By now, the news cycle is abuzz with Rolling Stone’s retraction of its widely read article A Rape on Campus. The fallout, journalistically speaking, is immense and more than one career will end at the esteemed magazine once all is said and done.
For decades, the various waves and movements within feminism have marched from just victory to just victory. But nowadays, modern feminism is more than capable of eating its own, as Sabrina Erdely, the Rolling Stone journalist who penned the original article, is currently experiencing.
In its retraction, Rolling Stone says it was a mistake to honor its interviewee’s request to not contact any of the alleged perpetrators of the gang rape, citing the “sensitive nature” of the alleged victim’s story. But how could a journalist honor such a request? Institutional journalism necessitates that both sides of story should have a chance to respond, which is why you often see articles of this type end with things like “x could not be reached for comment” and “y declined to give a statement”.
How could a respected journalist like Erdely, not to mention her editors and fact checkers, let such a blunder slip through? Because most journalists identify as modern feminists. And when it comes to matters like rape, modern feminism ordains that the victims be treated like delicate, hallowed saints. This is what George Will was talking about when he said that “victimhood [is] a coveted status that confers privileges.”
Just look at what this WP writer, a card carrying modern feminist, has to say about rape: “We should believe, as a matter of default, what an accuser says. Ultimately, the costs of wrongly disbelieving a survivor far outweigh the costs of calling someone a rapist.” Politically correct? Yes. But such a sentiment is absurd and dangerous.
Why should we have to take the side of the accuser by default? What ever happened to the presumption of innocence? Rape is a serious, horrible crime that can be punishable by decades’ worth of imprisonment. If we’re going to throw people into prison for years and years, we have to be damn sure that we caught the right guy.
Every accusation of rape should be investigated. But we should not automatically assume that the accuser is right. When you’re accused of committing a crime, you should always get the presumption of innocence. No exceptions. Presumption of guilt is something generally found in dictatorships and highly regressive third world governments. It is beneath our dignity as a civilized society. And automatically believing an alleged victim of rape means a presumption of guilt for the alleged perpetrator.
Modern feminism is increasingly unable to square its beliefs with the bedrock principles of greater, more venerable, institutions. It just ran into the immovable wall of journalistic integrity. It’s fighting an ultimately losing battle on campus. Early this week, Slate (a magazine with unquestionable feminist bona fides) ran a long form editorial on the matter, and I recommend everybody give it a thorough reading, especially the part where they emphatically debunk the oft-cited statistic that 1 in 5 women will be subject to rape or sexual assault while in college.
Increasing numbers of Title IX suits are being filed on behalf of men who ran afoul of a university’s sexual misconduct policy, alleging unfair discrimination and the deprivation of due process. When an accusation, simply an accusation, of rape or sexual assault is enough to expel a young man from college (and, by extension, prevent them from enrolling anywhere else) in a he said/she said scenario, we’ve run into serious problems as a society.
The way modern feminism treats women is tragicomic. It automatically assumes women are weak, delicate, and have no agency of their own. They must be protected by well-meaning men and women because they can’t be counted on to protect themselves. That kind of thinking is why Emily Yoffe (the writer of the previous article) was criticized for saying that women should take actions to minimize their chances of sexual assault.
Modern feminism, at its core, is not about equality of the sexes, which is something most of society agrees is a generally desirable thing. It is about controlling the behavior of men and punishing the actions of people who disagree with it. Society has already litigated the most important issues of feminism, and feminism won in a rout, as it should have.
Modern feminism should seek to have women be treated, by default, as strong, independent people who are more than capable of handling themselves. But instead, they treat women as kids, absolving them of responsibility and counting on other people to protect their interests. Now it’s gone too far, and this time, the forces arrayed against it are overwhelming. Feminists of all stripes have gotten used to claiming scalps. This time, they claimed one of their own.