Rape Culture USA: How race, class, misogyny and homophobia intersected in the Kelly and Antoine Dodson story
Today in my class we were trying to learn a camera technique. We decided to use funny youtube videos to illustrate the proper way to shoot the scenes we wanted. And my classmates decided that the Antoine Dodson videos were such GREAT candidates because man, wasn’t he SO FUNNY?!?!? I tried to point out the fact that he was talking about his sister’s rape. The response? They didn’t mind that, they were not laughing at him (o rly?) and my personal favorite…”At least he has a sense of humor about it”. And then they went on to discuss dressing up as him on fucking HALLOWEEN.
And this wasn’t just the white kids. There were the other black kids in on this, who thought it was just as funny as the white kids did. After all, isn’t he black and gay and lowerclass and acting in ways not coded masculine? Isn’t that so uncomfortable for us middleclass folk?And his actions and his way of expressing himself became the goddamn story, instead of WHAT he was saying, which was that he was pissed at his sister being almost raped. Hell his sister was written out of the story entirely, so that we the class privileged, we who act our genders as society dictates, we racially privileged, we the women who want to want to believe that rape will not happen to us because we live/work/walk/drive in the right places could laugh. because rape is so fucking funny. because standing up for your sister’s right to lie in her fucking bed without being targeted is so fucking funny. hell it’s not even worthy of note, because your brother’s method of expression is not societally sanctioned and that is much more important than the fact that this fucking culture has a HUGE FUCKING PROBLEM IN THAT RAPE IS UBIQUITOUS AND NEEDS TO BE FUCKING STOPPED. Oh i forget. women are not really human are they? Especially if they are poor. Even worse if they are of color. Immigrants. Prostitutes. Women come in classes, people and dignity and humanity are a zerosum game.
And anyway, he got money from it! (After we made it quite clear that we as a society would completely refuse to take him seriously, to busy reinforcing our class, race, gender presentation and other privileges to see the humanity in a woman being attacked and her brother coming to her aid. They are not worth society’s outrage and protection are they? Of course not.) Hell, even BET, got into the fun. They brought him on to make him perform the “Bed Intruder” Song. Yes, yes they did. A young woman’s near rape was turned into fucking entertainment for the “best and brightest” at the “premier” black awards show!!!!
Oh, and just to make this situation even MORE fucked up, Mr. Dodson is a rape victim himself.
And this is how the mainstream news proceeded to frame it:
Like many, Dodson is hoping to take his 15 seconds of celebrity and turn it into a greater opportunity. “I just want to be the voice of people who are going through similar situations that have gotten their case swept under the rug,” he says. “Most of my fans are victims of rape and molestation and they reach out to me anyway so I just talk to them and comfort them. I try to tell them the ways that I dealt with it because I’m a rape victim myself.”
Because its HIS fault that that the society found this fucking FUNNY and made him into a famous internet meme.
You know what? Other people have taken apart this situation way better than I can:
think twice before you laugh at antoine dodson. i know everything is supposed to take a backseat to short-lived fame and exposure. but how would you feel if your sister was attacked by a rapist and people did nothing about it? officials laughed at you, police took their time coming to investigate, media crews didn’t arrive until you called them, and then your time on the news gets spoofed to entertain others instead of warn them. antoine’s taking his time in the spotlight in stride, and i think he’s doing it for kelly’s sake. i hope all the people laughing and singing “hide your kids, hide your wife” are writing all of the people in kelly’s community and state to do something about catching the rapist.
i planned to write about this at feministe, fast on the heels of the gang rape of a 12-year-old at a nearby skatepark. what does it mean when you read about attack after attack after attack, and one of the thoughts in your head is “i hope no one auto-tunes something like this” or “how can this story garner more attention than it’s gotten,” when these stories should be enough to knock ten people on their asses with grief.MORE
By now many of us know how the story started: on the morning of July 28th, a man broke into the Dodson home in Huntsville, Ala. and, according to Antoine’s sister Kelly, attempted to assault her in her bedroom. As originally reported by WAFF-TV, Antoine struggled with the assailant, who subsequently escaped.
The first thing to note is that WAFF’s original story was not a live-shot. Meaning both the reporter, Elizabeth Gentle, and her editors had virtually the entire business day to get an interview with either a police spokesperson or the crime scene investigator shown at the scene to add to the story and respond to Antoine’s allegation about there being “a rapist in Lincoln Park” – for instance, had there been similar incidents in the area as of late? Gentle also had time to get a description of the alleged assailant from either the Dodsons or the police department, information that would be useful when the suspect in a forced entry and attempted sexual assault is still at large.
Instead, as you can see, the bulk of the story is devoted to capturing Antoine’s anger. And while the visceral emotion might have made for “compelling television,” that kicked off the most disturbing part of this entire affair. While it’s possible this is because of her own choice, Kelly Dodson, the original victim of the assault, became a non-factor in the story. In fact, WAFF aired a follow-up story that completely ignored her and focused on the online fuss surrounding Antoine, while absolving itself of any fault for its’ own reporting:MORE
In the midst of this institutional racism are the actions of three groups that cannot be ignored:
1. the viewers and listeners who openly mocked Dodson, completely ignoring the rape survivor narrative embedded in his story
2. the white middle class hipster-nerd comedy troupe that made money off of the rape and attempted rape of poor black women and girls and the one man willing to stand up for them
3. the mainstream feminist blogs and feminist communities who have remained largely silent on Dodson’s sister despite the core issue of rape
The multi-racial viewers and listeners spent their time laughing at Dodson and mocking him and his sister in print in the youtube comments for days. The video received some of the largest hits of the week when it first went up. The auto-tune version played black radio stations and a black marching band even set did their own rendition, laughing at the “ghetto” in ways that I personally cannot excuse as black humor as survival but rather black humor as classism and internalized hate. Amongst the 100,000s of people commenting on Dodson or the autotune song, very few talked about the heinous act of rape, the existence of a serial rapist in the area that had gone unchecked for an unspecified amount of time, or the engineered tragedy of the state’s willingness to abandon poor women and girls to predators. In other words, the chance to mock an uneducated black man was more enticing than the fact of violence against women and girls. MORE
Finally we hear from Kelly Dodson video at link with full transcript
Kelly: (unintelligible) There’s really not much that I can say right now because I don’t know how to explain it to you because you really did a lot of damage to me whether you know it or not and if it wasn’t for Antoine, you probably would have got what you came in there for but you didn’t. I just want to know how you feel about the situationMORE
and The accidental fame of Kelly and Antoine Dodson has a different perspective on the subject:
Even though the whole debacle can be seen by some through the lens of “poverty porn,” this can also be viewed in another light. A light that by instead of being stoic and polished, the Dodsons actually got more attention for their plight and the issue of crime in poor communities BECAUSE people found the clip unintentionally funny. Antoine’s message was received (“Obviously, we have a rapist in Lincoln Park …”) and the community took notice.
Said Kenyatta Cheese of KnowYourMeme.com to NPR:
“Kelly and Antoine may be victims but they are fearless,” Kenyatta told me. “They both take control of the camera and call out their attacker. They issue a call to action telling people in their community to look out for the perpetrator. And yes, Antoine may not seem traditionally articulate, but he uses his time on camera to be performative and create spectacle and that gets our attention. In that sense, he’s probably more effective in getting his message out there than a more traditional community ‘representative’ would ever be.
“To me, Antoine Dodson is brilliant.”
The last time I checked, Mr. Dodson had used the proceeds of “The Bed Intruder Song” to move the entire family to a safer neighbourhood and is planning to go back to school. The spotlight isn’t on Kelly Dodson as much, so I am not not able to discern what she is going to do.
Rape is a multifaceted problem, and it happens not only because someone decides to overpower and forcefully assault a weaker person, but because society condones it. And the lower you are on US societal heirarchy, the less society gives a fuck a fuck about your safety and wellbeing. This series of linkspams will try to examine the various ways in which society’s prejudices help to perpetuate the rape culture in the US (with an occasional piece on Canada).