Conservative George Will wrote a column a few weeks ago man-splaining that rape victims on college campuses are getting too much attention from the Obama Administration. Why should our colleges and universities have to bother with sensitivity training, trigger warnings, or the plight of victims themselves?
The job of a university isn't to mollycoddle over-sexed teenagers, by golly! It's to make them read Hamlet!
From George Will's Column June 6, 2014
Colleges and universities are being educated by Washington and are finding the experience excruciating. They are learning that . . . when they make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate.
. . . Now the Obama administration is riding to the rescue of “sexual assault” victims. It vows to excavate equities from the ambiguities of the hookup culture, this cocktail of hormones, alcohol and the faux sophistication of today’s prolonged adolescence of especially privileged young adults.
. . . the newest campus idea for preventing victimizations — an idea certain to multiply claims of them — is “trigger warnings.” They would be placed on assigned readings or announced before lectures. Otherwise, traumas could be triggered in students whose tender sensibilities would be lacerated by unexpected encounters with racism, sexism, violence (dammit, Hamlet, put down that sword!) or any other facet of reality that might violate a student’s entitlement to serenity
. . . Academia is learning that its attempts to create victim-free campuses — by making everyone hypersensitive, even delusional, about victimizations — brings increasing supervision by the regulatory state that progressivism celebrates.
With no irony whatsoever, Will brings up a Shakespearean play that has both a male and female character, Hamlet and Ophelia, on the verge of suicide while obsessing over sex. It's pretty damn clear the Bard understood young people much more than George Will does. The whole point of Hamlet - as well as Romeo and Juliet - is that when adults ignore the problems of young people there is hell to pay, for them and for everyone around them. Those plays aren't called "Tragedies" for nothing. Will may think that focusing on the plight of the victim is the psychological equivalent of a selfie on Facebook, but the feelings of those involved is no less true today than 500 years ago when Shakespeare was writing.
George Will is part of the Mad Men generation of the 1960s. His column could have been written by lothario misogynist Pete Campbell - Girls in mini-skirts and string bikinis are just asking for it. Throw in some hearty college lads with martinis and those sluts deserve whatever they get - Retro-Rape Misogyny at its worst.
In an interview with CSPAN Will refused to back down. Instead he blamed the Internets and our lack of critical thinking, missing the point once again, especially in defending young men accused of sexual assault. It's the age-old argument that male privilege is more important than female privilege, that no young woman should ruin the chances of a future medical student by telling the truth about rape. Will blindly ignores what the effect of rape might be on a young woman's future career as a doctor or lawyer, so he couldn't have been more tone-deaf to the modern world.
Via Washington Post
“Today, for some reason, indignation is the default position for certain people in civic discourse,” Will told interviewer Brian Lamb on C-SPAN, in an interview that will air sometime in July. “They go from a standing start to fury in about 30 seconds.”
The Internet has erased the barriers to public discourse, he said, and “among the barriers to entry that have been reduced [are that] you don’t need to read, write or think. You can just come in and call names and carry on. And we have all kinds of interest groups that think they will get attention . . . if they’re at maximum decibel levels.”
. . . By lowering the bar on such a serious crime, he said, many young men could be “permanently and seriously blighted” by legally unsubstantiated charges. He suggested they could be denied acceptance to medical or law school and that such allegations would invite “litigation of tremendous expense.”
The series Mad Men has shown us innocent Peggy Olson, who was used sexually by her boss, Pete Campbell, then tossed aside, and who has had to scramble her way to the top after giving up her baby. George Will's point is that Campbell's career was more important, whether Peggy had more talent or not. After all, Pete had more to lose - a family and a house in the country. Well, guess what? Misogynists tend to lose all that anyway because they screw around and their wives toss them out, which is what happens to Pete in the series.
But to George Will's generation, Peggy remains a slut, talented or not, end of story. Pregnant out of wedlock, she flees the office and has her baby, not sure of what to do. Meanwhile we get a glimpse of what the men in the office think of her - most believe she was pregnant with Don Draper's baby, but her lover, Pete Campbell stays in denial about his role in the affair, joking that Peggy has gone to a "fat farm." Because what does he care? Out of sight, out of mind, used and forgotten. Which is precisely the point of George Will's column - stop whining and get on with it, you selfish rape victims.
While it's true that Peggy Olson wasn't raped in Mad Men, George Will's advice for victimized young women is the same as Don Draper's advice to Peggy: "This never happened. It will shock you how much this never happened." In 1964 that might have been good advice, given the prejudices of the day. Now, not so much, and finally George Will is getting an education far beyond his 1964 counterparts.
Reaction to Will's Column has been swift and brutal:
Shannon Fisher, Board Member of UniteWomen.Org Wrote:
...The flippant and pompous tone of your piece, and the blatant allegation that there is a tangible (or intangible) benefit to having been sexually victimized, belittles the genuine suffering of the millions of women (and men) who have been raped. I would like to invite you to sit in a room with a sexual assault victim and, to his or her face, dismiss that person’s suffering as having been a means to attain a “coveted status.”
Jen Gunter, an OB-GYN doctor wrote:
You labor under the fear (as some men do) that there is an epidemic of false rape. That good young men will go to jail for consent withdrawn after the fact. And while false accusations likely do happen (the Duke Lacrosse case is a recent, well-known example) these are the exception and not the rule and each time a male with a platform spouts off about a false epidemic of rape it only makes it harder for women who have been violated to come forward.
. . . There is no woman who I have ever met personally or as an OB/GYN who thinks that surviving a rape confers some sort of privilege. I am genuinely curious if you interviewed a few young women hoping to earn their college rape badge or is that just a conclusion you reached looking at the issue of sexual assault through the myopic lens of misogyny?
Come spend a day in my clinic Mr. Will. Come see how the scars of rape linger even decades later.
There is no survivor privilege, just survivors.
From the Office of Dianne Feinstein, signed by three other Senators:
. . . In meetings our offices have held with law enforcement, students, administrators, parents and university officials, we found that the culture on campuses, including harassment by fellow students and college officials, discourages survivors from reporting or seeking much needed services in the wake of a traumatic attack. Additionally, recent legislative and administrative actions at the federal level have received positive feedback from both survivor advocacy groups and institutions of higher education.
Your column suggests that we – including some of us who have worked on this issue for many years – all have missed a subculture on college campuses where survivors of sexual assault are inducted into a privileged class.
The culture you described is so antiquated, so counterintuitive and so contrary to anything we heard that we hope you will make an effort to hear the stories survivors bravely shared with us about the struggles they face in addressing what has happened to them – often with little meaningful assistance from authorities expected to help them. In this instance, your writing, which purports to be based on accurate facts and figures, has not only shown a fundamental disrespect to survivors, but also includes a harmful rhetoric that has made addressing this issue so difficult.
. . .
Robert P. Casey, Jr.
Because of the column, George Will's column was dropped by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch permanently
Dear Post-Dispatch readers,
Starting today, Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson replaces George Will on Thursdays and Sundays.
. . . The change has been under consideration for several months, but a column published June 5, in which Mr. Will suggested that sexual assault victims on college campuses enjoy a privileged status, made the decision easier. The column was offensive and inaccurate; we apologize for publishing it.
"We did run it, but going back we took a look and realized there was a lot of offensive imagery in that that victimized women. We had to take responsibility for that. We published it. We wish we wouldn't have."
~ Tony Messenger, St. Louis Post-Dispatch Editorial Editor, via CNN
And while the Chicago Tribune didn't totally break with Will, they didn't use that column. Here's why, via Media Matters
The Tribune, one of the largest papers in the country, told Media Matters that the paper turned Will's column down after reading it.
In comments to Media Matters, Bruce Dold, editorial page editor of the Tribune, explained why his paper, which runs Will on occasion, passed on the June 7 column.
"I thought the column was misguided and insensitive," Dold told Media Matters Thursday. "We didn't publish it. Marcia Lythcott, the Op-Ed editor, made that decision and it was the right call."
The paper has no plans to abandon Will permanently, however.
"That doesn't mean we pulled Will for that week, though. We don't anchor syndicated columnists," Dold explained. "We run George Will on occasion. I checked our archives and it looks like we've run him four times in the past year. We will continue to consider him on a column by column basis, as we do with other syndicated columnists we buy."
Click Here to Sign Change.Org Petition to Fire George Will
. . . after editorial page editor Fred Hiatt defended George Will's article, another opinion piece by Brad Wilcox and Robin Wilson on June 10 told women that they protect themselves against violence by getting married, since violence against women is less common in marriages than it is in unmarried relationships (a point that they make by misusing data). The conclusion here is that it's women's responsibility to end male violence by getting married — rather than it being men's responsibility to end male violence by not doing it. And the article's earlier version had a byline that added racism to misogyny: "The data show that #yesallwomen would be safer hitched to their baby daddies."
The Washington Post should not be helping to promote defenses of rape culture and attacks on rape survivors. George Will and Fred Hiatt both need to go.