You know what?
Before this month, if you had come to me and said, "Natalie, do you think that a horrible event that happened to a child could somehow continue to grow worse and worse to the point where even so-called liberal dudes were promoting rape culture?" No. Because what happened to the 11-year-old girl in Texas is horrible enough. Why would anyone, left or right-wing, add on to that?
After yellow journalist James C. McKinley, Jr.'s New York Times victim-blaming story, a half-assed apology from the Times, and growing racial tensions in Texas, a Florida House committee takes yet another blame-the-victim stance and includes the story in their reasoning to pass a "Sagging Pants" bill.
Tampa Bay.com reports that the "Sagging Pants" bill supporter Rep. Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples) had this to say:
"There was an article about an 11 year old girl who was gangraped in Texas by 18 young men because she was dressed like a 21-year-old prostitute," she said. "And her parents let her attend school like that. And I think it’s incumbent upon us to create some areas where students can be safe in school and show up in proper attire so what happened in Texas doesn’t happen to our students."There's so much wrong with that statement that I don't even know where to begin. OK. Deep breath.
No one commented on that line of reasoning.
- Rape is NEVER the fault of a child. Ever. No exceptions.
- No matter HOW she was dressed.
- No matter WHO dressed her.
- Gang rape is AGAINST the law.
- It is AGAINST the law if the person is a 21-year-old prostitute as well.
- Dressing a certain way will NOT prevent someone from being raped.
- The only thing that can prevent rape is NOT being in the presence of a rapist.
- Placing the blame of the rape on the child's dress takes blame away from the rapists.
- How can anyone think that blaming a child for the horrific actions of grown men appropriate?
A reader informs ThinkProgress that when asked about her statement, Passidomo responded, "Thank you for your concern, I was not referring to my own opinion to the cause of the rape, but to the cause implied by a March 8th article of the New York Times."Though I've certainly made a point of holding James C. McKinley accountable for writing a biased and victim-blaming article, I will not excuse Passidomo for her prior statement. McKinley's hack writing should not influence someone in a position of power, and I expect anyone in a government position to know better than to parrot such blathering.
Speaking of ThinkProgress, some of the comments underneath this story tried to prove that two wrongs make a right and called for the rape of Passidomo -- with "jokes" that she was too ugly to be raped. A few commenters protested, and the response was that the jabs were to prove how ridiculous Passidomo's statement actually was. But as I said in a comment on In Which Your Heart May Break -- rape is something that is so horrific that I would not wish it on anyone. These "jokes" add to the cultural idea that some rape is "deserved" and no one deserves that. And as I wrote above: The only thing that prevents rape is not being in the presence of a rapist. The attractiveness of a person has nothing to do with that, so calling Passidomo ugly is just a sexist insult. Rise above this level of insult.
I will repeat again: No one deserves to be raped. Even if they make statements like Passidomo did, even if they write articles like James McKinley did. Doing otherwise, even in jest, promotes the rape culture that allows words like Passidomo's and McKinley's to exist. Liberal or conservative, I certainly hope we can agree that no child deserves to go through what this 11-year-old went through. Rape jokes, blaming the victim for how she was dressed; these go hand-in-hand in allowing a culture of rape to thrive. If we can learn anything from this, it's that the choice of words matter.