Hey, wanna get pointlessly outraged? Read this Wall Street Journal editorial by Naomi “I hate my own sex” Schaefer Riley.
Ladies, You Should Know Better
How feminism wages war on common sense.
Okay, first word and I’m already offended.
Not quite true. The word “ladies” offends me only in context, and I have to get to the end of the sentence to really pick up on the condescension.
And the offense is deliberate. Nobody calls me a “lady” in that smarmy tone or tells me that feminism is the opposite of common sense unless they want me to tweak out. Although, to be fair, the author may not have written the headline herself. So let’s get on with the guts of the article.
Word came out this week that Darryl Littlejohn, the New York bouncer charged in the Feb. 25 rape and murder of graduate student Imette St. Guillen, has been linked by a DNA match to an October sexual assault on another woman. This latest revelation will no doubt (and rightly) lead to more angry cries about the failure of Mr. Littlejohn’s parole officer to keep track of his violent charge and about the negligence of bar owners who do not check the backgrounds of their employees.
Okay, so, if it is “right” that this will lead to anger about ineffective parole officers, why does the sentence sound so snarky? Like she means just the opposite? Perhaps because she is being completely disingenuous? Let’s read on.
But it should also serve to remind women, yet again, that it would be a good idea to use a little more common sense.
A police investigation has confirmed that on the night of her murder, Ms. St. Guillen was last seen in a bar, alone and drinking at 3 a.m. on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
Got that, kids? Crazy rapists and murderers are a reminder that women should use common sense and avoid bars, New York, 3 a.m., and being alone. Got it. But you know what is, statistically speaking, more dangerous than all those things? Yes, even more dangerous than New York bars?
So, unless Ms. Riley is going to follow with a rant about how, if you get killed by a drunk because you are driving, heavens, an automobile at 3 a.m., and you should have used a little more common sense and somehow feminism has something to do with it…her logic doesn’t hold up.
Oh, pooh, her logic doesn’t hold up anyway. I guess logic is for those dastardly feminist types. Heh.
It does not diminish Mr. Littlejohn’s guilt or the tragedy of Ms. St. Guillen’s death to note what more than a few of us have been thinking–that a 24-year-old woman should know better.
It doesn’t? Because I don’t know why you’d bother to blame the victim in a situation like this unless you were trying to diminish either guilt or tragedy.
Yet there are forces in our culture (writing letters to this newspaper even now) that find this suggestion offensive.
Nope, not writing a LTE, just doing a bloggy point-by-point. But I submit, Ms. Riley, that you know very well you are being offensive, and it is quite deliberate on your part. Don’t play the innocent. Just because you anticipate that your offensive statements will be found offensive doesn’t make them not offensive.
If you have attended college any time in the past 20 years, you will have heard that if a woman is forced against her will to have sex, it is “not her fault” and that women always have the right to “control their own bodies.”
Well, yes, being “forced against your will” to do something is not your fault
— by definition. That’s what “will” means.
Also, the way she puts “control their own bodies” in quotes makes it sound as if, perhaps, she thinks that women don’t always have the right to control their own bodies. Which I suppose she might actually think if she is an anti-abortionist. But it still seems odd in this context.
Nothing could be truer.
Oh, I see. This is another case like “and rightly” in the first paragraph, where she attempts to ridicule a reasonable point of view, then backs away from the implications of that by claiming that no, really, she does agree with it.
But the administrators who utter these sentiments and the feminists who inspire them rarely note which situations are conducive to keeping that control and which threaten it. They rarely discuss what to do to reduce the likelihood of a rape. Short of re-educating men, that is.
Hmm. I’m a feminist, and I’m pretty sure I never suggested that men needed a re-education to know that rape was wrong. It’s one of the most ancient and serious of human crimes, after all. There’s murder, and there’s rape.
But just as sociopaths exist on the Lower East Side, they exist on college campuses. One or two might even be playing lacrosse for Duke University.
And I’m pretty sure a few of them are serving in the Bush administration, but is that really the point? Sociopaths are, by definition, anomalous. They can be anywhere, but are not likely to be anywhere. So where is she going with this? Is she going to suggest that we should all plan every aspect of our lives as if we’re going to encounter sociopaths? Murderous sociopaths? That seems like a good way to make yourself cripplingly neurotic.
The past few weeks have brought much hand-wringing about the alleged rape of a stripper at a team party in Durham, N.C. Understandably so: An email from one team member, just after the party, suggested that he was aroused by the idea of skinning a woman and killing her.
I’m not fooled for a moment by this tactic, Ms. Riley, but it’s the third or possibly fourth time you’ve used it already in this essay and it’s getting very tiresome.
Though the investigation is still under way, commentators have already blamed the event on everything from racism (the stripper was black, the accused players white) to the lack of moral instruction in colleges today.
Can we agree to blame it, provided it did happen, on the man or men who committed the crime? I’m fairly comfortable with that.
Which explanation is most credible? Perhaps it doesn’t matter. Whatever the problem is, it won’t be fixed this year or possibly ever, even with best sorts of attitude adjustment.
I just don’t think this problem is as complicated as Ms. Riley seems to think it is. Either a crime was committed or it wasn’t. Either man or men raped a woman, or they didn’t. It strikes me as a job for law enforcement, not pundits.
Perhaps the law of averages says that, with 14 million men in U.S. colleges today, a few of them will be rapists. What to do? For starters: Be wary of drunken house parties.
Note the switcheroo here. Based on the law of averages, some men in college will be rapists. Her advice is not therefore to avoid men — I suppose that would seem too “feminist” — it is to avoid drunken house parties. Which is actually a non-sequitor. I think she expects us not to notice.
Now, readers may well assume that this advice is obvious and that no Duke coed would ever do what the stripper, by her own account, did: Upon finding 40 men at the party instead of the four for whom she agreed to “dance,” she stayed and performed anyway. When the partygoers began shouting what she described as racial epithets and violent threats, she left but returned after an apology from a team member. A stripper with street smarts is apparently a Hollywood myth.
If this account is correct — and I have no reason to believe that it is — yes, this constitutes fairly foolish behavior on the part of the stripper. Once men have already shown themselves to be jerks, sticking around longer than you have to is inviting more jerkish behavior. But maybe they were paying her really, really well. Suspending your better judgment for the sake of a buck makes her a good capitalist, doesn’t it? I would think the WSJ pages would be all in favor of that sort of thing.
Also, this example seems to make exactly the opposite case to the one stated in the headline. That is, I see putting up with guys acting like jerks, just because one of them apologizes or something, to be decidedly non-feminist behavior.
Example: this last weekend, at Norwescon, I ran into a guy I hadn’t seen for years — let’s call him “Jerkface Oozebucket.” Jerkface Oozebucket used to date a friend of mine. He was, at the time, the biggest misogynist jerk I had ever met, and seemed to be quite proud of himself on account of it. He seemed to think he was being suave or something. After knowing him a total of maybe six hours, I started wanting to smash his smug misogynist face into the floor with something heavy. Then something sharp, like an industrial cheese grater. Then something heavy again. Then break a bottle of Tabasco sauce against his skull and let it drip into the wounds, only probably not Tabasco, but rather a cheaper, inferior, but even more capsaicin-ful knockoff. Then let rabid dogs lick it off. Except dogs probably don’t like hot sauce.
Where was I? Oh, yeah. Anyway, when I ran into him over the weekend I didn’t recognize him right away. I thought, “that guy looks familiar.” Then he said something completely jerky and I knew who it was. Now, I don’t really know anything about Jerkface Oozebucket other than how big of a jerk he is. And that he’s fussy about his martinis, which just goes to show that jerks can have taste, sort of. But of all the men I’ve ever known, he strikes me as the one most likely to be a rapist. He’s that big of a jerk. Anyway, part of why I won’t put up with a guy being a jerk like that is because I am a feminist. Or maybe I’m a feminist because I won’t put up with guys being jerks like that. Either way, Riley is not making her point here. Whatever her point really is.
But smart women at top schools are engaging in behavior that is equally moronic. In another recent incident, a cadet at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., apparently got so drunk on two liters of wine and a couple of glasses of beer that she didn’t know that she had had sex with a Naval Academy midshipman until he told a friend of hers the next day to get her the morning-after pill.
This is another non-sequitor. I don’t see much connection between performing in an uncomfortable situation somewhat against your better judgment and having it turn into one of the worst possible outcomes, and getting drunk as a lord and having sex with a guy then blacking it out. For one thing, stupid drunken blackout sex isn’t actually a crime — as long as you got drunk of your own free will, and as long as the guy had a reasonable expectation that you were consenting to the sex. I’ve been drunk like that once, when passing around a bottle of Jagermeister at a party while still sober is literally the last thing I remember, and I haven’t touched Jagermeister since, and based on eyewitness accounts the person I was most likely to have had stupid drunken blackout sex with was female anyway, but you know — had I woken up in some guy’s bed I would have been horrified, but I wouldn’t have pressed charges.
In a survey conducted two years ago by the Harvard School of Public Health, one in every 20 women reported having been raped in college during the previous seven months. Rape statistics are notoriously unreliable, but the kicker rings true: “Nearly three-quarters of those rapes happened when the victims were so intoxicated they were unable to consent or refuse.” And those are just the ones who admitted it.
Hmm. This does touch on something that used to bug me in college — the fact that a lot of women seemed to think that girl power meant claiming every incident of bad judgment re: sleeping with a guy, was rape — but it has nothing to do with the stripper or the St. Guillen crimes. Nothing.
The odd thing is that feminism may be partly to blame. Time magazine reporter Barrett Seaman explains that many of the college women he interviewed for his book “Binge” (2005) “saw drinking as a gender equity issue; they have as much right as the next guy to belly up to the bar.” Leaving biology aside–most women’s bodies can’t take as much alcohol as men’s–the fact of the matter is that men simply are not, to use the phrase of another generation, “taken advantage of” in the way women are.
Is Riley serious? Is she trying to imply that getting a woman drunk so you can get her into bed with you is some kind of new, post-feminist phenomenon? Further, is Seaman seriously claiming that women didn’t match men drink for drink (whether foolish or not) until recent history? Have either of them ever watched the Thin Man movies? And if they haven’t, they should. On general principle.
Radical feminists used to warn that men are evil and dangerous. Andrea Dworkin made a career of it. But that message did not seem reconcilable with another core feminist notion–that women should be liberated from social constraints, especially those that require them to behave differently from men. So the first message was dropped and the second took over.
I feel the need to — once again — point out that this entire argument thread is a non-sequitor to the earlier blame-the-victim thread.
Really, what’s happening here is this: Riley is trying to conflate, to smooge
together like nearly-gone bars of soap, two contradictory ideas: the pre-feminist
“she shouldn’t of dressed like that” blame-the-victim mentality regarding unambiguous
criminal rape, and the post-feminist idea that, every time you have sex you
later regret, it’s date rape. Not only are both these ideas wrong, they are
also sort of mutually exclusive.
The radical-feminist message was of course wrongheaded–most men are harmless, even those who play lacrosse–but it could be useful as a worst-case scenario for young women today. There is an alternative, but to paraphrase Miss Manners: People who need to be told to use their common sense probably didn’t have much to begin with.
First: how dare she quote Miss Manners? Miss Manners is logical, consistent,
and, I am fairly certain, a feminist.I am outraged. I take umbrage. I don’t
know where I take it, but I definitely take it.
Second: her conclusion hearkens back to the distinctly un-useful “assume everyone might be a sociopath” rule of thumb she halfheartedly attempted to establish earlier. Because any female college student (and I loathe the term coed and will not use it except to mention how much I loathe it) following such advice would have to, pretty much, never go on an unchaperoned date with a guy.
Rape is an issue of consent — it’s rape if there is no consent. But consent/not consent isn’t always a clear toggle. If somebody jumps you in a dark alley with a gun, the lack of consent is unambiguous. If somebody puts sleeping pills in your drink without telling you, again, the lack of consent is unambiguous. But, if somebody gets you drunk without force or deceit, then has sex with you, the lack of consent starts to become ambiguous — he may genuinely think that you are consenting, even though perhaps he should recognize that you are in no position to give meaningful consent. But if he’s just as drunk as you are…
Statutory rape, a crime, occurs when both parties consent, but the younger party is assumed to be too young for that consent to be legally meaningful. (Mary Kay, I’m talkin’ ’bout you.)
Anyway, if we’re talking about drunk and stupid, drunk freshmen of both sexes are in danger from more than rape. When I was in school there was a kid who got drunk and fell off a balcony, giving himself a fatal head injury. Sometimes drunk people choke to death on their own vomit, or drown in hot tubs, or get hit by a car while walking home.
I really don’t think it has much to do with feminism.
And I really don’t think it has anything to do with being raped and murdered by a sociopath who followed you out of a bar.