NY Times Issues Rebuke of Victim Blaming in Texas Rape Article!

From Change.org:

Big news! After a massive outcry from more than 40,000 Change.org members — which led to news coverage in the Huffington Post, Village Voice, and even London’s Daily Mail — New York Times public editor Arthur S. Brisbane has issued a strong rebuke of the victim-blaming in a recent article by reporter James McKinley about the gang-rape of an 11-year-old girl and her community’s response.

See, we can all make a difference!  Your voice can be heard!  The power of the Internet to almost immediately and overwhelming express public opinion on almost any important issue is powerful and persuasive.  There is hope for democracy yet!


More on the Cleveland, TX Rape

I wanted to expand on my rant about the rape of an 11 year old girl in Texas that I posted yesterday.   I also posted this on my journal on my DeviantArt site and one of my dearest friends responded with some thoughts that I was too emotional to appreciate when I wrote it.  Here is what she had to say:

I think it’s ok they talk about the how the boys became desensitized and did this – and how they do have to live with this choice forever – b/c it IS odd for gang rape to occur and they are not convinced it was a group of “bad” boys so much as a phenomenea that the town needs to better understand in order to deal with it – and what about the boys too?

Regarding the girl – maybe this one story of the zillion done on it were not about her – and the comments about her dress do not need to mean she asked for it – so much as she put herself out there in ways that can have consequences – and how much of that do we think about when we are thinking of the boys that succumbed to the group deviancy – not necessarily b/c we are focusing on how the girl was “bad _ just this reality of pent up aggression in young men and how sex is an outlet

My response pretty much sums up my thoughts on this without getting into a treatise on the subject of testosterone addled and amoral male youth that fill our soulless communities.

I agree that the boys have to be considered.  I should have made myself clearer in saying that my outrage was that no consideration for the girl was mentioned in the article. In a situation like this the causes are varied and run deep in the community. I think the Times could have done a much more balanced job of reporting this.

The fact is that there are these assumptions that we hardly notice that are so anti-female and so sexist. We see them again and again in the media and as long as we allow even the smallest of these to pass uncontested, they will continue to perpetuate in society.

Of course there are always two sides to every issue and often pain on all sides in cases like this. I don’t mean to minimize the causes of desensitization of the boys, but what I have a real issue with here are two things.

First is that the girl was 11. No 11 year old girl I’ve ever know was anywhere near mature or competent enough to even have the slightest clue of the possible consequences of her actions in a situation like hers. This should only have been brought up in the context of poor adult supervision. Perhaps that is what was meant, but it didn’t come across this way in the article.

Second is that victims of sex crimes are perceived and treated differently victims of other violent crimes. Rape is an act of violence, period. We need to remove the sexual component from these crimes and focus on the violence. Women need to be seen as individuals with the same worth as men and until they are rape will always been seen as a sexual crime instead of a crime of violence.

I will call out anything I see in the media or public forum that has even the slightest hint of sexism. I do for my daughter in the hopes that her daughters won’t have to deal with these issues. I do it for every woman I’ve ever known. I do it for every women out there because every time we let these almost unconscious assumptions go unanswered, we are abetting in perpetuating thousands of years of sexism.




Another Example of Careless Perpetuation of Sexism. This Time the Victim is an 11 Year Old Girl.

Last November in Cleveland, Texas 18 young men and boys were charged with raping an 11 year old girl.  The act was recorded on a cell phone video and discovered by the girl’s teacher who reported the crime.

While this is a heinous enough crime in and of its self, the reporting of this story in no less a paper than the NY Times compounded the the pain that the girl and her family must feel by perpetuating the myth that the victim “had it coming”.

“Residents in the neighborhood where the abandoned trailer stands — known as the Quarters — said the victim had been visiting various friends there for months. They said she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s. She would hang out with teenage boys at a playground, some said.”

While bringing up what a woman was wearing, how she was acting or what she was doing to try to justify that “she had it coming” is disgusting enough as it is, to even ask these questions about an 11 year old girl is beyond the reason.  An 11 year old has no real concept about how the way she dresses or acts will effect men.  To even hint at the “she had it coming” myth is simply irresponsible reporting.

But that isn’t all that is wrong with the article.  The reporter goes on to state:

“The case has rocked this East Texas community to its core and left many residents in the working-class neighborhood where the attack took place with unanswered questions. Among them is, if the allegations are proved, how could their young men have been drawn into such an act?

It’s just destroyed our community,” said Sheila Harrison, 48, a hospital worker who says she knows several of the defendants. “These boys have to live with this the rest of their lives.””

Not once in the article is the girl’s welfare even mentioned.  Nowhere do we hear about the pain and trauma that an innocent 11 year old girl endured at the hand of 18 males.  That is 1.6 males violating her for every year of her life.  Where is the community outrage and concern for this poor girl?  Who there is talking about how she will have to live with this the reset of her life?  There is something seriously wrong with a society  that has more concern for the male perpetrators than the female victim.

Change.org has a site where you can sign your name to a letter that will be sent to the NY Times protesting their editorial decision to publish this sexist perpetuating article.


Religion Kills Another Child

In Bangladesh, a religious cleric ordered a 14 year old girl to be given 100 lashes with a bamboo pole for supposedly having an illicit relationship with a married cousin. The man’s wife said that she saw the girl speaking to her husband near their home and notified the village cleric who order the husband and the girl to undergo the punishment of 100 lashes. The girl collapsed half way through the beating and was taken to hospital where she died a week later.

If this weren’t horrifying enough, the wife tried to claim that her husband was raping the girl and upon hearing the girl’s cries, the wife ran in and began beating the girl. Let me repeat that. Upon supposedly hearing a 14 year old girl being raped by her husband, the wife said that she ran in and beat the girl! The police aren’t buying that story, but what does it say about these people that she would think that beating the girl who was being raped was actually justification for her death?

This incident speaks volumes about the almost non-human status of woman in many religions and cultures. While it may be true that some of the attitude toward women is cultural, it is almost always supported by religious writings and teachings.

Wether the girl was just talking to her cousin, who is a male relative after all, or if there was an illicit relationship ilvolved, murder is not an appropriate punishment, especially for a young, impressionable 14 year old child.

I am reminded of a quote by Nobel laureate and physicist Steven Weinberg:

        “With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil – but for good people to do evil – that takes religion.”

The Sensible Religious Reaction to Sexual Abuse? Blame The Victim, of Course.

PZ Myers wrote on his blog today of a Catholic priest who was removed from his position on the board of an anti-abortion group, stepped down from his diocese and was transferred to another one, apparently because he had sex with, wait for it… an adult woman (you were expecting something else, perhaps?).

The Church’s repeated description of the victim as an “adult woman” made it seem like the victim was somehow less victimized that, say a child or adult man. If this weren’t screwed up enough as it is, the people who rushed to defend the scrofulous priest went to such low depths of depravity that Dante would have had to create a new circle of hell just for them. Here is what they had to say:

“I think these women are shameful. Their attack will probably backfire on them. They are possessed with evil and it seems that they are getting worse whenever someone disagrees with them. They seem very vindictive in character and self-righteous. They don’t seem credible to me.

I have known Fr. Tom personally for more than 13 years and I can assure you of Father’s devotion to the unborn. I have never seen him falter in his ministry as a priest. Being exposed to demons is not an easy thing. Sometimes the demons will purposely twist the bodies of their victims that will have their sexual parts touch the one who is trying to remove the demons. This, I am sure must have happened several times to Father Tom. Many of the women who are possessed also have other mental problems like ADHD and Bi-polar and these people lie very often just to get attention.”

The fact that these comments were from apparently average Catholics on a blog about the subject makes it seem that the rot at the heart of the Catholic Church has spread not just through the priesthood, but to the parishioners as well. The sooner this two thousand year old monstrosity goes the way of the dodo, the better.

Followup On The Manhood Academy

My last post was about The Manhood Academy. My friend did a lot of research into the Manhood Academy’s history. They have , as of 2010, rebranded themselves as a Men’s Rights group. Before that, the sight was apparently locked down as of 2008, likely for their blatant promotion of hate and abuse toward women. Read her findings here.

Why “Anti” Is Disingenuous

I had an interesting discussion with a friend of mine who has been having a confrontation with a couple of, what I can only call misogynistic douche bags, from the Manhood Academy site. We were talking about people who call themselves anti-feminists and that got me to thinking about labeling yourself “anti” anything.

I have a real problem with people and groups who are “anti” anything. I prefer people and groups who are “pro” things because not it is only more positive, but it is more truthful (ok I am sure you can think of things like pro-baby eating, but that’s just being silly!). Calling yourself anti-feminist is disingenuous; by rights they should be calling themselves pro-female bigotry and pro-sexual inequality, because that is the reality of their beliefs.

If we start referring to people and groups who call themselves “anti” whatever as “pro” what they really are about, I think it would help clarify things and force these people to defend their real beliefs, which are most often indefensible.

Take for example, since we’ve already mentioned it, anti-feminists. They try to portray feminists as man hating, sex despising fanatics, which is far from the reality. If we start calling them pro-sexual inequality or pro-male domination, then they are suddenly forced to defend these positions.

When we can reframe the argument so that the reality of peoples views and beliefs becomes obvious, then we are calling these misogynists for what they really are; woman hating, insecure fear mongers.

Hey, Fuckwad! No Means No!

I read a couple of interesting blog entries here, here and here, about the current news item about Julian Assange being indicted for rape in Sweden. The whole case seems to center the idea of withdrawn consent. The sketchy details are these:

On one occasion he agreed to use a condom while having sex with a women, but it wasn’t until they were done that she realized that he didn’t’ wear one. In the other case, he wore a condom, which broke during intercourse. The woman asked him to stop when it broke, but he continued the sex act to its conclusion.

In Sweden, the law basically says that if consent is withdrawn at any time, the the person continues, that constitutes sexual assault.

To me, this is a given. I can’t imagine how anyone could possibly not get this. But, to my astonishment, it seems that most states in the U.S. do not have any kind of laws that deal with withdrawn consent. Apparently, most states still focus on the use of force in determining if rape occurred. WTF!?

If I am kick boxing with someone and half way through, I tell him to stop, but he continues to wail on my ass, I’m pretty sure that would constitute assault in most jurisdictions. Why should sex be any different. It is an, like kickboxing, an act that two people consensually engage in, but when one person withdraws their consent and says, “Stop!”, then the other person should stop. This is a basic of civilized human interaction.

It is horrifying and unacceptable that any woman should ever need to worry about a man not stopping a sex act if she tells him to. That any man would continue when told to stop is reprehensible beyond words and that man should be charged with sexual assault at the least, and really should be charged with rape, pure and simple. What part of “no means no” don’t these guys get?

This all goes back to this socially ingrained sense of male privilege that permeates society. It is a throw back to patriarchal societies that sprung up thousands of years ago and even back then there was no justification for it. If you had a penis, you were golden, if you didn’t, you were chattel. It was total and complete utter bullshit then and it still is now.

As long as the laws allow a man to have sex against her will, regardless of if she originally gave consent when they started, we will coninue to tolerate the intolerable. Laws that clearly define that, “no means no”, must be passed and penalties for breaking those laws must be harsh. Next to murder, sexual assault and abuse is the most heinous crime imaginable. Men need to realize that they will lose their freedom for a long time if they don’t stop when they hear “stop”.

It’s time to move beyond sensitivity classes and make sure that 50% of the population knows it can’t just impose their will on the other 50% without serious consequences