Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Victim-Blaming 101

The New York Times has outdone itself. It has been awhile since I've seen it as much beyond a corporate mouthpiece (an honor it shares with CNN, FOX, NBC, and The Washington Post. If it isn't Democracy Now, I'm skeptical). This time, though, it has gone too far.

James McKinley has this to say about an eleven year old gang rape victim in a small East Texas town:

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.

“Where was her mother? What was her mother thinking?” said Ms. Harrison, one of a handful of neighbors who would speak on the record. “How can you have an 11-year-old child missing down in the Quarters?”

Because she had it coming, right? It's her fault, it's her mom's fault (but not her dad's!) - anyone but the group of older teenage boys who raped her. There are pictures and videos to prove it. But we see women as the gatekeepers of sexuality, so if she dressed in a way some other people think was inappropriate and her mom might not know where she was, she totally deserved it. They boys were powerless to not rape her! And as another person interviewed in the story says, “These boys have to live with this the rest of their lives.”


This just makes me want to vomit. 1) When I was 11, I'm pretty sure my mom didn't know where I was at every minute of every day. Neither did my dad. I have fantastic parents, but... I was 11, not six. I never did anything terrible, and I'm lucky I didn't get into trouble, but lordy day, people. Her mom is probably devastated. Compassion?

2) I don't think I need to say this, but I'm going to say it anyway: It does not matter how you dress. It does not matter how much you drink. It does not matter what alley you walk down alone or at what hour of the night. Rape victims are not to blame for their rape. Rapists rape. Rape victims are never asking for it, and they never have it coming. Never. No exceptions. If you try to raise an exception in the comments, your comment will be blocked.

3). Eleven. Years. Old.

I see this as part of the trend of misogyny that the right wing has been working really hard to perpetuate, but also part of a victim-blaming, showing-no-compassion trend that really bothers me. Why do we have to be so awful to other people? No one in this story shows any feeling for this little girl. It's all about how boys don't deserve to have to deal with this, the mother was wrong, these people are poor.

If you would like to join me in writing angry e-mails to the New York Times, you can use this e-mail address:

Edited: Thanks to Steve and Terror for posting these very good takes on this issue:
Amanda Marcotte
Lisa Falkenberg


  1. I'm so tired of seeing stories like this. I read one not too long ago (I wish I could remember when and where, and I'd post a link) about a high school cheerleader who was raped by a basketball player at her school. When she refused to cheer for that player, she was chastised by fellow students and school officials. She was basically told to get over it or transfer to a different school. He suffered NOTHING!

    Current moves by conservatives to "redefine" rape is infuriating. You'd think that we'd be moving forward rather than backward in terms of human rights.

  2. Absolutely right. I remember that story, too. Completely heartbreaking and totally disgusting.

  3. I found a link:

    Damn Texas.

  4. Thanks so much!!

    I wrote to the NYT and told them they're an ally of the right wing in its current war on women, and that I will continue to think so until they issue a huge apology for this piece and start being actively anti-sexist. Between this and boycotting HuffPo, I'm spending a lot more time with Democracy Now, heh.

  5. The New York times is pretty much losing its credibility. The Washington Post isn't much better, what with their refusal to publish corrections after George Will lied about climate change in his columns.

  6. They're corporate mouthpieces, not places I want to go for real news. If Gene Weingarten and Carolyn Hax weren't at the Post, I probably wouldn't go there at all.

  7. I just... oh god... this just makes me so sad and angry. I can't believe we still have to have this conversation in our culture.

  8. Honestly, liberalism has lost the media war. It was lost long ago. Sad, but true.

  9. Marcotte's comment at Double X:


    it's a followup.

  11. Thanks for posting the links, y'all. Horrific stuff.