Journalist. Writer. Researcher. Editor.

“Personally, I don’t find the rape metaphor apt, ever.”

Someone sent me this in two emails today. He is a dear friend, and my mentor. He explains why he feels Zapiro should not use the rape metaphor better than I could.

Personally, I don’t find the rape metaphor apt, ever. Never did. I first remember Zapiro using it in some sordid take on embedded journos in Iraq. I didn’t like it then. And Zapiro is far from the first to use rape as a metaphor. It’s been around for thousands of years.

So I suppose there are many who think the metaphor is strong stuff. Maybe, for many, it is. Maybe it does get through to them. You seem to suggest, without saying so, that a bit of self-censorship would be appropriate.

Take this from where it comes – and it speaks to you saying your hatred (of the cartoon)  is “unfortunately” not rational, which, to me, is the issue in a nutshell. You and many others (sadly, not all) who have experienced rape will not like the metaphor, and you must continue to say so.

It is my experience that no amount of argument, still less rationalising, will make most people, no matter how sympathetic, understand the hurt of the metaphor. Until you have lived abuse, felt it, heard it, smelled it and tasted it, you will never know what it is. After more than thirty years, I have flashbacks all the time, many times every day, and I don’t need triggers for them, thank you. I just try and move past hurtful cartoons like this. You have paused, and taken it on. Thank you.

In my opinion, you are right to defend freedom of expression, and you are also right to suggest that people should take seriously the fact that their metaphors can be hurtful. Given the depth and extent of rape in this country, it is little enough to ask, isn’t it?

And another email:

…it saddens me when some of our leading intellectuals can think of no better metaphor for what they consider to be the roll back of the freedom of speech than rape.

So, back to my silence then, and the memories. After all, they are just my memories, and some casual metaphor trumps them every day. Why respect my memories, or yours, or those of God knows how many others, when there are greater and graver issues at stake, like the alleged silencing of free speech?

Don’t ever doubt yourself on this matter Michelle.

I have the utmost respect for people, like the author of these emails, who suffer in silence in the face of the rape horror that faces our country.