The “my strength” campaign.

Today I saw this campaign. It’s an anti-rape campaign that was retweeted by Louise Mensch. I think it’s common knowledge that I bloody love Louise Mensch and think that she’s a great feminist icon, so, I took a look. Now, there is one thing that is good about this as a campaign, and I’ll mention it before someone else does and thinks they can use it as ammunition: it blames the perpetrator. The emphasis is on the aggressive partner; it is not victim blaming. I like this, I ramble a lot about victim-blaming culture and how terribly damaging it can be, so it’s nice to see a change. Unfortunately, victim-blaming is only one facet of rape culture, and the many other facets need to be addressed before you can claim to have launched a successful campaign. 

Just because it’s not quite as horrible as the Welsh attempt at an anti-rape campaign, doesn’t mean it’s good. Not at all.  So there we go, I gave credit where it was due. Though I’m obviously being sarcastic, I do genuinely find it commendable as an attempt to not victim-blame,  but the fact remains that it is a terrible, terrible campaign. In true rhetoric style, I shall now put forward the many ways in which it utterly fucking fails.

I asked comrade Mensch in what way she thought it was a good campaign, because, as I put it “its patronising, heteronormal and glorifies patriarchal “strength“” (forgive me, 140 characters doesn’t allow much room for substantial argument and proper grammar).  This was her reply: “It’s not heteronormal at all. Look at all the ads” . By that, I’m assuming that because there’s a token homosexual couple featured, she doesn’t think it’s heteronormal. I disagree, so I will dedicate my time to showing how it is heteronormal before I move explain what a patronising piece of patriarchal wank it really is.

There are 12 adverts, 1 represents a gay couple, 1 depicts 4 men individually, and the other 10 are of heterosexual relationships. All of them convey men as the “strong” partner. In almost all of the pictures the women are looking vomit-worthily in love with their “strong” partner, and why not? HE DIDN’T RAPE HER. Notice as well the proximity of the lovers to each other.  In all of the heterosexual pictures, the couples look pretty snuggly; I mean, look at how intensely this poor girl is looking at her non-rapist of a  boyfriend. Now notice the stance of the homosexual couple- they’re not looking at each other with puppy-dog-eyes; they’re not looking at each other at all. There is no affection. Zilch. I mean, who wants to see gay people in love? Clearly not the makers of this campaign, nor (they assume) their demographic. Only hetero people can be snuggly. I’d say that’s pretty heteronormative, to be honest.

Now: is it patronising? I hope your instinct is to say yes. It reinforces the subordinate roles that women take in society and normalises the idea that they can’t look after themselves. One poster says “so when I paid for our date, she didn’t owe me“- stereotyping women as objects to be indulged with fine foods, clothes and entertainment. She is, of course, not financially independent enough to do that herself *sarcasm*.

Another poster says “When she was too drunk to decide, I decided we shouldn’t“. What that is basically saying is “Those women, going out, getting drunk and not being able to look after themselves… Why, if I wasn’t such a bloody lovely human being I’d rape her!” Does that sound okay to you? I’m not okay with it. I’m not okay with those stereotypes being perpetrated, especially in an anti-rape campaign. Promoting these stereotypes only adds fuel to the rape-culture fire. Women are often perceived of as weaker, as The Other, and that is therefore fair grounds for beating, raping and assaulting them. To bring down patriarchy and the rape-culture that comes with it, it is imperative that we bring down these stereotypes. They are harmful, incorrect and offensive.

Finally: does it promote a patriarchal view of “strength”. Yes, yes it does. Immediately in using the word “strength” they’re triggering the relation of sexual violence and rape to strength (and, one assumes, physical strength), which is incredibly problematic. I have written before that sexual oppression is sometimes nothing more than self-congratulatory violence, and this campaign does not challenge that idea.

It accepts a power dynamic within relationships; it accepts that one partner is strong and one partner is weak. Now, that’s not how I’ve ever seen any of my relationships- they have been two, equally valid human beings participating in a mutual expression of love and companionship. I won’t accept a power dynamic in my relationships, and I certainly won’t accept that that is something inherent to my male partner.

It’s also glorifying men who don’t rape people, which I have a big problem with. Can we really say “well done, you’re not a rapist!”. I don’t think so. At least, the last I heard we weren’t giving medals out for it.

Anyway, there are probably a million other things wrong with this campaign, but I’m running out of steam, so I shall leave my criticism there- enjoy.

ps- I hope nobody took the Louise Mensch stuff seriously, I can’t abide the woman and her psychopathic love for Thatcher.