(Update: Just noticed that uber-blogger, Andrew Sullivan, picked me up again a few days ago for my TIME.com column last week on the link between India’s skewed sex ratios and violence against women. Here’s the link.)
I have a love-hate relationship with my TIME.com gig. I really appreciate the chance to write for a well-known online magazine and to have a platform for ideas, to practice my writing skills and so forth. But I hate the fact that my columns are always short and relatively one-note and missing a lot of nuance I’d like to include. Maybe it’s just narcissism on my part to think that my unedited bloviations are “nuance,” but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. The other thing that makes me uneasy is when my gut instinct tells me to leave a story alone. I mean, seriously, just take a pass on this one! There will be another controversy next week — like the one I’ve posted below – but my editor pushes me to go for it. And then the second it’s “up,” I realize I should have known better.
I knew, for example, that whatever I said about the Ohio rape story would be misinterpreted as blaming the victim which, sure enough, is what is happening. Note to readers: I think what likely (operative word) happened in Ohio is unconscionable, damaging, disgusting, illegal, and a symptom of much greater social ills. I still think it’s the height of arrogance to suggest that what’s knowable about Steubenville, Ohio is already known. Due process is important in such a case and, contrary to my many ‘haters’ online, it’s not victim-blaming to say so.
(The victim-blaming card was pulled when I wrote about the Amherst rape story because I happen to think a knee-jerk journalistic approach to women’s issues, which asks the reader to believe that every single bad sexual experience in a woman’s life is equally catastrophic and life-crushing and belongs under the same “bad sexual experience” umbrella, is ultimately a good deal of badness for women insofar as such an attitude almost provokes the reader into dismissing much of women’s ‘bad sexual experiences’ (including rape) as bogus or ‘much ado,’ and thus reinforces the completely toxic sexual climate surrounding young women that needs dismantling blah di blah…another “nuanced” point that got lost.)
But I digress… Really, I wanted in this column to develop the idea that social media are a double edged sword, both revealing social pathology and enabling it, especially in the criminal justice system. I do of course understand the key role that social media (and old fashioned media) have played in galvanizing social change, starting revolutions and whatnot. (And I would have written at greater length on this point if I’d been given the chance, but the whole point of opinion pieces — and the editors who commission them – is to give the reader a quick little punch to the gut.) But… but… but.. Oh, whatever! Here’s the piece and you can judge me:
Anyone questioning the idea that brutality toward women is a cultural universal might look no further than Ohio. Echoing the protests sweeping across India in recent weeks following the rape-murder of a 23 year-old New Delhi student, the tornado of outrage in Steubenville, Ohio over an alleged rape of a 16 year-old girl by two high school football players last August has swept through social media, scattering rage and snap judgments like debris over an episode of enormous gravity that may now never be fairly resolved in a court of law…