Friendship

[Trigger warnings: rape, misogyny, terrible people]

You may be aware of the Rationalia affair, where poster and admin “Pappa” wondered:

Would it be immoral to rape a Skepchick?

Post by Pappa » Fri Jul 20, 2012 8:46 am

Not for sexual gratification or power or anything like that, just because they’re so annoying.

I’m really torn on this one. :dunno:

Given the recent climate, this post isn’t all that surprising. Rape “jokes” that don’t follow any kind of typical joke structure and aren’t funny? Check. Treating outspoken women (and Skepchicks in particular) like something less than human1? Check. People coming out of the woodwork to claim this is “out of context” and how dare the #FTBullies publicize this one post and demonize a whole group for condoning this sort of thing from a leader in their community, while remaining strangely silent on the actual thread? Check.

The one thing that weirds me out about the whole thing is a set of comments by Pappa’s supporters in the Pharyngula comment thread. Here are a couple by poster “comeatmebro,” which illustrate the thing I don’t understand. Comeatmebro says that Rationalia is a “close-knit…community,” and that Pappa is a “nice person,” that this statement was in bad taste but “is not characteristic of Pappa.” He cited much of this as reasons why more people on the Rationalia forums haven’t condemned Pappa’s comments.

And I just don’t get it. See, if one of my friends were going to say something as stupid, offensive, vile, hateful, and misogynist as what Pappa decided to post on a public forum, I would be the first in line to slap them upside the head (figuratively) and say “not cool, bro.” See, that’s what friends do. Being someone’s friend gives you the benefit of their company and association. It means they care what you have to say, they care about your opinions and what you think. But that also comes with a responsibility, the responsibility that belongs to all good friends, the responsibility of honesty. Friendship means looking out for each other, but that’s not just “if you ever get in a barfight, I’ve got your back” or “if you’re down on your luck, I’ll help you out,” or “if you ever lose your teeth when you’re out to dine, borrow mine.” It means that you’re there to protect them, even from their own mistakes, and help them, even if it’s to overcome their own faults. Being a good friend means being willing to pull your friends up short and tell them when they’re being an asshat.

You do this, in part, because you care about your friend, and you don’t want to see them hurting themselves or others. You do this, in part, because you know that a strong friendship is unlikely to break over one disagreement. You do this, in part, because you know they’ll listen to you more than others. You do this, in part, because you want the people you associate with to reflect well on you.

And when you shirk that responsibility, when you let your friend continue using homeopathy instead of real medicine/dating her obviously abusive boyfriend/making bad rape jokes on the Internet, eventually your friend is (hopefully) going to realize their mistake, and then they’ll ask you that question: why didn’t you tell me sooner? Why didn’t you warn them ahead of time that they were making a mistake? Why didn’t you tell them how they looked to everyone else? Why didn’t you say what no one else was brave enough to say to their face?

The answer is always the same: because you were being a bad friend.

Rationalia, your friend Pappa has a problem. His problem is that he thinks he’s joking. He thinks he can make comments about raping people and laugh it off as a joke. He thinks “annoying” may be a crime punishable with rape. He thinks it’s okay to double-down on this stuff and throw around ableist slurs. He’s shown that he doesn’t care how all this reflects on himself, or on all of you. Some of you are Pappa’s friend. It’s your responsibility to tell him what an ass he’s being, and how harmful it is. Harmful to himself, because you know2 that he doesn’t actually condone rape. Harmful to you, because your community’s silence looks like assent. Harmful to the culture at large, because this kind of speech going unchallenged acts as a cover for those who do think some people deserve rape, who do think rape’s a laughing matter, a trifle, a joke. You are shirking your responsibility. You are being bad friends.

Either you need to start being better friends to Pappa and save him from himself, or you need to stop being friends with Pappa, and save yourselves from him.


1. I think Pappa’s post implies that there are people–less annoying people, obviously–that it would be immoral to rape. I honestly can’t wrap my head around it.

2. You don’t know this. Sadly, rape is very common, and thus rapists are a lot more common than we think. And since most rapes are committed by friends, dates, or acquaintances, it’s fair to suppose that most rapists are generally thought to be “nice people.”

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8 Responses to Friendship

  1. Bronze Dog says:

    Not knowing the context or Rationalia, I could hypothetically see it as a clumsy, sarcastic jab at rape apologists, (especially in light of that Tosh guy’s bad joke about his heckler getting raped for complaining about his previous rape joke) but given that Poe’s Law applies to this topic, someone who attempts such humor would do well to make an obvious tag of some kind to let people know he’s actually opposed to rape and is trying to parody the sick mindset.

    Given the horrible people whining about our collective “Dude, not funny!” to Thunderf00t and company, I have to double check sarcasm since I’ve seen a sequence of events played out as I read relevant comment threads:

    1: Someone said something horrible. I interpreted it as a harsh parody of the misogynists, rape apologists, or whatever. Rarely funny, but it can help vent anger.
    2: Other people interpret it in a straight manner, react in shock to his comment, and explain in detail why it’s horrible and why he should feel bad about himself.
    3: Instead of apologizing for a badly executed/signaled parody, the person starts spraying misogynist tropes in an effort to deflect criticism.

    They were serious, and I initially mistook it for a bad joke. So, yeah, I’m going to stop myself from attempting satire and related humor about this, and be cautious about interpreting such comments charitably. We’ve uncovered a rather sick portion of society. Some of us thought they’d have the basic sense to be ashamed, but they’re loud and proud of what they are because they’ve found too much emotional support among themselves and not enough vocal critics to shame them. Now that it’s a hot topic, they want us to go back to being ignorantly silent, since they could interpret silence as support.

  2. Sivi says:

    Basically there’s no reason to interpret something like this charitably, unless you have personal knowledge of the person, and know for sure that this is how they intended it, and then check them before / right after they post it since you know it’s not actually funny or clever.

    I feel like this is another privilege thing – underprivileged groups are under no obligation to interpret anything from a person privileged in that dimension charitably, and are entirely justified if they jump to conclusions about it, barring explicit reasons not to.

    The reason for your #3 is basically this – that almost every “joke” of that character is serious, not parody, and parodists would do well to either steer clear or be certain of how they’ll be interpreted.

  3. Paul says:

    if one of my friends were going to say something as stupid, offensive, vile, hateful, and misogynist as what Pappa decided to post on a public forum, I would be the first in line to slap them upside the head (figuratively) and say “not cool, bro.”

    This.

    We need to seriously think about our stance on things, and spend more time standing up for what is right, rather than just standing up for our “bros.” A true friend will point out when we have stepped out of line.

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