Bree McKenna is a musician, writer, Libra and feminist witch living in Seattle. She splits her time playing bass in Tacocat, the Hardly Art punk pop band responsible for anti-street harassment anthem “Hey Girl” and celebratory menstruation surf-rock hit “Crimson Wave,” and in pregnancy-themed supergroup Childbirth, who write funny feminist punk songs gleefully commemorating questionable sexual decisions and skewering dudes who ask rude questions about scissoring. As a writer, McKenna’s work has appeared in She Shreds, Vice and Seattle alternative weekly the Stranger, notably satirizing music journalism misogyny in a “Men Who Rock!” issue and calling out punk scene sexism in her essay “Sexist Queers.” McKenna loves chihuahuas, essential oils, and spell-casting.
(Photo credit: Michael Levine)
The Brock Turner case has blown up my entire social media feed for the last week. From the victim’s heart-wrenching, brave letter describing her assault, to the judge’s absurdly lenient six-month sentencing, to the father’s rape-apologist letter to the judge stating that his son shouldn’t be punished for “twenty minutes of action” (even bemoaning the fact that his son was so upset by the situation that he has even lost his appetite for steak) — one thing is for sure, it’s an absolutely horrifying situation.
Adding to the outrage is a letter written by Brock’s childhood friend, Leslie Rasmussen, in defense of Turner. Rasmussen is a twenty-year-old woman in an Ohio band called Good English. Her letter was disheartening. She essentially claimed that alcohol and “political correctness” were to blame, not Brock.
I don’t think it’s fair to base the fate of the next ten + years of his life on the decision of a girl who doesn’t remember anything but the amount she drank to press charges against him. I am not blaming her directly for this, because that isn’t right. But where do we draw the line and stop worrying about being politically correct every second of the day and see that rape on campuses isn’t always because people are rapists…
Her rationale is horrifying to me, and it’s not surprising that her band has gotten some serious backlash. They’ve been dropped from Brooklyn’s Northside Festival, and were just taken off of the Dayton Music, Art & Film Festival in their home state of Ohio. And why shouldn’t they? The price of being in the public eye is that you have to deal with the consequences of your actions — in this case her insensitive (at best) statements.
Rasmussen has since issued a statement saying her letter was taken “out of context,” but goes on to detail how she believes alcohol is still to blame and not, you know, the rapist. Her follow-up statement posted to her band’s Facebook page backpedaled a little bit, trying to reinforce that she doesn’t blame the victim, but she still kept harping on alcohol. Her statement on Facebook received hundreds of hateful comments within an hour of posting, and the last I saw the band had deleted their Facebook and other social media channels.
I keep thinking about what must going on with her. Is she so entrenched in existing rape culture that she can’t even make an intelligent statement on the subject?
While it’s easy to pile hate on someone like Rasmussen — and I would like to make it abundantly clear that her statements offend, confuse and disgust me, especially coming from another woman — there’s something else I find even more offensive, confusing and completely disgusting: the sheer amount of gendered violence and misogyny that is being hurled at her. I’ve been seeing too many comments sections, Facebook posts and tweets calling her a “cunt” and a “bitch,” plus thinly veiled physical threats against her.
While she does deserve to be reprimanded, these intense and intensely sexist attacks only perpetuate violence and rape culture
The New York Times just spoke with Larry Hyland, the owner of Matchless, a New York bar and venue that recently canceled yet another Good English show. He told them: “We don’t want to be affiliated with anyone that’s going to try to victim-blame or even just downplay rape.” But he was also concerned with the possibility of the bar becoming “an unsafe environment” after receiving a flood of messages threatening to confront the band if they do perform.
These attacks on Leslie feel like a distraction from where our anger should be pinpointed: the way our society and legal system deals with violence against women, especially when it involves privileged, white men.
The situation caused me to think of my own music community and how it mishandles the subject of rape. I know a number of band guys who have turned a blind eye to the fact that a friend of theirs has been involved in sexual assault. I have personally had unsuccessful confrontations with male friends who have told me that they have no issue hanging with a known rapist because he is a “cool guy” and they “don’t know exactly what happened.”
There’s a sad irony at play here: a woman was taken off bills for espousing an opinion (however wrongheaded), while so many male assaulters are able to move around untouched by any repercussions. Rasmussen should be held accountable for her words, but violence against women is still violence against women.
And, on a personal note to Rasmussen: given your age and the unfortunate one in four odds of a woman being sexually assaulted, you will undoubtedly encounter more and more friends who have been on the other end of a rape. Hopefully it doesn’t require another tragedy for you to alter your perspective.