Sunday, October 14, 2012

Geek'd: a commentary on the story of amanda todd

A nine-minute video has made Amanda Todd a poster child for the physical and emotional abuse that comes from being bullied.

The suicide of the 15-year-old, in addition to the video she posted a month before her passing has made her personal story and the issues surrounding her decisions to eventually end her life last Wednesday is one of the most talked about this week in Canada and quite possibly around the world.

I won't recount her story. Enough people have. And in so many ways, it is better if you learned the story from the primary source, the video Todd posted on YouTube in early September chronicling her tale.

I'm just here to talk about the aftermath as well as my own thoughts after thinking about it.

Last night I sat in for few hours on one of the more frequently traffic'd Amanda Todd memorial pages on Facebook, stretching out my investigative journalism skills while watching the posts come in.

Now, I've seen and know enough of the Internets to know that people will always mock, or belittle or outright incite anger as a means to draw a reaction from people over even the most serious of issues. So the fact that it was happening and happened on the Amanda Todd memorials didn't surprise me in the slightest.

But the issues inter-twined within the negative and frankly sometimes vicious reactions - people copy-catting the taunts she endured regarding bleach to actually re-distributing the photo of her flashing her breasts - goes way beyond the "blanket issues" of bullying, or the more extreme and carelessly tossed around "pedophilia" (at least with regards to people posting her "biggest mistake")

A lot of people were dwelling on the fact that this girl had "chosen" (this being the key word) to flash her chest on a webcam to a relative stranger. That she chose to sleep with a guy who had a girlfriend. That she did this to herself and therefore somehow "deserved" to get scorned or called names or whatever else for basically "being stupid".

Someone who obviously knows far more about what went on yesterday posted on 4chan (for me, that created more than a few red alerts) went so far as to add that she slept around with multiple guys and flirted with every guy in her school.

Basically, they were painting her as an attention-demanding whore and therefore deserving scorn and disrespect.

When I read this, inside, I understood why these guys felt no pity for her, my mind was somehow able to take their disregard for her situation in stride. But it bothered me. Why did I understand and accept this behaviour?

It took an inquisitive and well written article on the Vancouver Observer for me to realize why.

This kind of behaviour - and women are often worse than men are in this regard - is deeply ingrained in our society against women who either is or is reputed to prostitute or frequently sleep with numerous men.

It's the Scarlet Letter. It is the very notion of shaming an individual for going against what people feel is "normal" and "accepted". We're talking about a first-world substitution for a third-world punishment that's still seen in places like Iran in its laws of stoning a woman for adultery or prostitution.

Except it's not sticks and stones. Those break bones. But words can never hurt, right?

And in so many ways, it's an indication of the gender inequality that still persists in today's world, even in a place supposedly as progressive and forward-thinking as Canada.

Think about it, if Amanda Todd was male, her frequent "whorings" wouldn't even be an issue. In fact, people would have congratulated her for being so smooth and capable of attracting numerous women. If she was a boy that had 'hooked up' with a girl that had a boyfriend, she wouldn't have been at fault, as far as society is concerned, the girl that slept with her would have been for not breaking up with her boyfriend if she was attracted to this other guy.

That's one of the things that really baffles me. The guy invited her over (according to her story), he was the one that encouraged her to visit him while his girlfriend was away. She didn't initiate the sequence, she didn't invite him over, he did. (Again, according to evidence she presented).

Why is she the one that is so monstrously at fault for going over there and "choosing to let it happen"? How is it always the girl that has to hold the better judgment?

Meanwhile guys are basically exonerated because, "oh well she let him, and you know boys. They'll take anything that's given to them on a silver platter, even if it's forbidden."

Really guys (and I DO mean this in the broadest sense possible) are you so base, so lacking in judgment, brains and self-control that you'd let yourself get used by any attractive woman who smiles, compliments and innocently and even naively crushes on you?

To even think such is basically an insult against men. To men who think this, this is your excuse for when you make a lapse in judgment. This is your way of passing the blame to another (women). This is your way of avoiding a damning judgment against you by pretending that you lack the common sense of a common Canadian beaver or bloody swan.

In your need for control and superiority, you make yourself out as idiots.

It is a piss poor excuse. You are not animals, you are not stupid. You are humans. And you're guilty of being equally as stupid as women are when it comes to these things.

And another thing...

People who are saying that she killed herself because she couldn't accept and live by her "mistakes" which makes her selfish, stupid and even childish for "not being above the taunting" ... are missing the most serious incident at issue and what really is the catalyst of everything that happened to her since.

I'm talking about the child predator that attempted to blackmailed her before passing her photo on to her friends, family and even her teachers.

Yes, child predator. How else can someone describe a full grown adult that would blackmail a young, impressionable teenage girl to "give him a show" or else he will steal her dignity and self-respect by sending her compromising image to all her friends, family, teachers and classmates?

No, not peer. Full grown adult. Because how many young males between the age of 13-16 would go out of their way to track down a girl's friends, family, classmates and school administration not once, but twice? And then be able to mask their IP from authorities, Facebook, etc. past a point when they haven't been able to track him past the fact that he's based in the USA?

Yes there are exceptions, kids who are capable of these things, but it's much too intricate and complex for me to believe it possible in this case. This had serious markings of an experienced and knowledgeable child predator that has previously victimized people like her.

And what he did was paramount to an individual holding a child hostage unless they'll provide a form of sexual favours. The difference being physical torment to the torment of people's hatred, disgust and scorn. Rather than locking her up physically, have those around her lock her up for him.

This is not a case of regular schoolyard antics, tactics or "life". Frankly, if the situation she was in is "normal", regular life, online or in school, parents would have thrown out every electronic communication device and home-schooled their kids by now.

What sparked everything that began the slow ruin of her dignity and self-worth was a criminal act. It was the act of a malicious stalker that decided to basically steal her identity through her self-respect if she failed to provide him with sexual fulfillment, and therefore coersive, unwanted, and unsolicited sexual abuse. With an image that was probably on a dare or what she thought was harmless schoolgirl fun, he essentially objectified her.

I don't care if a child is walking around with a shirt on that basically says "Make me your sex toy" - I will still find it criminal to hold them hostage online or otherwise for someone else's own sexual desires.

Now the guy in the above post from 4chan claimed that she flashed her chest at the age of 15 (not 12-13, which is the age group of children in Grade 7 in Canada, or 13-14, as implied by Todd when she said she did her flashing "one year later", later being after Grade 7), and that she chose to do it.

Neither she nor they made any reference to whether or not this was in a public setting or a private setting. But (and I'm giving Todd the benefit of the doubt here) if it was in a private setting with only people she "trusts" (if naively so) then the whole question of whether she chose to flash her breasts is far less of a "act of choice" to a public audience.

Either way, the issue of choice is moot. The fact is, 15 is still under the age of consent in Canada (and in the majority of the United States too) so the distribution of such images/videos still constitutes as being in possession and distributing child pornography.

The note from 4chan also claimed that "the guy" (the predator) contacted her 6-8 months after she flashed her breasts at the age of 15 and only contacted her once.

Let us break this down. She committed suicide a month before her 16th birthday. It's pretty confirmed that she had to change schools twice (her original school to Westview Secondary School in Maple Ridge, BC before having to move to CABE the months before her death.)

So if we were to say that she flashed her breasts right around when she turned 15 (November), and the predator didn't contact her until 6-8 months later, it wouldn't be until June at the earliest, this past August at the latest. How did she change schools twice, get beaten up by kids in the schoolyard etc. in that small time frame, given that school is only in session from September - June in Canada?

Somehow the math doesn't add up.

So in conclusion, for all of those who brushed off Amanda Todd as being undeserving of pity or mourning because she allegedly is a "whore" or that she was whiny, selfish and was weak and unable to hold up against "normal" human stresses that comes with living in today's world, open your mind and add what I said up.

A predator blackmailed her, banking on the fact that if she refused, society will enforce the medieval values and subsequent punishment that is given to women who purportedly acts against societal expectations of how they should be, irregardless of the source. A world where every perceived sexual transgression is the fault of the female's.

In a twisted way and because of us - all of us - he won. 

So you can say the people and children who are dying or being brutally killed by war, famine, disease and poverty are of far greater importance and more deserving of pity than Amanda Todd, but in the end, they are all victims rooted from the same seed.

And that, my friends, is the real tragedy of this girl's sad story.

Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868

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