Earlier this week, a group called “Men’s Rights Edmonton” decided enough was enough, and that it was finally time to speak up against the Edmonton police’s overwhelmingly successful “Don’t Be That Guy” campaign.
You remember it:
It was (and is) an in-your-face campaign for consent that finally started a dialogue revolving around telling men not to rape, rather than telling women not to get raped. It was a huge success – and a point of pride among many Canadians that it started here.
Apparently, though, not among all Canadians. To “counteract” the campaign, Men’s Rights Edmonton plastered the University of Alberta campus with “Don’t Be That Girl” posters:
They took the “Don’t Be That Guy” poster that said: “Just because you help her home, doesn’t mean you get to help yourself.”
And changed it to: “Just because she’s easy doesn’t mean you shouldn’t fear false criminal accusations.”
They changed: “”Just because she’s drinking doesn’t mean she wants sex. Sex without consent = sexual assault.”
To: “Just because you regret a one-night stand doesn’t mean it wasn’t consensual. Lying about sexual assault = a crime.”
“Just because she’s drunk doesn’t mean she wants to f**k.”
Was adapted to the ultra-clever: “Just because you regret your life choices, doesn’t mean it’s rape.”
Clearly the group is taking a stance – “advocating” against false sexual assault accusations, which (shockingly-not-at-all-shockingly anonymous) spokespeople from Men’s Rights Edmonton refer to as “an issue that is very prevalent.” Seemingly out of thin air, they estimate the number of false rape accusations to be between 40 and 60 percent of all reports.
For a little bit of context:
Most other statistics agree that false rape accusations are about as common as false accusations for other crimes, between 2 and 4 percent.
Inspector Sean Armstrong of the Edmonton Police Force says that in his 4 ½ years as a sexual assault detective, he dealt with only one case involving a false accusation. One.
Without going too far into the 2000-3000 percent inflation of Men’s Rights Edmonton’s figures, let’s keep in mind that none of these numbers are able to take into account the fact that less than 10 percent of all sexual assaults are reported to the police in the first place.
Beyond that, though, the level of ignorance of these groups is just plain shocking. A spokesperson who would only go by the name “Raz” even told the National Post: “The presumption is out of the gate that you are probably guilty, and it’s because of this misinformation that our society has become saturated with.”
What Raz and his (disturbingly high number of) supporters have gotten completely wrong is that it’s still the women who are seen as the problem in cases of sexual assault. Society’s “presumption out of the gate” is that the woman was somehow asking for it, that she shouldn’t have put herself in a “dangerous situation” (such as, you know, walking home… or taking a cab by herself, or drinking without a designated ‘party partner’, or drinking at all, or being out at night, or travelling alone, or being out during the day, or asking for help on the highway, or trusting a friend, or being in a long term relationship, and so on).
Men’s Rights Edmonton, and other men’s rights groups like them, are afraid. They’re afraid that the immense power they enjoy by just being born male is slipping away. They don’t say this – they likely don’t even know it, but it’s true. It has to be true, because it clearly can’t be that they are actually afraid that campaigns such as “Don’t Be That Guy” are problematic – there’s just so much evidence to the contrary, and so little to their side, that they can’t actually seriously really think that way.
Or, at least that’s what I thought until I saw Men’s Rights Edmonton’s official statement on the topic:
“Sexual violations, including rape, can be committed by anyone. While a majority of reported sexual assaults are committed by men, associating or claiming all men are potential rapists is analogous to claiming all minorities will commit theft.”
So… ok. They really just didn’t get the message in the first place. At no point did the “Don’t Be That Guy” campaign claim that we should start thinking of all men as potential rapists. Really, it only said that “that guy” is a potential rapist – and that maybe in order to not be “that guy” a lot of men could stand to be a little more aware of the fact that women are real-live people and that their ability to give (or not to give) consent should be respected.
“Don’t Be That Guy” is hardly analogous to claiming all minorities will commit theft.
In fact, THAT analogy is analogous to claiming that every person on the planet is as helpless as the “before” people in infomercials.
Why is my egg broken?! I smashed it on the plate and everything!
If you have any doubt about whether women are still marginalized, insulted, and attacked in our society today, you can just pop on over to this National Post article about the “Don’t Be That Girl” posters and read the comments.
The “Don’t Be That Guy” campaign is not something that needs to be parodied or counter-acted. If anything, we need awareness today more than ever before. The first article posted about the “Don’t Be That Girl” posters, a short, 186 word news blurb put up late Tuesday night by CBC News, ends with new data from Angus Reid and the Canadian Women’s Foundation that show some disturbing figures of Canadian opinions on sexual assault.
The results showed that 19% of Canadians believe that a woman could “provoke or encourage” sexual assault when she is drunk, 15% believe that women could provoke or encourage sexual assault by flirting with a man, 11% believe that by wearing a short skirt, she could provoke or encourage sexual assault.
The Angus Reid survey is something that should have garnered a tonne of media coverage. Every single article in Canadian newspapers about the “Don’t Be That Girl” posters should have included these statistics.
We don’t need to move the discussion toward one that questions whether men are being “demonized” as rapists. We don’t need to start wondering or opening dialogue about whether feminists have gone too far in their campaigns against sexual assault. Women are finally being heard. Women’s rights are finally an issue that is starting to become mainstream. That might scare a lot of men, but it doesn’t mean that we should stop. It means we’re doing something right.
What do you think about the “Don’t Be That Girl” posters? Or about “men’s rights” organizations? The best method to fight inequality is through open, unapologetic dialogue. Get the discussion going – whether it’s at home, at school, with your friends, or here in the comments – don’t be quiet about it. Don’t be that girl.
You may also want to check out:
Warning! Alcohol Consumption May Result in Sexual Harassment