Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Victim Blaming and Rape Myths in the Media

Finally, it is almost April! That means that it is the start of Sexual Assault Awareness month. I graduate at the end of this quarter and thought it was important to use my voice as a tool to raise awareness for a month that is so important. I recently came across an article on, Media Blows It With Pathetic Gang Rape Coverage which discussed the New York Times reprehensible coverage of this story. The article ultimately blames the 11 year old victim in the case instead of the 18 men arrested in connection to the rape.

The first idea that I wanted to touch on is about how young girls are sexualized in our media. They are sexualized to be and act older than they are. Some quotes from the article from the New York Times included,
“she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s”
as if she was raped because of the way she looked. This is one of the many rape myths perpetrated by our mainstream media, it really irritates me. Young women are constantly receiving mixed messages from our media of how they should look and act. Younger women are targeted consumers to look older (like someone in their 20’s) so that they look more mature and hence more desirable. Older women are consumers who are targeted to look younger ( like someone in their 20’s) so that they look more desirable. This basically creates a dynamic that something is wrong with human beings if they are not in their 20’s. Having said that, when young women are raped they are constantly ridiculed and blamed by what they are wearing or look like. This is completely unrealistic with all of these mixed messages being portrayed in our media. We are supposed to look like we are “asking” for it, say the media, yet if we become the target of sexual assault and rape we were “asking” for it which is inappropriate and makes us a bad person.

The article goes on to talk about what will happen to the perpetrators life in the community because of all this, rather than clearly looking at the issue here. A young girl was raped, and the New York Times is doing everything in their power to create sympathy for the perpetrators that committed the crime. We are spending more time looking at the issue of what the 11 year old was wearing, who her friends are, what she does in her free time, how she presents herself in the world and where her parents where than considering the atrocious crime committed. We are looking at all of these details and making excuses for these boys so that their lives are not ruined. Too many times is this portrayed in the media that a woman was raped because she was a “slut”. This brings me to my next argument which is why women are called “sluts”. This word is associated with such negativity, this socially constructed word that means that a woman has sex with too many people. Since when can this word dictate who we are and what we, as women, want to do with our life? As women, are we allowed to do what we want? Aren’t we able to use our brains to make the decisions that support and reflect what our values and beliefs are?

This article is the epitome of victim blaming and goes to great lengths to make excuses as to why the men raped the 11 year old girl. It goes from blaming her for her looks, to blaming her mother. When is it time to understand that this is a little girl, who needs to be reassured that this is not her fault? When will sexual assault and rape cases stop victim blaming and instead provide informative resources and help to assure this girl that nothing she did was wrong. These boys committed a horrible crime and no matter whom you are rape is unacceptable and we should be focusing on the atrocity of the crime not the ruined future lives of the perpetrators.

Written By: Jenny Lange

1 comment:

i am owl said...

I too, read that story on my bus-ride home. I was shocked and appalled that they quoted people in the area as witnessing her before and after the even "loitering around in very provocative clothing and make up."
I don't see why quoting people with such an antiquated and incorrect concept was valid in an article about the rape of an 11 year old. There were boys there, but more importantly there were 20 year old men there with criminal records, and all of this was captured on video.

Post a Comment