I am selfish, unforgiving, judgmental and mean. I hoard so that others lack. I lie and I cheat. When I steal, I pray (the irony of it doesn't escape me) that someone else carries water for it. I am not all these things all the time; I am some of them some of the time. I am also kind to old ladies. I don't kick small animals or children in order to feel superior. I empathise with the weak and vulnerable and, every now and then, I perform acts of kindness in penance for my sins. I am not all these things all the time, or even some of them some of the time. And I am not a contradiction in terms. I am human and my humanity is often summed up in my many, many flaws.
A man I have never met has taken on an assignment for a company whose products I enjoy. He comes up with a unique way to promote the company: he invites men and women who wish to partake of the company's products to send him stories of their overcoming adverse situations. (This man writes for a living and does so rather well. He writes so well that many people celebrate his writing.) So many people send him their stories, he edits them and publishes them on social media platforms. A young woman sends him her story. It is a harrowing story. And he publishes it. And then the shit hits the fan.
Certain facts are agreed between the man and the man's lynch mob: a young woman has been raped three times. She says that she has forgiven her rapists and that she is in a friendship with two of them. She says that she suffers from a brain disorder but that she manages it with medication, exercise and prayer. She sent this man her story and he published it. The story offended many people so much so they took to the online social media platforms to point out the wrongness of publishing the story. The man removed the story from its online home. Those facts are the basis for a robust debate but a debate on what remains murky.
Did the man celebrate "rape culture" by publishing the woman's story? Did the company the man was working for take advantage of a vulnerable woman to sell its products? Should the man have first considered finding psycho-social counsellors for the woman instead of taking her story and used it to sell stuff for a faceless corporation? Should the man have published the story knowing that the woman blamed herself for being raped? In the heat of online verbal outrage and combat, it is clear that many think the man shouldn't have published the story and should have gotten the woman some kind of help. Many also see nothing wrong in publishing the story in the way that it was published.
I am a man and so I am unlikely to know how traumatised a woman who has been raped will be, how long she will take to recover (if she recovers at all), how stigmatised she will be because she was raped, or how weak (or strong) she will be after the ordeal. I cannot tell you how rape culture affects women because I am not a woman. I cannot tell you that I have the language skills to discern when what I would think of as conversation is in actual fact the celebration of rape culture.
But as a man, I am supposed to take responsibility for the evil doings of all men. Where women have been the victims of a masculine culture, I must be self-aware, penitent and pro-active in erasing that culture. As a man, I am privileged simply because I am a man and I must take that into consideration every single time any woman suffers injury or violence at the hands of a man. Male privilege is wrong and I must apologise for it every single time it is responsible for pain to a woman. It doesn't matter whether or not I am a decent man; all that matters is that I am a man and all men are trash.
This writer has been reminded of this truism. He cannot escape its consequences and consequently he must be reminded that his acts, innocent or not, were a celebration of patriarchy and rape culture and that they were unforgivable. He is solely responsible for re-traumatising that woman. It matters not how many future good works he does, his position on rape culture is now known and immutable and he is among the worst offenders. He will never be able to apologise enough to be forgiven. Ever. Whether that is true or not is immaterial; it is now known that indeed, all men are trash.