On May 18, the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted 165 to 143 to ban from the permanent record comments made on May 4 by Rep. Debra Altschiller about her former colleague, Robert Fisher, and "rape culture" in the United States.
This was a party line vote, with Republicans voting against inclusion of Altschiller's remarks and Democrats voting in favor. In Cheshire County, Windham County Vermont's neighbor to the east, its three lone Republicans voted against inclusion.
It's here that we note that a number of Republicans walked out of the statehouse as Altschiller was presenting her remarks, some of whom decided to go tip a few drinks with Fisher, one of whom was later arrested that same day for driving under the influence.
And here we also should note that Fisher, who resigned on May 17, was the founder of "The Red Pill," an online forum whose participants rejoice in misogyny and present tips on how to commit rape and get away with it. "Fisher espoused a belief that women had inferior intellects and were useful only for sex," noted the Daily Beast, which broke the story about The Red Pill's founder. "According to his comments online, he also believed that feminists used false rape accusations as a weapon, and that men should protect themselves by recording sexual encounters."
Fisher, a Laconia Republican, initially resisted calls to step down, saying his comments were taken out of context and that he would continue to "stand strong for men's rights and the rights of all." Though Fisher admitted to his part in creation of the forum, he said he had not been an active participant in the forum for years. Timothy J. Smith is a Democratic member, a network administrator by day, refuted Fisher's contention, claiming his analysis of The Red Pill showed Fisher remained an active contributor.
Just before Fisher resigned on May 17, a legislative committee voted along party lines against censuring Fisher.
What was so offensive about Altschiller's comments? Apparently speaking about rape culture in the N.H. House of Representatives is noxious to Republicans.
"The genesis of The Red Pill did not happen in a vacuum," said Altschiller, but in a society "whose prevailing social attitudes have the effect of normalizing or trivializing sexual assault and abuse."
Perhaps Altschiller ruffled some feathers in the House by calling some members to task for joking about hiring prostitutes, minimizing "human trafficking by writing that someone who pays for sex with a minor should not be held responsible if they didn't know that minor was underage" and "perform verbal gymnastics to justify another member's misogynistic rantings and musings on who may or may not enjoy rape," as Fisher did on The Red Pill.
Altschiller also noted that the Granite State has some of the highest sexual assault rates in the nation. "Have we created an environment that has normalized sexual assault?
Do we laugh or stay silent when we hear crude sexual remarks?"
"Changing rape culture is hard work and requires us to be uncomfortable sometimes. It demands vigilance. I ask you to join me today to create an environment that is more respectful, more sensitive to victims of sexual violence and more aware of how what we say and what we don't say influences the people we represent."
Pretty inoffensive, if you ask us, but Republicans nonetheless decided against including it in the official record. Perhaps that's because it's easier to ignore or simply walk away from a discussion about rape culture and our own complicity.
In case you are wondering, these are the characteristics of a culture of rape: blaming the victim and trivializing sexual assault; tolerating sexual harassment; scrutinizing a victim's dress, mental state, motives, and history; sexual violence in movies and television; defining "manhood" as dominant and sexually aggressive and "womanhood" as submissive and sexually passive; pressure on men to "score" and pressure on women to not appear "cold"; assuming only promiscuous women get raped; refusing to take rape accusations seriously; and teaching women to avoid getting raped (an abbreviated version of a list provided by the Southern Connecticut State University).
If you are wondering what you can do to combat rape culture in your community, the first thing to do is open your ears and your mind and be willing to question your own beliefs and values when it comes to violence, gender and sex. The Women's Freedom Center in Brattleboro is an excellent resource not only for the victims of sexual and domestic abuse, but also for people who feel the need to do more to make their communities safe for everyone. Visit http://womensfreedomcenter.net to learn more about what the Women's Freedom Center does and how you can help.
Meanwhile, Granite Staters who are dismayed by the reaction of their Republican representatives should let them know in no uncertain terms that their refusal to acknowledge Altschiller's comments is totally unacceptable.