Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Media does us no favors in their coverage of Steubenville. *UPDATED*

So you know and are warned, I will be using the term rape a lot in this piece. It's to emphasize a point that the term and the fact it occurred in the Steubenville case is getting glossed over, ignored, or treated as irrelevant. If it is an issue for you/causes you trouble/triggers, apologizes. But that's why I wanted to begin with a warning.

This weekend we finally had a conclusion to the much discussed trial in Steubenville, Ohio.

So, now, I debate what I can add to this result. What has to be said?

I could let the verdict stand as a final statement. But, from news to twitter trolls, people have rushed to say everything that didn't need saying, on the topic of rape to the victim herself. So many people raced to seemingly show us rape culture is alive and well in this country.

Online, many have been eager to denounce the girl raped for drinking, for being in the wrong company, for talking up. Cruelty has come quick and fast. And the point for some people is that she is in the wrong. Or, that her choices make her the one that is guilty. Or, that the true victims are the boys that assaulted and raped this girl.

CNN surprised us all by leading the way on this. As the trial results were announced and as they were being digested, CNN got to the heart of the matter.

It is just galling. There has been a bizarre obsession with these boys, who raped a girl repeatedly, carried her around, showed her off, took photos of their acts, and sent messages around bragging...But yeah, this is really rough them.

It is an amazing bit of journalism. (Particularly Crowley, who says they were found guilty of "rape essentially". What is that? Real rape? Rape rape? Legitimate rape?) But the weird disconnect is troubling. How do they see the events of the night of the crime? How about the lead up to trial? Or the trial itself? Was it all about these boys being put through an ordeal? What is it they think happen to this girl that was attacked? Who has had to relive the attack at trial? And, now is under continuing risk and threat by the city around her, even her former friends.

But, yeah, these rapist had the raw deal. Football stars, with hopes of college success, now quashed...How does this become your takeaway? Is it because they're young? Boys? Successful?

Is it that they were boys being boys? That they were celebrating? That they were having fun? That it just went a bit far? And, if only?

I am at a loss. They made a choice. And over the course of hours they made choice after choice to continue and compound their crimes. But so many media folk just wept for these boys.

And that has an effect. That effect is that it says it's too bad they had to be put on trial for what happen. It's too bad they have to pay for what happen. It's too bad they are being given a hard time for what happen. And it takes us away from what happen. They raped someone.

But for some people, that isn't what happen. And as you watch people on the news avoid using the word rape, as you see people online call this girl a liar, you see the culture that birthed the mind of Todd Akin. It's a culture that embraces ignorance, fears and is suspicious of women, and sees women that survive rape as contemptible.

Rape is a serious and severe issue. But the media and public is uncomfortable with it. How bothered are we all about the frequency of rape in the military? Are we still laughing at the lazy punchline of a man being raped in prison? Do communities angrily rally around sports teams, coaches, and stars when their are accusations of rape?

And the media is not helping. It makes the token effort, but then falls down on the job in fighting the rape culture narrative. Look at the media giants you can list beside CNN that have looked at this story as a matter of the victim causing trouble or being to blame. ABC, NBC, Yahoo, AP, and USA Today. She's tearing her town apart. She was drunk. Social media is such a problem. No. Rape is a problem, a crime even. If they hadn't made the decision to rape they would be looking to college now. But, no. They chose to rape. They chose to assault and abuse a girl and then show no remorse, but brag about it.

Along with this, since the trial, CNN, MSNBC, and FOX have all now played statements from the guilty in which they use the name of the victim of their crimes. This is an underage girl who, until now, had had her name withheld by the media to protect her privacy, and keep her safe from those that are threatening her. So the 3 premier cable news networks have all outed this girl to additional scrutiny and danger. Brilliant work, asses. It's just more callousness from the media on this case.

The media has let us down quite a bit on this case. We expect more. We need better.


I appreciated this piece looking at what we've seen of a CNN reaction to the reaction to the Steubenville coverage. CNN's reaction has been to just shrug. Apparently Harlow is shocked that people read her coverage as being one-sided. And, as a woman, she doesn't know why someone would think she would slant her coverage.

But that is what comes from being inside the bubble. It's like what happens in Washington or when reporters get embedded with the military. The lot of the media became entrenched in the attitude of Steubenville, which is pretty toxic.

As well:

I don’t particularly care that Poppy Harlow and Candy Crowley are women. Gender is not an excuse and it’s disgusting to use it to dismiss valid criticisms. Women contribute to victim blaming and rape culture too but they reallyshould know better. Harlow and Crowley made a very big mistake by airing that segment. 
I’m sure they didn’t intend to come off the way they did but their intentions don’t particularly matter. What they did was contribute to rape culture.Period. The reason both need to apologize, however, is because they aren’t even aware of this. They can’t see how their segment was harmful and disrespectful. That’s a problem. With this case in Steubenville, many people have finally discovered that we don’t know that much about rape culture, victim blaming, or even rape itself. If we want to start combating sexual violence in a meaningful way, then we need to hold people accountable and completely stomp out rape culture and victim blaming. No one gets a pass because of their gender or anything else. 

That is the thing about rape culture. It isn't just men raping, or men dismissing rape. Women make up more than half of the human population, so if they weren't taking part in rape culture, it really would be a different problem.

So, yeah, women do take part. Some judge others, and condemn them, for not living the right way or for "letting themselves" be attacked. Some embrace cultural narratives, that put lower priority on the experience of women in the some occurrences of rape (A "drunk girl" has ruined the lives of two boys.). And when women do these things it's just as unacceptable as when men do this.

Maybe Harlow, and Crowley, are oblivious to how they came off to their audience. But that doesn't mediate the effect they have. They helped enforce this toxic culture. And that's why I am happy that people are being pissed off at it, and being sure to be heard. The comments made last week by the media cannot be allowed to be the final word.

1 comment:

notintheface said...

When Jim Norton from the "Opie & Anthony" show is showing more sensitivity to rape victims than America's major media networks, something's SERIOUSLY messed up.