Be Better: A Quick Discussion on Consciousness-Raising, Rape, and Our Own Social Realities

My day today was largely the same as any other in the life of a law student. I woke up at a seemingly ungodly hour (8:30 a.m.), I attempted to combat my student debt by making and bringing my own lunch to school, and I attended a few law classes. You know, did the things I need to do to get my law degree.

The only really notable part of my day happened after I battled the bitter cold outside on my walk home from school. I arrived into my pleasantly heated apartment, and sat down to eat dinner and watch the Toronto Maple Leafs play the Nashville Predators. The Leafs, who one hoped would bounce back from their 6-2 embarrassing loss to the Buffalo Sabres last Saturday, came out with a pitifully slow start and left the ACC ice with all of 2 goals to show for themselves. Their opponents? 9.

During the game, I was on my computer, Facebook chatting with a group of friends about the Leaf’s play, how soon we thought Randy Carlyle would be fired, and funny Buzzfeed articles, among other things.

By the time the game was over, my newsfeed was crammed with comments and links about the Leaf’s pathetic performance. While scanning through some comments and status updates, I realized that parallels were being drawn between the Leaf’s performance on the ice, and rape. Yes, you read that correctly – rape. In essence, many comments suggested that the “Leaf’s got raped by the Nashville Predators” tonight.

I shouldn’t even have to explain why this is beyond problematic. To imply rape in this context is to imply that being raped means you have been defeated. You have been embarrassed. You have been overpowered. You have been put in your place. You have been exposed for what you really are: weak. These feelings, emotions, and characterizations are not at all different from the ones faced by real victims of sexual assault.

Similarly, the comments being made on the TSN post-game show weren’t all that different from the questions real sexual assault victims hear from police or various actors in the court/disclosure process. The hosts talked about the need for the Leafs to explain – how did this happen? Why did this happen? How could they have let the Nashville Predators come into their home and expose them like this? What could they have done differently? What needs to be done now? What changes should they make in the future, going forward?

The most troubling thing about this entire experience is the realization that the word ‘rape’ was being used, by law students, to describe a poor athletic performance by a professional ice hockey team. The people I share a class with were consciously using the word rape to describe the Leaf’s showing; consciously using a term that they know full well connotes the incredibly traumatic and emotionally charged experience too many women in this country go through. They had the capacity to understand the negative connotations associated with the characterization, “the Leafs got raped tonight,” and made the conscious decision to create that parallel and post it on Facebook and social media, in the hopes that their unoriginal and offensive characterization of the worst Leaf’s loss in recent history would be rewarded with recognition and “Likes” from their friends.

To these people, and to all of us, I simply say: be better. As a group of over-educated, privileged, largely middle-upper-class, future lawyers, we are in a unique position in that we have the skills, ability, and the resources to engage in and perfect our own consciousness-raising. We have textbooks, professors, and scholarly journals at our fingertips so as to enable us to recognize societal barriers, and to grasp a solid understanding of the real problems facing our legal system and society as a whole. We also understand the power and influence that can come with being a good lawyer. These resources and your time as a law student should not be taken for granted. Use this time to hone your consciousness-raising skills, apply them to your own social reality, and embrace your inevitable job requirement to be part of the solution to many of these systemic problems.

My first suggestion? Stop finding rape jokes, in any context, funny.

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