Ferguson’s growth paralleled the growth of Emerson, which is headquartered there. During the 1940s, ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s, Emerson’s factories were the main employers in town.
In the late ’70s, Emerson began outsourcing production to low-cost, overseas factories—not all at once, but product by product. The population of Ferguson peaked in 1980 and has been shrinking slowly ever since.
Many older whites who had spent their working lives at Emerson continued to live in the community. But in the early 2000s, the white population fell by 35 percent, and the black population increased by a similar amount. Many older whites or their families took advantage of high prices and a booming real estate market to sell.
For many black homebuyers, it was their chance to get a piece of the American Dream. They were becoming homeowners, moving into what they thought was a nice, stable suburb, and accumulating wealth.
The credit crash and Great Recession betrayed those dreams.
Ferguson and neighboring municipalities in the northern suburbs of St. Louis were at the center of the crisis. Mortgage rates jumped. Many people in the wave of recent homebuyers found themselves underwater.
Home values in some Ferguson neighborhoods plummeted to half of what people had paid in 2004 or 2005.
Some people walked away from their homes. Some moved into other nearby homes that had been foreclosed on and turned into rental properties. Some dug in, fighting to keep the homes they had bought.
Supposed federal efforts to keep people in their homes never worked as advertised—and often seemed wrapped in endless levels of red tape and active resistance from bank regulators. Another betrayal, on top of the banks’.
Activists organized actions to help keep people in their homes, with limited success. Those connections, tactics, and alliances, however, would later provide structure to protests against police violence. Anti-foreclosure activists were among the leading organizers of protest marches in Ferguson in the days after police killed Michael Brown.
Speculators bought up foreclosed properties and turned many of them into rentals. People who had lost their homes could often stay in the city as renters.
The increased competition in the rental market kept rents down, which meant that some people who had aspired to move into neighborhoods like Ferguson’s, but couldn’t afford to buy a house there, could afford to rent one.
Meanwhile, as many people lost homes in the Great Recession, many also lost jobs, and even more lost wealth. Ferguson’s poverty rate jumped from 5 percent in 2000 to an estimated 24 percent in 2012. By comparison, the poverty rate in St. Louis is 29 percent.
As the recession waned and hope of a recovery began to sprout, Mayor Knowles and the city council, all white, acted to keep real estate values low. They appropriated money to buy up properties around the historic downtown, which they considered most attractive for redevelopment. They worked to buy land before owners declared any public intention of selling, lest, in the mayor’s words, “speculators could bid up the price.”
One has to wonder what people who had lost their savings and were underwater on their mortgages, hoping for a rebound in values, thought of this policy. It was applauded by the majority-white political and economic leadership of the metro area, however.
Knowles told real estate leaders in June that he was not ignoring Ferguson’s residential neighborhoods. His major neighborhood initiative was to urge people to form garden clubs and plant flowers. His view, he explained, was that beautiful appearances and low real estate prices would lay the foundation for growt
For all the ways that the differences here may simply reflect cultural preferences, however, the main lesson of the analysis is a sobering one. The rise of inequality over the last four decades has created two very different Americas, and life is a lot harder in one of them.
Income has stagnated in working-class communities, which helps explain why “selling avon” and “social security checks” correlate with the hardest places from our index. Inequality in health and life expectancy has grown over the same time. And searches on diabetes, lupus, blood pressure, 1,500-calorie diets and “ssi disability” – a reference to the federal benefits program for workers with health problems – also make the list. Guns, meanwhile, are in part a cultural preference, but they are also a health risk.
Given all these troubles, you can understand why religious web searches that are relatively more popular in places where life is harder have such a dark cast. “They are not just about religion but about apocalyptic religion,” notes Dan Silver, a cultural sociologist at the University of Toronto.
In the places on the other end of the spectrum, the picture is much brighter. People have disposable income to buy new technology and take faraway vacations. Their time spent prostrate on a foam roller or out running with the baby in a jogging stroller is more than enough to make up the occasional cupcake. And of course they are intent on passing down their way of life to the next generation, via Baby Bjorns and early access to technology.
That last point may be the most troubling. The different subjects that occupy people’s thoughts aren’t just a window into American life today. They’re a window onto future inequality, too.
He surveyed about 1,800 men, asking them a wide range of questions about their sexual experiences. To learn about sexual assault, he asked things like, "Have you ever had sex with an adult when they didn't want to because you used physical force?" When the results came back, he was stunned.
All told, 120 men in the sample, or about 6 percent of the total, had raped women they knew. Two-thirds of those men were serial rapists, who had done this, on average, six times. Many of the serial rapists began offending before college, back in high school.
Other studies at colleges and in the military have since found similar numbers — usually somewhere around 10 percent of men admitting to either an attempted rape or a rape, with a significant proportion of them reporting a history of repeated offenses.
"I was forced, really, to accept that these are college students, but there is this small percentage of college students who are sex offenders," says Lisak. "They are behaving like sex offenders. They are sex offenders."
Such Orders of Protection typically protect victims of domestic violence from their abusers and witnesses of violent crimes from threats of retribution. Grady Flores’ one-year sentence is the result of a strange legal sleight of hand that positions the Hancock Air Base commander, Col. Earl A. Evans, as the victim of protests. Justices in the town of DeWitt, where the base is located, have slapped these Orders of Protection on dozens of activists arrested at Hancock since 2012.
But Grady Flores was the first protester to be sentenced for violating one. Prosecutors in Grady Flores’ case did not seek jail time, citing her role as caregiver for her elderly mother. Apparently, however, Judge Gideon was determined to make an example of her, in the hopes that a long sentence would deter others from resistance.
Grady Flores is now out on bond and has filed an appeal, which may take months to resolve. Her case will be closely watched by the 30 or so activists accused of violating Orders of Protection who await trial. If Judge Gideon hoped to quell resistance with his harsh sentence, his plan seems to have backfired: Anti-drone activists say their resistance and organizing will only increase. What really needs to stop, they say, are the United States’ drone strikes in countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen.
“Mary Anne’s sentence is big news,” says Brian Terrell, anti-drone organizer with Voices for Creative Nonviolence. “The drone program is so blatantly illegal that the authorities have to go to absurd lengths to justify and protect it. They need to redefine words like ‘imminent threat’ and ‘due process’ to cover up the criminality. Here, they have to redefine the meaning of an Order of Protection. I hope that this will bring more people out to protest.”
It has. On July 23 — just days after local activists raised $5,000 to free Grady Flores on bond so she could do media work and prepare for her appeal — seven activists were arrested at the base (including my 74-year-old mother). They carried with them documents they hope to make part of their legal defense, including a People’s Order of Protection, demanding that the 174th Attack Wing of the Air National Guard “stay away from the Children of the World and their families, including their homes, schools, places of play and work.” The judge freed two on their own recognizance and set bonds for the rest, including an unprecedented $10,000 bond for two repeat offenders, including Grady Flores’ younger sister, Clare Grady. All were charged with trespassing, and two (including Clare) were charged with violating Orders of Protection.
I've been wondering how and in what ways I might return more explicitly to feminist theory. It doesn't seem likely that I will be able to write explicitly any time soon. Return, though, is not quite the right word: it's not that I have not been writing as a feminist. It is that it has seemed to me that the only way to be a feminist is to be a communist.
By the mid-nineties, there didn't seem to be anything else to say in feminist theory. For the last couple of decades, I've asked my friends: what's the best book you've recently read in feminist theory. My own last favorites are Lynne Segal's Why Feminism? -- especially as it pulls together different lines of critique --and Silvia Federici's Caliban and the Witch for its alternative to "intersectional" analysis (which strikes me as the name of a theoretical failure more than an insight insofar as it takes as its presumption distinct lines or identities that have to be made to intersect rather than economic systems and ideological formations).
And yet while my back has been turned, real life, popular life, everyday life, has gotten increasingly worse for women and girls in the US with the Republican war on women, intensification of economic inequality, and pornofication of popular culture. Real practical political questions are intensifying, yet they don't seem theoretically all that interesting: is this a failure of theory or a kind of reversion, regression?
Capitalism turns everything against itself. Feminist goals become turned round upon themselves so as to hurt women -- choice becomes market choice in every domain of life such. Increasing competition, increasing individualism, increasing brutality, increasing desperation.
I am skeptical with the US government, armed agent of capitalism, tells us that it is trying to help girls and women. I don't believe there is good evidence for this. When the US government--whether executive, judicial, or legislative--starts expressing concern about rape, something else is at stake. But what?
Colleges and universities are battlegrounds. They are sites where the remnants of the middle class hold on to their position for dear life. Is this holding on becoming manifest in the legal apparatus being built in the name of educational equality for women? And even if this is the case, is skepticism and resistance the only response or might the apparatuses, policies, and procedures being put into place themselves be used or occupied for actually egalitarian ends?
At 8:22 P.M., the police began demanding that the crowd stay twenty-five feet away from them and their vehicles. A voice in the crowd shouted, “Michael Brown was thirty-five feet away when you killed him!” I stood near a cluster of journalists, but less than two hours after Lowery and Reilly had been arrested, nothing suggested that the police there would make distinctions between the people protesting and those who were covering it. Officers demanded that we move farther back, as well. People began chanting “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!” Ten minutes later, the sound of breaking glass was heard and the police demanded that the crowd disperse. Only seconds after that I saw a half-dozen canisters launch into the air and the streets were bathed in the strobe lights of flash grenades.
The crowd scattered into the surrounding subdivisions as a haze of white smoke drifted outward through the neighborhood. Some, choked by the fumes, covered their eyes and coughed by the side of road. Umana grabbed my arm and we ran into a nearby park. The protest dispersed immediately; still, the streets were tear-gassed for the next two hours.
The area just north of the protest borders a quiet middle-class neighborhood of precisely trimmed lawns and towering oaks, the type of community that, under other circumstances, would be pointed to as evidence of black social mobility. On this night, a thick haze drifted through the area, a chemical fog rolling in. Because the main streets cut a semicircle through the neighborhood and intersect with West Florissant in two places, the cloud on the main street effectively barricaded the entire development. Police stopped anyone but residents from entering, but the tear-gas also prevented the people who were already there from getting out. Umana invited me into his home; outside, clusters of protesters and journalists wandered the side streets, hemmed in for hours. One homeowner walked out of his house to find a spent flash grenade on his lawn. An armored truck rolled down the street, a flume of tear gas issuing from the back.
Along with virtually every major retail and restaurant chain, Starbucks relies on software that choreographs workers in precise, intricate ballets, using sales patterns and other data to determine which of its 130,000 baristas are needed in its thousands of locations and exactly when. Big-box retailers or mall clothing chains are now capable of bringing in more hands in anticipation of a delivery truck pulling in or the weather changing, and sending workers home when real-time analyses show sales are slowing. Managers are often compensated based on the efficiency of their staffing.
Scheduling is now a powerful tool to bolster profits, allowing businesses to cut labor costs with a few keystrokes. “It’s like magic,” said Charles DeWitt, vice president for business development at Kronos, which supplies the software for Starbucks and many other chains.
Yet those advances are injecting turbulence into parents’ routines and personal relationships, undermining efforts to expand preschool access, driving some mothers out of the work force and redistributing some of the uncertainty of doing business from corporations to families, say parents, child care providers and policy experts.
In Brooklyn, Sandianna Irvine often works “on call” hours at Ashley Stewart, a plus-size clothing store, rushing to make arrangements for her 5-year-old daughter if the store needs her. Before Martha Cadenas was promoted to manager at a Walmart in Apple Valley, Minn., she had to work any time the store needed; her mother “ended up having to move in with me,” she said, because of the unpredictable hours. Maria Trisler is often dismissed early from her shifts at a McDonald’s in Peoria, Ill., when the computers say sales are slow. The same sometimes happens to Ms. Navarro at Starbucks.
It's become striking to me over the last few weeks how people seemingly committed to social change in fact hold on to privilege and inequality -- even if it is not their own.
This is not a new insight. Activists struggle over this question all the time. I've just come across it first hand in ways that I didn't expect. It seems like some people just like to protest. When the opportunity arises to do something with the capacity that protesting enabled, they fold, providing all sorts of excuses as to why the basic order should be maintained.
I didn't expect people committed to gender equality to defend the continuation of structures premised on inequality. Somehow I didn't expect that they, too, would enjoy hierarchical power. Maybe I can be clearer on this: I am not talking about people at the top of the food chain holding on to power. I am talking about people with relatively little power wanting to maintain the status quo that they in fact critique. It's as if they enjoy what power does to others; they enjoy seeing some people hurt or injured or shamed.
What I'm trying to describe (albeit necessarily vaguely) is not Nietzschean ressentiment. It's more like enjoying through the other. So, for example, people say they are against the exclusionary practices of group X, but when it comes down to changing the structures that let these practices persist, they balk. There are things that they admire about group X. They enjoy what the wealth and status of group X can accomplish, even when, especially when, it becomes violent and transgressive. Maybe a way to say this: class privilege sometimes persists because those who say they are against it are actually invested in it and enjoy inequality.
And the vehemence of the rhetoric and the anger that arises amidst the confusion is in part anxiety over the confrontation with enjoyment. They don't want to be people that, say, secretly tolerate an undercurrent of sexual violence--Zizek's obscene supplement or nightly law. This has to be repressed. Anger at authority is not anger over authority's failure to prevent violence. It's over authority's failure to prevent violence's exposure.
I think I have new appreciation for the power of the nightly law and how hard it is to address, how it can derail reformist as well as revolutionary energies. This may also go some way in accounting for the prevalence of 'awareness' as a left and liberal goal. By making us more aware of a variety of things, the left liberal leaves the obscene supplement in place. We get preoccupied with information and media campaigns instead of changing institutions and policies. It's one thing to be aware of inequality. Eliminating it is another thing altogether.
Rioting should be neither celebrated nor fetishised, because ultimately it is a sign not of strength but weakness. Like a strike, it is often the last and most desperate weapon available to those with the least power. Rioting is a class act. Wealthy people don't do it because either they have the levers of democracy at their disposal, or they can rely on the state or private security firms to do their violent work for them, if need be.
The issue of when and how rioting is effective is more problematic. Riots raise awareness of a situation, but they cannot solve it. For that you need democratic engagement and meaningful negotiation. Most powerful when they stem from a movement, all too often riots are instead the spontaneous, leaderless expression of pent-up frustration void of an agenda or clear demands. Many of these French youths may have had a ball last week, but what they really need is a party - a political organisation that will articulate their aspirations.
If Kerner and Scarman are anything to go by, the rioters will not be invited to help write the documents that could shape racial discourse for a generation. Nor are they likely to be the primary beneficiaries.
"During the 80s, everyone was desperate to have a black face in their organisation to show the race relations industry that they were allowing black people to get on," says the editor of Race & Class, Ambalavaner Sivanandan. "So the people who made this mobility possible were those who took to the streets. But they did not benefit." The same is true of the black American working class that produced Kerner.
Given these uncertain outcomes, riots carry great risk. The border between political violence and criminality becomes blurred, and legitimate protest risks degrading into impotent displays of hypermasculinity. Violence at that point becomes not the means to even a vague aspiration but the end in itself, and half the story gets missed. We heard little from young minority French women last week, even though they have been the primary target of the state's secular dogma over the hijab.
Finally, violence polarises. The big winner of the last two weeks may yet prove to be Sarkozy. The presidential-hopeful courted the far-right with his calculated criticisms of the rioters; if he wins he could reverse any gains that may arise. Le Pen also lurks in the wings.
The riots in France run all these risks and yet have still managed to yield a precarious kind of progress. They demand our qualified and critical support.
Power has made its concessions. But how many, for how long and to whom depends on whether those who made the demands take their struggle from the margins to the mainstream: from the street to the corridors of power.
I won't romanticize campus life in the 1970s, when I went to college. There was rape. Feminists were beginning to reveal its ubiquity and demand its end. Some didn't really believe anything would change. In Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape, the antirape movement's foundational text, Susan Brownmiller suggested that history's endless scourge of male sexual violence was biologically inevitable: "By anatomical fiat — the inescapable construction of their organs — the human male was a predator and the human female served as his natural prey."
Andrea Dworkin went further: "Violation is a synonym for intercourse."
From where I stood (and marched and fucked), things looked sunnier. My feminist friends and I were angry, sure; we wanted men to stop hurting women. But sexual safety was not an end in itself. We hoped safety would enhance sexual freedom, which would abet pleasure. We weren't guarding our personal "boundaries." We were seeking connection.
The free flow of intoxicants was not antithetical to these goals. Yes, there were burnouts. Yes, violence, enabled by booze and drugs.
But here's another story. The only time I ever got passing-out stoned was during my senior year in high school, on a college visit. I remember bourbon and pot. I remember making out with a tall man. Next thing I knew, I was waking up on a couch surrounded by party detritus. Someone had taken off my shoes and covered me with a blanket. The tall man, who apparently lived there, wandered in with coffee. No one tried to rape me.
Just an anecdote. But, for a time, it seemed hippie mellowness and feminist militancy met in the middle.
Then things started sliding. Reagan was elected on a wave of right-wing moralist backlash. In 1981, Congress passed the Adolescent Family Life Act, which funneled millions to church groups to build the foundations of "chastity" — later renamed abstinence — education.
The same years felt the first tremors of hysteria about satanic abusers and roving pedophiles. Later, parents would be outfitting their children with helmets and cellphones every time they left the house alone — if they were allowed to leave the house alone.
“People use Facebook for the things that matter to them most,” said Justin Osofsky, vice president for operations and partnerships for Facebook, which has 1.3 billion global users. “That includes celebrating a friend’s birthday and important news developments.”
He noted that when the United States government shut down last fall, 17 million users had more than 45 million interactions related to the shutdown in its first three days. During the World Cup earlier this summer, 350 million people generated 3 billion posts, comments and likes about the sporting event. During the last three weeks, 24 million people have had more than 100 million such interactions related to the conflict in Palestine and Israel, according to the company.
Because Facebook allows for wordier posts than social networks like Twitter, people who are opining on the Gaza stories often do so at length. This can result in some incendiary dialogues, which may seem particularly discordant — more so than a World Cup discussion (or even one about a shutdown).
In Israel-Palestine the powerful party has succeeded in painting itself as the victim, while the ones being killed and maimed become the perpetrators. “They don’t care about life,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says, abetted by the Obamas and Harpers of this world, “we do.” Netanyahu, you who with surgical precision slaughter innocents, the young and the old, you who have cruelly blockaded Gaza for years, starving it of necessities, you who deprive Palestinians of more and more of their land, their water, their crops, their trees — you care about life?
There is no understanding Gaza out of context — Hamas rockets or unjustifiable terrorist attacks on civilians — and that context is the longest ongoing ethnic cleansing operation in the recent and present centuries, the ongoing attempt to destroy Palestinian nationhood.
The Palestinians use tunnels? So did my heroes, the poorly armed fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto. Unlike Israel, Palestinians lack Apache helicopters, guided drones, jet fighters with bombs, laser-guided artillery. Out of impotent defiance, they fire inept rockets, causing terror for innocent Israelis but rarely physical harm. With such a gross imbalance of power, there is no equivalence of culpability.
Israel wants peace? Perhaps, but as the veteran Israeli journalist Gideon Levy has pointed out, it does not want a just peace. Occupation and creeping annexation, an inhumane blockade, the destruction of olive groves, the arbitrary imprisonment of thousands, torture, daily humiliation of civilians, house demolitions: these are not policies compatible with any desire for a just peace. In Tel Aviv Gideon Levy now moves around with a bodyguard, the price of speaking the truth.
I have visited Gaza and the West Bank. I saw multi-generational Palestinian families weeping in hospitals around the bedsides of their wounded, at the graves of their dead. These are not people who do not care about life. They are like us — Canadians, Jews, like anyone: they celebrate life, family, work, education, food, peace, joy. And they are capable of hatred, they can harbour vengeance in the hearts, just like we can.
"There is a Talmudic saying in the 'Ethics of the Fathers,'" Siegman started, "'Don't judge your neighbour until you can imagine yourself in his place.' So, my first question when I deal with any issue related to the Israeli-Palestinian issue: What if we were in their place?"
He elaborated, "No country and no people would live the way Gazans have been made to live ... our media rarely ever points out that these are people who have a right to live a decent, normal life, too. And they, too, must think, 'What can we do to put an end to this?'"
Born in Germany in 1930, Siegman and his family were persecuted by the Nazis. "I lived two years under Nazi occupation, most of it running from place to place and in hiding," he recalled. His father took his mother and their six children to Belgium, to France, to North Africa, then, after two months at sea, dodging German submarines, they arrived at Ellis Island. He told us: "I always thought that the important lesson of the Holocaust is not that there is evil, that there are evil people in this world who could do the most unimaginably cruel things. That was not the great lesson of the Holocaust. The great lesson of the Holocaust is that decent, cultured people, people we would otherwise consider good people, can allow such evil to prevail, that the German public -- these were not monsters, but it was OK with them that the Nazi machine did what it did."
His father was a leader of the European Zionist movement, which sought a national homeland for the Jewish people. Siegman said: "As a kid even, [I was] an ardent Zionist. I recall on the ship coming over, we were coming to America, and I was writing poetry and songs -- I was 10 years old, 11 years old -- about the blue sky of Palestine. In those days we referred to it as Palestina."
Henry Siegman became a prominent leader in American Jewish life. When I asked him to reflect on his long history with Zionism and to respond to the current assault on Gaza, he said: "It's disastrous. ... When one thinks that this is what is necessary for Israel to survive, that the Zionist dream is based on the repeated slaughter of innocents on a scale that we're watching these days on television, that is really a profound crisis -- and should be a profound crisis -- in the thinking of all of us who were committed to the establishment of the state and to its success."
I asked Siegman to watch a clip from CBS's Face the Nation. The show's host, Bob Schieffer, recently closed the program by saying, "Last week I found a quote of many years ago by Golda Meir, one of Israel's early leaders, which might have been said yesterday: 'We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children,' she said, 'but we can never forgive them for forcing us to kill their children.'"
Siegman said that he had seen the broadcast. He replied: "If you don't want to kill Palestinians, if that's what pains you so much, you don't have to kill them. You can give them their rights, and you can end the occupation. And to put the blame for the occupation and for the killing of innocents that we are seeing in Gaza now on the Palestinians -- why? Because they want a state of their own? They want what Jews wanted and achieved?"
The result was that a young man could take almost any job and expect his earnings to improve substantially with time. Conversely, a young woman could marry almost any man and expect that he could support a family far better than she ever could. The prospect of ever-improving economic security made young men more likely to stay with their employers, especially since so many belonged to unions that advanced their collective interests. And the lack of earnings prospects for women made them more likely to stay with their husbands.
Today, job prospects for young men are far less favorable. Real wages for men under age 35 have fallen almost continuously since the late 1970s, and those with only a high school diploma have experienced the sharpest losses. Between 1979 and 2007, young male high school graduates saw a 29 percent decline in real annual earnings — an even steeper decline than the 18 percent drop for men with no high school diploma.
We now understand it’s about corporate partnerships. It’s not, “sue the bastards;” it’s, “work through corporate partnerships with the bastards.” There is no enemy anymore.
More than that, it’s casting corporations as the solution, as the willing participants and part of this solution. That’s the model that has lasted to this day.
I go back to something even like the fight over NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement. The Big Green groups, with very few exceptions, lined up in favor of NAFTA, despite the fact that their memberships were revolting, and sold the deal very aggressively to the public. That’s the model that has been globalized through the World Trade Organization, and that is responsible in many ways for the levels of soaring emissions. We’ve globalized an utterly untenable economic model of hyperconsumerism. It’s now successfully spreading across the world, and it’s killing us.
It’s not that the green groups were spectators to this – they were partners in this. They were willing participants in this. It’s not every green group. It’s not Greenpeace, it’s not Friends of the Earth, it’s not, for the most part, the Sierra Club. It’s not 350.org, because it didn’t even exist yet. But I think it goes back to the elite roots of the movement, and the fact that when a lot of these conservation groups began there was kind of a noblesse oblige approach to conservation. It was about elites getting together and hiking and deciding to save nature. And then the elites changed. So if the environmental movement was going to decide to fight, they would have had to give up their elite status. And weren’t willing to give up their elite status. I think that’s a huge part of the reason why emissions are where they are.
At least in American culture, there is always this desire for the win-win scenario. But if we really want to get to, say, an 80 percent reduction in CO2 emissions, some people are going to lose. And I guess what you are saying is that it’s hard for the environmental leadership to look some of their partners in the eye and say, “You’re going to lose.”
Exactly. To pick on power. Their so-called win-win strategy has lost. That was the idea behind cap-and-trade. And it was a disastrously losing strategy. The green groups are not nearly as clever as they believe themselves to be. They got played on a spectacular scale. Many of their partners had one foot in US CAP [Climate Action Partnership] and the other in the US Chamber of Commerce. They were hedging their bets. And when it looked like they could get away with no legislation, they dumped US CAP completely.
The phrase win-win is interesting, because there are a lot of losers in the win-win strategy. A lot of people are sacrificed in the name of win-win. And in the US, we just keep it to the cap-and-trade fight and I know everyone is tired of fighting that fight. I do think there is a lot of evidence that we have not learned the key lessons of that failure.
I’m directing this to men who inhabit het-identified social spaces, and I’m not really limiting it more than that. Women are already doing what they can to prevent rape; brokering a peace with the fear is part of their lives that we can never fully understand. We’re the ones who are not doing our jobs.
Here’s what we need to do. We need to spot the rapists, and we need to shut down the social structures that give them a license to operate. They are in the population, among us. They have an average of six victims, women that they know, and therefore likely some women you know. They use force sometimes, but mostly they use intoxicants. They don’t accidentally end up in a room with a woman too drunk or high to consent or resist; they plan on getting there and that’s where they end up.
Listen. The women you know will tell you when the men they thought they could trust assaulted them; if and only if they know you won’t stonewall, deny, blame or judge. Let them tell you that they got drunk, and woke up with your buddy on top of them. Listen. Don’t defend that guy. That guy is more likely than not a recidivist. He has probably done it before. He will probably do it again.
Change the culture. To rape again and again, these men need silence. They need to know that the right combination of factors — alcohol and sex shame, mostly — will keep their victims quiet. Otherwise, they would be identified earlier and have a harder time finding victims. The women in your life need to be able to talk frankly about sexual assault. They need to be able to tell you, and they need to know that they can tell you, and not be stonewalled, denied, blamed or judged.
That's six percent of the survey's respondents who copped to either rape or attempted rape. Importantly, Thomas notes, the survey does not actually ask these guys if they've ever exactly "raped" anyone:
If a survey asks men, for example, if they ever “had sexual intercourse with someone, even though they did not want to, because they were too intoxicated (on alcohol or drugs) to resist your sexual advances,” some of them will say yes, as long as the questions don’t use the “R” word.
And they didn't just admit to raping—they admitted to raping repeatedly (as long as it's not really "rape," of course!) According to the study, a small percentage of men are responsible for committing a large portion of sexual assaults—that's a whole lot of "accidents," "misreadings," and "gray areas":
Of the 120 rapists in the sample, 44 reported only one assault. The remaining 76 were repeat offenders. These 76 men, 63% of the rapists, committed 439 rapes or attempted rapes, an average of 5.8 each (median of 3, so there were some super-repeat offenders in this group). Just 4% of the men surveyed committed over 400 attempted or completed rapes.
What does this mean about our "accidental" rapists?
a) The vast majority of acquaintance rapes are committed by the same people;
b) These people don't see themselves as "rapists";
c) They are, however, able recognize that they regularly threat, force, and intoxicate women in order to have sex with them.
Oops! There's no "accident" here—these guys just deny, evade punishment, and repeat.
So, what do we do to stop these guys? Well, here's a start: Let's call them rapists. It's not just rapists who fail to recognize these behaviors—threatening, forcing, incapacitating—as "real" rape. We all have to stop making excuses for calling a rapist a rapist—and doubting, minimizing, or lashing out against the people who do use that word. Women need to know that they can call their experiences "rape" and report them as crimes. They need to know that they can call their rapists "rapists," even if the rapist is also someone's "friend," "acquaintance," "co-worker," "fraternity brother," or "respected member of our community." As Thomas says:
The men in your lives will tell you what they do. As long as the R word doesn’t get attached, rapists do self-report. The guy who says he sees a woman too drunk to know where she is as an opportunity is not joking. He’s telling you how he sees it. The guy who says, “bros before hos”, is asking you to make a pact.
The Pact. The social structure that allows the predators to hide in plain sight, to sit at the bar at the same table with everyone, take a target home, rape her, and stay in the same social circle because she can’t or won’t tell anyone, or because nobody does anything if she does. The pact to make excuses, to look for mitigation, to patch things over—to believe that what happens to our friends—what our friends do to our friends—is not (using Whoopi Goldberg’s pathetic apologetics) “rape-rape.”
. . . The rapists can’t be your friends, and if you are loyal to them even when faced with the evidence of what they do, you are complicit.
That last point is an important one. People who excuse rapists usually see that equation from the other end: "He's my friend, so he can't be a rapist." We need to reverse that equation—"He's a rapist, so he can't be my friend." Perhaps them we could begin addressing why the dictionary definition of rape is overlooked—threatening, forcing, and incapacitating for sex—in our to avoid applying the word—"rapist"—to anyone we know.
In a more chaotic environment, like a party, it is nearly impossible to know what people are doing, or to know their intentions. Even if someone were to witness another person engaged in suspicious behavior, most would not get involved or would assume that someone else was responsible for that stranger stumbling away from the party. It is all part of the social experience at universities. You take chances, make mistakes, and try to move on – though this night would be different.
She drank so much she could not remember anything about the party. She woke up alone in someone else’s room with bruises on one side of her body. She walked back to her place and searched through her phone for photos of the previous night. A group of her girlfriends and sorority sisters came over and told her that she left the party with a guy they all knew, and that they were too drunk to do anything about it. They discussed what she should do; she felt that it was no big deal and they agreed; she said he was a “good guy” and did not deserve punishment, and, again, her friends agreed.
Before the guy came over, he texted her that she received the bruises when she fell out of his bed. When he told her that they had slept together, she told him to bring the pregnancy prevention medication “Plan B.” She asked her friends to leave so she could speak privately with him. Perhaps her friends should have stayed, but she felt secure enough to speak with him alone. She dealt with one immediate danger by preventing a possible pregnancy, and her rapist no longer felt responsible for her because he rid himself of this potential consequence of his actions. No one tried to convince his victim to act against him. It was easier to agree with her than to suggest that she seek help or justice. Perhaps she needed someone to speak to that part of her that knew he violated her and that knew the ramifications of that violation extended beyond her body.
My friend listened to the other girls agree that the boy did not deserve to be punished, and she had to leave the room when the rapist came in. She felt the world was less safe after that, more uncertain. People around her could allow rape to happen and do nothing about it. Even when she tried to convince her roommate that what happened to her was wrong, the rape survivor brushed the advice aside. It seemed it was best to forget and move on.
Earlier that semester, the other roommate (they were three sharing a room) brought a guy over and drunkenly gave him a blow job when all she wanted was to know if he loved her – while my friend tried to sleep. There was no room for conversation, no space for anyone to question anyone else’s decisions. They let the men in their lives dictate the course of a night. The nights seem more dangerous; for my friend, strangers lurk in the shadows and she feels she needs protection from them and from those who would remain silent. The history of silence dissuades anyone from speaking up.
We were part of that silence.
WANJUKI: I think we really need to make sure that, like, schools are
federally required to handle sexual violence, like they are required by
law. And, a lot of survivors are not comfortable going to the police,
WANJUKI: The criminal justice system is not really adequate and
properly addressing rape.
HAYES: This is a key point, right? Because, my immediate reaction to
these stories has been like where are the cops? But, then it is like,
well, what is to say even a police department or prosecutor in a small
town, or even a big city, are going to be better equipped to deal with it.
NUZZI: Right. I think a lot of survivors, a lot of advocates have
said, "No, we have heard too many horror stories about people going to the
police and the police dismissing these claims." Especially, if it is --
like a lot of college incidents are between two people who know each other,
I think police are much less likely, they really take it seriously.
But, at the same time if you go through the school process, they
cannot find you guilty of rape. They cannot find you guilty of a felony.
They can only find you guilty of varying degrees of sexual misconduct.
David Lisak, a former clinical psychologist who now consults the U.S. military and college administrations on issues of sexual assault, is one of the primary presenters at Dartmouth’s summit. Lisak’s research has demonstrated that the link between sexual assault and alcohol isn’t actually as clear as many college administrators think — in other words, drinking alcohol doesn’t inherently put college women at more risk for being assaulted. Instead, alcohol is typically just one tool among many that rapists employ to manipulate their victims. Campus sexual assaults aren’t merely a miscommunication between two drunk and well-meaning students; in fact, college rapists are typically serial offenders.
This week, Lisak told college administrators to start approaching sexual assault allegations in that context, and try to bring in enough witnesses to establish that an accused rapist is a serial offender. He used the example of a student who reports they were approached by a classmate selling drugs. “In response to that, there is no university in the country that would simply say, ‘Oh, well, let’s see if we can figure out if there’s evidence that an attempted sale of meth was made at 10 p.m. last night in a dorm.’ What the university would do is they may look at that evidence, but they would also immediately start an investigation to see if this individual is a dealer,” Lisak noted.
That way, colleges wouldn’t necessarily have to throw out a rape case simply because it’s difficult to confirm a victim’s account of the night they were assaulted. Instead of worrying about a “he-said-she-said” dynamic, school administrators could get a clearer picture of potential perpetrators’ past behavior. Then, confirmed serial rapists hopefully won’t get off the hook as easily as perpetrators typically do now.