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.

‘Gone Girl’ makes violence against women a punchline

***SPOILERS***

“Gone Girl” makes violence against women into a punchline, and does this so well that even I laughed at the jokes.

Just as the book “Gone Girl” is well written and well plotted, the movie version is well acted, directed, and produced. Watching the movie, even more than reading the book, I felt like I was having a meta experience: watching a movie about storytelling while being manipulated by the story I was being told. “Gone Girl” is the story of a woman who lies about being raped by three different men.

There are a few core beliefs women’s rights advocates have worked hard to get the culture to understand:

(1) Women don’t want to be raped

(2) A woman who is raped did not bring the violence on herself

(3) The #1 killer of pregnant women is homicide

In “Gone Girl”‘ each of these beliefs becomes a mockery, perfectly executed with comic timing, plot points, and good acting to seem ridiculous. I’m going to summarize a few instances below though its from memory, so the quotes may not be precisely accurate, and you’ve got to see it yourself to experience the reaction, I don’t think the typed words on the page will do it.

When Nick Dunne seeks out another guy that his wife, Amy, falsely accused of rape, the guy says,”That’s Amy! She’s graduated from rape to murder.” I chuckled.

When it becomes public that Amy was pregnant (a faked pregnancy by the way) media and townspeople nod and knowingly say, “The #1 way pregnant women die is murder.” The scene is so cartoonish and Nick is so clearly a victim, that when hearing the line, even I rolled my eyes.

When Amy spins the story of how she never should have let another guy she accused of rape into her house, an FBI guy steps in with a concerned face and says, “Don’t blame yourself!” When I heard that line, I snorted.

At the end of the book, Nick falls back in love with Amy and you’re left with feeling that these two deserve each other. At the end of the movie, Nick is still angry. Like all heroes, his experience led him to go through a transition, and you’re left feeling sorry for he guy who only wants to be a good dad to his son.

Describing her book, author Gillian Flynn says:

“It’s a story about storytelling, and in the 24-hour media world, no matter what the content, the media has a disproportionate voice in all our lives. I wanted it to be a third character in a way — Nick, Amy, but also the media. We all weigh in on everybody’s life no matter what. And there seems to be a constant audience monitoring our lives.”

 

No question that “Gone Girl” is a movie about story-telling. Maybe Flynn isn’t perpetuating misogyny here but being doing something quite brilliant. The joke is on us, the audience. Look how easily we’re manipulated, at this particular moment by beautiful people and great acting into, once again, believing the story that scorned women lie about about rape while its men who are the real victims.

In the USA one in five women reports experiencing a rape. The Department of Justice estimates that 60 percent of rapes go unreported. As for false accusations of rape, the FBI estimates that 1-2 percent of claims are fake. Yet, a 2002 survey of male and female college students shows that they believe a woman lies in 50 percent of reported rape cases. “ This is typical. Why do so many people believe women lie about rape? Because of a story we’ve been told again and again and again.

 

 

 

Here’s my original post on “Gone Girl:”

I haven’t seen the movie “Gone Girl,” and neither have you as it’s hitting theaters on October 3, though I did read the book this summer. I was horrified by the misogyny woven through the narrative. Perhaps I was so surprised by the sexism because the only controversy I’d heard of before I read the book was that people didn’t like the ending. I did like the ending. I’ll tell you why, and also go into the plot points of “Gone Girl” but before I do, consider yourself warned: spoilers will be in this post. If you’re going to read Gone Girl– and it is, like so many sexist books I critique, well written and well plotted, I’m talking about technique here– you may not want to proceed much further, except, perhaps, to take a look at this cover of Entertainment Weekly. There you see Amy, the protagonist of “Gone Girl,” shown as a “beautiful” female corpse, a trope Anita Sarkeesian dissects in her latest video: Women as Background Decoration: Part 2 – Tropes vs Women in Video Games. This image of the dead, sexualized female body is, quite literally, everywhere in popular culture. After you check out this cover, I want you to know just one more thing.

rs_634x845-140108072345-634.Gone-Girl-Ben-Affleck-Rosamund-Pike.jl_.010814

My final comment to those who don’t want spoilers: I have absolutely no problem with women not being “likeable” characters. I want that. I was so excited when I read the comment by the excellent writer Claire Messud who, when asked about her protagonist by Publisher’s Weekly (I wouldn’t want to be friends with Nora, would you? Her outlook is almost unbearably grim”) responded:

For heaven’s sake, what kind of question is that? Would you want to be friends with Humbert Humbert? Would you want to be friends with Mickey Sabbath? Saleem Sinai? Hamlet? Krapp? Oedipus? Oscar Wao? Antigone? Raskolnikov? Any of the characters in The Corrections? Any of the characters in Infinite Jest? Any of the characters in anything Pynchon has ever written? Or Martin Amis? Or Orhan Pamuk? Or Alice Munro, for that matter? If you’re reading to find friends, you’re in deep trouble. We read to find life, in all its possibilities. The relevant question isn’t “is this a potential friend for me?” but “is this character alive?”

 

Get that, people? Is this character alive?

OK, moving on to spoilers, if you don’t want them, it’s time to leave.

It turns out that the protagonist of Gone Girl, Amy Dunne (played in the movie by Rosemund Pike) fakes her own rape, pregnancy, stalking, beatings, and murder. That’s right, Amy goes through a veritable list of practically every act/ crime that a wicked and conniving (are men ever conniving?) woman can manipulate. While Amy fakes her victimhood, her husband, Nick, played in the movie by Ben Affleck, is falsely accused of killing his pregnant wife. Why, you ask, is Amy motivated to be so awful? She’s a woman scorned, of course, who discovered her husband’s affair with his student.

Here’s one passage describing Amy’s fakery:

I took a wine bottle, and I abused myself with it every day, so the inside of my vagina looked…right. Right for a rape victim. Then today I let him have sex with me so I had his semen…

That particular scene, by the way, refers to another man Amy is setting up, not her husband.

Here’s the problem, and once again, it’s not that Amy is a villain or unlikeable.

In the USA 20 percent of women, 1 in 5, report experiencing rape or attempted rape. The Department of Justice estimates that 60 percent of rapes go unreported. As for false accusations of rape, the FBI estimates that 1-2 percent of claims are fake. Here’s another important fact about false accusation: A 2002 survey of male and female college students shows that they believe a woman lies in 50 percent of reported rape cases. “Gone Girl” perpetuates the popular narrative that rape isn’t real and isn’t happening, that women lie, and falsely accused men are the real victims.

But Gone Girl is fiction not fact, you say. Why am I listing stats here? Am I trying, once again, to censor artists with my PC beliefs? Surely Amy’s story can fall into the 1- 2% of women who falsely accuse men of rape. This is a free country.

This is also a country where Washington Post columnist George Will, a man known as the “most powerful journalist in America” recently wrote that being a rape survivor is “a coveted status.” When others challenged Will that rape is not, in fact, something women want, the conservative group, Women’s Independent Forum called a conference “Rape Culture and Sexual Assault,” putting out this press release:

The White House has embraced the statistic that 1 in 5 women is sexually assaulted while in college…The White House has released its “first ever report” on the issue and are using it to push their policy agenda…But many question the validity of the White House’s one-in-five statistic, even as those who challenge this figure are silenced as being uncaring about women…The IWF takes any accusation of sexual assault very seriously. But we are concerned that there is a potentially harmful hysteria developing about this issue. Where does this come from? Where is it going? And who will be harmed?

Lucky for us, Gone Girl answers every single one of the IWF’s (hysterical) questions: Where does it come from? In Gone Girl, overachieving Harvard grad, Amy Dunne, was used but never truly loved by her egotistical writer parents. They penned a best-selling YA series based on their daughter. Where is it going? Female anger and, yes, hysteria, not to mention jealousy, vindictiveness, and aging, leads to violence. Who will be harmed? Nick, of course, innocent men in America who are falsely accused, lied to, manipulated, and victimized by the scorned, bitter women in their lives.

Yes, Of course Gillian Flynn can write about whatever she pleases, but I find it sadly ironic that when I argue for more diverse stories to permeate our popular culture, a culture where people believe that 50% of rape accusations are false, a culture where stories of rape remain secret to the point that the media hides names and identities of survivors, a media dominated by the same old trope ridden narrative, that I am the one who’s accused of stifling creativity. Gone Girl is a best-selling book about to be blockbuster movie that will help to perpetuate  the myth/ story that rape and violence against women is not epidemic but mostly exists in our imagination.

By the way, the end of the book, you know why people don’t like it? Because Amy ends up OK. She and Nick get back together, they’re going to have a baby. (Pregnant for real this time, she stole his sperm.) Apparently, the no punishment-for-Amy-finale is so unpopular that the director changed the ending to make it more of crowdpleaser.

I’ll leave you with some facts about domestic violence in the USA from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence):

One in four women (25%) has experienced domestic violence in her lifetime.

 

85% of domestic violence victims are women.

 

Nearly three out of four (74%) of Americans personally know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence.

 

Domestic violence is one of the most chronically under reported crimes.

 

Only approximately one-quarter of all physical assaults, one-fifth of all rapes, and one-half of all stalkings perpetuated against females by intimate partners are reported to the police.

 

On average, more than three women are murdered by their intimate partners in this country every day.

 

 Reel Girl rates Gone Girl ***SSS*** for gender stereotyping

After I read Gone Girl, I searched the internet about the book’s misogyny, here are some interesting posts

 

The Misogynistic Portrayal of Villainy in Gone Girl

Is GONE GIRL a Misogynist Novel?

Fall Movie Preview: Insidious misogyny in ‘Gone Girl’

I haven’t seen the movie “Gone Girl,” and neither have you as it’s hitting theaters on October 3, though I did read the book this summer. I was horrified by the misogyny woven through the narrative. Perhaps I was so surprised by the sexism because the only controversy I’d heard of before I read the book was that people didn’t like the ending. I did like the ending. I’ll tell you why, and also go into the plot points of “Gone Girl” but before I do, consider yourself warned: spoilers will be in this post. If you’re going to read Gone Girl– and it is, like so many sexist books I critique, well written and well plotted, I’m talking about technique here– you may not want to proceed much further, except, perhaps, to take a look at this cover of Entertainment Weekly. There you see Amy, the protagonist of “Gone Girl,” shown as a “beautiful” female corpse, a trope Anita Sarkeesian dissects in her latest video: Women as Background Decoration: Part 2 – Tropes vs Women in Video Games. This image of the dead, sexualized female body is, quite literally, everywhere in popular culture. After you check out this cover, I want you to know just one more thing.

rs_634x845-140108072345-634.Gone-Girl-Ben-Affleck-Rosamund-Pike.jl.010814

My final comment to those who don’t want spoilers: I have absolutely no problem with women not being “likeable” characters. I want that. I was so excited when I read the comment by the excellent writer Claire Messud who, when asked about her protagonist by Publisher’s Weekly (I wouldn’t want to be friends with Nora, would you? Her outlook is almost unbearably grim”) responded:

For heaven’s sake, what kind of question is that? Would you want to be friends with Humbert Humbert? Would you want to be friends with Mickey Sabbath? Saleem Sinai? Hamlet? Krapp? Oedipus? Oscar Wao? Antigone? Raskolnikov? Any of the characters in The Corrections? Any of the characters in Infinite Jest? Any of the characters in anything Pynchon has ever written? Or Martin Amis? Or Orhan Pamuk? Or Alice Munro, for that matter? If you’re reading to find friends, you’re in deep trouble. We read to find life, in all its possibilities. The relevant question isn’t “is this a potential friend for me?” but “is this character alive?”

 

Get that, people? Is this character alive?

OK, moving on to spoilers, if you don’t want them, it’s time to leave.

It turns out that the protagonist of Gone Girl, Amy Dunne (played in the movie by Rosemund Pike) fakes her own rape, pregnancy, stalking, beatings, and murder. That’s right, Amy goes through a veritable list of practically every act/ crime that a wicked and conniving (are men ever conniving?) woman can manipulate. While Amy fakes her victimhood, her husband, Nick, played in the movie by Ben Affleck, is falsely accused of killing his pregnant wife. Why, you ask, is Amy motivated to be so awful? She’s a woman scorned, of course, who discovered her husband’s affair with his student.

Here’s one passage describing Amy’s fakery:

I took a wine bottle, and I abused myself with it every day, so the inside of my vagina looked…right. Right for a rape victim. Then today I let him have sex with me so I had his semen…

That particular scene, by the way, refers to another man Amy is setting up, not her husband.

Here’s the problem, and once again, it’s not that Amy is a villain or unlikeable.

In the USA 20 percent of women, 1 in 5, report experiencing rape or attempted rape. The Department of Justice estimates that 60 percent of rapes go unreported. As for false accusations of rape, the FBI estimates that 1-2 percent of claims are fake. Here’s another important fact about false accusation: A 2002 survey of male and female college students shows that they believe a woman lies in 50 percent of reported rape cases. “Gone Girl” perpetuates the popular narrative that rape isn’t real and isn’t happening, that women lie, and falsely accused men are the real victims.

But Gone Girl is fiction not fact, you say. Why am I listing stats here? Am I trying, once again, to censor artists with my PC beliefs? Surely Amy’s story can fall into the 1- 2% of women who falsely accuse men of rape. This is a free country.

This is also a country where Washington Post columnist George Will, a man known as the “most powerful journalist in America” recently wrote that being a rape survivor is “a coveted status.” When others challenged Will that rape is not, in fact, something women want, the conservative group, Women’s Independent Forum called a conference “Rape Culture and Sexual Assault,” putting out this press release:

The White House has embraced the statistic that 1 in 5 women is sexually assaulted while in college…The White House has released its “first ever report” on the issue and are using it to push their policy agenda…But many question the validity of the White House’s one-in-five statistic, even as those who challenge this figure are silenced as being uncaring about women…The IWF takes any accusation of sexual assault very seriously. But we are concerned that there is a potentially harmful hysteria developing about this issue. Where does this come from? Where is it going? And who will be harmed?

Lucky for us, Gone Girl answers every single one of the IWF’s (hysterical) questions: Where does it come from? In Gone Girl, overachieving Harvard grad, Amy Dunne, was used but never truly loved by her egotistical writer parents. They penned a best-selling YA series based on their daughter. Where is it going? Female anger and, yes, hysteria, not to mention jealousy, vindictiveness, and aging, leads to violence. Who will be harmed? Nick, of course, innocent men in America who are falsely accused, lied to, manipulated, and victimized by the scorned, bitter women in their lives.

Yes, Of course Gillian Flynn can write about whatever she pleases, but I find it sadly ironic that when I argue for more diverse stories to permeate our popular culture, a culture where people believe that 50% of rape accusations are false, a culture where stories of rape remain secret to the point that the media hides names and identities of survivors, a media dominated by the same old trope ridden narrative, that I am the one who’s accused of stifling creativity. Gone Girl is a best-selling book about to be blockbuster movie that will help to perpetuate  the myth/ story that rape and violence against women is not epidemic but mostly exists in our imagination.

By the way, the end of the book, you know why people don’t like it? Because Amy ends up OK. She and Nick get back together, they’re going to have a baby. (Pregnant for real this time, she stole his sperm.) Apparently, the no punishment-for-Amy-finale is so unpopular that the director changed the ending to make it more of crowdpleaser.

I’ll leave you with some facts about domestic violence in the USA from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence):

One in four women (25%) has experienced domestic violence in her lifetime.

 

85% of domestic violence victims are women.

 

Nearly three out of four (74%) of Americans personally know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence.

 

Domestic violence is one of the most chronically under reported crimes.

 

Only approximately one-quarter of all physical assaults, one-fifth of all rapes, and one-half of all stalkings perpetuated against females by intimate partners are reported to the police.

 

On average, more than three women are murdered by their intimate partners in this country every day.

 

 Reel Girl rates Gone Girl ***SSS*** for gender stereotyping

After I read Gone Girl, I searched the internet about the book’s misogyny, here are some interesting posts

 

The Misogynistic Portrayal of Villainy in Gone Girl

Is GONE GIRL a Misogynist Novel?

Hey, George Will, is ostracization the ‘coveted status’ you’re referring to?

George Will has declared that being a rape survivor is  “a coveted status that confers privilege.”

Who’s George Will, you ask? A raving lunatic scribbling his words on on an asylum wall in some undisclosed location? Nope. He’s a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist with degrees from Oxford and Princeton who’s been called “the most powerful journalist in America.” He’s well known for his patriotic love of baseball. These particular words of his appeared in the Washington Post where he’s a regular columnist. That’s right, in 2014, an educated and “brilliant” man is informing the public that women covet rape.

Salon reports:

There is an abundance of anecdotal and statistical evidence to show that most people never come forward about their experiences of assault, including most college students. According to national data, 60 percent of sexual assaults are never reported to the police. So how does one go from that to a culture in which “victims proliferate”? Current data holds that only 12 percent of assaults on college campuses are reported. It seems like Will believes that hearing from any victims is hearing from too many victims.

As proof that women lie about rape, Will writes:

The statistics are: One in five women is sexually assaulted while in college, and only 12 percent of assaults are reported. Simple arithmetic demonstrates that if the 12 percent reporting rate is correct, the 20 percent assault rate is preposterous. Mark Perry of the American Enterprise Institute notes, for example, that in the four years 2009 to 2012 there were 98 reported sexual assaults at Ohio State. That would be 12 percent of 817 total out of a female student population of approximately 28,000, for a sexual assault rate of approximately 2.9 percent — too high but nowhere near 20 percent.

Jezebel responds to Will’s logic succinctly:

Rape is underreported, here is how many women reported being raped, therefore rape is overreported. These reports are flawed! Can’t you tell by these flawed reports? Your honor, I rest my case.

I am so disgusted. It seems to me like George Will is getting nervous that women are going to start talking and that people might finally be listening.

I’m posting a link to rape survivor Daisy Coleman’s excellent post about what happened to her after she came forward in Maryville. Below this link is I post I wrote for Salon about how desperately we need to celebrate women who tell their stories of rape instead of hiding survivors away.

(Where do you think Coleman is enjoying her “coveted status?” That’s a serious question about her whereabouts, I haven’t heard about her or from her since this, but I’ll start researching where she’s enjoying herself now.)

Thank you, Daisy Coleman, for telling us shame belongs to rapist, not survivor
Posted on October 19, 2013
The Maryville rape has taken a new turn with this post on xoJane:

I’m Daisy Coleman, The Teenager At The Center Of The Maryville Rape Media Storm, And This Is What Really Happened.

Thank you, Daisy Coleman, for telling your own story.

Please read Coleman’s story and share it. And then ask yourself, what happens when women tell the truth about their lives? How could the world change?

Whether a woman tells her story or not is her choice, but how much of a “choice” does she really have? I wrote “The shame of rape” on this topic for Salon. Ten years later, in too much media and public opinion, shame still goes to the wrong person.

When will we learn to honor rape survivors as the heroes that they are instead of shaming them into silence?

The “shame” of rape

By Margot Magowan

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.”

 

When is it OK for kids to read YA books about rape or incest?

I just posted on the excellent Graceling trilogy and added that I would not let my 10 year old read it because of the rape and incest. I suggested 15 might be a good age. Then I went back and edited, remembering the rape and incest, while central to Bitterblue, is only implied near the end of Graceling. It’s not in Fire. So then, I thought maybe 12 years old for the first two and 15 for Bitterblue? And then, it occurred to me that rape and incest happens to kids all the time. In that case, reading about it in this context would be helpful. How ironic to censor something in a book that describes what’s happening in a kid’s real life. So, then I concluded, it’s such an individual choice. With sex, I didn’t want my kids reading about it or seeing movies that referenced it, before I had “the talk.” I wanted them to learn about sex from me first, rather than from a kid at school or from a movie. I had the conversation with my daughter last Spring, when she was nine. It went really well, and since, she’s come to me with questions, and she seems comfortable talking about it. But rape and incest, I’d like to protect her from the knowledge of a little longer.

gracelingtrilogy

I did a Google search, remembering something I’d read on dark YA lit a while ago that was good. Here’s a quote from the post and the link.

The underlying assumptions behind Gurdon’s piece seem to be rooted in the idea that children read books with heavy content and ‘go bad,’ when in fact the opposite is true. Some children lead dark lives and they read books with intense themes to find protagonists they identify with in an often hostile world. Some young adults read about rape and bullying and violence, eating disorders and self harm and mental illness, because these are things they experience.

Alas, the belief that bad things do not happen to children and young adults is not limited to naïve Wall Street Journal columnists, and it does far more damage than mere dubiously-sourced articles that attract a storm of commentary. The belief that childhood is a happy place, where bad things don’t happen, where you don’t need rose-tinted spectacles because everything is already rose-tinted, has direct and harmful impacts on children and young adults in danger.

 

I don’t think my child would “go bad” from reading about this stuff. Nor do I think if a child is into these books, that means she’s leading a “dark” life. I think, and I could be wrong, if my ten year old daughter picked up Bitterblue, she’d read it cover to cover.

Also, for my kids, I do believe childhood is a pretty happy place for them and should be protected as such. Obviously, that doesn’t mean Disneyworld to me. I think Disneyworld is tremendously warped. But it does mean I want my kids to experience the belief in safety and also in magic. I believe that covering up “reality” to protect a child’s developing imagination is an important part of parenting and also, of being a kid. If your child has safe boundaries, she feels brave enough to take healthy risks. Psychologist Stephen Mitchell explains this well in his excellent book, Can Love Last: the Fate of Romance Over Time:

One of the things good parents provide for their children is a partially illusory, elaborately constructed atmosphere of  safety, to allow for the establishment of “secure attachment.” Good-enough parents, to use D. W. Winnicott’s term, do not talk with young children about their own terrors, worries, and doubts. They construct a sense of buffered permanence, in which the child can discover and explore without any impinging vigilance, her own mind, her creativity, her joy in living. The terrible destructiveness of child abuse lies not just in trauma of what happens but also the tragic loss of what is not provided– protected space for psychological growth.

It is crucial that the child does not become aware of how labor intensive that protracted space is, of the enormous amount of parental activity going on behind the scenes.

What are your thoughts on all this?

Update: Heather comments that her 8 year old daughter learned about rape and incest when a classmate brought porn to school.

Based on the brief snippets of content she saw, I had to not only have “the talk”, but also explain a LOT of things I never thought I’d have to address at that age. Because of this, conversely, she is now very educated on both sex, misogyny, and rape/assault/child abuse.  Therefore, I think these books that are written about very serious issues — but in the comprehension style of a young person who can find the characters identifiable — is a great source of information…I have not read these books to endorse them, but now I am interested and will be checking them out at the library. Thank you.

 

Heather’s comment make me think that if your child knows about rape or incest, these books are appropriate for her or him. (I really hope parents of sons will get their kids this trilogy.)

New York Times hasn’t approved my comment

I just checked the NYT site and my comment asking to print Jyoti’s name, quoting her father, and asking why they are following India law in reporting news has not been approved yet. I’m kind of shocked. I wish I had made a copy of it so I knew exactly what I wrote. Maybe it will come up?

I don’t see the comment from Beth either who posted on Reel Girl’s FB page that her comment was not approved. She wrote: “Her name is Jyoti.”

I did see one great comment:

Her name is Jyoti, and her father has said that he wants the whole world to know who she is. Just because India is a sexist, misogynistic culture and therefore refuses to publish Jyoti’s name does not mean that the NY Times should participate in silencing her.

Her name is Jyoti Singh Pandey, and how dare you leave it out.

 

I take that comment to illustrate that the US is also a sexist and misogynistic culture.

Here’s the comment from Disgusted that I referenced earlier:

I was watching a PBS news program on Asia just before dinner when it showed a news headline with the photo of her father saying something to the effect that he wanted the world to know her name, and he gave it: Jyoti Singh. Her name is all over the internet now; hope it is acceptable here.

This was presumably to protest how shame has always attached to the victim, but he was breaking that assumption by proudly announcing her name. There was a photo of her, a wonderful smiling one.

So please get moving NYTimes with the Jyoti Singh Memorial Fund, NOW. Surely that is not beyond your legal expertise. Of course, of course you don’t want to establish a precedent for every heartbreaking story you run. Or some one or entity might decide in future to sue the NYT for its handling of monies.

The legal and accounting beagles must have those contingencies in hand by establishing a liaison to a reliable non-profit in India with impeccable credentials. Whatever the in’s and out’s, the paper of record can negotiate them, right?

I would be suspicious of corruption, but there must be a way.

 

Other than those two, I seen none referencing the censoring of Jyoti’s name, though I haven’t read through every single one.

I don’t think the New York Times has ever not approved a comment of mine before. Maybe I shouldn’t be offended, maybe it happens all the time, but it seems odd, and I have to wonder how many people have posted similar comments that aren’t being shown.

Have you asked the NYT to print Jyoti’s name and why an American publication would follow India law in how it reports on a crime?

 

New York Times refusal to print Indian rape victim’s name is America’s rape culture

In a post about the family of Jyoti Singh Pandey, the Indian woman who was gang raped and murdered in India, the New York Times refused to print her name. Here’s the publication’s explanation for why:

The daughter — whose name is being withheld because it is illegal to name a rape victim in India without permission from the victim or her next of kin — showed as a very young girl a love for school, her father remembered.

In covering this story, the U.S. media has widely referred to India’s “sexist culture.” So why in reporting this crime would The New York Times adhere to the laws of a sexist culture? Why would an American publication follow Indian law on how to report on rape? At what other time does a country’s laws dictate how its news is reported in The New York Times? If India’s law applied to political dissidents, would the New York Times refuse to print names?

Not only is this capitulation startling, but days earlier, Jyoti’s father, Badri Singh, told The Mirror that he wants the world to know his daughter’s name:

We want the world to know her real name,” says Badri Singh Pandey, an airport worker who had just returned home when a Delhi hospital called to say his 23-year-old daughter had been in an “accident.” “My daughter didn’t do anything wrong, she died while protecting herself. I am proud of her. Revealing her name will give courage to other women who have survived these attacks. They will find strength from my daughter.” Indian officials have refused to name her, and mainstream Indian media still refers to her as “Amanat,” or “treasure.”

Singh’s nameless daughter, “a treasure,” had an “accident.”

If a country cannot speak of rape, how can it stop it? And why is the U.S. news coverage of rape just as lopsided and distorted as India’s is?

Ten years ago, I was working in talk radio, when two teenagers, Tamara Brooks and Jacqueline Marris were reported missing. Their pictures and identities were broadcast everywhere as a means of saving their lives. And it worked. Once the teens were rescued, they were discovered to be rape survivors, and TV stations began digitally obscuring their 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.

Newspapers and TV broadcasters explained the shift as a matter of courtesy. Most  mainstream U.S. media observes a self-imposed policy, like India’s legal one, of withholding the names and faces of sexual assault victims. But in working so hard to mask these women who everyone knew, it was clear that the implication was that rape is so intimate and horrendous, they should not be seen. The media is promoting the belief that when sexual assault is involved, the victim is partly — or wholly — to blame, and should be hidden from view.

Soon after, 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.”

This past week, Sohalia Abduhali wrote about her rape in India in an op-ed for the New York Times:

THIRTY-TWO years ago, when I was 17 and living in Bombay, I was gang raped and nearly killed. Three years later, outraged at the silence and misconceptions around rape, I wrote a fiery essay under my own name describing my experience for an Indian women’s magazine. It created a stir in the women’s movement — and in my family — and then it quietly disappeared. Then, last week, I looked at my e-mail and there it was. As part of the outpouring of public rage after a young woman’s rape and death in Delhi, somebody posted the article online and it went viral. Since then, I have received a deluge of messages from people expressing their support.

 It’s not exactly pleasant to be a symbol of rape. I’m not an expert, nor do I represent all victims of rape. All I can offer is that — unlike the young woman who died in December two weeks after being brutally gang raped, and so many others — my story didn’t end, and I can continue to tell it.

The media rushing to taking away women’s names or voices because they have been raped doesn’t protect them. Surely, no one can pretend that hiding Jyoti’s name serves her. So why do we keep we doing it?

In 2002, I wrote about Marin and Brooks for Salon in 2002 in “The ‘Shame’ of Rape.’ Parts of that post are reprinted here. You can read the original Salon piece here.

 

 

Penis key

Spoiler alert to ReelGirl subscribers: don’t read this post until you search for penises on your own in the post “Rape or menage a trois with your vodka.”

The three erect penises in the Belvedere vodka ad:

(1) the Belvedere Vodka bottle

(2) the garnish of two olives and swizzle stick

(3) the shadow on the woman’s arm and blue balls (ha ha)

Rape or menage a trois with your vodka?

She’s blind folded, her fingers curled in fear, teeth bared, she’s screaming. Just behind her lurks a man’s face, smiling demonically, a deadringer for Jack Nicholson’s grinning psycho-killer in “The Shining.”

The latest horror movie? No, a new ad for Belvedere vodka in Gourmet Magazine’s May pasta issue. There within the pages of recipes for orecchiette with cauliflower or pappardelle with lamb ragu, a rape scene. I count three penises in this ad. Can you find them?

Belvedere Vodka ad from Gourmet Magazine 

Tonight, after the kids finally went to bed, I headed for the couch with two very different publications, or so I thought, Us Weekly and Gourmet. Except, I guess, when it comes to reaching out to vodka drinkers, highbrow and lowbrow find common ground. Tossing away the rape scene, I opened Us, and there was a menage a trois, a campaign that might win the tea baggers, sorry, I mean the tea parties, some new followers.

I count three penises in the Skyy ad too, including the bottle itself, and the two cherry stems, one ejaculating, but my husband disagrees, saying no guy wants identify with the cherry stems. For the key to hidden penises in the Belvedere ad click here. (Hint: sexually frustrated.)

Skyy vodka ad from Us Weekly