Anna Akana isn’t the kind of creator who stays silent when she has something to say. When she sees a problem she speaks up, and more importantly, she throws her considerable creative muscle into the message. So it’s really no surprise that her latest video is causing a stir. “How Not To Get Raped” is a satirical look at the culture of victim blaming that often surrounds discussions of rape and sexual assault. The video offers satirical tips to help women avoid rape, but her jokes are wedded to an earnest plea for society to correct the kind of thinking that fosters rape culture.
To the surprise of no one, the video has attracted considerable controversy. After receiving some national media coverage, the video has become a lightning rod for critics, both on social media and in that modern day forum of enlightened civic discourse we call YouTube comments. YouTube commenters were quick to time chime in with the usual chorus of “not all men!” that surrounds most discussions of rape. It’s a common line usually used to negate or deflate conversations on the subject.
More interesting than the expected response on YouTube was the conversation that took place on Twitter. Another thing Anna Akana isn’t shy about is defending her work from critics, and she gamely took to Twitter to respond, often hilariously, to trolls and legitimate critics alike. In a surprising twist, many of the most vocal complaints didn’t come from the usual misogynists and rape apologists, nor from the trolling internet trouble makers that swarm to controversy for its own sake. A significant number of objections came from those who style themselves as social justice advocates and who objected not to the video’s message but to the way it was presented couched in humor.
This fracturing of conversations on social media is common, particularly with hot button issues like sexual assault. The internet has done much to foster and empower niche communities, but with that comes an echo chamber effect that can make it easy to lose sight of larger issues in play. For many critics, talking about rape in what they perceive as the “wrong” way is just as damaging as ignoring the issue altogether. A creator posting a well-meant video is likely to spend just as much time fending off allies as they do enemies.
As it stands, “How Not To Get Raped” has already been viewed more than 200,000 times and it has definitely started a conversation. Ultimately that may be all that any artist or advocate can hope for. Drawing more attention to the issue of sexual violence is no small achievement and Anna Akana shows no signs of backing down to critics on either side of the debate.
Share this article and join the discussion in the comments below.