Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The New York Times stops blaming the rape victim; Jonah Goldberg might want to take notice

The New York Times has revisited the story of the 11-year-old Texas girl who was allegedly raped by more than a dozen men. It doesn't acknowledge the story is an act of penance for its earlier victim-blaming piece on the same topic, although editor Bill Keller said as much in an aside in his Sunday column.

It turns out that the girl wasn't victimized one time, but repeatedly over a period of months.
The arrests have raised fundamental questions about how a girl might have been repeatedly abused by many men and boys in a tightly knit community without any adult intervening, or even seeming to register that something was amiss, until sexually explicit videos of the victim began circulating in local schools.

“It wasn’t that anyone was asleep,” said the Rev. Travis Hulett Jr., the pastor of the New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, which anchors the Precinct 20 neighborhood where most of the defendants live. “You can be awake and see things and still not do anything.”
A tight-knit community in which 19 men felt they had the right to rape an 11-year-old girl, and only gradually did it dawn of folks that something wrong was going on here.

I couldn't help but think of this piece when I read Jonah Goldberg's column in today's Los Angeles Times, about how feminism has finished its work in the United States, and how what it really needs to do is pack up and start helping women overseas.
Islamist extremism and oppression of women go hand in hand. And while the correlation between poverty and terrorism is often overstated, the correlation between prosperity and women's liberation is profound. Female education is tightly linked with GDP growth, lower birthrates and even higher agricultural yields.

It's also tightly linked with human freedom and decency, which is why no Islamic "spring" is possible without a feminist revolution.
There is something to this. Recent events in the Arab world have brought us fresh examples that one of the tools of oppression is to rape and sexually humiliate women who challenge authority. Americans—and American feminists—should push back, hard, against those cultures.

But there's a certain "Go back to Russia!" quality to Goldberg's complaint. Yes, there are bad things happening overseas that deserve the attention of feminists. But we still live in a country where a community of men will take advantage of a young girl, and the community that surrounds them will struggle to justify their actions or blame the young girl, and where a major national newspaper will occasionally unthinkingly print those justifications without contradiction. That suggests to me there's still plenty of work for feminism to do at home, as well.

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