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No More “White Knights”: On Plans for a Steubenville Movie and Silencing Survivors

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April 7, 2014

Circling the feminist and progressive blogosphere the past few days has been the news that Brad Pitt’s production company, Plan B Entertainment, is apparently making a movie about Steubenville—from the perspective of Anonymous, not Jane Doe herself.

There was a considerable amount of dissent over the notion of a survivor being silenced in her own narrative, and it’s been discussed in detail about why making the members of Anonymous who raged a social media onslaught concerning the case the “heroes” (the subset of anonymous which the work operated under is known ironically as the “white knight operation”) is problematic. Yet there were afew voices that considered the angle of “White Knights” to be an acceptable one.

Amanda Marcotte, a well-known “feminist” (i.e. White Feminism ™) writer over at Slate wrote an article in response to the news that Brad Pitt purchasing the rights toRolling Stone’s article “Anonymous Vs Steubenville.”Rather than be upset that a survivor is getting her story stolen from her, Marcotte expressed that she was happy about the viewpoint of the movie, because

“Rape is one of those issues where we desperately need white knights.”

Um. No.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at Amanda Marcotte’ssupport for this movie, seeing as she’s the same person who back in late February wrote an article defending a court action where a survivor of sexual assault was incarceratedwhen she didn’t want to testify. Marcotte believes we “need” white knights, whether they’re hacktivists or Brad Pitt or a judge, and so do many others, because they’re subsumed in the notion that survivors need others to speak and act for them.

But I guess I and others shouldn’t be that upset. After all, it’s not like taking away survivor’s agency isn’t replicating rape culture. And, after all, it’s not like Anonymous probably did more harm than good in the Steubenville case,airing painful and emotionally damaging information about survivors of sexual assault that either derails a case, or is inaccurate, or so on. And, it’s not like Brad Pitt’s company asked a magazine, rather than the Jane Doe survivor herself for rights to the story, allowing both Rolling Stone and Plan B Entertainment to profit off a survivor’s trial without any sort of financial gain or consent for her. And, it’s not likeJane Doe had literally no idea this was going on, making it very unlikely for this to be a narrative that at all respects her story.

Oh. Wait. Right.

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@ChiefElk sums it up well. This is in no way consenualadvocacy for Jane Doe. Yet, Marcotte, Brad Pitt, and too many others demand survivors accept the institution of white knights, that survivors must allow themselves to be advocated for by white men who in their “advocacy” propel forward the same institutions and rhetoric and representation that reinforces violence against women.Disrespecting the right of a person to consent for the way their stories of oppression are told is rooted in the same ideology that disrespects the right of a person to consent to sex. And as @Blackamazonsaid:

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Survivors don’t need to be told how to survive. Survivors don’t need “advocates” trying to profit off their pain. And they certainly don’t need white knights. What they DO need are those who are willing to give them platforms for their stories, in their words, without needing justification and authorization from white men.

 

(Follow @ChiefElk and @Blackamazon if you’d like to hear about feminist perspectives on sexual assault that allow survivors’ voices to lead. Also check out the conversation @ChiefElk and others are raising about the problems within Sexual Assault Awareness Month for women of color in the hashtag #decolonizingSAAM)

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