Survivor Disgrace

March 05, 2004

The behavior of the Chapera tribe last night on Survivor All Stars was disgraceful. Violence against women, whether sexual, emotional, or physical is epidemic in the world today. The words and actions of the Chapera tribe clearly show why this problem is so prevalent and why it won't go away until men stand up and speak out against the kind of shunning and dismissal that Susan experienced.

The point that all the people there seemed to miss, is that abuse is in the eye of the abused. Susan felt abused and attacked, what anyone else felt is immaterial to the discussion. Based on the footage of Susan from the first season of Survivor, and from earlier episodes of this season, it is plain to me that Susan is tough, thick skinned, and not given to altering her behavior to please or appease others. And yet her personality and presentation were radically, profoundly altered after Richard Hatch rubbed himself against her during a competition. Her emotional affect was inward and subdued, she stopped eating or sleeping. Clearly the impact of his actions left her shattered and ultimately unable to continue the game.

The members of Chapera all displayed a shocking lack of sympathy or caring for her plight. Big Tom, who has repeatedly been dismissive to women on this show both in Panama and in Africa, had the affront to dance a jig singing "the witch is dead." His abuse of Susan is just as egregious as Richard Hatch's. Perhaps worse because he is cowardly attacking someone who is already down. Boston Rob is a misogynist troglodyte asshole who thinks that just because he's tough he is also intelligent. I am ashamed to share my gender with examples of machismo such as these two.

I am most disappointed in Rupert. Tom and Rob have displayed their colors openly and consistently throughout their first seasons on Survivor, and continued to do so on Survivor All Stars. For Rupert to jump on the "blame the victim" bandwagon was a major shift in how I perceived him. As a male in this society I know first hand how difficult it is to stand up to the gutter think that happens when two or more buffoons like Tom and Rob get together. I had hoped that Rupert, who openly talked about being on the receiving end of abuse growing up as the odd kid out, would have spoken out against the smearing of Susan. Instead he enabled the continuation of women as victims by participating in the abuse from Tom and Rob.

As for the women on Chapera, they let down their gender by not speaking out. The fact that Kathy said Susan should just get a hold of her emotions tells me that Kathy was abused sexual in her past. And further that she never confronted her attacker, or brought to light the incident. Susan did bring to light the attack, and did indirectly confront Richard. In my opinion Kathy's vehemence towards Susan is really anger directed at herself for never having the courage to stand up and speak out about her own abuse.

The other women just meekly went along with the antics of the "men"; no matter how downcast their eyes were they still voted to support the second attack against Susan through their silence and inaction.

As an adult male in this society I take on the responsibility to speak out against violence against anyone. I will not stand idly by while trash talking, or "boys will be boys" behavior is displayed. I will not abrogate my membership in the human race to a group of hurt and angry people who just want to hurt others to mask their own pain.

Shame on you Richard Hatch for being so insensitive to the feelings and personal space of others. Shame on you Rob and Tom for being boorish cretins who exemplify all that is wrong with machismo. Shame on you Rupert for not living up to the glimpses of the real you we see in brief flashes. Shame on you Kathy for taking your anger at yourself out on another woman who has been victimized. And shame on you Alicia, Amber and Jenna for just going along with it all.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.