an open letter to the customer who made a rape joke

To the on-duty officer who offhandedly grumbled “Time to get raped!” when bringing his purchase to the register:

You were neither appropriate nor funny.  In your position as a human being and an officer of the law, I would expect you to know that without needing to be told.  I cannot claim to know what rape is like, and (I imagine, based on your comment) that you can’t either, but I would bet that being raped is not at all like paying ten dollars for over-the-counter allergy medication.

“Aw, it’s just a joke,” you might have said to me, had I openly objected at the time rather than rang you up in appalled silence.  The only reason I kept silent was because I was working and you are, as noted, an officer –– my senior in both age and position.  However.  You may have meant it to be grimly humorous in the same way Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck mean it when they claim America’s being assaulted by liberalism, but the “jokes” that you and Rush and Glenn (among others) perpetuate serve only to foster the rape culture that allows you to stump around analogizing like this in the first place.  I thought about saying this to you, at the time.  I imagined you would get all disgruntled, not entirely unlike a certain furniture salesman, and leave thinking that angry feminists have no sense of humor and ruin everything, etc.

Feminists are angry, sir, because we live in a culture that permits and even, sometimes, encourages behavior such as yours, wherein the unwanted assault of someone’s body (often typified as, though not necessarily, a woman’s) can be reduced to the pain your wallet feels when you must part with a Hamilton.  That’s rape culture, period.  That contributes to a world that diminishes and sometimes even dismisses victims’ accounts of sexual harassment or assault.  That contributes to an idea that bodies are property: you literally analogized finances with forced sex acts.  It’s offensive and wrong on so many levels that I didn’t know what to do when you said it, so I pretended as if I had not heard.  And the fact that I chose to ignore you, that also stems from and feeds into rape culture; by saying nothing, I implicitly condoned your behavior.  At the same time, I said nothing precisely because I was afraid that if I stood up to you, I could get into trouble with my supervisor or (worse) your fellow security officers.  I didn’t feel like I had enough power against you.  And when you make comments like that –– to a twenty-two-year-old girl or anyone else –– it only reinforces that you are above everyone, you are stronger, more powerful, and you don’t need to worry about or consider the needs of others.  You’re an authority figure.  Don’t be such an asshole.



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