boycotted Chic-Fil-A after that corporation’s financial support of notoriously anti-gay organizations became public knowledge?  Again, that is for the consumers to decide.  If you eat at Subway, there’s no reason to expect that your dollars will eventually harm somebody (going forward, anyway).  But your patronage of that restaurant might also send the message to its directors that you agree with, or at least, don’t disagree with – their treatment of the two women and the information they provided.  One could argue that you are implicitly endorsing Subway’s reluctance to put morals above profits.  You’ll have to decide for yourself if you can live with that.

So what’s the final judgement on this meme?  Well, it was TV Land’s decision to take down The Dukes of Hazzard, and although the channel didn’t specifically say why, it’s reasonable to assume that it was related to the Confederate flag controversy.  But the network also responded to the Bill Cosby scandal in a similar fashion, so there is nothing hypocritical about their actions.  And the Subway case is a whole other can of worms.  As troubling as Subway’s early response (or lack thereof) to the allegations about Jared Fogle may be, they did eventually dump him.  Each person will have to decide whether he or she is comfortable eating fresh, but no one should feel that he or she is supporting a child molester for doing so.  The author of this meme seems to think that he is terribly clever for sticking it to the hypocrites who canned his beloved Dukes of Hazzard show, but the barb of this meme is simply too weak to puncture.  This meme aims at too many targets, and misses them all.

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This Is Rape Culture

This is rape culture

If somebody ever tells you they don’t know what rape culture is, point them to this meme. This meme is the archetype of rape culture; it represents everything that is wrong with how our society responds to sexual violence. Shame on the person who made this meme, and shame on anybody who passes it along.

But perhaps you’re still confused about what this hideous aspect of human society is all about. Maybe I can explain using an imaginary Q&A session.

Q1: What is rape culture?

A1: In the words of Shannon Ridgway, writing in Everyday Feminism, rape culture is any situation in which sexual violence is “ignored, trivialized, normalized, or made into jokes”. If you ignore a person who has been the victim of sexual violence; if you tell a woman that she was “asking for it” because she dressed immodestly; if you make jokes at the expense of a rape victim, you are participating in and perpetuating rape culture. You are sending the message that maybe rape isn’t such a big deal, and rape victims should really stop whining and take responsibility for their own lives.

Q2: Isn’t rape culture just a term made up by feminists to shame men for wanting to have sex?

A2: The concept of rape culture was invented by feminists, but not for the purpose of shaming men. The intent of the phrase is to draw attention to our attitudes regarding sexual violence.

Q3: If America (or any other nation) is a rape culture, why are there laws against rape?

A3: Rape culture does not mean that rape is legal, or openly encouraged. The problem in a rape culture is that rape isn’t discouraged strongly enough. Sure, we have laws against rape, but how are they being enforced by the justice system? What about the judge in Texas who gave a confessed rapist 45 days in jail on the grounds that the victim was sexually promiscuous and the attacker did not fit the profile of a sex offender? Or maybe you heard about the London detective who landed in hot water after shelving dozens of rape investigations, effectively letting the rapists go without a trial. Then there was the judge in Montana who sentenced an offender to just a month in jail, saying that his 14-year-old victim “seemed older than her chronological age”.

Many will remember the Kobe Bryant sexual assault case that began in July 2003 when the Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard allegedly raped a 19-year-old hotel employee in Edwards, Colorado. The criminal case was eventually dismissed because the accuser refused to testify, perhaps because of the barrage of hate mail and death threats she received from people who were convinced she was out to wreck Bryant’s career.

Rape culture is all about making excuses for rapists, and holding the victims accountable for the crimes that befell them.

Q4: But some convicted rapists spend years in prison. In fact, a 1995 study by the US Department of Justice showed that convicted rapists served 56% of their sentences, a higher percentage than murderers, kidnappers, and other villains. Doesn’t that mean that rape culture is a myth, and the few rapists that seemingly get away with it are the exception rather than the rule?

A4: Not quite. Rape sentencing is part of rape culture, but there’s more to it. Rape culture extends beyond the justice system. Remember Representative Todd Akin, whose attempts to distinguish “legitimate rape” led to a social media firestorm? Akin was a proponent of rape culture, because he implied that some rape was more “legitimate” than others. He failed to understand the severity of rape.

On a more local level, rape culture causes women to feel less safe than men when walking alone at night. If we could learn not to excuse, ignore, or joke about rape, perhaps the people who perpetrate these terrible crimes would be less inclined to do so, and that fearful gap would narrow.

Q5: But doesn’t the idea of rape culture treat all men like potential rapists? And don’t men get raped too?

A5: Men do get raped too, which is why rape culture is a problem for everyone, not just women. Men and women should strive to end rape culture by not participating in it.

The concept of rape culture does not assume that all men are rapists; it only acknowledges that some people are rapists, and that their actions are not being properly addressed by society. To end rape culture, we must change the way we view these rapists. We should change the system that implicitly tells them that rape is okay.

Q6: What can I do to end rape culture?

A6: Lots.

  • Stop giving money to “artists” who glorify rape culture in their “music
  • Stand up in protest when an admitted rapist escapes justice with a token sentence.
  • Do not ever suggest that a rape victim “was asking for it” or “deserved it” because of their attire, their decision to drink, or the party they chose to attend.
  • Do not encourage rape jokes and do not pass them along.
  • Acknowledge that men have as much responsibility for preventing rape as women do.
  • Do not make excuses for rapists, even if they happen to be celebrities.
  • If somebody tells you he or she was raped, take that person seriously. Do not assume that the person is lying or mistaken.
  • Be aware that any form of sexual contact that happens without both parties’ consent is rape. That includes having sex with a person who is unconscious or otherwise incapacitated. Tell your friends that absence of refusal is not the same as consent.
  • Do not presume that most people who report a rape are lying, and finally…
  • Do not make or share memes like this one.

I’m probably missing a few things, but that’s a good start. It’ll take all of us working together to bring rape culture to an end. Don’t be the douchebag who holds back progress.

Rape: Always Good For Laffs

No You May Not

Ugh. We could go back and forth about whether there’s any such thing as a “funny rape joke” – about whether it’s ever okay to mention the word “rape” while saying something that’s meant to be cute or humorous. In this case, it is not.

First, let’s agree that the established definition of rape generally does not involve asking for permission. Second, contrary to what some testosterone-overflowing asshats may think, rape victims very, very seldom enjoy the experience of being raped. I’m pretty sure that’s why it’s a crime. To casually toss the word into a meme like this, along with a cartoon character that I assume is supposed to be cute, really belittles the severity of what might be the worst thing that ever happens to some people. Now I’m sure that’s not what the meme creator had in mind (at least, I hope not). This is another example of a Stupid Bad Meme that never would have happened had the author stopped to think for a few minutes before posting it online.