On 16 March 1968, forty-four years ago tomorrow, Charlie Company, a unit of the Americal Division’s 11th Infantry Brigade, entered a village in Vietnam, ostensibly to find the 48th Viet Cong Battalion. The village was My Lai, and the soldiers of Charlie Company massacred the unarmed villagers.
Lt. William Calley was in charge of one platoon of the American troops who killed either 112 (USA military figures) or 504 (Vietnamese figures) civilians. Helicopter pilot Hugh Thompson and his crew refused to take part in the killing or condone it, landing his helicopter between American troops and Vietnamese villagers and evacuating the villagers.
After the event, Thompson was pilloried for threating to kill American soldiers while Calley was lauded as a strong leader who successfully neutralised a credible threat, to use the depersonalised military lingo. It took years for the truth to come out, and even then only Calley and a few others were court-martialled, even though all indications were that a long chain of command condoning the massacre had existed. Calley and others did what their commanders were careful not to directly order although they made their approbation clear: kill, kill, kill whether they are VietCong or not. Some men who took part later acknowledged that they knew it was wrong but “went along” through group loyalty and fear of the consequences of standing apart.
Thirty years after the massacre, Hugh Thompson was finally awarded the Soldier’s Medal, “for bravery not involving direct contact with the enemy”, the closest that the US Army has come to openly acknowledging that there was no military justification for the slaughter at My Lai.
A few years ago I read a mother’s letter to her young sons, wishing them to be heroes like Hugh Thompson: to become men who don’t go along with the crowd, who stand up for what they know to be right, even though others are doing wrong.
If you’re one of those men taking a drunk girl home, or at a party where a woman is sleeping upstairs and the other guys talk about having a “little fun” with her while she’s passed out, do you stand by? Join in? Or stop it?
Sadly her blog seems to be gone from the internet, but her point has been made over and over again in Stanford experiments – it’s not easy to go against what “everyone else” is doing, and the definition of rape culture is a culture in which rapists feel comfortable:
A lot of people accuse feminists of thinking that all men are rapists. That’s not true. But do you know who think all men are rapists?
They really do. In psychological study, the profiling, the studies, it comes out again and again.
Virtually all rapists genuinely believe that all men rape, and other men just keep it hushed up better. And more, these people who really are rapists are constantly reaffirmed in their belief about the rest of mankind being rapists like them by things like rape jokes, that dismiss and normalize the idea of rape. (from Feminism 101, Helpful Hints for Dudes part 3)
And what do you do when someone is advocating rape? Arguing that he’s not a rapist, because rapists are scum, he’s just a guy with perfectly normal urges and wants women to have respect for men, to understand that a woman in a relationship with a man owes him sexual satisfaction?
A lot of guys on Twitter yesterday told Brian Granger that he was a disgrace. (A lot of women did too, but Brian (@NiceGuyBrianG) Granger didn’t care what gurls think: indeed, he specifically argued with women who were tweeting about their experiences of rape that they hadn’t really been raped, they just didn’t understand men’s needs and didn’t show men respect. I fear he probably thinks the men who were telling him he’s a disgrace are just blowing off steam. But we heard, and it was great.
I read Brian Granger’s tweets and I even storified them (though I gave up after a while – couldn’t take reading them any more) and what kept coming across again and again was that this man really honestly believed that he is a normal kind of guy – that all men feel the way he does, only women are confused and disrespectful of male needs. The Niceguys are the Calleys and the colonels of My Lai:
I believe too, as everybody says, there was a cover-up and everybody’s talked about that the cover-up started on the ground. In my mind, I’m not real sure that’s where the cover-up started. I would not be the least bit surprised if this cover-up started “up” and worked its way all the way back down. – Hugh Thompson
The horrible thing is, that Brian Granger isn’t even unique.
Alison Saunders of the Crown Prosecution Service said in an interview only six weeks ago:
“We have done lots of training … but there has never been that debate on a wider social basis. You can see how some members of the jury can come along with preconceived ideas, they might still subscribe to the myths and stereotypes that we have all had a go at busting.”
“The majority of rape cases are between people who know each other … I think that is one of the things that jurors find particularly difficult.”
Saunders said judges can give advice and directions during a trial, but often this comes too late to make jurors think twice.
Here’s one way to make clear to the Brian Grangers, who think rape is normal and all men are rapists, that they are in fact a small minority and that decent men despise them: Tell them with your wallets at the Brian Granger Appeal.
A self-proclaimed Nice Guy, Brian Granger, has got a lot of people talking about consent, because he thinks that when a woman is in a relationship, her boyfriend or husband is entitled to have sex with her at any time, regardless of whether she has consented.
Having sex with someone who hasn’t consented is also known as rape. It’s a crime which thousands of women in the UK experience every year – one in four women will be raped or sexually assaulted during her lifetime – because of guys like this who think that they’re entitled to sex.
If you’ve been disgusted by men who think there’s nothing wrong with rape, help White Ribbon to take action against Nice Guys.