Monday, April 1, 2013

I wrote two April Fool posts:

This one, I wrote for the MN Progressive Project, where it has been posted all day today. Enjoy.

More ‘Fairness’ to Rapists? The Young Rapist Protection Act

by Dog Gone on April 1, 2013
There has been a terrible uproar over the tragedy of young men’s lives being ruined by their rape convictions in Steubenville, Ohio. An example of those who want to focus on the responsibility of the victim for the crime were covered on Buzzfeed.

Local FORMER NAACP leader, Royal Mayo, said so.

CNN said so.

Fox News showed their support for the rapists, and their contempt for the 16 year old victim, by redacting the names of the rapists, but reporting the name of the rape victim.

Back in January, after looking at video of the victim being abused, Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla, who had come under fire for not aggressively investigating the case prior to the intervention of Anonymous hackers, and who refused to investigate any other participants than the two young men who were convicted was quoted by the HuffPo as excusing the actions of the other participants:
“It’s a disgusting video,” he said. “It’s stupidity. But you can’t arrest somebody for being stupid.”

The head coach for football didn’t think his team players did anything wrong; at least, that was what he told the principal. If the players didn’t think they did anything wrong, how could he hold them accountable? The assistant coach was quoted as threatening those reporters for challenging his lenient decision:
When asked again about the players involved and why he chose not to discipline them, he became agitated. “You made me mad now,” he said, throwing in several expletives as he walked from the high school to his car.
Nearly nose to nose with a reporter, he growled: “You’re going to get yours. And if you don’t get yours, somebody close to you will.”

This is the same coach who suspended the two players who testified at a hearing to determine if there was sufficient evidence to continue the case.

The assistant coach, Nate Hubbard, took the position:
“The rape was just an excuse, I think…. What else are you going to tell your parents when you come home drunk like that and after a night like that?”…. “She had to make up something. Now people are trying to blow up our football program because of it.”

The parents and another coach were adamant that the boys who were subsequently convicted did nothing wrong, that it was the rapists were the real victims. For example, Malik’s grandmother was quoted as having a discussion with another coach:
“Me and Coach Reno was talking, and he said Ma’lik was just in the wrong place at the wrong time,” she said.
This is the same coach who testified for the two rapists as a character witness.

And then of course there were the defense attorneys, who took the same position as conservative members of Congress who tried to redefine rape as only forcible rape, so as to exclude statutory rape and rape where a victim was rendered unconscious. The defense asserted that because the victim was incapacitated and subsequently unconscious, she never intelligibly said no to having her clothes removed, her body violated, pictures taken of it, attempts to engage her in performing oral sex, or to being urinated on. So, seriously – how could you blame the young men?

While some residents took the side of the victim, others blamed the victim for what happened, criticizing her for getting raped and for bringing shame on the football team:
“saying she put the football team in a bad light and put herself in a position to be violated.”
That’s a double crime – making yourself into a victim AND casting the players later identified as the “rape crew” in a bad light. After all – Football and football players are much more important than a woman from another community!

In Ohio it is a crime for witnesses not to report crime. In spite of that, the Steubenville chief of police, William McCafferty, bemoaned a lack of morals, but did not charge anyone else. His comments on the event put them in the perspective of the rapists, per the New York Times:
“The thing I found most disturbing about this is that there were other people around when this was going on,” William McCafferty, the Steubenville police chief, said of the events that unfolded. “Nobody had the morals to say, ‘Hey, stop it, that isn’t right.’
“If you could charge people for not being decent human beings, a lot of people could have been charged that night.”

In an ABC news interview, prior to the conviction, Ma’lik Richmond only felt he was guilty of underage drinking and too-rowdy partying, but not rape:
“I realize that I did, I was doing wrong by drinking and partying, you know, after dark,” he said. “But I really did not, I didn’t rape anybody. I didn’t witness a rape going on. And if I would have thought that somebody was being raped or anything like that, I would have stopped it.
“I really just think that everybody was just, had a few drinks in them and they wasn’t really thinking,” he said. “I think everybody was just out of their minds, see.”
A grand jury is now going to be investigating additional people in the case for crimes ranging from not reporting a crime (note – the word ‘raped’ was used specifically and repeatedly in some of the texts and videos).

The outrage has led to the state legislature drafting new legislation to change the age to 21 at which young men can be charged with a crime for committing rape, so that other young men who make a mistake won’t have to worry about it ruining the rest of their lives. As Bill Miller, who played for the same High School football team noted in the New York Times article:
“There’s a set of rules that don’t apply to everybody,” he said of what he called the favoritism regarding the players. “This has been happening since the early ’80s; this is nothing new. It’s disgusting. I can’t stand it. The culture is not what it should be. It’s not clean.”

The new legislation will address the disparity of those unwritten rules, making it safe for all young men under the age of 21 to sew their wild oats without it ruining the rest of their lives. After all, conservatives like Michele Bachmann have advocated against enacting laws which would penalize boys for engaging in fighting and violent or harassing bullying, so as not feminize them. As Bachmann noted in 2006, in comments to the Minnesota State Legislature regarding anti-bullying legislation,
“Will we be expecting boys to be girls?”

Conservatives have stood up for rapists’ rights before; there are 31 states which allow rapists to force their victims to give birth if they became pregnant because of rape, under the guise of exercising parental rights, and which then force the rapists’ victims to share custody of that child. The 2012 GOP official platform supports denying women in all parts of the country access to abortion in cases of rape, and would give the rapists the legal right to assert those rights through federal legislation. In January 2013, PoliticusUSA noted that Paul Ryan had inserted such a provision into new legislation:
As much of the nation focuses on the Steubenville gang rape story, your failed Republican Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan (R-WI) was busy protecting rapists’ rights. Buried deep in the latest Fetus Rights Bill (aka, Sanctity of Human Life Act , H.R. 23: To provide that human life shall be deemed to begin with fertilization), wherein feti are given more rights than the women carrying them, is a section that will allow a rapist to sue his victim in order to stop her from getting an abortion, specifically if she were trying to get an abortion in a state that allows them while she lives in a state that does not.

This is part of what liberals call the conservative war on women and war on feminism. Conservatives blame feminism for a range of problems with and by males, whether men or boys. It is a premise that dates back to the turn of the 20th century, more than 100 years ago. It is all part of the opposition to anything that challenges male dominance. Certainly the religious right has promoted male dominance as necessary for the family, and as an extension of religion, with men dominant over women the way God is dominant over religion. It includes trying to pass legislation that would give rapists more rights, fewer penalties, at the expense of their victims.

Because feminizing boys, by not allowing them to get into fights, or to bully, or other ‘boys-will-be-boys’ behavior that victimizes both boys and girls, is a grave concern for conservatives, who support such behavior by males, defining it as being manly and masculine. It is not much of a leap to add rape to that list of boys will be boys.

The conservative backlash against feminism was defined in “What about boys?” by Michael S. Kimmel at Michigan state U. who summarized the conservative viewpoint:
“…the problem of boys is a problem caused entirely by women who both feminize the boys and pathologize them in their rush to help girls succeed.”
The conservative solution is to enable and to legitimize aggressive behavior, hence the rapist protection act. It is easier to characterize women as ‘femi-nazis’ and similar attributes, to characterize women as sluts, anything, anything, other than holding boys and men accountable for their actions and their words. Instead they demonize women.

Of course, by NOT penalizing young men, or holding them accountable, young women will be forced to be MORE responsible about their dress and conduct. This is consistent with the attitudes of the founding fathers about slut shaming, memorialized in 1850 by Nathaniel Hawthorne in the Scarlet Letter. So, naturally, conservatives like it.

And it’s not just the young men who need to be protected from consequences for committing rape; two girls were taken into custody for using social media to threaten the victim for being responsible for the rape convictions. Conservatives want to encourage women and girls to stand up for men and boys, and against any women or girls who aren’t sufficiently ‘pure’ in any way.

As you may have guessed by now, there is no actual legislation to protect young rapists by defining the crime to apply only to males over the age of 21; that is my April Fools prank here. But such legislation is not inconsistent with conservative policies, positions and other legislation as part of fetal person-hood legislation, or anti-abortion legislation. We live in a nation with a rape-culture problem, not a feminizing problem. The blame for that problem lies squarely at the door of those who excuse such behavior and those conservatives who value men over women and boys over girls, and who attempt to take control of their bodies and choices away from women and girls, and who try to minimize the consequences for violence against women and girls, like the position of Republicans who opposed the passage of the Violence Against Women Act.

It’s an April Fool……but sadly, it could happen; maybe I shouldn’t have given the right a new idea to use in their war on women – and on girls. More protection for rapists? That’s not a reach for conservatives and their pro-rapist legislation.

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