Monday, March 18, 2013

The Horror of Steubenville and Every Other City

Trigger Warning: Rape, Rape culture, misogyny, violence against women, victim blaming, possibly incoherent swearing by me, ALL links contain potentially triggering material

 By now I have to assume most people that follow the news are aware of the Steubenville case, but for those of you who live in a much happier world than I a court in Ohio finally found two high school football players guilty of the brutal rape of a young woman. Daily Kos has a timeline of the events leading up to the trial, including the efforts of the city of Steubenville to derail efforts to even get the trial going, and the fact that if it weren't for KnightSec and other brave hacktivists from Anonymous this story might have been swept under the rug months ago and a young woman might never have found justice.

Many people much smarter than me have already written on this case from numerous angles. Alexandra Goddard of for instance broke the case itself, and so I'm linking to her blog's main page as a sign of my absolute respect (it's worth reading everything she's been writing on the subject). Bitch Magazine has a slightly longer timeline (I should note neither of the timelines have been updated to include the end of the trial) as well as some details on the heinous activities of "bystanders" who were not convicted in the case despite clear involvement, Persephone Magazine has some well-deserved praise for the vigilantism of KnightSec that helped make this trial happen, and Gawker has some well-deserved scorn for CNN correspondent Poppy Harlow and anchor Candy Crowley for their absolutely heinous portrayal of the convicted rapists as victims of the justice system.

I won't attempt to do a better job than the amazing women that have been pursuing this tooth and nail from the get go, and I won't try to rehash what they've already said because they've said it better. Go check out the links, read through their commentary, and recognize what they have to say. Even more than the mainstream coverage of this entire fucking horror show it's worth reading the commentary of people that don't feel the need to play nice as to not offend pro-rape football coaches in their target demographic. Instead of retreading that ground I feel the need to add my voice to a chorus of people of all genders and call for an end to the disgusting, toxic masculinity and rape culture that fueled every aspect of this crime and the defense of it.

The boys that tried to defend the rapists by hiding pictures and videos they'd taken (and in some travesty of justice aren't in jail for) of the assault and rape of Jane Doe are horrible people, but they aren't unique. They're everyone at a party that isn't willing to do something to stop someone from taking advantage of a drunken (or drugged) partygoer. The idea that something excuses that behavior, that there is some acceptable basis for rape, is in those drunken heads not because they're a hidden evil that has crept into our society but because they weren't taught that you don't have to say "no" before an action is non-consensual. Parents do not teach children this, because to those parents rape is the fault of the woman. From that point on children grow up thinking rape is the fault of the woman. Only the victim is blamed.

The football coach and parents of Steubenville that blamed Jane Doe's rape on her getting drunk at a party (and whether she was actually drugged or not doesn't matter, she was fucking unconscious, there is nothing acceptable about penetrating an unconscious woman under any circumstances) aren't raving loons in the wilderness. They're products of a system that insists that women are responsible for the actions of the men that surround them because men aren't smart enough not to fuck anything that moves. This is about men insisting that men are too immature, too incapable, too violent and disturbed not to rape and then criticizing women for expecting better of them. Their arguments are echoed in every city in the country. As I right this it's the night after St Patrick's day and I guarantee that by tomorrow someone will have made all of their arguments all over again about a dozen new sexual assault victims.

Even the rapists, especially the rapists, are not some kind of feral beasts dragged out of the woods and temporarily mistaken for football players. Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond are what it looks like when boys and men are given a sense of entitlement to the bodies of women, told that violence is acceptable as long as at least some of it happens during a football game, and reassured by every news program, movie, magazine, tv show, and authority figure that if they rape someone it'll be the woman's fault anyway. These two despicable monsters that deserve to rot away for much longer than one-to-five years are in fact despicable human beings that could just as easily be any other entitled young men that aren't taught any better.

Our sex-ed courses don't explain what consent means because consent might lead to kids having sex before marriage. Parents don't explain what consent means because they often don't know themselves. Authority figures don't condemn sexual entitlement, violence, and machismo because the people in power are men that value those things. People at parties don't speak up because they don't know what to do, what not to do, and how to react when that line is crossed.

Every single one of us is just another person at the party with a potential rapist watching to see if we're going to say something or do something to stop them. It is our responsibility, every single one of us, to do better and to teach others to do better than what has been done by every despicable human being in Steubenville. We can raise a generation of men that are told not to rape, and no amount of "criminals can't be taught" will matter because they're out children to raise. We can stop the crimes of this generation from being swept under the rug, going by without notice, or even from happening at all if we're willing to act every time. We can do better. We have to. To do anything else is to let rape continue.

-Blessed Be

P.S. if you'd like to explain to CNN why sympathizing with rapists isn't acceptable for "serious journalists" let them know at their feedback page and give them a shout out on Twitter @CNN if you feel like explaining publicly, or you're like me and prefer to use a measured response via e-mail and a long series of expletives in public you can do both

Update: has a new petition up demanding an apology from CNN
Update 2: FOX news makes it clear they're still the most worthless, misogynist, and pro-rape "news" agency in existence by outing the underage rape victim on national television 

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