If you haven't read the article, I suggest doing so but with side notes to consider. Firstly, Jackie's story is her own. It a story that should be told with reverence and the way that she wants. But I have a major issue with the way the story is present. It continually reiterates the "good girl" concept. Her lack if interest in drinking is noted. Her clothing is remarked on as modest and tasteful. She is relieved of any blame in the matter. The problem is that it simply does not matter. We already have a rampant issue of victim blaming. What was she wearing? Was she alone? Was she drunk? We have to stop caring. The problem is that this article wants you to know that she was dressed modestly, was sober or relatively so and had not "asked for it" in any way. The fact is, it didn't matter what she was or drinking. And by making sure all of society knows she did not provoke it, it is implied that anything revealing or associated with drinking probably would have made her somewhat responsible. It is sort of a backhanded way of victim blaming, as if to say, "Don't worry, she was not drunk or dressed slutty, so there is no reason she is responsible."
I would also like to remark on the note that UVA does not have any "radical feminists" trying to overthrow patriarchy. That's nice. Thank God the rampant issue of sexual assault on campus has not caused those ball-busting feminists to uprise and demand a smidgen or respect.
While fraternities play a large part in assaults, it is important to recognize that they do not create rapists but may simply encourage a hyper masculinity or mentality and behaviors that may encourage someone to commit assault. Getting rid of them may help the problem but it is important to note that rape happens outside of fraternities too. The article seems to make it a one-dimensional issue. I am not disagreeing that fraternity houses are the perfect set up for the perfect environment and mentality that may encourage or make it easier for a predator to assault, it also is not the only thing that is a factor. And faculty, student attitudes and societal attitudes need to change. Also, people should simply not rape other people. But dumbing it down to a problem of merely fraternities is not the right avenue. It is noted that handling of the assaults by faculty is a problem but we should bare in mind that eliminating fraternities does not eliminate rape. Eliminating rape culture eliminates rape and fraternities, generally, are just a portion of that. Also, I have met my best friend at a fraternity house and he is one of the best men I have ever met. I would like to note he is a self-proclaimed feminist and can explain to you who Jessica Valenti is. So, it is not fair to make the he-is-a-frat-boy-so-he-is-an-asshole-rapist claim.
Later in the article girls are described wearing crop tops and being "sloshed" (So poetic). It also remarks on a girl who was assaulted previously and noted that she was virgin. You know, because it mattered what they wearing and if they were intoxicated and how many people they slept with before.
I praise the story in some ways. It is a testimate to an incredibly brave woman who has decided to speak out against the system. It brings to light the massive problem of sexual assaults on college campuses and the lack of police and faculty participation or even interest in dealing with the matter in many cases. There are wonderful things about this article. It is a story that should be read with reverence and respect. It is a story that should be listened to and taken in slowly. I think it needs to be read though with the author's own voice in mind and while it is a story to be shared and respected, it does not tackle the issue of sexual assault on campuses perfectly and entirely.
The most important thing that I think we need to recognize is the fact that to some extent, this is violence sensationalized. Maybe that is a part of any kind of story like this. And that does not change the fact that it needs to be shared. However, we need to make sure that as we read it, we read it with respect and sure that we are reading it to listen, learn and then do our part to change the problem. We tend to flock to stories of tragedy and particularly violence. I think we do it sometimes because we like to sympathize with people. I think sometimes we do it because we want to be moved to feel something. I think that other times we do it because we want to get close to this unimaginable and heinous sadness or tragedy without it actually touching us. We bear witness to someone else's pain without it actually affecting us directly. I think that as this important and powerful narrative is told, we need to make sure we have the right motives.
I've been a fan of the show Criminal Minds for a long time. When one of the main characters left the show several seasons in, I researched his reasons for leaving. I found he had decided not to do the show anymore because of the increasing awareness of his contribution to the sensationalization of violence. Instead of focusing on raising awareness on issues pertaining to sexual assault, it simply made it a spectacle, a source of entertainment. He remarked on the fact that people were coming home to watch the show, unwinding from a long day by observing gruesome rapes and murders. I think this concept manifests in our culture in many ways. I think it happens with stories like this. I think we need to be more aware of it.
A recent video of a father singing "Blackbird" to his dying son in the NICU, following the death of his wife who died in childbirth is a prime example. The video captures the final moments of father and son beautifully. I respect it. But I wonder sometimes why we are so interested in this tragedy that it has gained millions of views. I think we are so interested for the same reason many will read the Rolling Stone article.
I took notice of the article and appreciated it because I am a feminist and I have a particular interest in this issue. I think there are a lot of people who will read this article without any particular interest in the issue but more of an interest in the story. It is something to gawk at and something to respond to. It is simply a stimuli that serves as a reminder as the terrible things in this world that exist next to us but did not directly happen to us. That is why some people will read it.
I have an incredible amount of respect for this young woman's story and I praise Rolling Stone for publishing article that focuses on this terrible problem that I have been passionate about changing for a long time. I praise them for calling out people, a University and a problem that have needed to be called out. But this story needed to be done the right way. It enforced rape culture concepts of good girl and bad girl and asking for it. It makes rape on campuses a one dimensional issue of fraternities and faculty. And as I read, I appreciated the way it was done, the effort that was made and this young woman's courage, all the while worried at the sensationalization of the story that would inevitably occur. I think that that is just a part of things like this. These stories need to be read, understood, respected and shared. But the thing is, we need to make sure that happens in the right way. We need to make sure these stories are told in the best way. And we need to make sure that with things like this, especially with assault, that we are reading and sharing them for the right reason. Next time you click a video, share an article or start a conversation about someone's tragedy, make sure it is out of compassion and hope for change, rather than out of sheer interest, making it a spectacle.