This Week in Misogyny

Oh, dearies, it was another week of fuckery in the world. Between Rolling Stone throwing a source under the bus when inconsistencies rose in her story (cue gloating from the “false accusations!!1!” crowd), a misguided storyline on The Newsroom, and the usual assortment of random awfulness, it’s hard to see the good news. Of which there’s a little bit, partially in the form of Legos. (As usual, trigger warnings for pretty much everything apply.)

Since I can’t actually just say “Fuck you, Rolling Stone!” and move on, let’s talk about what the fuck’s going on with their bullshit. After running a story on Nov. 19 about “Jackie,” a UVA student who was allegedly raped at a fraternity party and then had the school largely ignore her complaints, Rolling Stone published a note to its readers on Dec. 5 that said they had discovered inconsistencies in her story and initially concluded that their “trust in [Jackie] was misplaced,” though they later reworded that to take responsibility themselves instead of placing the blame on Jackie. It’s true that several people involved in the story have come forward to dispute some details and clarify that reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely never spoke to them to confirm Jackie’s story; “Andy” and “Cindy” said they never debated how their social standing would be affected if Jackie reported her assault to authorities, that they’d found her at a different place than she reported, and that she’d told them she was forced to perform oral sex on multiple men but didn’t say she was gang-raped. Yes, it’s possible that she lied or exaggerated to try to sound more sympathetic in a high-profile story (and it’s disturbing how much some people want this to be the case), but it’s also well-documented that rape victims can misremember details due to trauma, and Erdely and her editors should have tried to confirm her account much more than they did. It’s important to remember that even if she got some of the details wrong, it doesn’t mean that she wasn’t really raped. Emily, one of her suitemates at the time of the attack, said that while Jackie didn’t immediately tell her anything about being assaulted (which is well within her rights), she showed personality changes that led Emily and others to think she’d gone through some sort of trauma and that Jackie did later tell her she’d been assaulted.

Of course, now people are having a field day saying horrible things about rape victims.

  • During a discussion on ABC’s This WeekNational Review editor Rich Lowry disputed the statistic that one in five college women are sexually assaulted since that includes “forcible kissing” and he doesn’t think that should count.
  • National Review Online’s John Fund and Jonah Goldberg also had ignorant opinions; Fund complained about “mob mentalities” causing Lincoln University president Robert Jennings to be fired for telling students that they might not want to report rapes if they had “put [themselves] in that situation, while Goldberg said that women today seem to forget that “some drunk men will do bad things” and that feminists complaining about chivalry leads men to “be less protective” of us.
  • On Fox News, Tammy Bruce said the whole story had been part of a liberal plot “to romanticize being a victim.”
  • “Princeton Mom” Susan Patton also tried to redefine rape, saying it doesn’t count if it’s acquaintance rape because the victim could “just get up and leave” or tell him to stop, and that having sex while drunk and “regret[ting it] the next morning” wasn’t rape, it was “a learning experience.” But she’s not blaming the victims! Just telling them to “be smarter” and “use better judgment.” Totally different than blame.
  • Conservative “journalist” Charles C. Johnson published what he claims is Jackie’s real name, which is massively fucked up whether he really did figure out who she is or if he put someone completely unrelated out there for the internet hordes to attack.
  • Emily Yoffe wrote more than 11,000 words on how colleges are overreacting and implementing “misguided policies that infringe on the civil rights of men.” I fully admit that I haven’t waded through the whole thing yet, but good lord, most schools barely do anything!

At least there were a few thoughtful responses to take the edge off all that crap.

  • UVA president Teresa A. Sullivan reaffirmed her commitment to examine how her school deals with sexual violence, and will not reinstate the fraternities as many have asked (though notably, the leader of UVA’s IntraFraternity group supports this decision).
  • Roxane Gay talks about “good victims” vs. “bad victims” and how even the “good” ones rarely get justice.
  • Case in point, Megan Carpentier talks about when a man left ample forensic evidence that broke into her house and was even still performing a sex act when police came in, but wasn’t charged with rape because prosecutors said his defense would claim she’d invited him in because she was drunk. Even though he pleaded guilty to unlawful entry.
  • Tara Culp-Ressler explains why one study could find that 19% of college students are the victims of sexual assault while another says only 0.6% are victims.
  • Zerlina Maxwell calls on all of us to believe victims, because the stakes are far higher for them than for anyone who’s falsely accused.

The most recent episode of The Newsroom featured a storyline about a college student who started a website where sexual assault victims could anonymously name their attackers as a warning to other students, and then gets raped herself (which sounds like a ripped-from-the-headlines story, except that the episode was written before the latest round of high-profile campus rape stories). The fictional show tracks her down and sends a reporter to get her story, hoping to stage a live debate between her and one of her attackers, who has also given his side of the story to the reporter. Emily Nussbaum explains how the episode got so many things so very wrong, because of course the reporter (who generally serves as the moral “voice of reason” in the newsroom) decides that even though the rapist’s story sounds sketchy as hell, he’s obligated to believe him because he hasn’t been proven guilty. Noooooooope. The episode also had its share of behind-the-scenes drama; Alena Smith took to Twitter after the show aired to reveal that she’d tried to talk Aaron Sorkin out of using the storyline and got kicked out of the writers’ room for her protests. Sorkin responded that he encouraged debate, he heard what she was saying, but then he was ready to move on and she wouldn’t drop it, so yeah, he asked her to leave. (He doesn’t quite call her hysterical, but does say he was “saddened” that she talked about what happened.) He also said that Smith liked the final version of the script, but she has no further comment and has deleted the tweets referencing the episode from her Twitter feed.

Activists are trying to convince King Abdullah to release Loujain al-Hathloul and Maysaa al-Amoudi from prison; they were arrested for violating Saudi Arabia’s ban on women drivers when border guards led them to believe they could make a u-turn and return to the UAE after being stopped at the border, but instead detained them as soon as they entered the country.

Along with the films that were released in the Sony hack, a spreadsheet with salary data was also made public. Kevin Roose dug through it all and found that of the 17 employees earning a base salary of more than $1 million per year, only one is a woman and only two appear to be PoC (though this is unconfirmed). Felix Salmon then looked at total compensation including bonuses and such; two men actually out-earn Amy Pascal, the co-chair of Sony Pictures Entertainment and chairman of SPE’s Motion Picture Group (aka, their boss), and the list is still overwhelmingly white and male.

About damn time: Congress has allocated $41 million in the most recent spending bill to help police departments around the country test their backlog of rape kits.

Phew, Ohio’s “heartbeat bill” that would have outlawed abortion so early most women wouldn’t even know they were pregnant until it was too late was voted down in the state house.

Google is rolling out a feature in the next few days that will allow Google Plus users to customize their gender and pronoun preferences.

Terrible People of the Week

  • Sen. James Inhofe and Sen. Lindsay Graham, for blocking a vote on Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s bill that would have independent prosecutors determine whether to prosecute sexual assault allegations, not military commanders.
  • Pastor Donnie Romero, who during a recent sermon bragged about how he’d harassed random strangers who he assumed were members of the LGBTQ community and thinks that all gay men are pedophiles who should be executed so we can have an “AIDS-free Christmas.” (And as you can imagine, his language choices were quite a bit cruder than mine.)
  • Fayetteville, Arkansas, where 51% of voters just overturned a law that prevented discrimination against LGBTQ individuals. Thanks a fucking lot, Duggars.
  • All of the rape apologists who are so desperate to “prove” Lena Dunham was lying about being sexually assaulted in her memoir that they’ve been harassing a random dude who went to Oberlin at the same time as her because he has the same first name she used as a pseudonym for her attacker.
  • Iowa’s Women’s Choice Center, a crisis pregnancy center trying to convince women who’ve only taken the first of two pills to induce a medication abortion to get an “abortion reversal” at their clinic. Except the first pill doesn’t induce abortion on its own anyway, so anyone having a change of heart wouldn’t need the shot of progesterone the clinic claims will save the pregnancy, and abortion regret isn’t nearly as common as their rhetoric implies (they haven’t actually had a single person ask for a reversal).
  • Sportacam, for placing a blatantly sexist ad to hire a new coder and then trying to play the “You just don’t get the jokes! We don’t believe in censorship!” defense when they got called out.
  • Whoever got an Alabama vanity plate that promoted breast cancer awareness, but because didn’t want anyone to think he was gay for putting a pink license plate on his car. (And the screening board for missing that this is fucked up.)

Hahahahaha. So, Richard Dawkins is frequently terrible when he talks about anything but evolution, but MRAs are upset at him now because he said he didn’t realize a men’s rights movement existed and had never heard of discrimination against men.

NFL owners announced a new player code of conduct that lays out the procedure of how they’ll handle future allegations like those made against Ray Rice… except they just went along with what Roger Goodell said he wanted to do months ago, gave him the sole last word on what would happen to those players, and basically admitted it was a PR move.

Dipshits of the week: Remember how Target stores in Australia pulled Grand Theft Auto V off the shelves because players are encouraged to commit violent acts against women? GamerGaters tried to retaliate by making their own petition, but they failed in a pretty absurd fashion.

BAMFs of the Week

  • Albert Einstein; recently released letters reveal that in 1911 he told Marie Curie to ignore her haters and keep being a badass. (Not in those words, obviously.)
  • The pregnant woman who yelled at anti-choice protesters outside a London clinic.
  • Shonda Rhimes, who found out she was getting this year’s Sherry Lansing Leadership Award basically because she’s a black woman who succeeded in Hollywood, and said in her acceptance speech that she wasn’t the sole breaker of the glass ceiling; that plenty of other women could have succeeded if they’d been given the chance.

So getting an award today BECAUSE I’m a woman and an African-American feels… I was born with an awesome vagina and really gorgeous brown skin. I didn’t do anything to make either of those things happen.

To get all Beyonce about it, people: “I woke up like this.”

Study Break

  • I love sneaky study design. Researchers at North Carolina State University wanted to parse out how much of the difference in course evaluations given to university professors was actually based on their gender instead of other factors, so they had one male and one female professor each teach two sections of an online class, but lie about their gender to one section and tell the truth to the other. The students still rated the “male” professor higher and the “female” professor lower, regardless of what their actual gender was.
  • There’s another study out about whether getting the HPV vaccine turns teenagers into raging sluts, and the answer is still no.
  • No, the abortion rate isn’t going down because anti-choice rhetoric is finally convincing women not to terminate unplanned pregnancies. The birth rate is down too, so it’s more likely that the drop is because fewer women are getting pregnant in the first place due to increased use of long-term contraceptives like IUDs or Norplant.
  • Birth control is also helping lower the divorce rate.
  • Ugh. In a series of experiments conducted by Nicolas Guéguen of the Université de Bretagne-Sud, men were quicker to assist women in high heels than women wearing flats (though the subjects’ shoes had no bearing on how quickly other women reacted to them). One possible reason?

Research has found that men generally overestimate female sexual interest, especially when examining their clothing appearance. Thus, the over-association of high heels with women’s sexiness and sexual content could lead men to misinterpret the sexual intent of women with high heels.

Recommended Reading

  • Eleanor de Freitas’ father speaks out about the Crown Prosecution Service’s decision to charge her with perverting the course of justice for reporting being raped; police decided not to prosecute her alleged rapist because of inconsistencies in her behavior that they felt would bias a jury and they also worried that since she has bipolar affective disorder, a trial would be too strenuous for her (but they did not say that she’d lied). She killed herself on the eve of the CPS trial.
  • Chelsea Manning on how bureaucracy discriminates against transgender individuals.
  • Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James hinted that the military may revise its stance against openly trans servicemembers next year.
  • Heina Dadaboy talks about Americans’ obsession with “forgiveness” over atonement and why Esaw Garner is perfectly within her rights not to forgive Daniel Pantaleo for killing her husband.
  • Conservative groups have been handwringing about the recent decision in Minnesota to allow transgender high school student athletes to play for the team that matches their gender identity, but plenty of other states already have similar policies and haven’t had any problems.
  • Casey Johnston argues that if we want more diversity in STEM, schools need to stop eliminating AP Computer Science classes. And when she posted the link on her Twitter feed, well, call in the mansplainers! (Tomas Sancio tried to clarify that the darn character limit muddied what he was saying; he supposedly meant “I read the full article,” not “You should read the full article,” but too late, bro. And your point was still irrelevant.)

  • Yup, sex can be kinda gross. Hilariously gross.
  • On Priya’s Shakti, a new comic book about a gang-rape survivor in India who gains superpowers to smite her attackers after her family and police place the blame on her.
  • Dr. Rebecca Gomperts and director Diana Whitten talk to Vice about their new documentary Vessel, which shows Gomperts’ efforts to help women have safe abortions in countries where the procedure is illegal, whether by taking the women into international waters so they can take abortion pills, or by advising them over the internet on how to take misoprostol at home.

Published by

[E] Hillary

Hillary is a giant nerd and former Mathlete. She once read large swaths of "Why Evolution is True" and a geology book aloud to her infant daughter, in the hopes of a) instilling a love of science in her from a very young age and b) boring her to sleep. After escaping the wilds of Waco, Texas and spending the next decade in NYC, she currently lives in upstate New York, where she misses being able to get decent pizza and Chinese takeout delivered to her house. She lost on Jeopardy.

5 thoughts on “This Week in Misogyny”

  1. I wasn’t as upset about The Newsroom as some people seemed to be? I think maybe coming from a legal background I got what he was trying to say, and it just happened to be poorly written. I was under the impression that he believed her, but there’s a responsibility in journalism that has to be seriously considered. Not to mention the larger context of the script in which the new guy who had just bought out the company was bringing this girl on for ratings, and she would eventually just get destroyed in the media, and he didn’t want to expose her to that either.

    I agree very strongly that we should believe the victim. I can’t imagine such a horrifying experience and we should take it seriously and investigate it seriously. But I, too, have a hard time calling someone a rapist without them being heard before a jury of their peers. Not because I don’t believe the assaulted person, but because jumping to conclusions in serious legal matters is a bad idea all around. I think I come down in a place of, “We should believe these people. We should seriously investigate these alleged crimes. They should go through the criminal justice system.” But I can’t hold with punishing someone, even through the use of media, for a crime they may not have committed under the theory of what makes their actions a crime (act + intent). It’s tricky to convey, but I’d love to hear someone else’s thoughts on it.

    1. I think there’s a massive difference between a journalist having to call someone an “alleged rapist” to cover their ass and telling a victim to her face that you won’t believe her story unless a jury agrees with it, especially given how few cases even make it to trial, much less get convictions.

      1. Oooo, see, I didn’t get that from the episode, so maybe I read it wrong or am inserting my own dialogue in there, but I got the impression that he absolutely believed her, but didn’t want to put it on television to avoid bias/media circus/suffering for any potential parties.

        Side note that probably has little to no bearing on current conversation: Rape cases are probably close to impossible to prosecute. This makes me a way less courageous person than people I know, but if I were a prosecutor, I would not want to take a sexual assault case to trial. There’s no way to win against the cultural bias that you would have to overcome. You have two eyewitnesses and a mountain of misogyny to get past in order to get a conviction. I imagine a lot of special crimes unit prosecutors hear a lot of, “We can’t spend department money/time on that case.”

Leave a Reply