In the aftermath of the trial of Richmond and Mays, Megan Carpentier writes in yesterday’s Guardian, “Rape is unique in US society as a crime where the blighted future of the perpetrators counts for more than the victim’s.”
Indeed, this is an apt observation, given the sickening way in which CNN, among others, reported on the verdict two days ago. Given the anger this had sparked on blogs and other social media, you’ve probably come across it by now, but just in case you haven’t, here’s what CNN had to say about Mays and Richmond’s being found guilty of rape:
Reporter Poppy Harlow: “I’ve never experienced anything like it, Candy. It was incredibly emotional, incredibly difficult even for an outsider like me to watch what happened as these two young men that had such promising futures — star football players, very good students — we literally watched as they believed their life fell apart.”
Anchor Candy Crowley: “A 16-year-old just sobbing in court — regardless of what big football players they are, they still sound like 16-year-olds. When you listen to it and realize they could stay until they’re 21, what’s the lasting effect, though, on two young men being found guilty, in juvenile court, of rape, essentially?”
Legal expert Paul Callan: “The most severe thing with these young men is being labelled as registered sex offenders. That label is now placed on them by Ohio law…That will haunt them for the rest of their lives.”
Poor, poor rapists. What an unfortunate fate to befall them. Only, it wasn’t misfortune, it wasn’t bad luck that led to the blighting of their “promising futures”. It was their actions, and their responsibility, when they noticed a drunk girl throwing up by the side of the road, and instead of helping her, decided to rape her and take pictures of her for laughs with the boys. Sure, 16-year-olds sobbing in court might be an emotional sight. But what about a 16-year-old who wakes up one day to discover that she had been raped while unconscious the night before? To see pictures and videos of her violation and abuse flung about on social media? To see her rapists and their friends laugh and boast about it? To be humiliated and mocked by people she knows, and even people she doesn’t? To have people call her a liar and a whore, and threaten to hurt her for reporting the crime? What’s the “lasting effect” of that?
While the Steubenville case has garnered widespread media attention, the spotlight has been turned on the jock culture in Steubenville itself, and particularly the high school. Yet as we know, what goes on there — the star status of the football team, the impunity they face for their actions, the disrespect they show towards women — is merely a microcosm of what goes on everywhere else in the world. And it isn’t just male athletes, of course. Male politicians, male CEOs, male media hotshots, any man in a position of power can use and abuse women with relatively little censure. The public rushes to defend them, to sympathize with them. The woman must be lying. She must be doing it for financial gain, or for revenge. Did he hit her? She must have pushed him to it. We’ve heard it all before. And now, even when the rapists have provided heaps of evidence of their crime, in the form of photographs, videos and bragging text messages, some people, including the victim’s own friends, still find it reasonable to label the victim a liar, and media outlets still find it so tragic that the criminals have been made to answer for their crime.
It sometimes absolutely staggers me just how little women matter in society. This is one of those times. Shakespeare’s As You Like It contains the famous lines — “All the world’s a stage, / And all the men and women merely players.” Perhaps less poetically, but more accurately, I would say that all the world’s a stage, and while the men are players, women are their props, to be adored as possessions and prizes, or despised and used as cheap, worthless trinkets.
Women matter, for we are human too. Is that so difficult for society to grasp?