But we're not here to talk about "responsible reporting" - no, that's something else. This has more to do with culture as a whole, that in this case, the media was just reflecting. And the image wasn't pretty.
I was going to let it slide. Guys, I've been trying SO HARD not to stir things up on facebook recently. It's pained me to hit the little red X in the upper corner instead of the share button, so many times over the last couple months. I've held my tongue (well, ok - I've held my mouse clicker finger), and have opted for peace instead of discussion, I've avoided conflict, I've posted cute and funny things instead, I've let a lot of things go.
But this time, I can't.
There's nothing new to be said about rape - I think we can all agree that it's horrifying and wrong. If you don't think it's horrifying and wrong, then GTFO, because you are a sick human being and I don't want you around these parts. It's one of the worst things that humans can do to each other - it's not about sex. It's about violence and control and vulnerability and exploitation. It's violating not just another person's body, but violating their very soul, down to their core.
It's no secret that CNN is catching a lot of (deserved) flak for sympathizing over the two teenage boys convicted of sexual assault. Those poor rapists, their once-promising futures, their football careers... what. the. hell. A news anchor lamented about how they'll have to carry around the label of sexual offender for the rest of their lives. Yes, and rightfully so - because they are sex offenders. To be so callous and cold about it - to not only violate an unconscious girl but to take (and post!) pictures and video and laugh about it to their friends. I suppose we can feel sorry for them - it's a damn shame they didn't realize that this was wrong, that they didn't know better. But to hell with their futures. They brought this on themselves and they need to learn that there are consequences to their actions. The fact that they cried when receiving their verdict might mean that there's some hope for them, that they realized the consequences to their actions. It also might mean that they were sad about their football careers. I'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt, but I'm not sure I can. I read the text messages that were used in the case. These boys - and mere boys they are, indeed - were heartless.
This Gawker article laid into CNN, bashing them for all but fawning over these two boys, concerned about how this will affect them, blah blah fucking blah. My favorite quote is thus:
"For readers interested in learning more about how not to be labeled as registered sex offenders, a good first step is not to rape unconscious women, no matter how good your grades are... Your ability to perform calculus or play football is generally not taken into consideration in a court of law."
Let's get away from this for a quick minute and on to the bigger thing that is vexing me. It's that, no matter what seems to happen, the victim gets blamed. She shouldn't have been wearing this, she shouldn't have said that, she shouldn't have had anything to drink, how dare she leave her house while being female, she should have known better, she was just asking for it.
In this particular case, there's been a lot of emphasis on how this girl had been drinking, and you know what? I don't want to hear a WORD about how she was drunk. So were they; so were a lot of their peers. There was a whole extravaganza of underage drinking going on, they all made some very poor choices that night. She didn't deserve to be sexually violated, and she sure as hell doesn't deserve to be called a slut.
Why? Why do we do this? Why do we blame the victim? That's the part that frustrates me. I've been lucky; I've never been assaulted, I've never been in a situation where I was truly afraid. I'm one of the most paranoid people I know, simply due to an overactive imagination, and while I live in probably the safest area I know of, I still get a little uneasy sometimes when I'm out by myself and it's dark. This isn't right. But I know the mentality of society, and no matter what would happen, if something were to happen, it would get twisted around to be my own damn fault. Simply for being.
Which reminded me of an analogy that circulated the Internet a while ago and I'm reposting it because it's relevant:
You see how that line of reasoning is bogus, right? The above conversation never happens, because it would be ridiculous. We don't blame people for getting robbed, murdered, abducted, or whatever litany of horrible things could happen to a person. So why do we blame rape victims? That's a legitimate question, and I don't think anyone has an answer for it.
Similarly, there's an ongoing debate about the mentality of "teaching men not to rape versus teaching women not to get raped" and I've heard a lot of varying opinions. I don't have an answer. It sounds obvious, but it's not. Obviously, not all men are rapists, far from it, but there is a degree of education that needs to be involved. One of the articles I read today emphasized that instead of keeping the mentality of "no means no" we need to shift our thinking to teach that "the absence of a no doesn't mean yes - only a yes means yes." An enthusiastic yes, at that. Adolescents and teenagers need to be taught (and understand) the importance of consent and what that means. Boys need to learn to respect girls, so that they'll grow into men who will respect women.
A friend of mine posted this to my facebook page, I'd seen it before, but I'd forgotten about it until now. I mean, yeah.
There are a lot of good men out there - more than the bad ones. I don't mean to imply that there aren't. I wish the men standing up against rape and sexual violence were more visible - I know they're out there. Hell, I wish we'd all stand up. You know the worst part about all of this? A scary-high percentage of the time, it's women blaming other women. Who is this helping? Why do women turn on each other like this? Is it self-righteousness? What is it? I don't get it. I really don't. We're in this together, ladies. Stop being bitches and start being human.
To quote Tina Fey (because there is a Mean Girls quote for absolutely every situation):
You all have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it ok for guys to call you sluts and whores.It's just... I don't know. I can't. I can't think coherently about this, I absolutely CANNOT understand how this still happens, how it's still condoned, how excuses get made on the people committing these acts. I'm worried about our culture. I'm worried about what kids are learning, what they are being taught, what kind of an example is being set. There is too much silence, not enough conversation. It's sad that an argument could be made, earnestly, legitimately, that these kids simply didn't know better. I'm not sure if the boys actually understood the sheer gravity of what they were doing, that it was wrong, and why.
One last quote, from a blogger who I feel really nailed it on the head. (The bolded part is my own emphasis). Her whole post is here.
I do feel sorry for these boys. And not only because they will be put in cages that will not make them any better. I also feel sorry that two 16-year-olds are capable of the things these boys have been found guilty of doing. That makes me deeply, deeply sad. That we have created a world in which, at just 16 years old, and even younger, boys can already hate girls this much. That they can already dehumanize and degrade them. That misogyny is so insidious and so effective as to make 16-year-old boys incapable of respecting this girl, of seeing her as a human being with the right to make her own choices, even when drunk, and the right to remain unviolated, even when passed out. I am sorry for these boys that, at 16, some of their humanity is already gone. The cruelty of kids is not new, and I guess it should not shock me, but this specifically gendered cruelty, at such extreme levels and at such a young age, is shocking to me. And I do feel very sorry for these boys.We also need to teach society at large to remember what it means to take responsibility for your actions, to speak up when something is going down, because a lot of times when it comes down to it, if you don't act, no one will. There's a psychological phenomenon referred to as the bystander effect, which basically means that if you're being victimized (raped, robbed, stabbed, whatever), the more people that are around, the less likely it is that anyone will help you. It's called "diffusion of responsibility" and it basically has been shown that people always assume that "someone else" is doing something. So no one does.
I know this post is fragmented and maybe it doesn't make sense and probably nobody is reading it all the way through and that's okay. I just need to get it out of my head. I need to feel like maybe by adding my voice to the conversation, maybe eventually a crack will form and we can tear down the metaphorical wall. Little by little, I suppose, is the only way change is ever made, but I'm afraid it never will. Our culture is rapidly devolving to the basest of human instincts - greed, violence, ignorance. It's there in every political conversation, in every social movement, in every news story. It's getting worse and worse.
I wish things like this didn't happen. I wish I wasn't so tormented by them when they do. I wish I didn't have to internalize it, I wish I didn't need to make so much noise sometimes.
I wish I could just let it go.
But I can't.