February 20, 2013

There are two simple ways to make any situation worse.

1) Compare it to Hitler.

2) Make rape jokes about it.

If you want the exact formula for the worst conversation possible, look no farther than this week’s #LiberalTips2AvoidRape hashtag and everything that preceded it.

There is no winning way out of it. This is one of those conversations where you wish you could turn into a bat and fly off into the night, because everything is the worst.

A women fires a handgun at the "Get Some Guns & Ammo" shooting range in Salt Lake City. (George Frey/Getty Images)
A women fires a handgun at the “Get Some Guns & Ammo” shooting range in Salt Lake City. (George Frey/Getty Images)

First off, Rep. Joe Salazar (D) in Colorado, arguing against concealed carry on campus, said: “It’s why we have call boxes. It’s why we have safe zones. That’s why we have the whistles, because you just don’t know who you’re going to be shooting at. And you don’t know if you feel like you’re going to be raped, or if you feel like someone’s been following you around or if you feel like you’re in trouble when you may actually not be, that you pop out that gun and you pop … pop a round at somebody.” This was certainly a stupid thing to say. Oh, those hysterical women, popping off rounds!

Where, the conservative blogosphere asked, are all those bloggers who complained about the portrayal of women as irrational and incapable?

And then, just when everyone was worried that we would be forced to confront this apparent double standard, the Top Conservatives On Twitter crowd stepped up and started making rape jokes. Nothing says, “We are the party that is really sensitive to the issues rape victims face” like “We are going to make a bunch of rape jokes now.”

They whipped out a list of ten points of last resort from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs’s Rape Aggression Defense program that suggested you spook potential rapists by vomiting on them, suddenly. This was all about disarming women, they pointed out! Disarmed, we are left with the alternative of whistling and urinating and projectile vomiting. (“Cover yourself with a mix of chocolate and your own feces,” joked @KentAtwater. “BONUS: You get a National Endowment for the Arts grant.”) This is what liberals want for us! Except that this was not really an accurate portrayal of the guidelines. But, oh well! The war was on!

Good job, everyone.

Look, I think I missed the meeting where we decided that our only two options were Rapes Everywhere and Women Packing Heat at All Times. Can we have that meeting again? Because I think there are a lot of people who would like to weigh in.

This conversation has brought out the worst in everyone. “These liberals don’t trust women with guns!”

“Why are we making rape jokes?”

“This is about gun control, not rape! We’re making jokes about the bizarre safety tips!”

“They sound like rape jokes!”

“You liberals just don’t know what a real joke looks like!”

“Is there any question to which you are willing to admit that ‘More guns’ is not the answer?”

“Childhood obesity?”

Time out, everyone!

This is literally the worst.

I like how the alternative to Rape Everywhere is that we walk around bristling with lethal weapons. Yup. That will solve this. Men are not involved in this process at all. They just crawled up out of the ocean and have barely learned to walk upright, and it’s all up to us ladyfolks. The onus is on us! Why were we walking in the streets at night? Why weren’t we covered in metal armor? Isn’t that a bit risque? The question isn’t about stopping sexual violence. It’s about making certain everyone has guns. Really, every question is. Your child teething too long? Put a gun on it. Marriage on the rocks? Throw a gun at it. Table wobbly? Put a gun under it. I’m sure we’ll be turning the sequester into a gun rights battle soon enough. And if you read this hashtag, it sounds like if we aren’t packing heat, we might as well be asking for it. Never mind that most people know their attackers. Never mind the actual real world where these things happen. It is too complicated for 140 characters.

Maybe it’s not that we feel unsafe around women with guns because they are women. Maybe we feel unsafe around people with guns because they are people. Maybe we missed the part in the rape statistics where this was just another problem we could throw guns at and solve it. If only it were. “More guns” is so much easier than “dealing with rape culture.” We wouldn’t have such a problem dealing with rape culture if it weren’t so easy to turn all of this into a joke. It is so much easier to bristle with arms against a faceless menace than stare at someone you actually know and say, “Actually, that’s not very funny.”

Look, I understand that those self-defense guidelines always sound slightly ridiculous. I used to make fun of them myself, back when I had more confidence and less skill. The whistles. The whistles, for crying out loud. When I walk down the street late at night and hear the sound of whistling, I just assume that Time’s 2002 Person of the Year is getting a little frisky.

These guidelines sound ridiculous, but RAD is not ridiculous. You get to learn how to pummel people who are dressed as giant lobsters. And the skills carry over. Especially if you don’t like the idea of strolling the streets holstering lethal weapons.

Ideally, when confronted with danger, just do the thing that Todd Akin thinks you can do: Turn into a spider, cover your attacker in webbing, and hang him a cocoon until the police arrive.

But in the meantime, let’s just avoid any more discussions like this. Hitler is inches away.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.