NRA President David Keene’s Rape Joke Isn’t Funny

“We [the NRA] could be serial rapists and have a higher favorable rating than Congress.”

David Keene, NRA President

When will the rape jokes stop?

Wednesday, National Rifle Association (NRA) President David Keene spoke at Harvard and popped a rape joke in defense of his increasingly indefensible organization.

Why doesn’t he compare their favorability rating to Congress anymore? Let’s not draw attention to the NRA’s slipping numbers. Let’s have a laugh about rape and “government” instead.

This comment has gone virtually unnoticed.

This is exactly what rape culture looks like.

Rape culture hides in plain sight.

Rape is not a punchline.

Rape is rape.

Rape happens every day. Someone, often a woman or a girl, is sexually assaulted in the United States every two minutes.

She may be screaming right now. She may be crying as quietly as she can. She may be closing her eyes and praying to live through this.

Can you hear her?

Rape is violence. Dismissing gun violence with rape violence is missing the entire point. All violence against women must end.

Rape culture feeds gun culture and gun culture feeds rape culture.

Rape culture and gun culture are part of the same culture of dominance and violence — and men exercising power without sharing it equally and equitably with women.

Strangers are not the danger, and let’s be real, the face of the stranger our culture says to be afraid of is an African American man who, like a woman of any ethnic background, rarely gets to contribute to public policy debates about guns, rape, violence and, for that matter, everything else under the law.

Racism has never lessened the epidemic of violence in this country.

Racism is a form of violence in itself.

Racism feeds more violence.

Racism is used to stoke fears by those who make piles and piles of money

from racism

and sexism

and violence.

The faces to be afraid of are the white men who lead our country almost totally by themselves while insisting there’s nothing wrong with that.

While not passing the Violence Against Women Act.

While not doing something about the fact that women are more likely to be shot by an intimate partner than a stranger.

While not doing something about the fact that women are more likely to be sexually assaulted by someone they know.

While parading out a woman who will say that guns are fashionable, which they are not.

While parading out a woman who will say that guns will protect a woman from rape, which they do not.

While parading out a woman who will say that they have a “second amendment right to choose” that means everyone — women, men, criminals — is eligible buy a gun without a background check, or military-style weapons, or military-style ammunition.

A rape joke is not going to make this go away.

A rape joke makes it worse.

Shame on the National Rifle Association.

Shame on gun culture.

Shame on rape culture.

rape-is-rape

Three Observations About Women And Today’s Gun Control Hearing

Struggling to speak, Congresswoman Gabby Giffords looked directly to the Senate Judiciary Committee: “You must act!” she said. Please watch her brief testimony if you have not done so already:

Rather than recapitulate the entire hearing (here’s a Storify of my live tweets throughout the  hearing if you’re interested) or make an argument for common-sense gun control measures, which I support, I’d rather like to use this occasion to make three observations about women and today’s gun control hearing:

No. 1: A refusal to take women’s views and violence against women seriously is **the** subtext of gun proliferation.

Disrespect for women is intimately interwoven with a lack of action on gun violence. The obvious overlap between Senators airing opposition to gun control today and Senators who led the charge to allow the Violence Against Women Act to expire for the first time in 18 years is not a coincidence. As C-SPAN first aired the hearing, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) blamed Attorney General Eric Holder, Operation Fast and Furious, anything he could for Newtown while the camera cut to two younger women in the audience with their arms crossed in disappointment. Remember when Mitt Romney blamed mass shootings on single mothers?

No. 2: Women and people of color have been left out of the gun debate for too long, and this limits our ability for change.

Of four witnesses who gave testimony and answered questions today, one was a woman. Zero were people of color. Watch the news shows and you’ll see the same dynamic. The result is an overabundance of a racially charged white male “self-defense” perspective, while ignoring the perspectives of communities most impacted by gun proliferation: women with abusive partners and people of color getting shot to death in the inner cities (rarely do these equally outrageous deaths make the news the way a massacre of whites at school, at work, or in a movie theater does). The one woman selected to be a witness was a shill for the gun manufacturers placed by Republicans on the committee. We’ll move to her bizarre comments next, but suffice it to say that Senate Democrats screwed up. While the party is clearly more inclusive of women at a policy level and within its ranks, it’s doing a bad job of representational diversity at the head table (not just in the hearing, in Obama’s cabinet nominations) — any job that isn’t 50% is a bad job. Certainly zero percent allows one reactionary woman — the Republicans tend to pick just one — standing on the other side of a group of progressive men to take and twist feminist rhetoric to her heart’s content.

No. 3: Rampant, unchecked gun proliferation is a terrible and lethal solution for a country wracked with violence against women. 

What we heard about women and guns from the “Independent Women’s Forum” witness was bunk and bizarre. Doing nothing about guns, as the gun manufacturers want us to do, will kill more women. Continuing to allow abusers who can’t buy a gun at a dealer to buy a gun from a private seller without the background check that would disqualify them will kill more women. Please take some time to read the facts about women and gun violence from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. In backing everything Wayne LaPierre and the National Rifle Association said, witness Gayle Trotter also managed to twist feminist rhetoric into something unrecognizable. Several times she made reference to “a woman’s second amendment freedom of choice” and even used the abortion rights caselaw buzzword “undue burden.” She also asserted that younger women were speaking up everywhere for AR-15s, and in a desperate attempt for justification reached into the sexism grab-bag and said we like them because of their “style.” I honestly can’t decide what I think: Did she invoke “freedom of choice” multiple times to appropriate feminist rhetoric (since she was the only woman speaking and the opportunity was wide open for her to do so) or was she trying to link massacres with abortion? Elsewhere she asserted that conceal/carry laws benefit women who don’t carry, presumably because men packing heat might protect that “freedom of choice.”

As Mark Kelly noted, a good guy with a gun did come running out of a Walgreens after his wife was shot. In the melee, he nearly shot the man who tackled Jared Loughner, the man who shot his wife, Gabby Giffords, to the ground. It’s shameful that her colleagues didn’t get it together after she was nearly killed, but the chance for progress is before us now. It is time for action on gun proliferation and violence against women.

Mitt, Assault Weapons and Single Parents

Last night, Mitt Romney appeared to blame mass shootings on single-parent families.

His non-sequitur response to debate moderator “Don’t You Silence Me” Candy Crowley’s delightfully rogue question as to whether the Republican presidential nominee would support the reinstatement of expired bans on assault weaponry that used to enjoy Republican support is important for several reasons.

1. We have a fundamental violence problem.

Violence cuts across poverty, it cuts across wealth, it cuts across privilege. The problem is not who does it but that we as a culture refuse to confront guns, we refuse to confront dominance, we refuse to confront the reality that the only accomplishment of the sham war on drugs is the mass incarceration of African American men. Mitt Romney’s running mate Paul Ryan and his House Republicans buddies refuse to reauthorize 18 years of bipartisan support for the Violence Against Women Act. It is as dangerous to lay the blame for violence on the feet of single parents as it is to lay it on Marilyn Manson, because naming a black sheep is exactly how to pull attention away from the fact the whole farm is burning.

2. It’s time to get real about guns.

Whether you are a PhD student in Aurora, a mentally ill undergrad in Virginia, two Littleton high school students from wealthy two-parent families, an abuser whose girlfriend is trying to leave, or frankly anyone in the United States, guns are easier to get your hands on than the more popular Happy Meal toys. The Supreme Court is an outpost of the National Rifle Association devoted to trampling the rights of local governments to regulate guns. There is not a single defensible reason to have assault weapons on the consumer market. In this climate, the gun lobby sits there smugly like a Grover Norquist of mass death above the silence of elected officials. No action was taken after a sitting member of Congress was shot.

3. Basically, Mitt told those slutty women to put assault weapons between the knees.

Single parent families are part of life, and a class divide is at work. More than 40 percent of births take place outside a marriage, with just 10 percent of those attributed to college-educated women. Last night Mitt outright lied about his well-documented intention to allow employers to dictate which women can get birth control and which can’t, and it’s also unclear how his plan to “get rid of” Planned Parenthood, his desire to overturn Roe v. Wade, and his running mates’ assertion that rape is a “method of conception” will increase two-parent families so there won’t be any more violence.

Let’s face it, people are driven to have consensual sex (how fun!) and half the population is encouraged to grow up with toy guns and violent entertainment until they too are big enough to carry a concealed AK-47 wherever they want.

For some time Mitt Romney has appeared to agree with those who believe a woman with an IUD is committing mass murder for years at a time. What is most frightening is that now he is saying a woman who raises children without the watchful eye of a man is responsible for mass murder in our streets, schools and movie theaters.

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