(Don’t) Rush To Judge Me

(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.

Photo: TIME.com (Ohio Plain Dealer) People protest at the Jefferson County Courthouse in Steubenville, Ohio, Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013. Authorities investigating rape accusations against two high school football players in eastern Ohio launched a website Saturday as interest in the case balloons, an extraordinary step designed to combat the misperception "that the football team runs the city," the city manager said.

Photo: TIME.com (Ohio Plain Dealer) People protest at the Jefferson County Courthouse in Steubenville, Ohio, Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013. Authorities investigating rape accusations against two high school football players in eastern Ohio launched a website Saturday as interest in the case balloons, an extraordinary step designed to combat the misperception “that the football team runs the city,” the city manager said.

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…

continued at: http://ideas.time.com/2013/01/08/viewpoint-dont-rush-to-judge-on-steubenville/#ixzz2HP1RgF4X

About ErikaChristakis

Yale Lecturer in early childhood education/Licensed teacher/Former preschool director/author. In possession of: unmarketable bachelor’s degree (Harvard, anthropology), semi-marketable graduate degrees (public health, education…). Rewarding career at the intersection of family, society, and schools (including long stint in parenting vortex). Forging a new path to connect all of the above.
This entry was posted in Children/Teens/Young Adults, Erika @ TIME.com, Public Policy, Women-related and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to (Don’t) Rush To Judge Me

  1. I understood everything you were saying, and you are spot on. We live in a society where most people are intellectually lazy. 90% of Americans believe in a magic wish granting man in the clouds. When you speak to them you must lay it out like to a 3rd grader so it cannot be misinterpreted. A good example of this is Jared Diamond’s book “Guns, Germs, & Steel”. He knew he’d get blamed for racism, so he preempts it at every turn. I suggest you do the same in the future, but please continue telling the truth.

    “In times of great deceit, the truth will be seen as absurd.”

    • Thanks for your helpful feedback, especially given the vitriol that passes for discourse (much of which goes straight to the trash, especially when hateful misogynist language is invoked… ironically from people claiming that I hate women.) The hilarious part is that I received similar flak from scores of men about my man-hating stance from previous posts. It is depressing how unwilling people are to engage in issues rationally.I’m not asking for agreement from people, just a willingness to be open-minded. Many thanks!

  2. Jason says:

    Please let us all know where you work with kids so we can be sure to keep our children light-years away from you! Your column today in Time was as sickening and repulsive as they get. Your excuse for it was nothing but a lame attempt to make your hateful and ignorant sentiments make any sense to anyone. They don’t.

    We DO know what happened in India. And we know that a girl was raped in Steubinville. You have NO CLUE how offensive you are!

    • Of course we know that a terrible rape-murder occurred in India. It’s grotesque, heartbreaking, and I wrote a passionately argued column about some of the forces (such as sex selection) that enable such heinous behavior. But legally speaking we do not have any idea what happened vis a vis the five (or was it six?) defendants. This is why democracies like the U.S. and India have a judicial system that gives defendants their day in court. Is it foolproof? Of course not. But it’s the best system we have. Right now we know that two of the defendants are turning ‘state’s witness” against the others and that one of the six may or may not be a minor. Is that the ‘truth’ you are so confident you know? Are you clairvoyant? What are you suggesting, exactly? That you somehow have an inside track on this terrible murder and feel confident you can just dispense with all due process? Would you like to just line all six of them up (or, wait, should we leave out the two who have made a deal? Or could there be even more than six who were involved? Who knows right now?) and shoot them like rabid dogs because you think you have all the answers? Due process is important for defendants AND victims. I, personally, do not know (yet, and possibly ever) what exactly happened in Steubenville. Nor do you. Was it really only two boys who raped the girl? Was it more? Who was involved? Was she actually raped? Urinated on? Who was or was not consenting, legally? There are hundreds of unanswered questions and history is littered with stories of misinformation and dis-information that harm the accused AND victims alike. The more this case is tried in the public opinion by histrionic and foolish responses like yours, the LESS likely it is that justice will prevail, if for no other reason than that the accused will get off on an appeal because of an unfair trial. There are two problems here, of course: the specific cases in question, and the sickening cultures that fosters the abuse and rape of women. Neither problem is going to be addressed by outbursts like yours.

      And p.s. I will not engage in a ‘conversation’ with someone who uses offensive language, per your second post, which I have trashed. I’m sorry this raises such anger in you that you can’t see what an advocate I’ve been for women and how often I’ve written about the terrible scourge of rape. The public record is very clear on this point.

      • Lint says:

        Erika, you’re very patient for dealing with someone like Jason.
        Great article.

      • Thank you very much for your kind reply. I sometimes wonder why I even bother to respond to someone like “Jason.” (And i have deleted many of his posts because it’s just exhausting for everyone to read his rageful stuff over and over again, eg. that I am accusing the rape victims of “lying” etc.) I guess I just keep hoping that people can listen and learn from one another and I know in my heart that I try to be a decent person and have spent a lot of my life with the diminished and mistreated folks who don’t have a voice in the world. I don’t mean that to sound self-serving; it’s just a fact that I’ve spent a lot of the last 25 years with small children, people with mental illness, people in poverty and the like. So I find it so unbelievable that strangers who don’t know me at all are attacking me for being a monster. Anyway, this is life in the blogosphere and I have developed a pretty thick skin! If you read between the lines on some of the comments and random emails I get, there’s a lot of embedded hostility about my education (Harvard is a filthy word to a lot of people) and my suspect work life and my apparent audacity in taking up Time magazine’s offer to be a regular online contributor. I wonder sometimes if my name were Erik Christakis, and not Erika Christakis, if I’d get the same feedback. But I’m probably WAY over-thinking this! Good night and thank you!

  3. Jason says:

    Save it. You are part of the problem and you are your piece in TIME are deserving of the anger directed at you. This DOES “raise such anger” in me. You don’t get that because you are a pseudo-intellectual hack who is posing as an advocate.

    I am a man. I am also a brother, son and uncle to some awesome women. If you think the trash you spew at people who are DEMANDING you shut up with your worthless and poorly timed (to be kind) theorizing on rape and victimhood is working, keep at it.

    There are few people I detest, but those who deliver a sliver of relief to rapists or victim blamers are on a short list or total creeps.

    You are a coward, Ms. Christakis. You haven’t the decency to apologize for the filth and destructive concepts you fling around like this is some f-ing game.

    Delete my comments all you want. Sadly, yours are online for all the world to see what an insensitive, clueless ass you are.

  4. Jason says:

    “Outbursts” Yeah, that’s right. There’s some anger here. And it is being directed at the latest idiot who thinks this is some intellectual exercise: you!

    You are a creep. The notion that you are even permitted to work with children is sickening. What happens when one of your kids is attacked and their family has an “outburst?” I guess you are there with your Ivy League love to calm them down by telling them that not all the facts are in and you are there to help them think through it all.

    Keep your high-brow self congratulatory BS. You served nobody today but the rape apologists!

    • Um… Are we reading the same posts? Seriously? I’m defending our legal system, not rapists!! Your comments are so preposterously misplaced. In fact, I said explicitly that we need to protect victims by not allowing rapists to walk! But there are of course also cases where accused rapists are innocent. Mostly, but not always, they are poor men of color without good legal representation. Watch the new documentary on the Central Park 5. Why the fear and anger at justice? Let’s be angry about rape and abuse of women, senseless violence, and the people who think it’s pseudo-intellectual and egotistic to seek truth.

  5. George from UK says:

    Ms Christakis, I’ve read your article with great interest and understand where you are coming from. But I also understand people ire’s at your statement that we don’t really know what happened in Ohio or India. I think you give very mixed messages, because you also state in your reply to Jason quote: ”Of course we know that a terrible rape-murder occurred in India ”. And there is no doubt that something horrible was done this the girl in Ohio. Perhaps you should have chosen your words more carefully. Perhaps something like this ” We don’t know in every detail what really happened in Ohio. Or even in India, for that matter,… Of course we know that a terrible rape-murder occurred in India and something horrible was done to this the girl in Ohio…but due process etc etc

    Read more: http://ideas.time.com/2013/01/08/viewpoint-dont-rush-to-judge-on-steubenville/#ixzz2HQVsWcpq

    • Thank you for your feedback and for your suggestion. Point well taken and I’ll grant you that the word “exactly” might have clarified the sentence, eg “We don’t know EXACTLY what happened in Ohio or India.”I did refer to the the revulsion these cases evoke in all of us and just a few days ago I devoted my column to an impassioned piece (linked to directly in today’s column) about the hideous rape-murder in India. However, this fixation with whether or not we “know” what happened obscures my actual point: that a lack of due process and trial by media can have negative consequences for both defendants AND victims. On the narrow point: the fact remains that we do not, actually, know what happened in either circumstance. We weren’t on the bus or at the party; we don’t know many of the details about the attacks or (especially in the Indian case) much about who the defendants are and if, for example, the two Indian alleged rapists who have “turned” state’s witnesses are credible or are just trying to save themselves, and if the minor involved in the attack is indeed a minor, and whether they were all equally involved, and on and on and on… this is why I am defending DUE PROCESS, and NOT RAPISTS! And I am convinced that a respect for the legal system ultimately helps victims, too. We don’t want monsters to walk free because they were denied a fair trial.

      I believe the disproportionate response to my column goes so far beyond a dissatisfaction with word choice (and please keep in mind I have an editor who makes her own word choices and people do write under deadlines!). I think it really has much more to do with a very unfortunate societal tic – especially in the U.S. – where people are incredibly quick to make assumptions, think ill of others, feel offended, and generally not engage in civil discourse. I saw this over the summer when I wrote about the ‘overwhelming maleness of mass homicide.” People jumped down my throat from both the left and the right and accused me of all kinds of things I never said or felt (you can follow the whole saga on this blog) and nit-picked my choice of words… whether I was referring to “mass homicide” or just homicide and so on and so forth. I am totally willing to accept a diversity of opinions and I don’t claim a monopoly on reality! I learn a lot from people with whom I disagree. But I do think that there is a segment of the online community that just wants to be angry and to misread other people’s arguments. This is depressing but I’ve learned it’s a fact of life. I still consider it a huge privilege to be able to write about important topics. And I really appreciate your civil response. Thank you.

  6. Jason says:

    “I believe the disproportionate response to my column goes so far beyond a dissatisfaction with word choice (and please keep in mind I have an editor who makes her own word choices and people do write under deadlines!).”

    Because you are such a victim, aren’t you? You poor thing. You spout damaging nonsense about not only the victim and the FACTS of the crime and what has been stated in court (try public records, next time) but then you get all pouty about people calling you out on your complete lack of common decency.

    Save your outrage for the girl. Or are you content to implicitly say she is a liar. She must be, as must be the woman and man assaulted in India, if your sick words are to be believed.

    Angry are we? Yes. And the anger extends to people who essentially urge us to be patient and ignore the years of rape going unanswered by people JUST LIKE YOU.

    • This is so crazy I am speechless.Did you read my column on the India rape-murder just a few days ago? Do you think I have a multiple personality disorder and can write with great sympathy and sadness about the murdered Indian woman on a Friday and then accuse her of “lying” a few days later? Honestly, this is so tiresome. I am no longer accepting “comments” from you. I am also allowing myself the last word because this is, after all, my blog. I have said nothing about anyone lying! This is just so delusional. I am appalled by the rape, abuse, and murder of women. And history shows that we are on a very dangerous path if people like you can assume they can prejudge criminal cases in which they are not involved.

      • “And history shows that we are on a very dangerous path if people like you can assume they can prejudge criminal cases in which they are not involved.” Ma’am, its about priorities. People feel that society, law enforcement and justice system should work together to make sure NO incident goes unreported and justice is served in every case. You are bothered about the prejudging of criminal cases. Yes, it is an issue but a ‘far lessor’ of an issue than silencing the voice of the victim and unabashedly blaming the victim for the crimes. Get it?

      • If you actually read my piece, you would understand that a KEY reason we can’t pre-judge criminal cases is to protect the victim. In India, it has been reported that there is a real chance the rapists will GO FREE ON APPEAL because of a prejudicial pre-trial atmosphere. This would be a terrible miscarriage of justice. Get it?

  7. I did not feel like engaging you in a conversation but am just too affected right now. I have felt outraged as I read your article today. I am trying to understand where you are coming from and your point about giving the justice system a chance. After all everyone is innocent till proven guilty. Fair enough. Point taken. Now let me tell you where you went horribly wrong. First, you stirred a hornet’s nest because you made irresponsible statements such as ‘we don’t know what happened in India’ etc. It shows a clear lack of research. Everyone knows what happened. In this incident, there is DNA evidence, victim’s statement, physical evidence of the brutality inflicted on her, an eyewitness (her boyfriend) and the confessions of the accused. How could you have not even mentioned all of that. The entire country is shocked, sad, outraged and ashamed, all at the same time. Credit people’s voice with some credibility, people are outraged because of what they have seen/heard about these incidents and this is their response. Would you prefer that people don’t react every time there is a news about any crime and just stay silent trusting that law will take its course. Well, newsflash for you. Law hasn’t been taking its course for a long time and in a majority of incidents. I will not go around throwing statistics at you. Just go read about the reporting and conviction rates of rape and related crimes. This isn’t a mob response, this is a voice that has finally emerged, a voice that has been silent for a very long time. Secondly, your article showed a lack of research and shallow attitude towards something that has shaken people to the core. When you write “we don’t know what exactly happened’, you should have also written some facts that at least point towards the guilt of the accused. After all, law authorities arrest anyone only if there is enough evidence to charge him/her. Finally, only those who have faced harassment in any form or fashion can truly understand how it feels. I could be wrong but you don’t seem impacted at all. You came across as someone who had not taken any time to research and wasn’t at all emotionally involved with an issue like this. You pursued a single point agenda, did very little research, made insensitive statements and failed to present a balanced point of view. I know you have made statements that you have written about this issues before and are supportive of the cause, but if one truly supports something it will show. This particular article was devoid of any emotion and sensitivity. Period.

    • Let’s refresh our memories, shall we? Here’s the opening line of my column:

      “Anyone questioning the idea that brutality toward women is a cultural universal might look no further than Ohio.”

      So, “Everyone” knows what happened? Really? You know what role each of the six men played (or was it just five?) Do you know why two are teaming up with the prosecution against the other three (or is it four?). Do you know if those two are somehow less guilty or just playing a game to save themselves? Do you know what is going to happen to the guy who may or may not be a minor? How old is he, anyway? (A lot of Indians don’t have accurate birth records.) What role did he play? Was he coerced? Was he an initiator? I’m really curious where you and others today are getting your information about the defendants. Last I checked, there was a closed hearing and they were awaiting trial. It doesn’t help the poor dead woman to deny them due process. DO YOU UNDERSTAND THAT THE PERPETRATORS MAY ACTUALLY GO FREE ON APPEAL IF THEY ARE NOT GIVEN A FAIR TRIAL?? How does that serve anyone’s interests??

      And what about Steubenville? You know all about that too? I’ve read a lot on both cases and maybe I’m just really, really stupid but I don’t actually know all the facts yet. I don’t understand why only two kids were arrested in Ohio, for example, if these events took place at several parties. Shouldn’t a lot more people be held responsible? Where were the adults? What about ‘host liability?’ They were underage drinkers, right? I don’t understand what actually happened because I wasn’t there and, again, there’s been no trial. I know that young people sometimes get drunk and subsequently commit rape or get raped. I know that young people sometimes get drunk and subsequently do disgusting, immoral things that don’t necessarily meet the legal definition of rape. I know there’s a culture of denial and coverup. I also know that I don’t believe everything I read or see in the media. I wait for corroboration before I condemn people.

      Thank you for your feedback and I’m very sorry that you think I don’t feel any emotion about the case. It’s because I care so much that I have written not one but two pieces about rape in one week for TIME.com, when I also have a busy day job like everyone else. Like many, I cried when the Indian woman died and have thought of her every day for the last couple weeks. I’ve said so much already but suffice to say that of course I understand ‘what happened’ to the dead woman in India. (And, by the way, I’ve lived in that region of the world, in Bangladesh, and been to India many times to visit my family in Delhi. Many people have accused me of not understanding that part of the world, which is totally incorrect. I have seen first-hand the routine violence towards women there.) In an opinion piece, I can’t recapitulate all the details you would like to hear, especially since TIME has covered the issue extensively and wanted a different angle from me. It’s very easy to be a Monday morning quarterback about other people’s writing. The truth is that we write under deadlines and have editors who tweak or change our words. We have limited space. It’s also an opinion piece, not investigative reporting (though I did indeed do research and totally deny the claim that I don’t know what I’m talking about. If anything, I seem to be focusing on some details of the case that others want to diminish.) In retrospect, yes, I should have added more detail to the piece to ensure that people understood clearly where my sympathies lie. But I’ve re-read my words several times today and it is crystal-clear that I am not blaming victims. That is a fiction cooked up by people who are either not reading my words carefully or have their own agenda. It’s unfair. The anger at my “insensitivity” obscures the real issue: we simply can’t address violence towards women ex-judicially; it serves no one. The Indian defendants didn’t have legal representation until this week. The regional bar association in Delhi publicly REFUSED to represent them, which is a real blot on India’s storied democratic traditions. It’s very dangerous to presume judgment, as so many people have done today. THIS MAY LITERALLY RESULT IN GUILTY PEOPLE WALKING BECAUSE OF A PREJUDICIAL TRIAL. How can this not be a concern? It’s possible to have great sympathy for a victim and still believe that criminal cases should not be tried in the court of public opinion. I believe it’s supremely damaging to both victims and defendants, some who eventually turn out to be innocent, even in the most apparently airtight, slam-dunk cases. I understand this India case has shaken people to the core. I am one of those people shaken to the core! As for my apparent failure to present a balanced view… again, please re-read the article. I CLEARLY talk about the rights of victims and the need to protect their interests.

      And, finally, please be careful making assumptions to strangers about who has and has not experienced harassment “in any form or fashion,” including rape. You never know who you might be speaking to. I am sorry I have upset you so greatly. Thank you for your (relatively) civil feedback.

  8. Spiro says:

    Erika, I’m sorry to see that so many people are lashing out at you. I agree with your article and what you have written here. And I don’t care if people hate on my for agreeing with you. I’ve already been called heartless and a creep in the comment section of your article, all because I agreed how this media hype can lead to a mistrial (which it totally can). People can hate all they want, but the accused deserve a fair trial. I honestly think they are guilty, but obviously no knows for sure yet. Thank-you for your insight!

    • Thank you! Yes, I also think they are almost certainly guilty and am really concerned about a mistrial. But I also really believe in the larger point about justice. We can’t cherry-pick who gets a fair trial. It’s like free speech. It has to apply to everyone, or it means nothing. Sorry my dreadful behavior has resulted in you being called a creep, too. 🙂

  9. Jay says:

    Ah, the luxury of being a journalist who can censor dissent. And your little brag about Andrew Sullivan “picking you up” (again, no less) makes no difference in this matter. You have refused to allow dissent on the blog that is IN YOUR BYLINE on TIME and you have been remarkably resistant (stubborn) to any thoughtful criticism.

    You are neither a journalist or a researcher. You have an opinion. A warped one, at that. One that you have the luxury of occupying space on a nationally respected news-outlet and, thus, you must think you have some monopoly on clear thought. You don’t.

    You are a self-congratulatory, insensitive person who has chosen a terrible time to preach to a vast majority of people in this country and world who are tired, tired, tired of being told to sit and shut up about their anger regarding the rapes of young women. And that is EXACTLY what you are doing. The fact that you can’t even handle dissent and need to brag about some reference that a Daily Beast writer made toward you is weak. Weak.

    Here’s a thought: maybe, just maybe, you can come off your soap crate and speak to the people who are devastated by the crisis of violence against women in this country instead of attacking them due to their own angst-filled rage at the powers that be for their allowing these acts — so many of them — to go unpunished. Write a piece about the girl in Kansas who was threatened with a lawsuit just because she spoke openly about her rape. Her rapists are now off and free and enjoying their lives and she is harassed by the very kind of people who absolutely LOVED your blog today.

    Try thinking beyond your own, isolated yet prideful mind and habit and allow the rage people feel to register not as an attack on you but as an attack on the millions who deny women the defense and voice they deserve.

    Give your defensiveness a rest. Make a bargain with those many who see you as coddling the men who attack girls and kill women and try to understand. Stop preaching and pretending that your opinion has any more value than anyone else’s.

    And let people who you don;t agree with speak. You’re whole argument is for fairness, openness and justice — you practice censorship, defensiveness and antagonism.

    • In what way have you been censored and not allowed to speak? In fact, you have an extraordinary capacity to speak in the comments section of TIME.com, which is wide open to all and contains hundreds of comments (mostly negative and/or ad hominem.) I wonder why you also expect that you should have totally unfettered access to my personal blog, as well… because I had the temerity to link to it on my byline? (The nerve!) Because I linked to Andrew Sullivan’s coverage of my work (again, the audacity! How self-promoting!) The internet has afforded an extraordinary capacity for people to speak. The print media afford no such luxury, as you say. Yet anything short of total control of my commentary leaves you calling censorship, defensiveness and antagonism. You want more than total access to the official TIME.com website, which you have, but also the ability to dictate what I put in my blog.

      For the record, when I write controversial topics like male-pepetrated violence, gun control, and rape, hundreds of people like you expect that their comments will be posted here at ErikaChristakis.com in addition to what they can post at TIME.com. My email inbox is also routinely full of emails, some praiseworthy but many calling me a cunt, a skank,and a person deserving to die and other nice terms. My policy is to publish a small cross-section of comments, both positive and negative, but I don’t see any obligation whatsoever to post every comment, or even the majority. It’s an editorial decision, if you like. My blog is my own space and I don’t want to get into lengthy, exhaustive faux-dialogue with people who mostly won’t even publish their names and who want to use my blog as their own personal platform. That’s what the TIME.com comments section is for. My personal blog is my own space to define as I want. You have the same rights too. Publish an opinion piece! Start your own blog!

      It’s interesting that you and so many others question my legitimacy as a writer of opinions. I’ve even wondered at the possible sexism at the root of it. Editorial pages are one of the last bastions of gender dominance in our cultural life. Men outnumber women by a huge margin (sometimes as much as ten to one) on opinion pages, and I can’t help thinking this plays a role in the outrage about my credibility. Sure, go ahead and disagree with my content, my opinions. But why question my right to speak? I don’t question yours. There seems to be a deep bitterness that I am the writer while others are the commenters. But that’s the marketplace of ideas. And, again, you have an unprecedented capacity to speak. Anyone with a keyboard can say whatever he wants. I certainly didn’t grow up with this ability or expectation; I had to work for it. You accuse me of claiming a monopoly on clear thought. That’s ridiculous! I am a writer of opinion pieces. Again, if you have something to say, you have plenty of options available to you, including a place for comments on my columns at TIME.com. Anyone can post there. It can hardly be said that you are being deprived of a voice. The irony, of course, is that I spent years developing my right to have a voice – through education and hard work – and it’s because of writers like me that you even have the venue to express your own ideas. In the old days of print media, you would have to put some real work and skill behind your words if you wanted them to see the light of day. Not so anymore. (And that’s a good thing!) Everyone has a place to speak now. Go find yours.

    • Helen says:

      Jay, so well written. I concur.

  10. Verity says:

    So sorry to see all that hate being thrown at you at the comments section of the article. I haven’t seen anything like it. Is it because you are a woman? I understand the raw emotion that Steubenville and rape engenders but the ad hominem attacks are unjustified and unfair. Stay strong.

    • Thank you. I do think being a woman plays a role, though I can’t prove it! The resentment of my right to speak and the accusations of self-promotion strike me as classic sexist ways to control female discourse.

  11. neevaN says:

    I think people are hoping for justice from law enforcement and prosecution in the tragedies that occurred in Steubenville, Ohio and New Delhi, India. The prosecution is limited by law and evidentiary standards. Law enforcement and prosecution provides remedies through preset laws, they do not provide justice, IMHO.

    • Sometimes you are right that justice is denied. But predetermining the outcome of a trial through prejudicial commentary is not the way to ensure justice. If anything, it only guarantees that the guilty will walk free. And I don’t have more faith in the ‘mob’ than I do in the American judicial system. Both have their flaws but I’ll take the latter – as a victim or as a defendant – any day. We have an imperfect system. And I do see the power for public protest. (Look at the revolutionary power of social media in the Middle East. Look how India is beginning to face its entrenched culture of female-hatred.) As I said in my TIME.com piece, outrage and social media can be incredibly galvanizing forces for positive social change. But they can do harm too – to victims as well as defendants who may be innocent.

      • neevaN says:

        Candle light vigils and public protests do not bring change in legislation, working with the elected representative might. The judicial system has its limitations and is not impacted by public opinion as much as you probably think.

  12. Just Saying says:

    Hi Erika, I understand that you are advocating for due process, but you need to acknowledge that in both the India and Steubenville rapes cases, the cases would have been swept under the rug or shown favortism to the defendants if crowds had not protested. The stuebenville rape victim was initially told not to press charges by the county prosecutor and India is well known for not prosecuting rapists.

    And rest assured that the steubenville defendants will get a fair trial when their change of venue is approved. As for the indian defendants, I’m not confident that they will be prosecuted correctly in the corrupt Indian justice system

    • Thanks. Yes, I agree and said so: “social media and righteous anger can be a galvanizing force for social change.” Without space limitations, I would have elaborated in greater detail – and I wish I had done. But I still believe very strongly that the answer to corruption and incompetent judicial systems (about which I’ve also written here) is not to conclude that everything we read or see, with varying degrees of filter, is “truth.” I never rest assured that anyone gets a fair trial but I can hope. Thank you for your comment.

  13. Dear Erika:

    Rape is a volatile subject. It’s very dangerous to weigh in on it. But, I was never one to sit on the bench so I will get in the game. I have my own “button” that can be pushed about it. A beautiful young Greek girl in my high school in the 70s, she was a twin, was gang raped by the football team of our high school at a kegger (beer party) one weekend. She went from this beautifully dressed and poised girl to a bum. She sloughed along the school hallways afterward wearing baggy pants, big baggy sweaters, not bathing, not washing her hair, no makeup. I noticed the change in her appearance right away. While she walked down the halls of the school after the rape people whispered about it. Everyone in the school “knew” and no one dare challenge the football team. Eventually she committed suicide. We all knew why. A small community knows stuff before the courts do. I realize “due process” but small communities are ahead of the courts. They simply are. If you want to know the power of small community sports teams just investigate football in Texas. I lived there. It’s a whole different world. No one would dare accuse the football team of such a thing. It would be unconscionable to accuse the quarterback of a football team of rape. No one would believe it. That is why in these communities where football and sports run supreme and especially if they are in a “championship” they could get away with murder and no one would blink an eye. Sports and successful sports are a drug. Everyone gets drugged on it. We still have a culture in the USA in which “rape” is a woman’s fault. The list goes on and on. Especially if she is attractive. If a sexy or attractive young lady in high school is raped “she asked for it.” The culture of high school is an absolute sexist culture. It degrades both girls and boys. On many levels. They call it “locker room talk” for a reason. Not much has changed since the 70s when I went to school. Young boys are still encouraged to lose their virginity and bed as many females as possible. This is called “being a man” and they keep score. It is quite possible these young men thought they were just “sowing their wild oats.” Or that “she was teasing them.” I could go on and on with the phrases. There are dozens of them. High School is one sick culture. Most of us who are grown talk about “surviving it.” I know I do.

  14. P.S. I don’t think people hate you they just have strong feelings and words concerning this subject. This is a strong subject.

  15. You haven’t seen my inbox this morning! But, yes, to your first point: sick, sick cultures! I agree 100 percent. Terrible story you’ve shared. I do see a different high school culture emerging in small pockets of the U.S. where boys are gentler and more respectful. They seem to back-slide again when they get to college. A book came out about this a few months ago. But we still have a long way to go in most regions of the country. In any event, just because small communities like you describe may know these terrible things that are going on doesn’t mean there isn’t sometimes a down side (especially for victims) of all this ex-judicial information sharing. That was my point.

    Anyway, I’m now done on this topic. It’s exhausting and so deeply depressing, especially to think that I am somehow contributing to victim-blaming. Good grief. I’ve had enough. Good to hear from you, though! Thanks. I have a new comments policy which is not meant to be obnoxious to the civilized people who comment, just to clarify how I see my blog and a way for me to manage this site most productively for me – without making people think I am singling out individuals for censorship. When I get so involved in these intense sidebar comments (which I can’t resist) I can’t get my other writing (and day job) done, which is counter-productive in the long run, so I’m going to do a bit more ‘curating’ but still keep it open to a range of responses. All best.

  16. It is exhausting and depressing especially the name calling and it is a hot button topic so people are going to boil over. I am not shocked over much these days. We used to have a much stronger moral compass in this country for public discourse. But I think that is gone. Have a good rest. Liz+

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