One More Thing

[Content Note: Transphobia; rape culture; cis-centrism. Background: Part One; Part Two.]

There is an observation I make frequently about rape culture narratives, typically following defenses of a man who has engaged in rape apologia or rape humor and then claims to have been "unaware" of the realities about sexual violence. It goes like this: There is a difference between ignorance and being fluent in the narratives of the oppressor but not the oppressed. Example:
But let us consider, then, the alleged failure to consider rape culture of those privileged straight cis men who have never been victimized by sexual violence.

If those men never consider the rape culture, then how is it that virtually all of them know its tropes and narratives? How is it that virtually every male person is, by the time he hits puberty, capable of sophisticated victim-blaming, armed with a full arsenal of rape culture memes and stereotypes? How are they all so perfectly versed in the language of rape culture that tasks women with "crying" rape and "claiming" to have been raped, rather than reporting it? How is it that I have heard male children talking about how women lie about rape? And why it is that so many privileged straight cis men complain about being "profiled" or "made to feel like rapists" by women doing the quickening step in front of them, or giving them an anxious side-eye in an otherwise abandoned space?

For people who never consider the rape culture, they sure have an amazing working knowledge of it.
One of the things about the defenses of Caleb Hannan's piece outing Dr. V, including and especially Bill Simmons' defense, is that they are predicated on the idea that Hannan, young and cloaked in cis privilege, was ignorant of issues and narratives surrounding trans* lives.

That is only true insomuch as he was ignorant of trans* people's perspectives and needs. But he was well-versed in transphobic narratives.

I keep coming back to that tweet, the one in which he promotes his story by calling it "the strangest story I've ever worked on." He knows enough about trans* "stuff" to know that the story is strange. He knew enough to formulate his story in a way precisely in alignment with transphobic impulses to be invasively curious about trans* people's bodies and lives, impulses to be horrified at the disclosure of being trans. He knew enough to write a story perfectly crafted to serve existing transphobic memes.

That doesn't happen by accident.

Meaningful accountability is not saying, "I didn't know any better, because I'm ignorant." It's saying, "I didn't know any better, because I am only fluent in the language of the oppressor." It's acknowledging that we are all part of a culture that socializes us to privilege cisgenderedness.

It's not just that Caleb Hannan and Bill Simmons and the other editors at Grantland were merely unfamiliar with trans* issues; it's that they are extremely fluent in transphobia.

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