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
Flava Of The Month?: The Antoine Dodson Aftermath
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
On Feminism, Liberals, Black Folks and Antione Dodson
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).
11 thoughts on “Rape Culture USA: How race, class, misogyny and homophobia intersected in the Kelly and Antoine Dodson story”
I had a hard time putting into words why the video and remixes made me uncomfortable, so thank you for voicing yours. I am happy that he made money off of it and that he and Kelly will hopefully benefit from this media attention and meme fame, no matter how uncomfortable it makes me feel, and I hope Kelly overcomes the trauma her experience no doubt caused.
Memes such as this that focus on ridicule of actual people versus, for example, lolcats and sad keanu are just so…not funny. They’re such a weird phenomenon–a lot of the time it just feels like laughing at the kid on the playground the other kids perceive as being an outcast for arbitrary reasons.
thanks very much for this. i saw this clip on youtube, and really couldn’t see the humour in it. yeah, the guy talked in a way that i found ‘funny’ – but as i’m a white middle-class australian that’s kind of to be expected. other than that, all there was was a very frightening story about an attempted rape that was only just avoided through good luck.
this man is a hero. if only all men (and all women) could react to rape with such rage.
I think about this on a regular basis, both because I am a woman and because I have two sons, and they are going to be growing up in a rape culture. I’m sure all the mothers of date rapists don’t think that their sons are those kinds of people; their parents have likely raised them in a generally good way, and those parents believe that’s enough. But the messages they’re receiving from their culture every day are stronger than the neutral messages they’re getting from their parents.
My eldest son is six years old. He already knows what rape is, because we’ve talked about it. He’s seen me sobbing after finding out that another one of my friends was raped, and I had to tell him that she is the eighth of my friends who has been victimized in that way. As he grows up, we will continue to talk about it. Because being quiet and trusting that they’ll turn out okay is not enough. Being quiet and not raising our sons explicitly to understand what rape is, and why it is wrong, is why we have Yale frat pledges chanting “No means yes, yes means anal” as they go by the women’s dormitories. This is why there’s so many college students who will admit to surveyors that they’d rape a woman if they thought they could get away with it, or that they believe that having sex with an unconscious woman isn’t rape.
This is, as you point out, a problem with all of society. We who have sons can start changing that, not by trusting that they’ll pick up some vague “rape is wrong” that we never actually discuss, but by being explicit about what rape is and why it is never, ever, EVER okay.
Kelly and Antoine have BOTH said that they found the video funny and that they understand that people aren’t laughing at the situation but as Antoine’s flamboyant delivery.
He himself has said that he had every intention of making a profit from the situation – seeing it as a “way out” of poverty” – and it seems that they have both gained immensely from people finding him funny.
Just because people thought that the way he spoke was hilarious – it is – doesn’t mean that they condone rape.
I still don’t understand why people make an issue when there isn’t one. Maybe because there’s nothing useful they can do?
If people cared about the rape, then why was all the attention on his method of speaking, rather than the fact that there was a rapist on the loose?They only cared that a black flamboyant gay man was expressing himself in a way that was coded as feminine and thus derisible to them. And if you read various newspaper interviews, you would have noticed that Antoine has been quoted several times as being pissed off at first at the triviazation of the problem. The fact that he and his sister took a look at the situation and decided that since privileged asshats were A. not going to stop laughing. B. going so far as to make money off their anguish, they might as ell make sure that they can actually move out of the district and try to make life better for themselves, does not let society off the hook. Like Shakesville said today:
“Let me put it to you this way. Rape culture is a culture in which people who have survived a violent crime are asked to laugh about it because other people think it’s funny.”—Shaker everstar, in comments, on troll-watch in the wee hours, hitting the nail on the head like whoa.
I found the way he spoke funny not because I think of it as feminine but because it’s simply a flamboyant manner of speaking (as opposed to neutral speech). I am a feminine woman and I do not speak the way he does. I don’t let my sentences trail off in question marks when I’m not asking a question. I don’t shriek and get excitable. Many of my friends – also women – don’t speak like this. If I saw anyone expressing themselves in an unusual way, I would probably at least turn to get a second look or laugh. The way he speaks is typical of gay men, not women. Most gay men that I have heard express themselves in this way, which I do not consider feminine at all. It seems a little affected to me and my reaction ranges from irritation to amusement.
I still don’t see what the issue is. She wasn’t raped. They used a common misfortune to obtain a life they hadn’t worked for. How many women do you know who aren’t so lucky? Women who are struggling to keep their job or even find one, women who didn’t have anyone to save them from an attacker, and women whose funny brother won’t make them a fortune. There are plenty of white and latina women who have been raped by black men (look up crime statistics, have you heard of those?) who never get to see their attacker punished properly because these brutal animals use the “oh, slavery made me hate white women and want to hurt them” excuse. What the hell kind of argument is that? So Kelly is safe and has a life she couldn’t have had – and you’re still complaining? About the fact that people thought a gay man was entertaining to watch? What makes you say that people were “ridiculing” him – perhaps they just thought he was fun to watch? People laugh at things other than the ridiculous. What did you expect people to say about her (near) rape? First of all, rape is so common people are no longer shocked when they hear about it – this doesn’t mean that they don’t think it’s horrible. It doesn’t mean that they think it’s acceptable. I don’t find rape acceptable in any way but I wasn’t shocked to hear about a girl almost being raped. And then my reaction was, “oh well, she was lucky, someone who cared about her was there to save her”. How riled up can you expect people to get about a rape that didn’t occur when so many women actually face the horror of it? Rape victims do receive sympathy (which they should of course); perhaps a more solemn/dignified tone of voice to talk about something serious could have influenced the reactions? I would find it hard not to laugh at someone gesticulating wildly and speaking excitedly even if he were talking about something grave. That’s why pastors don’t wave their hands around and shriek at funerals, gay or not.
This comment is so horrendously offensive; I don’t even know where to start.
How about starting by addressing the points I made?
It’s not enough to say that something is “horrendously offensive”; you’ve got justify that accusation. And these days, “offensive” doesn’t really mean much since whiny crybabies (who should have matured into adults but somehow didn’t) decide to throw tantrums and get offended at everything they don’t agree with.
unusualmusic, you will get no rudeness from me if you decide I’m being too nasty here and you decide to delete this comment, but I feel the need to respond to Leigh-Andrea’s rant:
“If I saw anyone expressing themselves in an unusual way, I would probably at least turn to get a second look or laugh…. The way he speaks is typical of gay men, not women…. It seems a little affected to me and my reaction ranges from irritation to amusement.”
It is not okay to laugh or stare just because someone is expressing themselves in a way that you find unusual, or speaking in a way that you think is “affected”. You’re enabling the attitude that if someone strays from societal norms, it’s totally okay to think less of them, stare at them, point and laugh at them. Also, “gay men are affected and irritating” is a homophobic trope, so in acting like that opinion’s totally okay, you’re also enabling homophobic bullying.
“I still don’t see what the issue is. She wasn’t raped. They used a common misfortune to obtain a life they hadn’t worked for. How many women do you know who aren’t so lucky? Women who are struggling to keep their job or even find one, women who didn’t have anyone to save them from an attacker, and women whose funny brother won’t make them a fortune.”
Being attacked like Kelly Dodson was is usually extremely traumatic, even if the attacker isn’t able to rape you, and lots of rapes in the area have gone unpunished by law enforcement for a long, long time. That sounds like a pretty big deal to me. And using the phrase “a life they hadn’t worked for” in the context of discussing a working-class family reeks of classism; many, many people CANNOT work their way into a good life.
“There are plenty of white and latina women who have been raped by black men (look up crime statistics, have you heard of those?) who never get to see their attacker punished properly because these brutal animals use the “oh, slavery made me hate white women and want to hurt them” excuse.”
So you’re implying that Kelly Dodson is somehow privileged over white and latina women because she’s black? Where did that argument come from? Even if that’s not what you’re implying, you’re still bringing up (out of nowhere) black men raping white and latina women, and calling said black men “animals” — that’s a derailing tactic, and a racist one at that. And that snide attack on unusualmusic was totally uncalled for, too.
“How riled up can you expect people to get about a rape that didn’t occur when so many women actually face the horror of it?”
Nobody said that people should only get upset about this one case. Of course there are more horiffic cases where the attacks went past attempted rape — that does NOT mean that nobody should get upset about Kelly Dodson being attacked. Plus, again, there have been many rapes and other attempted rapes in the same area that the police don’t seem to give a shit about. Again, THIS IS A BIG DEAL.
“…perhaps a more solemn/dignified tone of voice to talk about something serious could have influenced the reactions?”
You don’t get to tell people to “tone it down” when members of their family are assaulted in their own home. That’s… well, “insensitive” just isn’t a strong enough word.
And then there’s this gem from your other comment: “And these days, “offensive” doesn’t really mean much since whiny crybabies (who should have matured into adults but somehow didn’t) decide to throw tantrums and get offended at everything they don’t agree with.”
Yes, it’s just so damn immature of ohmygod to get set off by your blatant homophobia, racism, sneering at an assault survivor and her family, and dehumanizing anyone who doesn’t fit your ideas of “normal”. After all, it’s all just opinions! Everyone knows words can’t hurt!
I find it ironic and extremely depressing that once people outside that community had get a chance to hear about the unsafe conditions there, all the focus was directed on Mr. Dodson’s mannerisms. Are people really that easily distracted? I think I know the answer to that question, and it makes me want to renounce all human contact.
It’s like seeing a car flip over and running up to the driver to ask where he got his paint job. You may well think Mr. Dodson talks funny, but the logical next step after that is to then remember that he is addressing the man who attacked his sister in the presence of his little niece, and that judging a person in that context is a real jerk move.
oh how vehemently people will defend their privilege to laugh, but when it’s time to be angry or care or listen- there is nothing left. The plain truth is that when violent crimes happen to women of color, white people (and sadly, others) do not see them humanly. This was made so painfully apparent to me recently when a friend’s little sister was murdered and, in the online newspaper’s comment field, the racist comments were so abundant while little to no compassion or anger or devastation was expressed. Look before you laugh, always look before you laugh.
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