UPDATE: Kershner has added this addendum to the piece
Some people seem to have misunderstood my point. Mays presented himself to adults far differently than to his friends. I used a TV character many people would remember to illustrate the insincerity of his text to the victim’s father. The string of text messages linked below amply demonstrates how abominably he acted toward the victim, who deserves everyone’s support.
Unfortunately, the use of that character as reference is entirely in keeping with the rest of the media's apparent tendency to recast the rapes as youthful indiscretions. What was Eddie Haskell's most egregious crime? Anyway, poor choice of metaphor, blog post stands.
I'll tell you how not to start your morning: like I did. I crushed my soul catching up on the Steubenville rape case. While still in bed. Really dumb.
Seriously, do not read the text message transcripts of all the lol's and bragging-lying flip-flopping that happened during and after the atrocity commited against the 16 year old woman before you've hugged your loved ones. Most definitely do not watch the video that helped kick off scrutiny of the incident when KnightSec leaked it.
And I guess, don't go to the biggest website for daily news in town, because you're going to get kicked in the gut there, too.
This is how the Chron's Vlae Kershner -- the news director and sometimes sportswriter (UPDATE: I guess he writes about all kinds of stuff, oh current media climate!) who has been covering the case on SFGate -- starts out today's "Hot Topics" column on yesterday's sentencing of Trent Mays and Ma’Lik Richmond.
Fans of classic TV will remember Eddie Haskell from “Leave It To Beaver”. Making mischief, getting his friends in trouble, sucking up to their parents as if he were the nicest boy who ever lived.
As a Guardian writer I am generally required by profession to digress with what the Chronicle writes in most, if not all circumstances, but this is beyond. The fucking. Pale.
How do you make young women who have been molested look like they are the aberrations? Starting off with the most innocuous sitcom in, oh, television history is a really good stab at it. Eddie Haskell? Did Eddie Haskell rape anybody? The next line of Kershner's column is this:
If the writers had cast Eddie as the bad guy in a crime show instead of a sitcom, he might have resembled Trent Mays.
TRENT MAYS IS THE CUTEST CRIMINAL OF ALL TIME.
It goes from there. You can read the rest if you're interested in the pathos of retro musings that'll embarasss their author for years to come. As yesterday's similar debacle of the fawning CNN reporters proved, we have a serious problem here.
That serious problem is not that a bunch of football players in Steubenville, Ohio are sexual predators (they are.) Those boys didn't build a society that is built on treating women like chattel when they're in vulnerable situations. But they are a fucked up iteration of it and no single person should feel bad for them being sentenced to years in jail.
We should feel bad that their coach, parents, small town, media, world taught them that putting it in a girl's ass when she's unconscious, taking photos of it, and bragging about it is what a man does in this brave new Internet era.
The problem is that people get raped all the time. According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, rapes happen every two minutes in this country. And 97 percent of those rapists never spend a single day in prison.
So maybe society needs a trigger warning.
Maybe it made Kershner feel better to tell himself that Mays' and Richmond's behavior is just boys being boys, or boys being boys in a new weird way that 1950s TV couldn't have predicted. Duh, boys aren't bad! Society isn't based on oppression, men don't need to examine their actions, and women don't need to adjust to the fact that they live in a society where one in six of us report having been (which is different from having been) raped.
How should we be writing and talking about this stuff? How about education? How soon is too soon to start counteracting the messages that little boys and girls get every day, all around them on buses and late-night talk shows, and in presidential debates?
I think the important thing, too, is to hear less from the people who hear "Steubenville" and think "Leave It To Beaver" and more from the people who hear "Stuebenville" and it makes their world end, albeit briefly (like this hella brave blogger who came in with the Twitter screengrab on those assholes.) That feeling is not coming out in the media, and I think if the former group is going to learn a damn thing from this episode it's going to take the latter group stating their feelings uncompromisingly.
I bet you didn't think this was going to end in shameless self-promotion, but surprise! The Guardian (in conjuncture with Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center and Artists' Television Access) has been planning a Women's History Month screening on Monday, March 25 of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nicholas Kristof's global look at violence against females and other women's issues. The discussion that follows the screening will be a great opportunity to talk about what to do in a post-Steubenville world -- or what to do about making it a post-Steubenville world. Please come, there will be adult beverages if you're into that kind of thing.
Women's History Month screening: Half the Sky
Mon/25, doors at 6:30, film at 7pm, free
Artists' Television Access
992 Valencia, SF