Why is a justice who argued against statutory rape laws on the R. I. Supreme Court?

If you’re a fan of Reel Girl, you know I blog about gender representation in children’s media and toys. For the past few months, I’ve been focusing all of my creative energy, mind power, and available time on finishing my book (a middle grade fantasy-adventure about two magical girls who save the world.) Apologies to those of you who want to know where my reviews are, including “Star Wars” (I LOVED it, so did all my kids) but I’ve got to finish this damn book. However, I’ve been pulled away from fairyland by a horrific story of sexual abuse and rape at one of my high school alma maters, St. George’s in Newport, R.I.

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Just yesterday, I blogged about how St. George’s continues to hold back information in its sexual assault investigation. The school will not release the name of the attorney who advised them not to report the rapist to child protective services. (State law requires that all persons must report suspected cases of child abuse to Rhode Island Child Protection within 24 hours “when they have, or had reasonable grounds to believe a child is being abused.”) It is possible that the attorney who recommended the school break the law is William P. Robinson, now a justice on the Rhode Island Supreme Court.

Robinson represented St. George’s in the 1980s when Anne Scott, a former student, filed a suit against the school. Though we don’t know if Robinson is the one who told the school not to report the perpetrator, court documents show he argued that if Scott, a 15 year old, had sex with Al Gibbs, the school’s 67 year old athletic trainer, it was consensual. When I blogged about all this yesterday, I asked if Robinson is a guy that we want on the R.I. Supreme Court, and this is the question I can’t stop thinking about. How did he get into this position of power with a public record of misogyny? I didn’t know about Robinson’s appalling argument blaming Scott for her rape and neither, most likely, did you, but whomever confirmed him to the court must have looked into his background and his case history. Probably multiple people checked him out. I don’t think it’s a fact that could’ve been missed or overlooked as Robinson didn’t just argue against statutory rape laws, he was publicly admonished for doing so. After Robinson suggested the sex was consensual, The Providence Journal reports the response was furious:

U.S. Magistrate Jacob Hagopian chastised Robinson:

” … Now you explain to me under the criminal laws of the United States, or of any state of this Union, or of any civilized country, where the element of it being volitional or non-volitional, or voluntary or non-voluntary, has anything to do with this type of detestable allegation made by a person who is not of age of consent, can you explain that to me?”

When Robinson tried to explain, Hagopian cut him off, stating, “It’s impossible. It violates the criminal laws of the United States.”

So why was Robinson allowed to be a judge on a state Supreme Court when he argued fiercely against the laws of a civilized country? Because he’s changed? He’s grown, come to his senses, and realized he made a mistake? Apparently not. When Robinson was asked if he was the attorney who advised St. George’s not to report the rapist to child protective services, he responded with this statement:

“In the 1980s, while engaged in the private practice of law, I represented St. George’s School in certain litigation in the federal court which has recently become the subject of interest in the media. I represented the client as an attorney must, zealously, ethically and to the best of my ability. I do not believe that further comment is necessary or appropriate.”

So in 2016, Robinson claims that his past argument against statutory rape was ethical. He says: “I do not believe that further comment is necessary or appropriate.” Is that OK with you, America? That a justice on a state’s Supreme Court argued against statutory rape? Do you think justices who share Robinson’s view are on your state’s Supreme Court? Do you want your country to take rape more seriously? Do you care about stopping this national epidemic?

in 2014 the federal government released the names of 55 colleges and universities that are under investigation for their handling of sexual violence or harassment complaints. Under Obama, there has been more of an attempt than ever before to make ending rape a national priority. Still, Washington Post columnist George Will and others ridiculed the action and questioned the 1 in 5 statistic of women raped on campus, calling all this attention “rape hysteria.”

Rape is rampant in the USA because as a culture, we allow the violence to happen again and again. We punish and shame the survivor by elevating those who collaborated in silencing her. I don’t know how Robinson secured his position on the Supreme Court, but he shouldn’t be allowed to stay there.

Read my previous posts about St. Georges:

St. George’s school continues to hold back information in sexual assault investigation

St. George’s releases report on sexual assaults at the school

St. George’s alumna creates fund for survivors sexually assaulted at school

Comments on petition asking St. George’s for fair investigation into assaults make me cry

St. George’s School continues to flub investigation into sexual assaults

Lawyer investigating St. George’s sexual assaults is partner of school’s legal counsel

‘There’s no sense of why so many assaults happened at St. George’s, what the school did to create cultural backdrop that allowed and encouraged rape.’

Prep school alumni respond to St. Paul’s rape trial verdict

Women, class, and the problem of privilege: Everything I learned about sexism, I learned at boarding school

Tucker Carlson, Jerry Garcia, and me

St. George’s school continues to hold back information in sexual assault investigation

St. George’s keeps assuring us that it’s concerned for the survivors of sexual assault, but why does the school continue to withhold information from the media about the cover up of rapes?

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In its report on the sexual assaults, the school stated it did not give information about any of the crimes to child protective services, a violation of state law, because their counsel advised them not to. After passing the buck and blaming their lawyers for their negligence, St. George’s refuses to disclose the name of the attorney who steered them on the wrong course.

One of the school’s lawyers listed in court documents is William P. Robinson III who now sits on the Rhode Island Supreme Court. Is Robinson the one who advised St. George’s not to report the perpetrators, all who went on to work around children, either in churches or in education? If Robinson did advise St. George’s to violate the law and his actions put other kids in danger, is he a guy we want on the R.I. Supreme Court? Obviously, that’s a rhetorical question.

Even if Robinson wasn’t the one to suggest St. George’s do nothing to prevent a child molester and rapist from hurting other kids, he’s recorded in court documents as arguing that if Anne Scott, a 15 year old student, had sex with Al Gibbs, a 67 year old athletic trainer, it was consensual. Explaining his actions, Robinson released this statement last week:

“In the 1980s, while engaged in the private practice of law, I represented St. George’s School in certain litigation in the federal court which has recently become the subject of interest in the media. I represented the client as an attorney must, zealously, ethically and to the best of my ability. I do not believe that further comment is necessary or appropriate.”

“Recently become the subject of interest in the media”??? Dude, this is not a story about Jennifer Lawrence tripping on the red carpet. The account is in the media because rapes were covered up by the school for years and more kids were sexually assaulted. Only now when other schools are finally hearing about perpetrators who went on to be employed with them, are they sending out letters about launching their own investigations into assault.

And what does this quote mean? “I represented the client as an attorney must, zealously, ethically, and to the best of my ability.” I’m assuming Robinson thinks its ethical to have no regard for statutory rape laws? Does Robinson still think a 15 year old can consent to sex with a 67 year old? And once again, I ask, if he does, should he be a judge on the R.I. Supreme Court? How is Anne Scott supposed to feel knowing that this guy ascended to the top of his field, that he holds a position of power and respect? Oh, that’s right, no one gives a shit how Scott feels. Which brings me back to St. George’s. This school cannot do much right. In spite of everything that’s happened, when every effort should be made at this time to be upfront and honest, the school chooses to be shady. Blame the lawyer, then don’t name the lawyer. Great strategy, St. George’s. I I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. All along, you’ve been withholding information to protect men in power.

‘There’s no sense of why so many assaults happened at St. George’s, what the school did to create cultural backdrop that allowed and encouraged rape.’

I’m reeling after reading two articles in today’s Boston Globe about sexual abuse at my former high school in the 70s and 80s (40 tell of sex abuse by students, staff at R.I. prep school and Student’s harrowing account of alleged abuse at St. George’s school), a 36 page report from lawyers representing survivors in response to the report from the school, and numerous accounts on a Facebook page detailing abuse along with records of complaints to the school that went ignored.

I am so profoundly disturbed and angry and sad that these kids were abused and no one helped them, that no reports were made to police at the time, and that while the teachers were finally fired, they went on to teach at other schools.

Here is what I want to blog about right now, this paragraph in the report from the lawyers for the survivors:

We have not included numerous first hand reports from alumni concerning the “culture” that existed at SGS during the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s. That has been described to us in accounts we feel are credible as misogynist, racist, homophobic and bullying. By not including those reports, we are in no way diminishing their importance or the need of SGS to address those reports, many of which have been made to the School already.

I went to St. George’s from 1983 – 1985 and I witnessed the misogyny, how girls were treated like second class citizens and I felt crazy. I thought there was something wrong with me. Before hearing about all this abuse, about two years ago, I wrote a blog titled: Women, class, and the problem of privilege: Everything I learned about sexism, I learned at boarding school. Here’s one paragraph:

What else do I remember about prejudice and boarding school? Boys sitting on a bench and rating girls who walked by from 1 – 10 on how hot they were. Dressing up as a bunny, along with all of the other new girls, including fishnets, ears, and a tail on “Casino night.” Being called “nappy face” by a boy because I had big lips and not knowing what that meant. Feeling exotic because I had dark hair. Learning the word “spearchucker” for the first time when one of the tiny minority of African-Americans was mocked.

Here are photos I posted a few times since, “Casino Night” where all the new girls were supposed to dress as playboy like bunnies.

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Here are the boys, these are all photos from my 1984 yearbook:

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Here is my friend and me, freshman referred to as “Todd’s Toys” in the yearbook, he was a senior prefect.

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After St. George’s released its bullshit report, which I posted in full, an alumna who had been raped and contacted me after I’d blogged about Casino Night, commented to me: “The Report is very narrowly defined. There’s no sense of why so many assaults happened at St. George’s, what the school did to create cultural backdrop that allowed and encouraged rape.”

The stories coming out are so horrific that these photos I’m posting seem tame in comparison, but I hope that the school, and all schools, the legal team for the survivors, and the media address the sexism and misogyny the existed then and most likely exists today at these enclaves of “privilege.” Parents, teachers, curriculum, student government, clubs etc all contribute to a culture that allows rape to happen and go on happening. As I wrote in my last blog about the abuse, many boys were abused but I strongly believe a culture that values girls as well as boys is a safer, healthier, happier place for everyone.

Speaking of health, tomorrow is my birthday, I’ll be 47. The older I get, the happier I get. There are probably many reasons for this, but one factor is I’ve lived long enough to finally trust and believe in my own experiences. Many times in my life, I’ve been told by people who I looked up to or trusted or were important to me, that my experiences never happened, weren’t important, or didn’t matter. I think being repeatedly told that things I saw weren’t there is one reason I started blogging about sexism in children’s movies-– something that was glaringly obvious to me seemed invisible to others.

Thank you to all the survivors for having the courage to tell your own stories.

Comments on petition asking St. George’s for fair investigation into assaults make me cry

I’m so grateful for the bravery I see while reading through the comment section of the petition created by alumni of St George’s asking for a fair investigation into the sexual assaults at the school.

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I’m reposting some comments here:

I’ve seen first hand efforts by the current SGS administration to silence, intimidate, threaten lawsuits and even arrest of those who’ve reported abuse or stand up for victims. Dara Brewster Little Compton, RI

I witnessed this and did nothing Max Cottrell, Fairfield, CT

In support of friends who have bravely struggled for a long, long time  Willard Sistare Simsbury, CT

St. George’s School continues to flub investigation into sexual assaults

Last Monday, the Boston Globe published a front page article about sexual abuse and cover ups at St. George’s School, an elite private school that I attended.

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When Anne Scott initially brought a suit against the school about her molestation by athletic trainer, Al Gibbs, lawyers representing St.George’s claimed she “has a tendency to lie.” They also said that if the 15 year old had sex with the 67 year old, it was consensual. Let me remind you, lawyers representing a school seemed to have no concept of statutory rape. St. George’s also sought to change the case from a “Jane Doe” to use Scott’s real name. Intimidated, Scott dropped her case. Years later, still suffering from the abuse at St. George’s, Scott demanded the school contact alumni about abuse that may have happened. Scott was certain there were other victims. She wanted the school to be accountable and to reach out to others who may  need help. St. George’s started an investigation and sent out letters. According to the school, “tens of women” have responded that they are survivors of abuse. But one of the problems with the investigation is that more victims have said they are not comfortable talking about their experiences to Will Hannum, the lead investigator hired by St. George’s. Hannum is not only a lawyer but a partner of the counsel for St. George’s, not the ideal person to speak with about these experiences. I have been contacted by women who feel this way.

In August, after news about the St. Paul’s rape, another boarding school, the night of “senior salute” I blogged about “Casino Night” a sexist “tradition” when I went to St. George’s. On “Casino Night” all the new girls were supposed to dress up as playboy-like bunnies and sell candy to the older boys who gambled. After that blog (which I learned roughly coincided with St. George’s letter about its investigation) I was contacted by a former student from St. George’s who was sexually assaulted at the school around that time. She was scared to talk to Hannum because she was concerned his goal might be to gather information to protect the school from a lawsuit. Since my blogs, I’ve been contacted by others, first and second hand, about sexual assaults at the school who didn’t know where to turn. Apparently, I’m not the only one who has been approached.

Here are more facts since the Globe article came out about how St. George’s continues to fail it’s alumni from the counsel for Anne Scott (’80), Joan (Bege) Reynolds (’79) and Katie Wales (’80): Eric MacLeish (SGS ’70)

 

  • Since the December 15, 2015 article in the Boston Globe we have received reports from eleven additional alumnae who were sexually molested and assaulted by former SGS athletic trainer Al Gibbs. We also have other calls to return so that figure will rise tomorrow
  • Virtually all of the alumnae are or have suffered psychological injury as a result of their abuse by Gibbs and some are currently in states of crisis. Two have reported suicidal ideation. We are referring alumnae to the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (which has agreed to handle calls from outside Massachusetts). We are searching immediately for a clinician to provide crisis services for these individuals and to make referrals. We have asked SGS to retain such a clinician but SGS has not responded
  • Based on Mr. Zane’s notes of four Gibbs victims in the Scott case and the three clients who we represent, the number of Gibbs alumnae victims that we are aware of currently total eighteen
  • SGS has still refused to disclose the number of victims who have come forward to the School alleging sexual assault by Gibbs. This number is likely much higher than the eighteen alumnae victims that we are aware of
  • Headmaster Peterson stated in his letter of November 2, 2015 to alumni that the “majority” of the abuse reports center around three individuals and that most of the reports fall in the 1970’s and 1980’s. We have received reports of abuse from alumni over the past four days, including reports from two former Trustees, regarding five SGS former employees; one report was as recent as 2004
  • SGS has shown a pattern of conduct since 1979 of coercing alumnae who were abused by Gibbs into silence. A student who alleged she was abused in 1979 was told that she was mentally ill and was required to see the School’s consulting psychologist. More recent tactics under current school leadership include requiring a victim seeking mental health care because of Gibbs’ abuse to sign an agreement prohibiting the victim from speaking of about the abuse publicly and, further, that she not “disparage” the School
  • SGS employees violated the Rhode Island Mandatory Abuse reporting law on Gibbs sexual molestation thereby subjecting other children to risks of abuse as Gibbs was alive for fifteen years after he left SGS. We have also received credible reports that SGS violated the same law in 1988, at which time the alleged perpetrator left SGS and went on to teach at another prep school for 11 years
  • Many alumni who came forward to report abuse to the “independent” investigator which Headmaster Peterson referred to in his April 7th letter to alumni were not told by the investigator that he was a partner in a law firm that was actually representing SGS
  • The School’s victim assistance package continues to contain a confidentiality clause which prevents alumni from disclosing that SGS is paying for assistance. At the same time, the agreement contains no provision that requires SGS to keep a victim’s name and assistance package confidential

 

  • SGS alumni have started an online public petition requesting that the School take immediate measures to conduct an independent investigation and provide for an alumni mental health assistance program that is consistent with what other independent school programs have done in similar situations. The petition can be found here

Over the past four days, we have received reports that Headmaster Peterson has been aware of Gibbs’ abuse of SGS students for many years; it was only after he was approached by Anne Scott in February of 2015 that the School sent out its first alumni letter. Mr. MacLeish contacted Mr. Peterson urging him to send out an alumni letter on Gibbs in 2012

From Counsel for Anne Scott (’80), Joan (Bege) Reynolds (’79) and Katie Wales (’80): Eric MacLeish (SGS ’70) and Carmen Durso.

Contact information:  

Anne Scott 443-282-4487, annewmscott@gmail.com;

Eric MacLeish, 617-494-1920, rmacleish@chelaw.com;

Carmen Durso, 617-728-9123, carmen@dursolaw.com

If you care about helping survivors of sexual assault and protecting all kids from having this happen to them, please sign this petition 

 UPDATE: Eric MacLeish contacted me with this info: we retained a clinician, Dr. Paul Zeizel, who is available 7 days a week for SGS victims. He can provide crisis counseling for SGS alums that is confidential. His mobile phone is 857 472 2704. His email is paulzeizel@comcast.net

 

Lawyer investigating St. George’s sexual assaults is partner of school’s legal counsel

Today, the Boston Globe reports on sexual assault at St.George’s school in the 70s and 80s and subsequent cover ups.

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Anne Scott was molested by the school’s athletic trainer, Al Gibbs.There were 4 other girls who told school authorities they were also molested by Gibbs. Apparently, Gibbs was known not only for molesting the girls but for taking pictures them when they were naked or in their underwear and showing those photos to male students at the school.

When Scott filed suit against St. George’s, the school’s lawyers told the court that she was either lying or that the 15 year old having consensual sex with 67 year old, apparently oblivious to statutory rape laws. The Globe reports:

School attorneys also sought to change it from a “Jane Doe” case and reveal Scott’s real name. “Maybe people will come forward and say the plaintiff is a, with all due respect to those in the court, has a tendency to lie, and that would be relevant, also,” said defense attorney William P. Robinson III of the Providence firm Edwards & Angell. (In 2004, Robinson was appointed to the Rhode Island Supreme Court. Robinson did not return calls from the Globe.)

But Judge Jacob Hagopian of the US District Court in Rhode Island denied the school’s motion to dismiss and admonished its attorneys that the teenager could not consent to such “detestable” acts. “It violates the criminal laws of the United States,” he said.

In the end, it was Scott who dropped the case. School attorneys had investigated and deposed her parents and were preparing to depose neighbors. “I was 27 years old, I had struggled, and then they came down on my family like a ton of bricks,” she said. “I just wanted it all to go away.”

St. George’s would not agree to the dismissal unless Scott signed a gag order that prohibited her from speaking about the case. MacLeish advised against it.

“The school did everything they could to intimidate Anne,” said MacLeish, of the Cambridge law firm of Clark, Hunt, Ahern & Embry. “It worked.”

While St. George’s is currently running an investigation into the abuse, the Boston Globe reports that the  lead investigator, Will Hannum is a law partner of the legal counsel for the school. Furthermore, comments reported by the Globe from Tony Zane, the head of school at the time, seem to indicate he could’ve worked much harder to prevent Gibbs from finding more victims. Katie Wales, another survivor of Gibb’s abuse tells the Globe:

She said she went to see Zane in 1979 about Gibbs. “He told me I was crazy, making it up to get attention, and that I had to see the school shrink,” Wales said.

Zane claims a different but shockingly apathetic response:

Zane says today that he believed Wales at the time, but thought that she came to him in confidence and “didn’t authorize me to go to Al Gibbs.” He added: “Gibbs declared his innocence until the end, so I was operating on hearsay.”

Though Zane eventually fired Gibbs, he didn’t report the assaults as required by law. When asked by the Globe about his lack of action, Zane replies: “Was that true in Rhode Island in 1980?”

Here’s another Zane quote to the Globe reporter, explaining the school’s aggressive response to Scott’s legal action. “Don’t blame us for trying to defend ourselves against a $10 million lawsuit.”

Wow. Does this guy care at all about the implications of his failure to protect students? Unless I’m missing something, he seems to feel no guilt or remorse about his mistakes, to even realize that the school’s lawyers calling Scott a liar and claiming she may have had consensual sex with a 67 year old were, in fact, mistakes.

A girls dorm at the school is named for Zane’s The Globe reports that the students who brought the suit want the name of the dorm changed and Zane’s portrait taken down from the dining hall.

I went to St. George’s as a freshman in 1983, the last year Zane was at the school. After reading about the St. Paul’s rape the night of ‘senior salute,‘ I blogged about traditions of sexism and female disempowerment at St. George’s. For us, there was Casino Night. All the female “newbies,” mostly freshman and sophomores dressed as bunnies, complete with ears and tails. Here are pictures from my 1984 yearbook:

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This is how the boys dressed and acted for the same occasion.

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They gambled, we sold them candy. Entitlement, anyone?

One thing I find particularly disturbing about Gibbs’s photos is that he showed them to the male students, all those kids knew this was going on and no one stopped it. The Globe reports:

But one firsthand report came from Katie Wales, class of 1980, who went to see Gibbs after a horseback riding injury. He began to molest her and took photos of her naked in the school’s whirlpool, she says, which he then circulated among the boys at school.

“The taunting by the boys was horrible”

 

When I went to the school, the typical make up of the student government was one female to four males. Here’s a yearbook pic of the prefects.

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Here’s my best friend and me, captioned “Todd’s toys,” he was a senior prefect.

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His bequeath in the yearbook? A twenty year sentence. That’s a rape joke.

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In my last blog about all this, I wrote I remember that prefect as being  a pretty nice guy. I was never raped or sexually assaulted by him or anyone at the school. I was lucky. The school culture under Zane was mostly sexist and not empowering for girls in any way that I can recall. Recently, when telling someone about Casino Night, she asked me if I could have chosen not to wear the bunny suit. I never considered not saying yes.

Here’s my advice to St. George’s:

Take down the portrait of Zane. His apathy was criminal and today, his quotes in the Globe show he hasn’t learned much after all these years. Change the name of the dorm, consider naming it after a woman, maybe Miss Minton? She taught me how to write a killer 5 paragraph essay. Hire a new investigator, one without a conflict of interest, because it seems like you’re only interested in protecting yourself financially. Most importantly, do everything you can to prevent sexual assault and rape from happening again. Commit to ensuring gender equality at the school, meaning: include girls in student government and all positions of leadership and power at the school; make sure women authors and scientists and engineers, philosophers and historians etc are included in the curriculum, appoint women to positions of power and leadership in the faculty as heads of department; hang portraits of female leaders throughout the school; abolish sexist traditions; create a climate where if sexual assault ever occurs, students will feel confident they will be listened to. Educate students about gender equality. Be a leader in this area, stop dragging your feet.

One final thing– when you hire a new investigator, have him contact the expelled kids. I was kicked out in 1985 (for smoking a cigarette in the dorm freshman year and drinking sophomore year.) I never heard got the letter you sent to the alumni about these assaults. While I was lucky, my peers may not have been.

 

 

Prep school alumni respond to St. Paul’s rape trial verdict

Today 19 yr old Owen Labrie was found not guilty of raping a 15 year old girl. At the trial, she spent more time on the stand than he did, said he bit her, scraped the inside of her vagina, and that she said no to him several times. The New York Times reports:

“Crying on the stand here, she described the sex acts she said he performed, saying he spit on her, and called her a tease. ‘At one point, I was in so much pain that I jerked backwards.’

Labrie said they never had sex. The jury of 9 men and 3 women convicted him for a lesser charge of aggravated sexual assault.

Labrie and his accuser both went to boarding school at St. Paul’s in Concord, N.H. where he was a soccer captain and straight A student. The night in question was part of “senior salute,” a school tradition “when older students ask younger ones to join them for a walk, a kiss, or more.” Labrie had ” a special key that prosecutors have said had been used and passed around by older boys seeking privacy.” The New York Times reports:

Still, she said she worried about making a bad impression. She was younger. He was older and popular. The senior salute was a St. Paul’s tradition.

“I didn’t want to come off as an inexperienced little girl,” she said. “I didn’t want him to laugh at me. I didn’t want to offend him.”

Afterward, she said, she felt physical pain and utter confusion, and blamed herself for the events; it took several days for her to tell anyone, in full, what happened.

“I feel like I had objected as much as I felt I could at the time. And other than that I felt so powerless,” she said, adding, “I was telling myself, ‘O.K., that was the right thing to do, you were being respectful.’

Though I blog about rape fairly often on Reel Girl, much more often then I’d like, I’ve been following the St. Paul’s story in particular. I also went to prep school at St George’s in Newport, Rhode Island from 1983 – 1985. One of the first big occasions I remember as a freshman was a tradition called Casino Night where all the new girls dressed up as bunnies. We pretended to sell candy and cigarettes. Here’s a picture of a classmate from my 1984 yearbook.

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Here’s how the senior boys dressed for the same night. Notice anything different about their outfits or poses?

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The boy on the left was also the senior prefect which is prep school speak for school president. I don’t think there had ever been a female student in this role when I went to the school. When I arrived there, there were 5 senior prefects: 4 males to 1 female, a typical ratio (and another example of the Smurfette Principle or Minority Feisty.)

prefects

The guy on the upper left is the one referred to in this picture below of my best friend and me captioned “Todd’s toys.”

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His bequeath in the yearbook is “a 20 year sentence” because that’s what you get for rape.

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I wasn’t raped at St. George’s. The bequeath is just a joke, a rape joke. The prefects pictured I remember as being mostly nice guys operating within a sexist culture that glorified treating girls like conquests. I’m posting these pictures, captions, jokes, and quotes from my yearbook to show the school’s systemic sexism in 1983. Most importantly, I don’t recall the rampant gender inequality on campus ever addressed by any teacher, parent, adviser, therapist, or any adult. Being a “bad girl,” I was expelled in 1985 (for drinking and smoking.) I hoped things had gotten better since my time, but the St. Paul’s story convinces me that rape culture remains alive and well at America’s prep schools.

A St. George’s classmate, Clymer Bardsley had a similar experience of total lack of guidance or help from any adults around gender roles and expectations. Today, also enraged after reading the news story, Clymer wrote this email to Michael Hirschfeld, the rector of St Paul’s:

I went to St. George’s School in the 80s and am a heterosexual, success-oriented, competitive guy. I remember being self-conscious about my not getting any action while some of my male friends got tons. I felt less-than, like a loser when it came to girls and sex. That feeling went with me to Middlebury College and remained into adulthood.

Nowhere in my development in the competitive worlds of New York, Newport, or Middlebury did any adult ever reinforce in me that it is alright to go at your own pace, that sex isn’t competition. The cultural norm was that sex was another place to be competitive, where you could be classified as a winner or a loser.

As rector of a now humiliated prep school, I hope you will make it your top priority to make sure that all of your kids and their families know that competition belongs on a playing field and perhaps in the classroom but nowhere near sex and relationships.

It appalls me every time I see a picture of that boy. I think, “How dare he!” And I don’t even know if he did anything wrong. What I do know is that the culture he went to school in enabled him to get into a very dicey place…

Your’s is a tough job and I don’t envy you. Protect our kids, though, the predators and their prey. They need those of us in charge to provide safety for them.

Here’s hoping you have a successful 2015-16 year!

Sincerely,
Clymer

I hope more students and alumni speak out, that these elite schools with access to so much money and power take major steps to radically change their courses, becoming the leaders they should be in stopping sexism, sexual assault, and rape on campus.

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?