'On Open Letter To The Guy At Work' Facebook Poem By Liz Ruddy Is A Scathing Takedown Of Brock Turner & Rape Culture
In the wake of Brock Turner's sentence of six months in county jail for three counts of felony sexual assault against an unconscious woman, a powerful Facebook poem about Brock Turner's sentence has garnered massive amounts of attention online. Billed as "An Open Letter To The Guy At Work (you know who you are)," the poem, written by Liz Ruddy, describes an interaction in a work environment on a Monday morning. Beginning as small talk, the conversation quickly turns to a discussion of Turner's conviction; although Turner is never named, the reference to "only six months" makes the topic clear.
But the narrator's co-worker doesn't bring up the leniency of Turner's sentence, or his continued attempts to blame his actions on anything but himself, both of which have sparked a media firestorm online. Instead, the co-worker brings up the possibility that Turner's assault wouldn't have happened if the survivor had been less intoxicated. As Ruddy writes in the poem:
“People are saying that it’s 100% his fault and 0% her fault…”You say, hesitantly,the way women are taught to speak,afraid of their own mouths.“And I agree…BUT—DON’T YOU ALSO AGREETHAT THIS WHOLE THINGCOULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDEDIF SHE HAD JUST BEENMORERESPONSIBLE."
As the narrator of the poem walks away, the co-worker throws out a parting shot, urging her to "just think about it."
But as the poem goes on to point out, the narrator does think about it. Every woman thinks about it. We're forced to think about it, every day, day in and day out: Going on a run, walking to the store alone, choosing a dress to wear to a party, and virtually every other time women go out in public. This is the reality in which we live:
Like I don't constantly think abouthow I live in a worldwhere women are held responsible for the actions of men.Like I didn’t learn that in middle schoolwhen girls were sent homefor wearing tank tops with strapsthinner than two fingers. ...
Like I don’t think about it.Like I can choose not to think about it.Like I wasn’t up all fucking night thinking about it.
Friends, family, and total strangers have spoken out on Turner's behalf both during his trial and since his sentencing, chalking his actions up to a combination of intoxication and peer pressure. The letter written by his father has been particularly criticized for writing the assault off as "20 minutes of action," while the one from his friend is full of myths about rape. Ruddy's poem touches on the victim-blaming that has taken place, but it also uses everyday examples to illustrate the wider effects of rape culture, which minimizes the assailant's culpability and places the responsibility for prevention on the survivor's shoulders.
Since Ruddy posted the poem to Facebook on Tuesday, it's been shared more than 9,000 times on Facebook and received nearly as many reactions — and for good reason. The result is a powerful look at both Turner's conviction and how it reflects on society as a whole, and it's absolutely worth a read.
Check it out in its entirety below.
Images: Charlotte Cooper/Flickr