In case you missed it, The Washington Post had a really bad week according to our “making the world a safer place for women” meter. On the coattails of publishing a column by George Will, instructing universities to stop coddling rape victims, because hey, they’re probably lying, came not just methodologically flawed but backwards research on domestic violence prevention by Wilson/Wilcox.
Bad form, WaPo, for several reasons.
It seems to have escaped their editorial team that they have fully endorsed a harmful social trend, particularly rampant in conservative “media” outlets where, yet again, the opinions of a group of men about what rape is, how rape isn’t really a problem, and what men think women should do about it dominate the discourse about sexual violence.
WaPo must have known they were going to get slammed when they changed the title of the Wilson/Wilcox piece from, “One way to end violence against women? Stop taking lovers and get married.” to “One way to end violence against women? Married dads.” Too bad they didn’t use forethought to refuse to publish the piece altogether.
And let’s make one thing clear: George Will’s op-ed isn’t about his ‘opinions.’ One can’t have an OPINION about whether or not women experience sexual violence. They do. All the time. On college campuses. At workplaces. At home. On the street. Some report it. Many others don’t. No survivor of sexual violence asked George Will to put his stamp of approval on her experience, nor does anyone benefit from using flawed logic to dismiss the experiences of millions of women.
If I could have a little chat with all parties involved in last week’s flurry of bad editorial choices, here’s how it would go:
To Wilson/Wilcox: If you had read and cared to truly understand #yesallwomen and were committed to publishing research designed to curb violence against women (rather than blaming women…), you would have learned that women, young and old, black, brown or white, trans or cis, married or not, with dads and without, experience violence. It doesn’t take a PhD to see that you have confused correlation with causation. Marriage does NOT put an invisible cloak around people, making women un-rapeable and men incapable of rape or abuse. And for women who have abusive boyfriends — marrying him will make her safer?
To George Will: I’m not sure if you know that the vast majority of rapes are never reported, but if you had spent any time learning about rape you would have reconsidered penning this piece and maybe focused on, oh, why rape isn’t safe to report and what women, especially young women in university settings or in the military, go through when they come forward? When rape IS reported, women experience serious backlash. Those who come forward are very brave and almost never receive the justice they deserve, which is something the Obama administration is trying to change. Your piece has done nothing but undermine that crucial effort.
To WaPo: Fire George Will. And stop calling his opinion “well within the bounds of legitimate debate.” It’s not legitimate to grunt like a troglodyte, touting an ancient paradigm while being heralded as a “thought leader”, and call that debate. At best, it’s bad journalism. At worst, it stunts the discourse about actual solutions to sexual violence. We can’t go a week without reading about how a sexual assault case that has gotten public attention has ruined or ended the lives of women. And for each story that makes the news there are thousands that don’t every day. Make it your priority to highlight solutions, and nuance your critical analysis a step beyond “Women: Stop Getting Raped.”
If you are truly a newsroom interested in “spurring debate” instead of featuring click-bait crap headlines while you put women’s safety and lives at risk, feature more content from Zerlina Maxwell and Libby Copeland — who are both RIGHT! How many times to women have to write, “…or maybe men should not abuse and assault women?” You have good content there. Stick to that. THAT is helpful.
To sherights readers: Want to do something? Sign Ultraviolet’s petition. Read NOW President’s call for Will to resign. Read the letter to George Will from Senators Blumenthal, Baldwin, Feinstein, Casey (D-PA). Support the policy advocacy and activism of state domestic and sexual violence coalitions like the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence, who are responding to WaPo. Donate to or volunteer at your local rape crisis center. And push back when someone dismisses the sexual violence experiences of women and girls, in this country or anywhere around the globe.