Monday, February 25, 2008

Katie Roiphe Wanna Be Writes Denialist Diatribe

This effort titled The Campus Rape Myth was published in the City Journal and was written by Heather Mac Donald.(Update: Her opinion is also included in the LA Times)

The flaws in this article are so many that I can't begin to address them all. But each of the flaws play to the desires of rapists and others who want to condemn most rape victims and those who actively work to fight rape and to help rape victims.

Make no mistake this isn't an article which is advocating taking a better approach to a real and serious problem. Mac Donald claims that research by Mary Koss disrespects women by asking those surveyed about sexual violence in terms other than "have you been raped?" Labeling a woman who was forced to have sex as a rape victim is disrespectful of women with no concern about whether the alternative language matches criminal statutes, but the men who force woman and girls to have sex are not labeled as disrespectful of women.

Go figure.

None of this crisis response occurs, of course—because the [college campus rape] crisis doesn’t exist.

This is a circular proof which very conveniently uses her apathy and her disdain and that of many others like her as proof that they are not only right to be apathetic and disdainful. It is their moral duty to be apathetic and disdainful and to attack everyone who is not apathetic or disdainful.

She writes of self-proclaimed rape survivors but never writes of self-proclaimed falsely accused. No wonder she, who views all feminist claims with suspicion and plenty of scrutiny, writes: "As Stuart Taylor and K. C. Johnson point out in their book Until Proven Innocent, however, the rate of false reports is at least 9 percent and probably closer to 50 percent."

If a journalist and a history professor make a claim in a book then it must be true -- no scrutiny required.

Feminists must respect the self-applied labels used by those who do and don't identify what happened to them as rape even if what happened to them met the legal standard for criminal sexual assault, but Mac Donald doesn't have to respect those who do identify what happened to them as rape.

Go figure.

It is important to note that Taylor and Johnson quoted Linda Fairstein in their book to help prove this statistical range, but their quote which included "about 50% simply did not happen" was inaccurate and I have yet to discover the methodology used for their revised estimate of 10 to 15 percent for false rape reports attributed to Fairstein. Notably this number is still higher than what was attributed to Fairstein at a Cosmo panel on date rape.

Because of the methodology Mac Donald used to dismiss Koss's survey results she must also dismiss all other studies where any observer decides who deserves the label of real rape victim in any way other than the person's initial report. This includes studies which support Mac Donald's clear bias. What this means is that Mac Donald has zero support for disproving a 2% rate of false rape reports.

But this is an attack piece on what Mac Donald disingenuously calls the rape industry. Her target audience doesn't want her to be skeptical of or precise about their favorite claims. If there is insufficient response to an identified problem then it must be true that the identified problem is false and that the current insufficient response must be dismantled.

Insufficient response to poverty? Proof that poverty is rare. Yet would anyone call food shelves and other agencies working to fight poverty around the country poverty industries which need to be dismantled? I hope not.

This is coldbloodedness at it's worst. Smug and welcome in too many places.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:04 AM   2 comments links to this post

2 Comments:

At February 25, 2008 4:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Doubtless McDonald does believe poverty does not exist because it is an individual person's fault if they happen to be poor. No need to analyse how capitalist power operates and other societal issues. No poverty is due to a person's laziness. Likewise McDonald refuses to believe we live in a rape culture wherein many men routinely rape women but it is never, never termed rape. Neil Gilbert's claims were roundly rebutted by Koss together with evidence showing why Gilbert was wrong. But there, we do not need evidence instead just someone like McDonald who apparently believes all women and men have equal power. But oddly, McDonald still demands and expects women to act as gatekeepers and limiters of men's sexual actions and behaviours. It is still women who are being blamed when men rape them. No wonder most women who have been raped by men are so reluctant to define male sexual violence against them as rape - because apparently it is not rape. It is only normal male heterosexual entitlement played out on women's bodies.

Yet we constantly hear claims 'oh women have now achieved equal status with men' and 'it is women now who hold all the power.' As always, first there is horror that male sexual violence is so widespread, then there is a search for justification of men's violence and finally one can always fall back on denial. Deny the evidence, deny male sexual violence exists. Just keep on denying and what happens - well problem solved. Male sexual violence against women is a myth!!

 
At February 27, 2008 2:21 PM, Anonymous Wisteria said...

I am appalled that this piece of right-wing propaganda made it into the LA Times in the first place. The response,
written by SAFER's Nora Niedzielski-Eichner
, does an excellent job at exposing how the tired rape denialism argument has been repackaged over and over again by the same set of "culture war"-fueling right-wing institutions and, specifically, MacDonald's connections to these institutions.

Not only is this denialism argument old and discredited, it is part of a larger effort by right-wing organizations such as the Manhattan Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and the Independent Women's Forum to delegitimize and combat feminist successes on campuses nationwide, particularly the rise of women's/gender studies departments, rape crisis centers, and other anti-violence programming. This is a longstanding strategy bankrolled by the top right-wing foundations (Scaife, Olin and Bradley, among others) and implemented, in large part, through a great deal of media savvy and a suspect ability to place even the most discredited propaganda in the pages of respected news publications.

Even the most minor of fact-checking endeavors would reveal MacDonald’s op-ed as not only dated, unoriginal and a complete rehash of numerous past efforts bankrolled by the same institutions, but also one that has been torn apart time and time again in a wide variety of forums. The Times owes its readers an explanation of how it is that think tanks such as the Manhattan Institute, with their old, discredited propaganda, have such access to their op-ed pages.

Check out united bloggers' responses.
to this disgusting distortion.

 

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