Monday, March 25, 2013

Words of Others on Steubenville

I've been collecting a variety of pieces on the rape, bizarre citizen reaction, and ensuing court case in Steubenville. Items for my teenaged boys to read. They're good kids, and I know damned well that Jo and I have taught them well enough to know what's Right and what's Wrong, and how to treat women, girls, men, boys, and of course animals.

But I also know that they are teenaged boys, and I know that sometimes, usually the most inopportune times, the ol' brain cells take a short holiday. Just because I've raised them well up to this date doesn't let me off the hook; it's an ongoing job, and while I trust them to make me proud, I also trust them to sometimes follow along with the crowd and not realize what they have done until after the fact. The good news is, that sort of action usually involves something much more minor than sexual assault, rape, or even sexual harassment.

I was going to link to these pieces one by one via Twitter and Facebook, say something short and sweet, and then stand over them as they read. But today I read something that made me feel as close to physically ill as reading anything has made me feel in many years. And so I thought, Yes, I have to share this with the boys as well. Because they need to understand that shit can be smeared by people who are ostensibly intelligent, who are lucky enough to have some sort of platform, and who are so full of themselves that they would never condescend to accepting any opinion that might damage their precious worldview.

With that in mind, I give you the latest idiocy from Barbara Amiel, in Macleans', which likes to pretend it's a news magazine in the spirit of Time, I suppose. Go read the article, and then, once you've shaken clear all the awful images that come to mind, come back and think with me on this: how can someone, even someone so clearly abhorrent as Barbara Amiel has apparently become, simultaneously take such repulsive stands on rape, on child pornography, on assault, and even say a few good words about society degrading because of all sorts of things she disagrees with. It's a grab-bag of horrid, classist, full-on disgusting declarations, all neatly wrapped up in one simple package. The editors at Macleans' should be ashamed, and I sincerely hope they receive letters from large numbers of people cancelling their subscriptions.

So now we need to wash away the bad taste in our mouths. How about we start with the teacher who taught her students how not to rape? Yeah, that's a good one. Encouraging. And you see what I mean about teen brains? Sometimes the kids are taught wrong from the start, but sometimes they just don't put two and two together right away, but give them a chance, and the majority of them will figure it out.

Tabitha Southey had some good (and sad) things to say about this in Saturday's Globe and Mail. In the same paper Elizabeth Renzetti wrote very well about helping our kids to have the bravery to act, rather than just watch, and even laugh along.

And, no surprise, John Scalzi wrote a couple of excellent blog posts on the matter, "Two Simple Observations, Regarding Women," and a bit more on Steubenville, which includes these two key rules, which make sense and therefore frustrate me to no end that they have to be repeated:

  1. One’s own poor judgment does not excuse the poor judgment of others.
  2. Nothing excuses rape.
Finally, if you haven't seen it, watch this short video. There have been plenty of memes going around on Facebook and elsewhere lamenting the fact that women starting university often have to be taught about how to avoid rape or sexual assault, and yet there is little effort being made to tell men instead, Well, no, that's not a good thing to do. So here we have an answer, as small as it might be.

If you have boys, I hope that some day you will find the appropriate time to discuss these issues with them. If not, this is all still worthwhile, for all of us.

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