Last November in Cleveland, Texas 18 young men and boys were charged with raping an 11 year old girl. The act was recorded on a cell phone video and discovered by the girl’s teacher who reported the crime.
While this is a heinous enough crime in and of its self, the reporting of this story in no less a paper than the NY Times compounded the the pain that the girl and her family must feel by perpetuating the myth that the victim “had it coming”.
“Residents in the neighborhood where the abandoned trailer stands — known as the Quarters — said the victim had been visiting various friends there for months. They said she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s. She would hang out with teenage boys at a playground, some said.”
While bringing up what a woman was wearing, how she was acting or what she was doing to try to justify that “she had it coming” is disgusting enough as it is, to even ask these questions about an 11 year old girl is beyond the reason. An 11 year old has no real concept about how the way she dresses or acts will effect men. To even hint at the ”she had it coming” myth is simply irresponsible reporting.
But that isn’t all that is wrong with the article. The reporter goes on to state:
“The case has rocked this East Texas community to its core and left many residents in the working-class neighborhood where the attack took place with unanswered questions. Among them is, if the allegations are proved, how could their young men have been drawn into such an act?
It’s just destroyed our community,” said Sheila Harrison, 48, a hospital worker who says she knows several of the defendants. “These boys have to live with this the rest of their lives.””
Not once in the article is the girl’s welfare even mentioned. Nowhere do we hear about the pain and trauma that an innocent 11 year old girl endured at the hand of 18 males. That is 1.6 males violating her for every year of her life. Where is the community outrage and concern for this poor girl? Who there is talking about how she will have to live with this the reset of her life? There is something seriously wrong with a society that has more concern for the male perpetrators than the female victim.
Change.org has a site where you can sign your name to a letter that will be sent to the NY Times protesting their editorial decision to publish this sexist perpetuating article.
It’s hard to see, but the Post-It note to the lower right of the yellow box says, “My mom has a PhD in Math”.
Stereotypes are insidious. They are woven into the very fabric of our society. In this case, it is the idea that your mom (or grandma, as is often the case) is an uneducated stay-at-home type who only knows house keeping, raising children and organizing church bake sales and Girl Scout cookie sales. The truth, of course, is much different.
Most women I know, including mothers and grandmothers, are well educated, well informed, working (or retired) women. Most of them have been to college and those who haven’t have moved up in the workforce to positions of responsibility that require technical and/or analytical skills. In many cases, these “moms” would be the ones explaining how to solve the puzzle to the younglings.
We see ads like this all the time. We hear the same theme echoed in the media daily and think nothing of it. It is subtle prejudices like this that continue to undermine women’s progress in society.
What can we do about it? Every time we see something like this ad, we need to contact whoever placed it and let them know why it is wrong. We need to raise awareness with advertisers, media outlets, and anywhere else we see these “little assumptions” and let them know that they offend and that they are unintentionally perpetuating stereotypical prejudices against women.
I went to the ITA website, but couldn’t find an email address to send my concerns to, so I had to do it the old fashioned way. Here is a copy of the letter I wrote to them to raise their awareness about the stereotype they perpetuate in their ad.
For those of you who would like to share their concern with ITA Software, you can download a Word doc of my letter. Just add your name and address and mail it to the address at the top.
Here is an illuminating comment on my earlier post from a reader, Sas, and my reply:
- Thanks for this . I have been appalled by some men’s attitudes – I left Christianity hoping for an equal world and was horrified to see the same old crap in the atheist camp. ” girls are naturally less intelligent that’s why they go to church ” No you twat, church has free childcare and you don’t get touched up. Treat women right and they’ll join you. Also try to understand that liking men and sex doesn’t mean they will sleep with any man – ESP not the older ones who think we are gagging for a father figure… Comment by Sas | February 8, 2011 | Edit | Reply
- Ps lots of men don’t like sex and will make you feel bad for asking for it. Strangely they lie about that to their male friends. Comment by Sas | February 8, 2011 | Edit | Reply
- Sas, I agree with you completely. Men need to understand that just because a woman is sexually liberated doesn’t mean she will sleep with everyone, especially them. Yes, biology is powerful. Yes, males evolved to try to have sex with as many females as possible in order to pass on their genes. But to use this as an excuse to treat women solely as sexual objects is disingenuous and wrong. This only supports the theists’ contention that atheists are all amoral darwinists. We are moral creatures who have the benefit of intelligence and rational thought to rise above our evolutionary imperatives, especially when they interfere with our ability to responsibly interact with each other. Comment by Jay Walker | February 8, 2011 | Edit | Reply
I read a guest blog post at Blag Hag by Sharon Moss, President of the Humanist Community of Central Ohio with Lyz Liddell, Director of Campus Organizing at the Secular Student Alliance, about their experience at the American Atheists’ Southeast Regional Atheist Meet in Huntsville, Alabama. In it, they explain the sexism they encounter while there.
What is ironic is that the sexist attitudes were most evident at a panel about how atheist organizations can attract more women. I’ll let them explain in their own words:
A panel of five guys and one woman discussed what an atheist group should do to attract more women. The all-too-common problem came up of a woman showing up to a meeting and every dude there hitting on her. First, the panelists grabbed a theme that had been floating around all weekend: that men hitting on women is just biological (therefore excusable), making it sound like a woman in that kind of situation should just STFU and get over it.
Then the moderator asked the women in the audience, as if it were a rewording of the same question, whether they would feel harassed or flattered if they showed up to an event and a few guys started flirting with them. We women in the audience, pressured to respond to the question at hand but feeling duped because we knew it wasn’t the same thing, gave an honest response. Sure, a few guys flirting with us is sexy. BUT!!! (we all screamed in our heads, even though the panel never let us say it out loud) 20 guys our father’s age blatantly staring at and talking to our cleavage is a totally different situation! It’s not sexy, it’s gross and creepy.
It was extremely frustrating. So I wasn’t surprised when the young woman who finally stood up and started challenging the panel snapped. First, despite her having her hand raised for most of the discussion, the panel never even acknowledged her or invited her opinion (despite soliciting the opinion of several guys both on and off the panel. Finally, she just stood up and started shouting to make her voice heard. Her question focused on the language the panel had been using – “female” instead of “woman,” and pointed out that it made us sound like livestock rather than people.
But did the panel address the question, perhaps looking for the point at which the discussion took on the word “female” so universally? Did they take the opportunity to discuss how things like language can make a group uncomfortable for women, and what we could do to make it better? No! The woman asking the question was viciously torn apart and ridiculed for even bringing it up. First, a combination of panelists and audience members tried to defend themselves by saying that feminists won’t let men use the word “women” off-limits because it has “men” in it. Then a commotion of everyone talking at once, which was cut off by one panelist’s definitive comment: “What do you want us to say, ‘the weaker sex?”
She got upset (and who wouldn’t be?) and left the room. I – a member of the audience, not one of the event organizers – went after her. While there were a few odd calls from the audience for the panelist to apologize, the moderator sort of awkwardly pushed the discussion on to a new topic, with an embarrassed air of “Sorry for the disturbance.” No apology, no discussing a better way it could have been handled. Not even a joking “This is how *not* to be welcoming” comment. Just “nothing to see here, move along.”
…From there, the conversation wandered into a weird discussion about how men’s biology drives them to frequently (if not constantly) pursue sex, and since it’s biology, no one should get upset at, judge, or think less of men for any skirt-chasing they might engage in. (Because we never intellectually overcome our animal instincts in other areas of our biology, right?) The attitude in the room shifted: suddenly women were the bad guys for saying no to men’s propositions because it denies the men’s innate biology. Most of the guys in the room loved it, but as a woman in the audience – it was really uncomfortable. It was demeaning, frustrating, and not what you want to say to attract more women into this movement. And the attitude stuck around.
All these people got presented with a totally skewed perspective on our movement’s views on gender equality and sexuality. The message was loud and clear: it’s totally ok for guys to be assholes. Women should just STFU when men treat them like sex objects. The appropriate way to solve the problem of gender imbalance is to ask a bunch of guys about it (oh, and the entire problem is just because women won’t let men have sex with them whenever they want to). The way to handle women’s input is to ridicule them.
This whole experience would be laughable, like something from a bad Saturday Night Live skit, if it weren’t for the fact that it really happened, and happened in the context of a discussion of how to attract more women to the atheist movement.
This sort of thing makes me ashamed to be a man, not to mention a white, middle-aged, male atheist, and rightly so. The insufferable sense of male privilege permeates the description of the conference and I can only imagine what it must have been like to be a woman in attendance. I can tell you that had I been there I certainly would have, for one, apologized for my insensitive and idiotic fellow white males, and then I would have ripped them a new one for being to fatuously insensitive to 30% of the audience present.
I believe that if atheist organizations want to make their organizations more open and welcoming to women, they need to, first and foremost, actively seek out women to be, not just members, but organizers. I know, that is putting the cart before then horse, but they must at lease try to truly understand the discrimination and sexism that woman face in our society. They need to educate themselves on this subject and take what they learn to heart.
There is no excuse for these kinds of sexist attitudes or behavior at an atheist conference, unless these are some kind of male only atheist organizations, in which case, who needs them?
There has been much talk and speculation about the motives for the Shooting of Rep. Giffords and others in Tucson, AZ. The right wingers are falling all over themselves to minimize the possible damage, using ad hominem attacks against just about everyone who is further to the left than Dick Cheney. Meanwhile, those on the left have been making wild speculations about the motives of shooter, sure that he must be a dyed in the wool Tea Partier with a lifetime NRA membership who spits on every homeless person he sees.
Despite all the calls for unity and civility, the reactions have been par for the course for our national discourse of just about every issue out there. It is disheartening and frustrating. Yet, even the most self-serving and stupid reactions from people like Sarah Palin pale when compared with the pure hate and idiocy that reins on the Internet.
I found these comments on the Man Boobz blog:
He [was] probably dumped by a girl and that’s what started him on the road to crazy batshit loonery. I can’t think of any other factor that could more quickly drive a man to violence than women.
And this one:
it pisses me off when i see all this outrage on the news and from the public knowing that if it was a congressMAN who was shot, everyone would be wondering what he did to deserve it.
this really shows you how society values women over men. and she’s not even dead!
This is yet another example of how Femerica values female lives more than male lives. In the eyes of most Americans, men are less human than women.
The male judge gets a mention because he is a lackey for the interests of the elite. Even though he is dead, since he is a male, his death is presented by the media as less of a tragedy than the non-lethal shooting of a female politician with a good chance for recovery.
The death of the young girl was portrayed as third in line in terms of level of tragedy. By American standards, it was a tragedy because she possessed a vagina, but since she was not grown enough to be a full-fledged feminazi, her death was less of a tragedy than the non-death of the female politician.
These reactions bring douchebagery to a completely new level. The utter hate and contempt for anything female is staggering. I don’t even know where we can begin to address ideas like these.
I normally like to remain upbeat about things, but this whole situation makes me wonder if our society has passed the proverbial point of no return and will eventually tear its self apart from within. I have no words of wisdom today, just sadness and dismay.