I’m writing this as a letter to you, very probably you’ll not read it, but I have recently been through the spectrum of emotions over your comments to do with rape – and I feel like the most healing approach I can take to this hurt, is to step it out – and call upon you to step it out with me. It’s gonna help me (as a one time fan who has struggled with the decision to watch GOT), hopefully it’s also gonna help you, and I’m also hoping it’s gonna help a few others who seemingly can’t make the connection between the use of language and rape culture.
I’ve watched the #MeToo campaign play out over social media. I applaud all of the women and men who have come forward with their stories, and those who have admitted to instances where they have perpetuated rape culture – most especially those who have admitted that this is not just a historical problem, but a pervasive way of thinking – that we all have our blindspots and that they are committed to addressing theirs. I’m thankful for the dialogue that we, as a community, are undertaking and I hope it can continue.
I also saw the twitter post about your rape joke go viral….
… and I read your apology. I get that you are sorry but, like I said… there are a few things we need to walk through. Let’s look at your apology:
It’s a good apology – really. I mean – you’re right – it doesn’t take away from the damage of your original comments but I need to share with you what I have seen happening around social media. Women are asking why it took you so long to apologise (and I think that’s a fair question). Why, if you have been severely disappointed for six years, have you only apologised for it now. And in return, we are being revictimised by the men who are telling us to get over it, to stop being so hard, to just accept the apology. Most are instinctively leaping to your defence and not realising that this very instinct IS rape culture, and it HURTS – all over again. The instinct of those who laughed when you made that joke – that’s rape culture. The fact that it can go so long unchecked is also rape culture. The many people who want to tell us, as women and as survivors of sexual assault, how to respond to your apology – that, too, is rape culture. The very fact that I have to expend emotional and mental energy explaining this all to them, and that I even have to write this letter to you – is rape culture. What really hurts my heart is that it is also some of our own who are doing this, our own Pacific men who are defaulting to your defence, who are sighing and shaking their heads at our questions, who are telling us we aren’t being fair, because we have further questions. I am glad you have apologised, but I hope you can see the hurt it is still causing.
And just like an argument when someone apologises but you’re not sure they get what they’re apologising for – you wanna check, right? Well we do… we wanna talk a bit more about it because there were other clues to us – to women who have to put up with rape culture every damn tiring day of our lives. Clues that suggested you weren’t quite clear about the problem. Like when you proudly referred to your character as “the biggest pimp”:
Or that interview you did just two years ago (presumably while you were still very distressed at the previous rape joke you’d made), where you referred to your use of the Ngāti Toa haka, “Ka mate” in your audition for Game of Thrones:
So this is painful on numerous levels. I think it’s wonderful that our traditions can be used to inspire awe in others – but I am damn near heartbroken that you have associated haka with rape and pillage.
And I feel I need to make this clear:
Rape is not a touchstone for masculinity.
It’s troubling enough that you went there again, as some kind of measure of primal power – but that you associated it with the haka “Ka Mate” – which actually speaks to the mana of wāhine – just adds another level to the hurt. Don’t talk about our tīpuna like that.
Now I know you made “Road to Paloma” to contribute to the discussion about unreported rape on reservations – and while it’s great that you wanted to address it as an issue – I need to point a few things out about your film:
- I can count the amount of speaking roles for women on one hand
- Being male centered is ok if it delves into how men carry out, contribute to, and are affected by, the rape of women… but this was a different kind of male centered – The majority of the scenes are of your character and his friend on their motorbikes, with various scenic backdrops.
- Your character’s friend casually calls his motorbike “Dirty fucking whore – after my ex-wife” (did you write that into the script?)
- The same character also leads the viewer into seedy stripclubs where he rips off a dancer before getting into another fight. In short – the lead supporting male role is a misogynistic, violent creep but gets offered acceptance and friendship by the male lead. That’s pretty much rape culture in a nutshell.
- Women are largely portrayed as in need of saving, or naked, or stripping.
To be honest – watching your movie offered me a fair bit of clarity. You wouldn’t have gone to such lengths to try and comment on the issue if you didn’t care about it. Yet still – the language you chose, and formative decisions you made were extremely problematic.
I came to the conclusion that you may well actually mean your apology – but what appears to be missing here is the link between being aware of the issue itself – and being aware of how your language is contributing to it.
How your six year late apology is forcing us to engage in debates with men all over again – and sometimes those debates have tipped over into abuse.
How your pimp joke adds to the idea that sexual violence is somehow cool.
How your association of haka and rape perpetuates the colonial construct of our tipuna Māori as primitive thugs when that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Can you see, Jason, why those of us who were aware of these instances might want to probe a little further before we simply accept your apology and move on? It seems perfectly understandable to me, and I hope to you, too – that we would like to extend the conversation a bit more, to make sure that sorry means it won’t happen again (as it has).
So all I’m asking is that you really take a moment to consider that you are STILL susceptible to contributing to rape culture – that this was not an isolated incident, but that it is something that you have, wittingly or not, contributed to many times, and make the commitment to STOP. To not just say “sorry I ballsed up all those years ago that’s not me”…. but admit that actually it IS you from time to time (and it’s not just you, believe me, sadly it’s most men including those who jump to your defence) – and that you are reflecting on it, and working on it – so that it won’t be you in the future.
Ok that’s all. I’ve really tried to handle this with aroha – which hasn’t been easy because to be honest – I’m tired, and pissed off at the amount of re-victimising I’m seeing over this. I’ve also seen some wonderful, nurturing, balanced kāne in the past few weeks that have honoured mana wāhine and affirmed my faith, and it’s because of them that I’m reaching past the hurt.