After the “shitstorm” hit, that the Rolling Stone article about the UVA gang rape wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, I checked the twitter feed of one of my favorite feminists, Amanda Marcotte, who writes for Slate’s XX Factor. I actually felt bad for her, trying so desperately to salvage some tiny thread of dignity when her world view was shattered.
The problem was that she didn’t need to demean herself. That one article turned out to be so poorly vetted as to raise substantial doubts as to its veracity, or the blind faith that replaced journalistic integrity in reporting it, proves nothing more than that this one instance isn’t what it purported to be. Any thoughtful person realizes this, just as any thoughtful person realizes that one anecdote doesn’t prove the opposite.
The problem for Marcotte, of course, is that she, along with those who suffer from the same myopia, argue the opposite. When a rape occurs, whether it’s what the law considers a rape or of the amorphous variety that appeals mostly to Jezebel readers, it doesn’t prove all men are rapists or that our society is built on rape culture (whatever that is) under the auspices of the patriarchy. Live by the sword, get embarrassed by the sword.
But what salvages her honor, to the extent she believes it to be intact, is that she has the patriarchy to blame. What if it was just among women? Who then to blame?
Mount Holyoke is an all-female liberal arts college of some repute. To say there is a progressive culture on campus is an understatement, which is, apparently, why a freshman political science major, Yvonne Dean-Bailey, was excoriated for an article that stepped a fraction of an inch off the required line of orthodoxy as to student protest of Michael Brown’s no true bill. She
attended the student-organized protest held on Monday. She took photos, reached out to the event organizers, and researched the demonstration. And like anyone in professional journalism strives to accomplish, Yvonne found a unique angle for her story and ran with it.
But it was that angle—an event organizer asking “white folks” to keep their hands down during the demonstration—which angered crusaders for equality at Mount Holyoke so much that they resorted to “fighting the good fight” with hateful notes and vicious attacks on an online message board.
For this breach, she awoke to find a note on her dorm door (with Campus Reform logo superimposed over someone else’s note, because reasons).
This was just the beginning, as she was attacked in social media of all flavors, by current students as well as “alum”:
All this because she wrote an article about someone else arguing that “white folks” shouldn’t do the “hands up” thing:
Susanna Holmstrom urged classmates Sunday night not to raise their hands in mock surrender in the “ Five College Mass Walk Out” if they were “white folks.”
“I encourage white folks participating tomorrow to keep our hands down, to avoid centering ourselves in the actions, and to listen much more than we speak,” Holmstrom said on the event’s public Facebook page.
It’s tough to be sensitive and progressive these days. So many landmines. So much anger. So confusing. So mean.
So what does this internecine warfare over reactions to racial violence have to do with a story of a vicious rape that Marcotte, et al., fear will undermine public confidence in the veracity of rape claims, giving rise to “misogynists” (all people who question the veracity of a rape claim is a misogynist by definition, as feminists know that it’s immaterial if the claim is true or false, as it’s a reflecting of rape culture and, even if it didn’t happen, happened at least in the mind of the victim, which is all that really matters. Whew.) rape deniers.
So as I understand it, Atticus Finch is now the bad guy in “To Kill A Mockingbird,” because he doubted a story about rape.
So many sacred cows. So many beliefs that the orthodoxy demands. So many things in which we must believe, WE MUST BELIEVE, or be hated and reviled. And then something happens, like UVA’s “oopsy,” or the viciousness of the attack on a Holyoke College frosh for not being radical enough, that brings it all crashing down.
Marco’s post is, of course, unnecessary. Only a blithering idiot doesn’t realize that false accusations happen, and the fact of their happening neither adds nor detracts to whatever narrative advocates demand be obeyed absolutely. Does Amanda Marcotte really want to call Atticus Finch a rape apologist? Which side wins and loses when race and gender collide?
And therein lie so many problems.
This is the kind of “believe the victim” mentality that is so darkly infecting academia. “Presumed guilty” is the new standard. Patrick Whitt is the new Tom Robinson, the black man accused of the rape in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Due process loses, ethics are out the window, because there is an agenda, and it needs the fuel of a rape story.
We can all argue about the relative virtues of progressive visions of our future, but we can do so with some tiny degree of honesty and integrity rather than screaming facile names at the “enemies” of the orthodoxy.
While I wouldn’t be able to attempt to make this point on my own, as I’m too easily tarred as a misogynist and rape apologist, being a man and all, and thus dismissed as either “mansplainin'” by a gentle person, or far worse by an enraged feminist, there is no man to blame for the attack on Mount Holyoke’s Yvonne Dean-Bailey.
So your orthodoxy has been revealed as just a little too full of shit to all, and your efforts to salvage your righteousness are, well, laughable. Here’s the difference between the vicious haters at Mount Holyoke and those of us who you have fought desperately to never hear again: we’re not the enemy. We’re just people who think about stuff.
We’re not laughing at this shitstorm, but hoping that you might now clean yourself off and stop making yourself look like fools. Maybe then, rational solutions can be found that we can all live with. But your orthodoxy is a fraud and everybody knows it. Let it go.
Update: As if on cue, the defense of the faith appears in the Washington Post* in the persona of Zerlina Maxwell:
This is wrong. We should always believe, as a matter of default, what an accuser says. Ultimately, the costs of wrongly disbelieving a survivor far outweigh the costs of calling someone a rapist. Even if Jackie fabricated her account, UVA should have taken her word for it until they could have proved otherwise. This is not a legal argument; it’s a moral one, about what happens outside the legal system.
But what about truth, accuracy, integrity, honesty, and the presumption of innocence?
The accused would have a rough period. He might be suspended from his job; friends might de-friend him on Facebook. In the case of Bill Cosby, we might have to stop watching, consuming his books, or buying tickets to his traveling stand-up routine. These errors can be undone by an investigation that clears the accused, especially if it is done quickly.
Putting aside Maxwell’s unique ability to unring bells, why?
The cost of disbelieving women, on the other hand, is far steeper. It signals that that women don’t matter and that they are disposable — not only to frat boys and Bill Cosby, but to us. And they face a special set of problems in having their say.
We wouldn’t want to signal to women they don’t matter. Not even the ones who lie and falsely accuse men of rape. No, this is not a legal argument. No, it’s not a rational argument. It’s a religious argument. And if you don’t share the faith, you will be burned at the stake for heresy. Because women. Maxwell, in case you’re interested, is a graduate of Rutgers Law School and, per her website, is a very important on-air pundit.
* It would appear that WaPo stealth edited the post after my cut and paste to water down some of its most absurd assertions.