This week, on two occasions, I heard folks defending Roman Polanski with the rationale that what he did wasn't "rape rape." This morning, I was watching early Sunday morning TV and heard an ad for yet another "reality show" about rich women -- this time in Dallas -- and heard one woman unapologetically state, "I don't mind being called a bitch, because I'm a nice bitch."
Rape doesn't come in degrees. A bitch is a bitch is a bitch. (And, yes, you can quote me on that.)
Perhaps the fact that I know the pain of finding an error in a published product after numerous (and yes, I mean several, lots, more than five, yea verily a multitude) of eyes have scoured it for potential oops, or because I was educated in a system prior to online publications where the ease of corrections was a fantasy rather than a "change-it-and-upload-a-new-version" reality, but I still think we should choose words carefully and be especially careful when we are addressing the public.
"Rape rape" suggests that some version of rape exists out there (in what I can only suppose is la la land) that is acceptable or at least not worthy of prosecution. And, even though it was a singular quote by a rich Dallas diva, "nice bitch" reflects that same tendency to put wrong on a spectrum. I'm not a black and white person when it comes to most things but I'm also not devoid of the need for anchors. When we start giving what we have defined as "this" the option of also now meaning "that or that" we are giving a nod to the deconstruction of language. And, while I'm a big believer in the phoenix' ability to rise, I need to believe that we can hold tightly to language . . . that new words can be created to take on thoughts that have evolved.
Still . . .
I'm reminded of a friend's story of trying to introduce his son's 20-something-year-old friend to art. They were touring a museum and both he and his son were going to great lengths to explain the history of pieces, the interplay of colors and the potential meaning behind the choices, the fact that pieces reflect the thinking or the debate of the time, etc. They continued through the museum and when the young woman came upon a modern piece that was nothing but a few blocks of color on canvas, she studied it for a few moments and then declared, "I get it. I hear what you've both been saying but ... I'm still calling 'bullshit' on this one."
Rape rape? Nice bitch?