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December 12, 2014

Another Sensible Piece on UVA/Jackie at Slate

Amanda Hess writes coolly and persuasively, except for this one thing:

I'm told that this has been a bad couple of weeks for the anti-rape movement. "Rolling Stone just wrecked an incredible year of progress for rape victims," Arielle Duhaime-Ross wrote at the Verge last week. Since the magazine’s November story about a brutal gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity began to unravel early this month, feminists have raised alarms that the magazine’s whiff will have devastating effects for past and future victims. The story "could be read as a setback for an entire movement," campus activist Annie Clark wrote in BuzzFeed. UVA is "on its way to becoming the next Duke Lacrosse--a highly publicized incident that misogynists will point to as a way to discredit all people, especially young women and students, who experience rape," Audrey White wrote at Autostraddle. According to Duhaime-Ross, "the credibility of rape victims will be put into question for years to come," as Rolling Stone has helped to "perpetuate the dangerous and damaging myth that women lie about rape."

I’m surprised that these activists and commentators are so quick to hand over the future of this movement to packs of roving social media misogynists. There are people on the fringe who believe that any rape story with any discrepancies is evidence of a vast feminist conspiracy aimed at inventing rapes and vilifying innocent men, but these rape truthers are not reasonable people, nor are they most people, and it is unwise to mold the conversation around their fantasies. I am, however, concerned with how some feminists and progressives have responded to the ever-expanding holes in Rolling Stone’s story.

Hess does not use these "roving social media misogynists" in the way the Accusation Brigades usually do -- as a straw man whose awful claims conveniently discredit and delegitimize non- awful claims that are harder to dispense with. She says that these hooligans' claims must be put aside, and the claims of non-awful, non-fringe people seriously considered.

Well, that is fair and sensible.

However, I really must ask: Where are these alleged hordes of misogynists who literally deny the existence of rape? Or who claim that virtually every woman who complains of rape must be lying? Including, presumably, the tens of thousands of men convicted every year of rape by a jury after a trial?

Including women who complain of being raped by strangers in a stair-well?

I am guessing Amanda Hess is on the left. She's writing sensibly here, but I can't help but notice this claim that there are hordes of Rape Deniers seems to be something that is always claimed to exist by people on the left, and yet, like all those people shocked and appalled by Black Stormtroopers, never seem to make their presence known and tangible to anyone else.

Where are the quotes? Who are these people?

Everyone on the left seems convinced that these people exist -- ready, willing, and able to deny any and all women's complaints of rape -- and yet they never get around to actually quoting them saying anything like this.

At any rate, she then gets to her major point: That the "anti-rape" feminists are in fact doing the anti-rape cause a great disservice by pretending that there are no problems at all with Jackie's account, or that Jackie's account should be taken as symbolic of all accounts of rape.

Because -- if this were actually accepted as true -- if Jackie's account really were similar to most rape accounts -- then those hypothetical "roving gangs of rape-denying misogynists" would seem to be owed an apology.


Any successful anti-rape activist or movement must be willing to accept that false accusations are not a "myth" and grapple with how to handle them appropriately. Whatever really happened at UVA one Saturday night in 2012 cannot possibly undermine a social justice movement because any understanding of justice must accommodate the truth.

Rolling Stone presented Jackie’s story as a powerful symbol for how rape victims are denied justice across America. When it was revealed that the magazine had torpedoed itself, Jackie, and UVA in its negligent reporting, it gave anti-rape activists the opportunity to disavow the false framework that Jackie is somehow emblematic of victims everywhere. Instead, many doubled down. Under the hashtags #IStandWithJackie and #IBelieveJackie, feminists lent their support for Jackie's story, noting that certain aspects of her experience resonate with the way that other rape victims have been shamed and disbelieved. "We know institutions will bring their power to bear to obfuscate sexual violence. That's why we stand with survivors. #IBelieveJackie," the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence tweeted. By using Jackie’s individual story, which was already coming under legitimate scrutiny, to reinforce the movement's broader narrative about how sexual assault operates, and boosting the message with activist hashtags, they bet the big story on the strength of one anecdote. That's a mistake.

Good piece.

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posted by Ace at 05:02 PM

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