James Landrith, on how not to create a hierarchy of suffering.
As a vocal and public male survivor, I’ve taken on a lot of abuse, harassment and hate from those who don’t want to hear our voices. I get it. Rape is an “icky” topic. Men are supposed to be strong and women couldn’t possibly commit sexual violence. People will defend those stereotypes without even knowing they’re doing it.They will quote legal definitions, espouse childish mythology and communicate taunts in an attempt to shame and silence.
There are any number of “reasons” why male survivors are silenced, minimized, trivialized and outright mocked by the general public, and too often by sexual violence activists and advocates. Further, if the general public acknowledges male survivors, then it will also have to consider the possibility of female rapists beyond the “wink-wink” references and outright jokes about them.
Get over it. We exist.
I’ve been speaking on a very public stage since finally finding my voice in 2008. That was nearly two decades after I had been drugged, raped and blackmailed into silence. Since then, I’ve been called every name I can imagine, been publicly shamed in print, and been subjected to a ton of other forms of intimidation and silencing attempts. I keep hearing how male survivors don’t experience such shaming tactics, yet I keep experiencing those tactics firsthand. Why do some folks feel the need to deny that it happens?
As a survivor and actual stakeholder in sexual violence issues in my own right, I am saddened at how often we are used as cannon fodder by both men and women in battles over who has it worse.
That is yet another iteration of the Oppression Olympics. That is creating a hierarchy of suffering. That is NOT anything approaching actual advocacy work.
If you don’t care about our issues, that is fine. However, please stop co-opting our traumas to make the case that “X doesn’t care about you and only brings you up to silence Y.” Guess what, the advocates for “Y” are doing the same thing with regard to male survivors and our issues by using us as talking points and a “gotcha” in their never-ending gender wars. Such ideological battles are little more than turf wars, and fall well short of sincere advocacy.
We are actual human beings. We exist. Our issues may not matter to some, but we deserve to be treated with a little more dignity, and a lot less shallow condescension, from people who are only using us to score points in ideological arguments.
Our concerns, our struggles and our lives matter far more than your need to score a quick point. Our card is not yours to play. Is that too much to ask?
Advocacy that is not based in compassion and focused on the lives of the human beings affected will eventually fail—and spectacularly.