I have recently started using Twitter. I am organising a music festival later this year and have set up a Twitter account for that and in the process, reactivated my dormant personal account.
It’s a beast of a thing, Twitter. I have long shared the opinion of writer Bruce Sterling who said,
“Using Twitter for literate communication is about as likely as firing up a CB radio and hearing some guy recite ‘The Iliad.’"
but I think that during this past week, Twitter may have proven me simultaneously both right and wrong.
One word dominated my Twitter feed over the last few days.
If my feed was swamped with tweets about the rape threats against Caroline Criado-Perez, then I can only begin to imagine what hers was like. Following her successful campaign to have Jane Austen featured on banknotes, Criado-Perez was rewarded with up to 50 rape threats an hour from anonymous ‘trolls’, in what appears to have been a well orchestrated attack and almost blanket silence from executives at Twitter. Where Anonymous Angry Male would previously have had to make do with shaking his fist at the radio or television when a pesky woman spoke her mind, Twitter now provides an immediate and direct platform for 140 characters of hate and malice.
It was just out of sheer curiosity then, that I clicked on a link with the hashtag ‘rapejoke’. I assumed this would be a continuation of the Criado-Perez story or something relating to it.
In fact, it turned out to be one of the most powerful things I have read all year. I literally couldn’t stop reading it, over and over. Do yourself a favour and check it out:
This is one powerful poem. It seems intially to be an attack on rape jokes and yet I don’t know if it is about rape jokes at all. It's about what it's like to be raped. Lockwood has spent her life trying to laugh it off, laugh at it and not take it seriously. The poem forces the reader to reevaluate the rape joke and also reevaluate what constitutes rape itself. As the US comedian Sarah Silverman says
"Who is going to complain about rape jokes? Rape victims? They barely even report rape."
The fact that this poem went viral, should go some way to addressing the issue of rape jokes, or at least make us question their validity as jokes at all. I believe that Lockwood has given voice to many women who have tried to laugh off what happened to them, myself included.
‘The rape joke is you went home like nothing happened, and laughed about it the next day and the day after that, and when you told people you laughed, and that was the rape joke.’