Tag Archives: New York Times

Timothy Egan: Do Not Silence the Students

16 May

Oh, Timothy Egan, what were you thinking?  Were you thinking?

Today in The New York Times, the regular columnist Timothy Egan wrote an op/ed called “The Commencement Bigots.”  He starts the piece out with this:

“It’s commencement season, cell-phones off please, no texts or tweets.  Even with a hangover from debt, alcohol or regret, grads across the land may be lucky enough to hear something on the Big Day that actually stays with them.”

I wish I had been so lucky.  The class who graduated before me got a rather amusing speech by Dr. Ruth (you remember her, right?) and we got stuck with quite possibly the most boring graduation speech in the history of graduation speeches.  It was Henry Kaufman who basically gave an economics lecture.  It lasted for the better part of an hour and I am pretty sure came straight out of a book. No preparations necessary, just grab a volume from your library and read about balance of trade, fiscal policy or some shit in the most monotone voice you can muster.  It was terrible.  I just asked my dad what he thought about it and he said,

“Oh, that guy?  That guy was an idiot.  I did not like that guy.  Not only was he boring and an idiot, but he was a has been!  He was big in the 80s!”

I don’t know about all that but I do know that I was bored to tears.  Egan documents a similar experience of the graduates of Stanford in 2009 who had to listen to Justice Anthony M. Kennedy give “an interminable address on the intricacies of international law, under a broiling sun, with almost no mention of the graduates.”  Much better, Egen thinks, were the addresses by David Foster Wallace at Kenyon in  2005 (“If you can’t learn to ‘construct meaning from experience, you will be totally hosed'”), Steve Jobs, also in 2005, at Stanford (“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life”) and Stephen Colbert at Knox College in 2006 (“The best career advice I can give you is to get your own TV show.  It pays well, the hours are good, and you are famous.  And eventually, some very nice people will give you a doctorate in fine arts for doing jack squat”).  As much as I would have loved to have had Stephen Colbert speak at my graduation in place of Mr. Gloom and Doom, I wouldn’t exactly call his advice sage.  But I guess that’s not Egan’s point.  What is his point?  Well, basically that college students should shut the fuck up and appreciate who they get because the person could be, gasp!, boring.

Okay, that’s not exactly what he said.  What he said was that protesting college students are akin to censors who do not want anyone to come speak to them and “spoil a view of the world they’ve already figured out.”  He cites a few examples.  First up was Condoleezza Rice who was slated to speak at Rutgers University but canceled “after a small knot of protestors pressured the university.”  Next up were the bigots (his word, not mine) of Smith College whose concerns about the International Monetary Fund’s part in “strengthening of imperialist and patriarchal systems” caused Christine Lagarde, chief of the IMF, to cancel her prepared speech.  Egen opines about the loss these students will suffer by not hearing one of the “world’s most powerful women” share her insights over (and this he seems to spit) “concerns about the patriarchy.”  This was followed by my absolute favorite line in the entire piece:

“Evil men — we’ll show ’em.”

Here is the thing about it.  It certainly is a shame that students won’t get the opportunity to hear Rice and Lagarde speak.  I agree wholeheartedly with Egen when he says,

“Give me a brisk, strong, witty defense of something I disagree with over a tired replay of platitudes.”

But is the appropriate way to back up that highly logical statement to call those who disagree with it bigots?  I am sure that the people who heard Colbert and Jobs and Wallace speak, especially given that the latter two men are no longer with us, will remember those commencement speeches for a long time to come.  I am sure those graduates, and the attending staff members, friends and families consider themselves incredibly lucky.  But I also think that a person who holds the privilege of writing for a paper as respected as The New York Times should take a little more care before calling college students opposed to the legacies or the mechanisms through which university-chosen speakers make their mark a word as loaded as bigot.  That’s quite a punch to throw.  I also think that, perhaps, a privileged white man should think twice before he belittles a group of women’s concerns about the patriarchy – it is very real and is something they will have to contend with every single day of their lives.  This rings especially true for Smith students who are of color or are members of the LGBT community.

Egen urges these horrible censors to consult Rutger’s student mission statement which reads,

“We embrace difference by cultivating inclusiveness and respect of both people and points of view.”

Egen, perhaps, should have taken his own advice before writing this ill-conceived column.  It is true, that we should embrace inclusiveness and respect different points of view, but doesn’t that include respect for those who disagree with the appointment of certain speakers?  Doesn’t that include those who feel that by sitting quietly in an audience while someone who represents institutions or policies they find incredibly damaging and problematic acts as the exclamation point on their college experience makes them somehow complicit?  Shouldn’t we celebrate the fact that students in our universities are able to question these institutions and speakers and see results?  It is a shame that these women, and Attorney General Eric J. Holder who was also mentioned in Egen’s piece, did not get the chance to speak because of protests, but I do not think that means that we should shame and silence students.  Instead, we should encourage them to continue to protest because it is an active civilian population that is the best way to keep the government in check, to question policies, to support minorities and underrepresented groups, to fight voter fraud, to stop rape culture, to tell the IMF that we do not approve of the way they operate, to let Condoleezza Rice know that she will be held accountable by the population for her roll in the Bush administration, and so many other things.  We need this and by calling active student bodies bigots, we are telling them that their dissent is unwarranted, unnecessary and unacceptable and that is a real shame.  Isn’t it also possible that encouraging a more active population would result not only in better leadership, but also in better preparing our leaders for dissent and criticism?  The thin-skinned should not be in positions of power and, honestly, I am sure they have experienced far worse than some protests by a small group of soon-to-be college graduates.  Their ability to cancel in the face of such limited disagreement is a luxury that is silly.

So, let the students speak.  No, actually, don’t just let them, encourage them.  The best educations, I think, give us the ability to think critically and express our opinions and where is that more acceptable than on college campuses?  I think this country would be a lot better off if we all felt that our voices were heard and that our dissent did not make us bigots.  It’s just too bad that Egen felt the need to use his soapbox to shame a bunch of 21-year-olds.  But, that is his right and I support it, just as I support the university’s right to have Christine Lagarde speak at commencement and the right of the student body at Smith to protest the patriarchy.

Friedman’s Not-So-Novel Idea

29 Oct

Yesterday in the middle of my work day I received a text from one of my really good friends. It read as follows:

The Friedman column is fucking pissing me off. Why would I expect him not to fucking pretend that what he is writing is nothing feminism has been saying for YEARS!

I could feel the anger pulsing through my cell phone. Obviously, I had to read it immediately if not sooner.  I checked up and down the bar to see the status of all my customers drinks and got to reading.  The premise of the article is basically that Friedman is “pro-life” but not in the way we all talk about being pro-life, as in the opposite of pro-choice.  He is pro “respect for the sanctity of life.”  Friedman has seen the light.  This paragraph basically says it all:

In my world, you don’t get to call yourself “pro-life” and be against common-sense gun control — like banning public access to the kind of semiautomatic assault rifle, designed for warfare, that was used recently in a Colorado theater. You don’t get to call yourself “pro-life” and want to shut down the Environmental Protection Agency, which ensures clean air and clean water, prevents childhood asthma, preserves biodiversity and combats climate change that could disrupt every life on the planet. You don’t get to call yourself “pro-life” and oppose programs like Head Start that provide basic education, health and nutrition for the most disadvantaged children. You can call yourself a “pro-conception-to-birth, indifferent-to-life conservative.” I will never refer to someone who pickets Planned Parenthood but lobbies against common-sense gun laws as “pro-life.”

Friedman makes a good point.  Read the article.  But the thing is, just like what my friend said to me in her enraged text, he is making the point feminism, the point women have been making for years.  Being in support of a woman’s right to choose is not only an end, but it is a means to other ends.  Allowing women to choose is part of a bigger conversation about quality of life, about freedoms, about capabilities, about possibilities, about empowerment. In the mainstream acceptance of the terms “pro-life” (or “anti-choice” as many of my ilk refer to it) and “pro-choice” I think of the former as an exclusionary opinion and the latter as inclusionary.  Pro-choice people are not requiring women to terminate a pregnancy.  Some of us might not even be comfortable with the idea  of abortion for ourselves.  I think all of us would love it if there didn’t have to be any abortions at all.  There is room in the pro-choice movement for everyone to do exactly with their bodies as they think is appropriate for themselves and their lives, be that terminate a pregnancy or carry a pregnancy through to term.  Pro-life takes that choice away, that legal and safe choice, and makes the decision for someone.  Either carry the fetus to term or endure a possibly life-threatening, illegal, unregulated procedure.  There is not room in that school of thought for everyone.  There is not room for me.

I guess this is a topic that I have been having a hard time with.  While I want to include men in the conversation about women’s rights and bodies, while I want more male allies, I don’t want men dictating the parameters of a conversation that women have been having for decades.  Let us spearhead this one, guys.  Listen to us.  Talk to us.  Take us seriously.  This is an important issue all the time and not only when you decide to give it a minute of your time.  This has been mattering to us for-fucking-ever, and not just every four years.  We’ve been talking about it.  We’ve been educating one another.  Where have you been, Friedman?

But I’ve gotten off topic.  Friedman’s point is an important one for sure.  But as a woman, it is incredibly, incredibly frustrating and angering to see that a point that feminists have been making for years and years does not get mainstream space until it is said by a right-leaning white man acting like he came up with it all on his own.  I’ve seen my friends sharing the link to the article on Facebook and, though I’m glad the point is making its rounds in the interwebs, I am frustrated that as women we have become so accustomed to our opinions being ignored and then, years later, being co-opted and taken seriously only through the medium of a male voice that we don’t even notice it any more.  It’s part of life.  It’s like, “wow!  Friedman!  What a great and original idea!” without the follow through of “wait, didn’t I talk to my mom about this very same idea when I first started learning about abortion clinic bombings and assassinations of abortion providers?  Hasn’t this term ‘pro-life’ always seemed somewhat misleading?”   It’s like that old saying, “if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”  Only I’m gonna change it.  “If an opinion is voiced by a woman and no one talks about it, did that opinion ever actually get shared?”

And to my friend who sent me the text in the first place, I am thankful for you.  You help keep me sane.

Pedestrians have Rights, Right?

11 Sep

I was a curious kid.  One day when I was little and in the car with my mom, I wondered aloud how all the port-o-potties got moved from place to place.  I knew they were temporary, but they always seemed to appear as if by magic.  More than likely, I figured to myself, they were moved around by cover of night because, really, who would want to be caught moving toilets around.  Embarrassing!  No more than 10 minutes went by when, in the right lane of a 2-lane local street, a pick-up truck lugging 3 port-o-potties in its bed went lumbering by.  Mystery solved.  It’s strange how things like that happen.  You puzzle something and <BAM> the world responds!  Likely it’s just that once a thought enters your head it awakens some passive awareness and you’re more likely to notice anything with relevance to that thought.  But then again, I am pretty sure whether or not I wondered about the method of transportation of port-o-potties I would have noticed 3 of them traveling by car down the street because, to me as a 9-year-old kid and also to me now, that’s hilariously funny.

This sort of precipitous presentation of information happens all the time.  For a recent example, fast-forward to yesterday.  I headed out for a run on the first real fall-esque day of 2012, feeling sad about the end of summer and the inevitability of fall turning to winter, and also enjoying the fact that I could, painlessly, go out for a run at 3:30 in the afternoon and return home only slightly wet with sweat, with a little water still left in my handheld bottle.  I also spent the majority of the run from my house to the park thinking about an incident that had occurred at work the day before when an especially problematic (read:  anti-semitic, racist piece of shit) customer called me a cunt about 15 times.  I was thinking about how I could write a blog post not about the experience but about the word itself.  What would be my angle?  Would I compare it to other words that drip with hatred and anger and violence?  Would I contemplate the use of gendered insults to convey ideas of power?  I was running through questions and ideas in my mind as I crossed 7th avenue near 16th street.  Seeing I had the light, I cut the corner a little in order to make it into the crosswalk.  There were no cars coming.  No bikes.  And then, a car came speeding down 16th street to make a left onto 7th, almost cutting me off, almost hitting me.  I was far enough into the intersection that the driver was forced to stop but I looked at him and lifted my arms, angrily cocking my head to the side as if to say, helloooooo?  He rolled down his window and screamed out the window

Get in the crosswalk, you prissy bitch!

And he drove off.  First of all, I was in the crosswalk. Second of all, I had the light.  And third of all, why’d he have to go there?  Clearly he was an angry dude and, in order to cool myself off, I tried to focus on the mantra that I always focus on in times like these:  at least I’m not that guy.  I think about how awful it must be to go through life that angry, temper flaring at the drop of a hat, feeling so put upon and at the same time so entitled.  It must be hard.  At least, I thought to myself, I don’t automatically assume the worst of people and yell at them at even the slightest imposition on the forward-moving trajectory of my day.  At least I won’t give myself a heart attack within 10 years.  And then I thought about the reality of the situation:  him in car, angry, me on foot, also angry.  Him controlling 4 tons of steel, me controlling very light running shoes and a 12 oz water bottle, good for throwing.  I think he probably wins.  But then I thought to myself, there are witnesses.  I am in the right.*  If something were to have happened, if he were to have hit me, he would be in the wrong, not me, because I had the light.    The law would be on my side.  Right?  Maybe not.  Today the answer came in the form of this article in the New York Times.

Apparently the New York City Police Department has an Accident Investigation Squad slated with investigating all manner of traffic accidents, both fatal and nonfatal.  That’s great.  The problem is there are only 20 people in the Squad.  Slightly less great.  And those 20 people, last year, were meant to investigate all 3,000 nonfatal accidents that occurred in the city last year.  Significantly less great.  In reality they really only investigate when a victim is considered likely to die.  So I guess if I got hit but it wasn’t life-threatening the angry man would get away scot-free? Hrm.  Also, “I didn’t see her” is a credible excuse in New York state. (I am left to wonder whether “I didn’t see the prissy bitch” would also fall under this theme.) According to Streetsblog.org, in many cases when drivers hit a pedestrian or cyclist and flee the scene, no charges are ever brought against them.  Not even a charge of leaving the scene of the crime.  I mean, I have never hit a person before but I have hit a squirrel and I noticed.  There was a bump.  I am unclear as to how you can hit a person and not realize you have hit something.  If I felt a person-sized bump under my tires I would immediately stop driving, pull over, try to keep myself from pissing my pants, and walk over to see what it was, hoping against hope that it was a garbage bag or a rolled up carpet, discarded on the side of the road.  In the case of Roxana Buta, a young woman whose death is highlighted in the aforementioned NY Times article, the driver of the DOT dump truck that killed her (and left the scene, it was all caught on video) was identified and, as of yet, no charges have been brought against him.  If past cases are any indication, charges will never be brought.  Now this is not to say that the knowledge of having killed someone isn’t punishment enough.  It isn’t to say that this man doesn’t feel remorse.  It clearly wasn’t intentional.  He couldn’t have known she would be there.  Maybe he really didn’t see her.  What I am trying to say is that, in my initial breakdown of my experience, I was wrong, the law is not on my side.  Apparently, as so often is the case, the onus to protect oneself lies in the hands of the party least able to do so.  Up against a car I am no match.  Up against a car driven by a man with an anger-management problem and a clear ax to grind, I am even less of one.  If he had hit me, I would have gone down in his memory as the prissy bitch who got in the way of the progress of his day.  And by the way, I am by no stretch of the imagination prissy.

*And yes, if you are wondering, I was still running at this point in the thought-process and was probably about 1/2 mile into the park loop.  I was also, completely absurdly, imagining what would happen if he was really angry and chased me down in the park and punched me really hard in the face, breaking my cheek bone and maybe even my jaw.  Then I would have a black eye and I would have to get a wire in my face and it would be terrible.  How would I work?  How would I finish my thesis?  And this, ladies and gentlemen, is how the mind of Rebekah works.

Proclaimed Busyness

5 Jul

Busyness.  Or supposed busyness.  Claimed busyness.  It is something that has driven me crazy for years and something I could never quite articulate.  Why do people compete with one another to see who is the busyiest?  Who is so put upon that they don’t have time to do any of the enjoyable things in life?  Who is so awkwardly proud about that?  And, why do I care about how much more packed your day is than mine?  Well, finally someone has done it.  Tim Kreider of the New York Times wrote this article about the boastful complaint of busyness and I think in a lot of ways he hits the nail on the head.  He points out that

it isn’t generally people pulling back-to-back shifts in the I.C.U. or commuting by bus to three minimum-wage jobs who tell you how busy they are; what those people are is not busy but tired. Exhausted. Dead on their feet. It’s almost always people whose lamented busyness is purely self-imposed: work and obligations they’ve taken on voluntarily, classes and activities they’ve ‘encouraged’ their kids to participate in. They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence.

He then continues.

The present hysteria is not a necessary or inevitable condition of life; it’s something we’ve chosen, if only by our acquiescence to it…. It’s not as if any of us wants to live like this, any more than any one person wants to be part of a traffic jam or stadium trampling or the hierarchy of cruelty in high school — it’s something we collectively force one another to do.

It’s true.  And, I’ve noticed, it is largely though the guilt attributed to the feeling of having free time.  There are plenty of things I do, like watching The 15 Biggest Tear-Jerking Moments in Summer Olympic History*, that I don’t necessarily tell people about because I can’t stand to hear the retort of “Oh, I’m just too busy to watch something like that.”  Talk about making someone feel useless and indulgent, you know?  But maybe Kreider’s existentialist musings can add a little insight.

I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter.

And then in the conclusion Kreider addresses the issue that might have popped up a bit throughout his piece.  That it is a luxury for one to choose a life that allows for long bike rides in the middle of the day and routine drinks with friends at night.

My own resolute idleness has mostly been a luxury rather than a virtue, but I did make a conscious decision, a long time ago, to choose time over money, since I’ve always understood that the best investment of my limited time on earth was to spend it with people I love.

For some people, due to their skill set, the impacts of institutionalized sexism and racism and a myriad other isms, their time, unfortunately, is not worth enough monetarily to allow them to invest quite as much of it with loved ones as Kreider claims to.  And that’s a shame.  But those of us who do have the ability to spend time with friends and family should make an effort to do so, and we shouldn’t have to schedule it in or make people feel like burden on us.  Those of us who aren’t so busy as to be tired to the bone should feel proud, not ashamed, and we should hope that some day everyone will be so lucky.
* Definitely watch the one about Derek Redmond, a real tear-jerker.  That is, if you aren’t too busy.

Solamente en ingles

9 May

First and foremost, please forgive my inappropriately accented Spanish.  I have no idea how to make an accent mark in WordPress but, for those of you who care to know, there should be an accent over the “e” in “ingles.”  And now, on to the real purpose of this post.

Last night before bed I was perusing the New York Times on my phone when I came across this article about the mysterious death of a groom at Churchill Downs.  In the interest of full disclosure, I would just like to say that when I initially read the title and, in fact, the reason that I continued on to read the article at all was because I thought it referred to a bridegroom, not someone hired to care for horses.  Like most people, I am always interested in something tragic.  Not to say that the death of this man isn’t a tragedy, but there is something especially upsetting about the death of someone right before or right after marriage, or some other important life event.  It’s like, you have made a decision to do something big and important with the future in mind, and then bam.  Dead.  Anyway, as I was reading the article (I had committed to it, after all) I came across the following few paragraphs:

Officials said Mr. Pérez, a Guatemalan immigrant, was living in the stables at Churchill Downs at the time of his death. His son, Wilson Pérez, 19, identified his body. He had been licensed by the racing commission as a groom in 2008, Mr. Brown said.

Police officers worked to establish the facts of the case on Monday, hobbled in part by the fact that Mr. Pérez’s son does not speak English.

“It is sort of a barrier that you can’t get the information firsthand,” said Lt. Barry Wilkerson of the Louisville Metro Police Department, who spoke at a news conference on Monday.

Okay, people, we are talking about Spanish, here, right?  Not like, Malayalam or Welsh.  According to the US Census, as of 2010 16.3% of the overall population, and 3.1% of the population of Kentucky, identified themselves as being of “Hispanic or Latino origin.”  I know that not everyone who identifies as being of Hispanic or Latino origin speaks Spanish, but I also know there are plenty of people of other backgrounds that do speak Spanish.  Also, weren’t there all kinds of people there for the Kentucky Derby?  Maybe one of them speaks Spanish.   I don’t know, maybe having lived in New York for all these years has blinded me to the fact that there are some more linguistically homogenous areas of the country, but I can’t imagine how trying to get information out of a Spanish speaker would be especially “hobbling” to a murder investigation.  We’ve got plenty of Spanish-speaking police officers up here in NYC, maybe one of them would be willing to help.  It’d be a nice vacation from the rain.

Thinking About Jailing the Victim? Here’s Why Not.

20 Apr

This is a post I have been thinking about writing for about a week now.  The idea was to give my rage a little time to dissolve.  As any friends or frequent readers might have already guess, this was an exercise in futility.  On April 15th, the New York Times (belatedly) published an article about a 17-year-old rape victim who was detained in Sacramento County, California (either in violation of, or due to the existence of, Marsy’s Law) for failing to appear at the court case against the man who was accused of raping her.  She was, ultimately, held in juvenile detention for 25 days for failing to appear twice.  The judge on the case deemed that rather than continuing to hold her until her scheduled appearance on April 23rd (almost a full month after she was first placed in custody on March 27th) she would be tracked using GPS monitoring.  Apparently her appearance is necessary because her attacker has been deemed a threat to public safety.

I really don’t even know where to start with this one.  According to the Times article, prosecutors in the case believe this girl is the missing link to putting away her attacker, a man who has a long criminal record including one prior rape.  Fair enough.  But ultimately that decision, whether to go through the strains of a trial, should be in the hands of the victim and not the criminal justice system.  As my friend Carrie said in a recent conversation, it should not be about justice, it should be about her justice.  Having been the victim of assault myself, as many women have been and, unfortunately, will be, I can understand her apprehension about coming forward.  I never told anyone what happened because I was afraid it was my fault.  I felt embarrassed and ashamed.  I, also, was 17.  Now, 11 years later, looking back on it I wish I had come forward and said something.  Who knows what this person did later.  Who knows whether his actions escalated.  Who knows whether by my coming forward I could have helped save someone else from experiencing the same thing I did.  The thing is that when I was 17 I wasn’t the same person I am now, at 28.  I was more concerned with healing myself, moving forward with my life, my freshman year at college, than I was with holding him (offiicially) responsible for his actions.  Come to think of it, I don’t think I even fully recognized, or named, the assault for a long time after it occurred.  Sure, the thought of seeing that person again, with whom I had a lot of friends in common, made me really uneasy but I don’t think I truly knew why that was.  I blocked it out and it took a number of years before I had the courage to admit to myself what had happened.  And again, I felt a sense of shame.  I was a strong woman, an independent woman, I shouldn’t have allowed this to happen.  But the thing is, it had nothing to do with how strong or independent I was, and I certainly didn’t let it happen (or “ask for it” which seems the common vernacular).  It had nothing to do with me as a person at all, really.  It had to do with his power and my, simply by being born a woman, lack thereof. It had to do with the society in which he and I were both raised.  My point here is that I understand the desire the prosecutors have to put this man behind bars.  He is a reprehensible human being.  But putting the responsibility for the safety of an entire community, and the possible punishment of a career criminal, on the shoulders of a young woman who likely feels responsible for her own assault is just as reprehensible.  She needs to heal, in her time and in her way, she needs support, she needs to either speak out against him or not, she needs to do what she needs.  And, really, she is the only one who knows what that is.  But since they have jailed her, since that has happened, here are some reasons why I find it incredibly problematic.

1.  According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) 54% of rapes and sexual assaults go unreported.  That’s a lot.  They even came up with this incredibly useful, and incredibly depressing, bar graph that pictorializes rape conviction rates.


Source:  RAINN

  1. Justice Department, National Crime Victimization Survey: 2006-2010
  2. FBI, Uniform Crime Reports: 2006-2010
  3. National Center for Policy Analysis, Crime and Punishment in America, 1999
  4. Department of Justice, Felony Defendents in Large Urban Counties: average of 2002-2006

If one were to do a risk-reward analysis of the results of coming forward after a rape or assault, one would likely conclude that reliving a traumatic event in front of a group of strangers to most likely not succeed in putting someone behind bars is not really worth it.  It partially explains why so many rapes and assaults go unreported and also might explain why this specific victim decided against reporting to her court appearance the first two times she was required to do so.

2.  It is not, I repeat not, the responsibility of this 17-year-old girl, or any other rape or assault victim, to protect the community from his/her attacker.  Sure, it would be great if she felt compelled to do so and even better if it worked in her favor.  Clearly this man is a monster and shouldn’t be free, but to force a victim to face her attacker against her will is inhuman.  The prosecutors in this case can not know, even if they themselves have been assaulted in their lifetime, what this girl’s life has been like, how she might feel about her attack, the fear she might have of facing her attacker, the trust or distrust she might have towards law enforcement and the justice system.  No one but her knows how she is feeling and no one but her can make the decision as to how she would like to go forward.

3.  Back to the rape report statistics, why do people not have the ability to have a big picture understanding of things?  I get it, the prosecutors want to put this man in jail.  But how about the ways in which this story is going to impact other victims of rape and assault?  Do they really think that by putting this girl behind bars they are instilling any sort of trust in law enforcement and the justice system’s ability to handle cases such as this?  Do they really think that other victims are going to feel safe reporting their own attacks when the possibility they will be jailed for being afraid to appear in court is in the back of their minds?

4.  If you have ever followed a rape or sexual assault case that has garnered national, or international attention, then you will know that the woman is rarely portrayed as a hero for standing up to her attacker.  In our justice system, in media coverage, and in our society she is a slut until proven otherwise.  The victim-blaming runs rampant.  Press coverage, and casual conversation, is rife with questions and assumptions.  What was she wearing?  What was she doing out at that time of night in that area of town?  Where was her mother?  Had she ever lied on any document on public record because if she had, if she was capable of lying then, what’s to make us think she isn’t lying now?  How many sexual partners had she had previously?  Was she promiscuous, or perceived as being promiscuous, in her life?  How much had she had to drink?  You get the idea.  If the victim is not perceived as relatable and trust-worthy then the assault never happened.  She is forced to defend her past, her actions, and her personality as if she is the one on trial.  And then, as if that wasn’t enough, she has to look at examples like Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky in which he is respected and she is still, 17 years later, running away from the image of a semen-stained dress.  She is defined by her assault and he by his accomplishments.  With events like these to look to, who can blame a victim for not wanting to put herself through it?

Maybe it seems as if I have taken my analysis of this specific incident a little too far.  The point of the matter is that no unique rape or assault exists in a vacuum separate from all the rapes and assaults, and official responses to them, that came before.  Every single day women are in danger of becoming victims and, by jailing this young woman, Sacramento County has just taken, on behalf of the entire criminal justice system, a step backwards in terms of its openness to female victims of sexual violence.  We are further silenced, unprotected, disempowered, and victimized because of actions such as this.  And now this young girl has yet another trauma to overcome, the trauma of her own incarceration.

An Update! An Ultrasound!

24 Feb

I would like to first announce, for those of you who read my previous post, that I have successfully obtained my driver’s license.  The ways in which I went about doing this cannot be disclosed in a public forum, but suffice it to say that when me and my New York plate-sporting rental car get pulled over on our drive through Mississippi en route to New Orleans this coming week, I will be in possession of the proper documentation.  And not a moment too soon.

In other news, I am dismayed by an article I read today in the New York Times by Sabrina Tavernise entitled “Virginia Lawmakers Backtrack on Conception Bill.”  As many of you may have been following, Virginia recently introduced a personhood amendment very similar to the one that was defeated by Mississippi voters in mid November.  The initiative essentially defined a person “to include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the functional equivalent thereof.”  So, no more abortion rights.  Serious road blocks to all kinds of contraception.  Really ugly stuff.  Virgina, however, threw in a little bonus by trying to require women seeking an abortion to undergo an involuntary vaginal ultrasound before being allowed to seek an abortion.*  I am, obviously, pleased that this bill has been quashed, for now.  I am not, however, pleased by this particular paragraph in this article where Tavernise says,

The rapid-fire procedural maneuvering came one day after Mr. McDonnell (governor of Virginia) ordered Republicans in the House of Delegates to soften a bill requiring a vaginal ultrasound before an abortion.  The new version, which requires a non-invasive abdominal ultrasound, appeared aimed at defusing a mounting controversy over the bill that included spoofs on television shows. (Italics mine.)

As far as I am concerned, any involuntary ultrasound, whether administered internally or externally, is invasive.  A woman is being forced, against her will, to undergo a procedure that is not of medical necessity.  There is no reason for it other than to shove the religious and “moral” beliefs of some** into the bodies of many.  I understand that, physically, it can easily be argued, and I would tend to agree, that an internal ultrasound is perhaps more physically invasive than an external one, but to say that women are so unthinking that they cannot be trusted to make the “right” decision unless they undergo this procedure is incredibly insulting.  Every woman is full well capable of deciding for herself what is right for her without seeing the development of a blob of cells in her, not the government’s, her uterus.  I was incredibly dismayed that it was a woman who wrote this article and that this acceptance of a required ultrasound of any kind is so unchallenged by so many that it would be mentioned as a return to the reasonable status quo.  There is nothing reasonable about this requirement and there is nothing non-invasive about it.  It is invasive as hell.

*I would love more than anything to go on a rant here about how incredibly unjust and inhumane this is, but I find myself incapable of reining my disgust in enough to write something that will get my point across.  Also, I imagine people who have read this far probably agree with me and therefore I would be preaching to the choir.

**I also would like to interject here my disgust with the all male panel that was slated to decide the issue concerning religious freedom and the mandate that requires health insurers to cover contraception in the United States.  It seems as though, and I think the lovely Republican Representative from California, Darrell Issa, would agree with me, that women don’t really matter when it comes to issues regarding their own health, of which contraception is one such issue.