Recently I’ve noticed a lot of people have been posting, talking, and promoting the phrase (or others that are similar) “Kill your local rapist.” In a related way, remarks like this as they apply to other social justice issues, not necessarily sexual assault, are also circulating.
Rape is not a matter to play around with and should be taken very seriously among students at a University, media, and the judicial system; often times when a person is identified with allegations of sexual assault they are let off the hook after only minor chastising or minimum sentencing. For example, Brock Turner was sentenced to six months’ confinement in county jail, and only serving three months because of good behavior, followed by three years of probation for his crime, and many of the male celebrities that have been called out recently in the “me too” campaign have been similarly reprimanded lightly. This is an incredibly frustrating, and even painful and damaging trend for many people, and thus fuels an angry dialogue advocating for violent action.
However, what at first glance looks like support for women and their recent struggles against the very popularized sexual assault cases may actually have very problematic roots. Historically, rapists have often been conflated with men of color and often are still portrayed that way in media. Only 50 years ago it was commonly seen that people would advocate for the lynching of black men, often innocent people, for the same crimes that we are advocating to kill today. We should not fall into the trap of continuing this racially charged dialogue, oppressing one group of people in our efforts to support another oppressed group because it will not lead to any ultimate benefits for anyone experiencing oppression.
Moreover, making socially active statements violent with calls for arms, criminal activity, or violence against others has great impact. Though violence is a way to enact change, using it can risk spreading toxically masculine ideas that physical power and strength can be used to get one’s way. These ideas are dangerous as they exclude those that want nonviolent change, either because they do not have the power to be violent, such as people of color or those that do not identify as men or do not wish to use the power that they do have in that way. There is something inherently wrong with encouraging violence because it takes away a person’s right to safety.
Despite all of this, I would like to point out that arguments for nonviolence can also have anti-black sentiments at their roots. It has been very common in light of the Black Lives Matter movement to hear individuals that are not a part of it criticize those that use violent tactics or that their protests cause inconvenience and are “making the movement look bad.” However, this is often the best (if not only) ways for people of color, historically speaking, to make their voices heard, and often times actions that are more passive do not lead to the same results. However, in terms of the phrase “Kill your local rapist,” it is often not actually advocating for the real, criminal act of killing another, but for the punishment and true acknowledgment of their immoral, unethical actions.
As a summation, statements like “kill your local rapist” or other statements advocating for violence are performative and hurtful to the social climate and the production of healthy conversations about how we can proceed. Even more, they are not representative of real ideas or solutions that we are looking for, such as better treatment of women and minority groups. Ultimately, these statements do not aid in making the social climate a healthier and safer place for change.