As a follow up to my last post about the "I was raped" t-shirt, I want to highlight another comment on that NY Times blog post which expresses a popular desire to be able to decide how and when rape survivors can communicate to others.
Here is the comment by James (with emphasis added by me)
I believe the majority of posters here that are in opposition to this T-shirt as a form of expression for victims is not so much driven by a close-minded opinion that victims should remain silent, but rather by the context in which it is displayed.
Most people wear “statement” t-shirts as a form of carefree expression, about not-so-touchy topics, which this topic might very well be depending on the person. Regardless if this is my best friend, or a stranger on the street, and regardless of where I see it (restaurant, his/her home, etc), the question still remains for the observer, “Why are you choosing to express yourself in this manner, and why right now? What am I supposed to say? Do I stay silent?” The problem is, we don’t all respond to (or interpret) these messages alike. It puts your audience in a state of question, and uneasiness. Perhaps they aren’t prepared to discuss this, even if they are in support of your expression. It’s just not something society is (or can be expected to) be subjected to in an uncontrolled environment.
As others have suggested, it seems more reasonable if this were aimed as a form of group-expression, where it was made as a demonstration en-masse. I agree. But with that said, even if 1 of 3 people are victims, and even if every single one of them had a t-shirt like this, the likelihood they will all wear it on a regular basis to make that statement is just not reasonable. It’s not just “another” t-shirt. People won’t wear this for recreation, and if they do then it doesn’t seem as if they would be trying to drive conversation as we would like to think.
I think the notion of expressing yourself by means of a simple t-shirt, about any topic, never adequately warrants a real basis for further and constructive conversation. It’s just not a medium that can be taken very seriously in the first place. There are more intelligent means to express yourself, and just because society might be shocked to see this, doesn’t mean shocking them will help.
I’m not a victim of rape, nor do I have any friends who have shared that experience with me. However, as a member of a rational society, I think conversing with a T-shirt, no matter what your intended message, is not the message you want to send out for topics such as these. Society is not against you. But I wouldn’t venture that you can just go about making changes (personal or societal) without regard to your audience. It’s just doesn’t seem an appropriate means of expression in my humble opinion.
First, there is nothing humble about this comment. He and other non-survivors are assigning themselves the right to control the acceptable forms of communication used by rape survivors.
To defend this right he uses elevating words like intelligent, reasonable and rational for himself and those who agree with him which clearly implies that these words don't apply to those who disagree with him.
Not surprisingly, he uses demeaning phrases like "wouldn't venture that you can just go about making changes," "not reasonable" and "doesn't seem an appropriate" for rape survivors who don't agree with him.
He gives himself away with his backhanded admissions "not so much driven by a closed-minded opinion" and "Society is not against you. But ..."
What society shouldn't be subjected to is the occurance of rape or any form of sexual violence. Demanding that rape survivors help maintian the illusion that rape doesn't happen to those you see is in direct opposition to rape prevention.