Learning about rape culture through differing opinions
Published: Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 00:02
The last week and a half, the Barometer has been host to several guest columns and letters to the editor regarding the subject of rape culture. What has transpired since the first article ran in the paper has been several back-to-back letters to the editor regarding varying opinions about the existence of rape culture. During this debate, the Barometer, the catalyst for this conversation, came under fire for publishing several of these letters. I have found, however, by publishing each letter, regardless of baseless accusations I was able to come to a reasonable perspective.
The students from women’s studies wrote their initial Feb. 13 guest column including several repetitions and bullet points. This wasn’t bad — quite the contrary — I loved that the article was written in this fashion because it reflected the defensive posture the students felt regarding rape culture. But, when someone presents his or her opinion, defensively or not, there’s a good chance at least some will respond defensively.
I experienced first-hand how being defensive can detract from a reasonable perspective, as I admittedly took an initial defensive stance to the article. The following day, I found a certain agreement with Steven McLain’s — a senior in history — response to be valid and well articulated. This was in no small part due to his recognition of an alternative phrase regarding the existence of a rape-centric culture as, “Although we espouse universal human rights, we struggle daily to see those ideals realized.”
Harry Mallory, a Corvallis resident, gave his own opinion in his Feb. 18 letter, which did his argument a disservice. I agreed it seemed more pragmatic to publish columns that give “relevant advice for what women [and men] can do to avoid being assaulted …” However, he assaulted the integrity of the women’s studies students by inferring they fell “off the emotional deep end.” At this point I was inclined to revise my initial opinion of the rape culture article because I did not recognize it as emotionally wrought. Mallory’s article helped me recognize the objective, if not still defensive, position of the initial article.
I was then abashed to recognize one of my well-respected professors, Dr. Gerlad Voorhees, point out the “poor judgment of the Barometer editorial staff to print these incendiary, misogynistic diatribes,” with regards to McLain’s and Mallory’s letters in his Feb. 19 response. What Voorhees followed with, however, was a clear and evidence-driven retort of the two letters. He even points out the same concern I had with Mallory’s letter regarding his “[distancing women’s studies students] from sanity, common sense and prudence.”
Mallory responded on Feb. 20 by opening with a gross generality that made it difficult to find any validation in his following argument when he said, “Liberals get so angry when you point out flaws in their thinking.”
Voorhees followed last with his Feb. 21 letter to the editor, and it was at this point we were finally introduced to empirical evidence defending the existence of rape culture — not just back-to-back retorts of argument flaws. It was much easier to receive this evidence after recognizing the objective nature of Voorhees article verses the subjective arguments of Mallory’s.
Furthermore, after verifying the statistics Voorhees presented with a 2008 U.S. Department of Justice NISMART report, I would also suggest McLain’s argument was subjective in nature because it failed to recognize the severity of the issue, which certainly indicates we live in a rape culture.
Voorhees attacks the Barometer again in his last letter. He says, “I question why The Daily Barometer, the newspaper of a university community, would print a letter” regarding what he breaks down as a baseless response from Mallory. I am initially inclined to say it is because the Barometer is a part of a university community that such material is published, at least with regards to relatively new and unknown terms such as rape culture, which was generally considered to have been birthed by the 1975 documentary “Rape Culture.”
Over the last week, nearly everyone I have discussed rape culture with indicated it was a brand new term they knew nothing about — including me. It has been quite beneficial to read the varying opinions, however baseless some were, regarding the subject. I would be open to empirical evidence for either side of the argument, because as it stands I only saw that from Voorhees. Though, I still attest it was beneficial to read the misnomers regarding the subject, because there are some fine points about what constitutes a rape culture I do not entirely agree with and could not find evidence to back. For example, pornography lending to a rape culture is a broad stroke made by the initial women’s studies students’ article. I could find only a small amount of corroborating evidence backing their statement, such as some pornography reinforcing male-dominated gender roles in a University of Minnesota, Duluth lecture.
This is not about what we know, but what we think we know. I assumed I understood what the women’s studies students meant by rape culture, which was a male-centric culture in which all women are victims that men must tread lightly around. In truth, though, my current estimation of rape culture is not my argument, but rather that I would not have been able to come to my perspective without reading each article published in the Barometer.
Jonathan Checkis is a senior in new media communications and is a copy editor for The Daily Barometer. The opinions expressed in his column do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Barometer staff. Checkis can be reached at email@example.com.