‘Rolling Stone issues despicable, victim-blaming apology for its own shoddy journalism’

I couldn’t agree more with U. C. Berkeley professor Bryan Wagner when he calls out Rolling Stone magazine for its “despicable, victim-blaming apology for its own shoddy journalism.” Have you read this bullshit? What makes me so frustrated is that we live in a culture where rape survivors are so shamed that they usually choose not to tell their own stories publicly using real names and real faces. Therefore, survivors are easy prey for high priced lawyers punching holes, for not knowing, say if the rapist was a member of the frat or if the rapist just happened to be at the frat that night. I mean, really, who doesn’t get her facts right about her rapist’s recreational habits? And for these discrepancies that Rolling Stone should have fact-checked, the survivor gets her entire experience discredited. It makes me sick. Once again, it is us, the culture that needs to change so rape survivors can feel safe coming forward and naming their attackers. I’m reposting something I wrote for Salon in 2002 about the media’s role (and the public’s role) in shaming survivors.

The “shame” of rape

Why does the media hide rape victims who fight back instead of honoring them as heroes?

When 7-year-old Erica Pratt was abducted on July 22 and tied up in a basement by her kidnapper, she chewed through the duct tape that covered her mouth, freed her hands and feet, and broke through a door to escape. Electrified by the young girl’s feat, the media celebrated Pratt with a prolonged blitz of coverage. She smiled luminously for cameras as awed police officers praised her bravery. Her photo graced the front pages of newspapers across the nation, and she was named Time magazine’s “Person of the Week.”

When Tamara Brooks and Jacqueline Marris were abducted at gunpoint nine days later from a remote teenage trysting spot in Lancaster, Calif., they devised a plan to break free by stabbing their abductor in the neck. When one girl had the chance to escape, she didn’t take it for fear that the other girl — whom she hadn’t met before that night — would be killed if she abandoned her. These were brave and loyal girls — heroines who endured mind-numbing terror before police found them and killed their captor, who authorities believe was preparing to murder them and dump their bodies.

But Brooks and Marris were not honored by Time magazine or identified as heroes in other media outlets. Why not? What made their story so different?

Just as newspapers and the networks were scrambling to cover the story, they learned that the girls had been sexually assaulted during their ordeal. Because most mainstream media observes a self-imposed policy of withholding the names and faces of sexual assault victims, the coverage abruptly, and somewhat awkwardly, ground to a halt.

Newspapers and TV broadcasters explained the shift as a matter of courtesy. But in concealing the identities of the young women on the grounds that rape is so intimate and horrendous that they should be spared undue attention, the media helped to promote the unspoken societal belief that somehow, when sexual assault is involved, the victim is partly — or wholly — to blame, and should be hidden from view.

TV stations began digitally obscuring the girls’ faces. Newspapers like the New York Times rushed to delete the names and photos of the girls from the next day’s paper. Some publications, like USA Today, had already gone to press, and printed the story with photos and names on the front page.



The lopsided coverage was especially disorienting because early in the story, the girls’ identities were broadcast everywhere — constantly — as a means of saving their lives. The idea was to familiarize as many Americans as possible with the girls’ names and faces so that average citizens might assist in tracking them, and their kidnapper, down. And it worked. But once the teens went from being kidnapped youths to rescued rape survivors, their status changed. They were branded with the Scarlet R. They had been raped. It was suddenly better for them, and us, to contemplate this shame without fanfare.

In effect, the girls disappeared twice — once when abducted, and again when the media erased them.

The policy of hiding the rape survivor makes the media complicit in shaming and stigmatizing her. It reinforces the myth that women are too weak, traumatized and tainted to decide whether they want to tell their own stories — of victory, not victimhood. And this assumption becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If raped women were granted the same status as Erica Pratt, there would be no reflex to make them disappear. Their survival would be cause for public honor and respect. Their rescues would be complete; their recovery would begin with heartfelt acceptance by everyone who prayed for their return.

Silence and shame protected the Catholic Church and one of its dirtiest secrets for years. And church officials made the right assumption: If you can’t see it, no one will believe it is happening and, more importantly, victims who are shamed and controlled will be quiet, silenced by a sense of complicity and sin. What if all those alleged male sexual assault survivors who went on “60 Minutes” and “20/20″ had their faces covered with a gray dot? What if no newspapers or magazines had been willing to publish their names? How much credibility or validity or power can you have when you have no face and no name? Would the public have believed these things had happened if faces had not been attached to the charges?

You can’t put a faceless woman on the cover of Time magazine.

Not all rape survivors take the media’s cue and withdraw. Many have told their stories as part of their recovery, most famously authors like Maya Angelou in “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” and Dorothy Allison (“Bastard Out of Carolina”), and singers including Fiona Apple and Tori Amos. Current bestselling author Alice Sebold has said repeatedly in interviews that she could not have written “The Lovely Bones” until she wrote the story of her rape in her first book, “Lucky.”

With each of these acts of bravery has come further acknowledgment that rape is a horrible event and that everyone abhors it, yet hypocrisy — public and institutional — still exists. Rapists are rarely successfully prosecuted. For every 100 rapes reported in this country, only five rapists end up in prison. Sentences are relatively light, averaging just 10.5 years, and the usual time served is approximately five years.

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft doesn’t support the notion that a raped woman should have the right to an abortion. And U.S. foreign policy does not include sanctions, even strongly stated warnings, against countries like Saudi Arabia where men are allowed to rape their wives, and married women raped by men other than their spouses are punished for adultery. In Pakistan, when a young woman was ordered raped by a tribal council as punishment when her brother was seen in public with a woman not in his family, the U.S. State Department took no action.

At the same time that it is no longer socially acceptable to blame or stigmatize a rape survivor for what has happened to her, it appears to be socially unacceptable to recognize her as a hero and honor her for survival. But that may be about to change, thanks, in large part, to Marris and Brooks, two rape survivors who demanded to be seen.

A day after she was rescued and her identity had been quickly masked in the media, Marris appeared on KABC, the local Los Angeles news station, to talk frankly, without embarrassment, about her ordeal. She revealed, among other details, the fact that she and Brooks had tried to escape by stabbing their abductor in the neck.

A few days later, Brooks and Marris both appeared on the “Today” show to tell the story of their capture and captivity, a gripping account in which they described being threatened with a loaded gun, smashing their abductor in the face with a whiskey bottle, and later watching him die.

When asked why they chose to talk about their experience, Brooks said that she wanted to do it, and came forward with the support of her parents, who braved some criticism about the decision. She and Marris, Brooks said, “want to get the message across to everybody to never give up on anything. If you ever give up, you’ve lost. Whatever obstacles you have, you’ve got to fight your way through it.”

Darren Wilson’s testimony: ‘The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon’

Darren Wilson’s testimony shows he sometimes has trouble using pronouns to describe shooting victim Michael Brown.

The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon…

To me, this quote tells us everything we need to know about Wilson’s mindset when he pulled the trigger. Turning a human into an “it” is almost always a prerequisite to violence. From the Rolling Stone article about the UVA gang rape:

“Grab its motherfucking leg,” she heard a voice say. And that’s when Jackie knew she was going to be raped.

 

How can anyone make an ethical decisions when dealing with an object and not a human being? You can’t.

 

 

 

If you ‘don’t understand’ what rape culture is, you’re part of the problem

Are you calling your child’s college to speak to administrators about what they’re doing to keep students safe from sexual assault? Are you speaking to your sons and daughters about what rape is and helping them to decide what actions they can take to help to create a safe community? Are you donating time or money to organizations that help to keep women and girls safe? If you know a woman who is a survivor of rape/ violence what are you doing to help her? We look back on history and wonder how the average Joe and Josephina let slavery happen or the Holocaust, but right now, today, in 2014 violence against women goes unchecked. The President of UVA acting as if she had no idea what was going on at the campus she runs all this time, until the Rolling Stone article came out, is now suspending fraternities until– get this– January!  If you’re looking the other way, whoever you are, you’re the problem. Still don’t get it? Really? Try reading this post:

It takes one rapist to commit a rape, but it takes a village to create an environment where it happens over and over and over and over and over with such frequency that ordinary people throw up their hands and treat it as a part of the environment instead of as violations of fundamental human rights.

 

Read the rest here.

Bill Cosby is a serial rapist

I’ve been posting stories about Bill Cosby’s record of rape on Reel Girl’s Facebook page for years. The stories from different women, spanning years back, have always been strikingly similar. Cosby invites them to a private place to help them on their career. He offers them a drink, and the next thing they know, they are half conscious and naked. Why did it take “real” journalists so long to take these allegations seriously? Here is the best and most honest story I’ve read from journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic. Please read it.

My name is Monica Lewinsky

Monica Lewinsky continues to tell her story, and I am happy she is speaking. From the first time I saw Lewinsky’s face on my TV screen, what upset me most was the repetition of the same old narrative, worldwide, through images and text: a powerful man was being brought down by the sexuality of a young woman. A man I voted for as a woman in my twenties because I thought that he would do good things for women.

It is this narrative and text that Lewinsky is speaking about right now. Finally, she’s taking control of her story.

So many say Lewinsky is just being used, she’s talking now because she’s trying to destroy Hillary’s run for president. Once again, this is Lewinsky’s story, not the Clintons’ narrative. Why don’t you listen to, and talk about, what she is saying instead of why you think she’s speaking?

Here is one of my favorite lines from Lewinsky’s speech: “Let me tell you about being publicly separated from your truth…Being publicly separated from your truth is one of the classic triggers of anxiety, depression, and self loathing. And the greater the distance between the way people want you to be and the you you actually are, the greater will be your anxiety, depression, sense of failure and shame.”

She also says this: “The problem is that I believe in the power of story, in the power of stories to inspire, comfort, educate, and change things for the better, fictional stories, stories from history, and yes, news stories.”

I do too. That’s the reason I started this blog, because I’m tired of the same old story. I want something better for my kids. From what I can tell, Lewinsky does too. Please watch this video.

Phil Plait of Slate: ‘I stand with Emma Watson’

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer. He is a public speaker, science evangelizer, author of Death From the Skies, and he is a feminist.

Today, on Slate he writes:

I signed up to back HeForShe with my voice and with my words… Some will go to any lengths to oppress women; loathsome knuckle-dragging Men’s Rights Advocates and their ilk have already shown what they will do in order to shut women up. I’ve seen many, many media outlets make that the story, but I refuse to do so; they crave the attention, and I will not feed it to them. I know how to stand up for my friends. I know how to write, and how to make myself heard. And I can hope that other men will do this as well, because while I don’t know the whole solution, I know a part of it, a significant part of it, is just showing that we are listening, that we care, and we want to help. And that’s why I stand with Emma Watson.

 

Thank you to Plait for joining HeForShe. Who’s next?

Hey guys, time to man up and speak out for Emma Watson

After Emma Watson AKA Hermione introduced the HeForShe campaign, making a brilliant and impassioned speech to the U.N. about feminism and asking men to join the movement, she received death and sex crime threats publicly posted on 4Chan. As punishment for being a feminist, Watson was publicly warned, The Mary Sue reports:

In addition to threatening to commit a sex crime against the actress and activist, users also spread a #RIPEmma hashtag on Twitter along with pictures of a fake report on the actress’ “death.”

 

I’m only  including one comment from 4 chan’s b board here; if you can stomach it, Death and Taxes has several classically vitriolic threats in their coverage on the harassment. But here’s a statement that perfectly demonstrates the boo-hoo babyman knee-jerk rhetoric behind the abuse:

 

she makes stupid feminist speeches at UN, and now her nudes will be online, HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH

It is amazing to me that this website is up and ticking while Tumblr took less than 24 hours to remove a list of rapists put up by University of Chicago students who were frustrated by the systemic lack of protection for students at the school. On the internet, threatening to rape is allowed but protecting students from rapists is banned.

The victim of 4Chan’s harassment isn’t only Watson, of course, but all women and girls. We are all being warned that if we dare to speak out, to tell the truth, to demand equality, or call ourselves feminists, we will be ridiculed, targeted, shamed and humiliated if not raped and murdered. This is happening legally in the USA.

In response to the threats, Melissa Wardy of Pigtail Pals writes a blog titled “Speak All the Louder”

The reaction of these men who use fear to promote their power is a measure meant to terrorize us to ‘stay in our place’.  To shame empathetic men and to overpower outspoken women. To stunt our thinking and growth as a society. To silence our voices.

 

I think this kind of man is an excellent reminder of why we must speak all the louder.

 

Peggy Orenstein, best-selling author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter makes another point, urging men to speak up for Watson and against violence towards women. On her Facebook page, Orenstein writes:

Women can (and should) express outrage about the death threats against our beloved Emma W, but I think that given her message about the value of feminism to both men and women, and how increasingly important we know it is that boys, especially, learn to stand up and speak out around violence against women this would be a good time for guys to step up!!

 

I could not agree more. All males including fathers, teachers, doctors, athletes, musicians, writers, artists, students, boys everywhere, now is the time to speak publicly for Watson, for feminism, and to take action to stop violence against women. If you are silent, you are part of the problem.

Neil Gaiman, author of Coraline, posted his picture on Tumblr with #HeForShe written on his palm, and captioned: “Supporting it as a feminist and as a human being…” If males worldwide publicly say yes to feminism, violence against women will stop.

Sign up for #HeForShe here. Speak out for feminism whenever and wherever you can. Join the movement. Change the world. The time is now.

Show your kids Emma Watson’s speech on feminism

Please show your children this video of Emma Watson’s excellent speech to the U.N. about feminism. Launching the “HeForShe” campaign, Watson is changing the public face of feminism and urging men to join the movement.

While watching the video, ask yourself: Why is Emma Watson one of the few actresses who dares to be a spokesperson for feminism? If Watson had not grown up playing the brave and brilliant Hermione, do you think she would have bloomed into the courageous, public feminist that she is, calling for the social, political, and economic equality of women and men? And most importantly, what would happen if more girls and women played heroes in movies and books? What would happen if more children grew up experiencing  narratives where females are celebrated for their skills instead of for their appearance? Then, how many of the next generation, girls and boys, do you think would proudly call themselves feminists?

In her speech, Emma Watson says: “No country in the world can yet say they have achieved gender equality.” But why have so few fantasy worlds achieved gender equality as well, worlds created for children, places where anything should be possible?

Even Hermione, of course, is not the star of the Harry Potter series. She, like so many other Minority Feisty, plays the essential sidekick. She is there to help the male star of his 8 eponymous movies complete his quest to vanquish the villain and save the world. J. K. Rowling was told by her publisher to conceal her gender with her initials in order to sell her book, and that incredible act of sexism happened our modern, ‘post-feminist’ world.

Here are some statistics from the Geena Davis institute on Gender and Media:

  • Males outnumber females 3 to 1 in family films. In contrast, females comprise just over 50% of the population in the United States. Even more staggering is the fact that this ratio, as seen in family films, is the same as it was in 1946.
  • Only 16% of protagonists in film are female
  • Females are almost four times as likely as males to be shown in sexy attire. Further, females are nearly twice as likely as males to be shown with a diminutive waistline. Generally unrealistic figures are more likely to be seen on females than males.
  • Females are also underrepresented behind the camera. Across 1,565 content creators, only 7% of directors, 13% of writers, and 20% of producers are female. This translates to 4.8 males working behind-the-scenes to every one female.
  • From 2006 to 2009, not one female character was depicted in G-rated family films in the field of medical science, as a business leader, in law, or politics. In these films, 80.5% of all working characters are male and 19.5% are female, which is a contrast to real world statistics, where women comprise 50% of the workforce.

Please also look at Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing From Children’s Movies documenting the years from 2011 – 2014.

If we can’t even imagine gender equality, how can we create it in the “real” world?  Fantasy meets reality meets fantasy meets reality.

Once again, I ask you to show Hermione’s speech to your children.The video and transcript are below.

Today we are launching a campaign called “HeForShe.”

I am reaching out to you because I need your help. We want to end gender inequality—and to do that we need everyone to be involved.

This is the first campaign of its kind at the UN: we want to try and galvanize as many men and boys as possible to be advocates for gender equality. And we don’t just want to talk about it, but make sure it is tangible.

I was appointed six months ago and the more I have spoken about feminism the more I have realized that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating. If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop.

For the record, feminism by definition is: “The belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.”

I started questioning gender-based assumptions when at eight I was confused at being called “bossy,” because I wanted to direct the plays we would put on for our parents—but the boys were not.

When at 14 I started being sexualized by certain elements of the press.

When at 15 my girlfriends started dropping out of their sports teams because they didn’t want to appear “muscly.”

When at 18 my male friends were unable to express their feelings.

I decided I was a feminist and this seemed uncomplicated to me. But my recent research has shown me that feminism has become an unpopular word.

Apparently I am among the ranks of women whose expressions are seen as too strong, too aggressive, isolating, anti-men and, unattractive.

Why is the word such an uncomfortable one?

I am from Britain and think it is right that as a woman I am paid the same as my male counterparts. I think it is right that I should be able to make decisions about my own body. I think it is right that women be involved on my behalf in the policies and decision-making of my country. I think it is right that socially I am afforded the same respect as men. But sadly I can say that there is no one country in the world where all women can expect to receive these rights.

No country in the world can yet say they have achieved gender equality.

These rights I consider to be human rights but I am one of the lucky ones. My life is a sheer privilege because my parents didn’t love me less because I was born a daughter. My school did not limit me because I was a girl. My mentors didn’t assume I would go less far because I might give birth to a child one day. These influencers were the gender equality ambassadors that made who I am today. They may not know it, but they are the inadvertent feminists who are. And we need more of those.  And if you still hate the word—it is not the word that is important but the idea and the ambition behind it. Because not all women have been afforded the same rights that I have. In fact, statistically, very few have been.

In 1997, Hilary Clinton made a famous speech in Beijing about women’s rights. Sadly many of the things she wanted to change are still a reality today.

But what stood out for me the most was that only 30 per cent of her audience were male. How can we affect change in the world when only half of it is invited or feel welcome to participate in the conversation?

Men—I would like to take this opportunity to extend your formal invitation. Gender equality is your issue too.

Because to date, I’ve seen my father’s role as a parent being valued less by society despite my needing his presence as a child as much as my mother’s.

I’ve seen young men suffering from mental illness unable to ask for help for fear it would make them look less “macho”—in fact in the UK suicide is the biggest killer of men between 20-49; eclipsing road accidents, cancer and coronary heart disease. I’ve seen men made fragile and insecure by a distorted sense of what constitutes male success. Men don’t have the benefits of equality either.

We don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes but I can see that that they are and that when they are free, things will change for women as a natural consequence.

If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled.

Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong… It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum not as two opposing sets of ideals.

If we stop defining each other by what we are not and start defining ourselves by what we are—we can all be freer and this is what HeForShe is about. It’s about freedom.

I want men to take up this mantle. So their daughters, sisters and mothers can be free from prejudice but also so that their sons have permission to be vulnerable and human too—reclaim those parts of themselves they abandoned and in doing so be a more true and complete version of themselves.

You might be thinking who is this Harry Potter girl? And what is she doing up on stage at the UN. It’s a good question and trust me I have been asking myself the same thing. I don’t know if I am qualified to be here. All I know is that I care about this problem. And I want to make it better.

And having seen what I’ve seen—and given the chance—I feel it is my duty to say something. English statesman Edmund Burke said: “All that is needed for the forces of evil to triumph is for enough good men and women to do nothing.”

In my nervousness for this speech and in my moments of doubt I’ve told myself firmly—if not me, who, if not now, when. If you have similar doubts when opportunities are presented to you I hope those words might be helpful.

Because the reality is that if we do nothing it will take 75 years, or for me to be nearly a hundred before women can expect to be paid the same as men for the same work. 15.5 million girls will be married in the next 16 years as children. And at current rates it won’t be until 2086 before all rural African girls will be able to receive a secondary education.

If you believe in equality, you might be one of those inadvertent feminists I spoke of earlier.

And for this I applaud you.

We are struggling for a uniting word but the good news is we have a uniting movement. It is called HeForShe. I am inviting you to step forward, to be seen to speak up, To be the he for she. And to ask yourself if not me, who, if not now when.

Thank you.

 

Criminal cyber-stalkers upload stolen photos as profile pics, send mass Tweets

Last night, like many of you, I Tweeted that to look at stolen pictures of Jennifer Lawrence is to participate in her assault. Today, I woke up to multiple Tweets on my account where the sender used a naked picture of Jennifer Lawrence as a profile pic. I’m assuming the picture is one of the stolen ones, though I’m not doing the research to find out. I Tweeted  that I would be forwarding these Tweets to the FBI, to which I got this response: “Stop harassing me you fucking cunt.”

Last night, I posted on Facebook and Twitter that, contrary to reports on the internet from People Magazine and CNN, the stolen photos of Jennifer Lawrence and other female celebrities is not a “scandal” but a sex crime.

I was relieved I didn’t have to argue language when I saw the LA Times report:

The FBI is aware of the allegations concerning computer intrusions and the unlawful release of material involving high profile individuals, and is addressing the matter,” an FBI spokesperson told the LA Times.

 

In spite of getting called a cunt (yet again) it is good to be able to forward info to the FBI’s ongoing investigation. It’s crucial that the U.S. Government take crimes against women seriously, and it’s a relief to see a fast and public step in that direction by the FBI. It would be nice if the media followed suit, not only using the word “crime” instead of “scandal” but by allotting crimes against women the news status they deserve.

Last week, the writer, filmmaker, and activist Anita Sarkeesian was forced to leave her house because of threats of violence against her. Sarkeesian’s work is about violence against women in video games. Those who attack Sarkeesian claim that violence against women does not exist. I suppose the irony here is lost on them. Why isn’t more mainstream media covering the Sarkeesian story? Sarkeesian is a hero-freedom-fighter-cyber-warrior whose actions are dedicated helping a new generation of children to grow up in a safer world. So why don’t parents know her name? When are we all going to start taking crimes against women seriously and stop ignoring or trivializing the safety and privacy of half of our population in the USA?

 

Join the dissent

“The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield.”

Do you agree with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg?

Do something. Don’t stand by and watch women continue to be denied human rights. Tell Washington that the U.S. government is discriminating against women and that is not acceptable in America. Sign the petition from Planned Parenthood and please give money. If we all do something and take action, we can create change.

The letter from Planned Parenthood is pasted here, follow the links at the bottom to sign it and to give money.

Subject: JOIN THE DISSENT

To The Supreme Court:

To the five members of the Supreme Court who have given bosses — based on their own personal beliefs — the power to deny women coverage for birth control:

I dissent. Your ruling is an insult to the generations of women who have fought for control over their own bodies and their own futures. It is a step backward, and a threat to the future of women’s health and rights in America.

To employers like Hobby Lobby, who believe that their personal beliefs are more important than women’s fundamental rights:

I dissent. Religious freedom means that every person should be allowed to follow her own conscience, whether she owns a company or works for an hourly wage. Women earn health care coverage the same way they earn a paycheck — and they shouldn’t have it taken away because of the personal views of their employers.

To the politicians who support the Supreme Court’s decision — and want to go even further to deny more women access to birth control:

I dissent. I will continue to fight for the right of every woman to make her own private medical decisions without interference from anyone — not her boss, not politicians, not the Supreme Court. I call on lawmakers at every level to take immediate action to protect women’s access to health care no matter what their bosses say.

This is about our health and our lives. This is about our fundamental right to have control over our own bodies. This is about justice. And I’m not done fighting back.

Signed,
[Your Name]
[Your Address]
[City, State ZIP]

 

Follow this link to sign the petition and to donate funds.