I Call Bullsh*t: Steubenville, the State of Journalism, and More

20130318_125244Apologies in advance. This post will contain foul language, grammatical errors and abuse of parenthetical statements, and a really poor drawing of a gavel. I am sorrier for the grammatical errors and abuse of parentheses.

(If you have trouble with my using the word bullshit and other profanity, I have the okay from Norman Lear. Good enough for me.)

I wanted to do a post entitled “I Call Bullshit” last week, and here’s what I wanted to include:

1. Upworthy and Nicole Sherzinger. Here’s the link to a video and commentary on Upworthy. Normally I really enjoy Upworthy posts, but this one made me roll my eyes. In it, NS is being interviewed on Conan O’Brien wearing a dress out of which 3/4 of her 8th Wonder Of The World breasts spill. Upworthy gives her “props” for “matching wits” with Conan, by reminding him to focus on her face. Gimme a break. She not only didn’t match wits with him, he gave her EXACTLY what she deserved. I’m not saying she was asking to be abused, but she sure as hell was asking for attention to be paid to her breasts-o-magnificence by EXPOSING most of them. Even *I* couldn’t take my eyes of those orbs. Please.

2. ESPN. Here’s the link to a Deadspin article detailing the firing of an ESPN executive for sexting a stripper. A STRIPPER. A single man. Sexting a STRIPPER. The stripper and her boyfriend tried to extort Scott Sassa, and he refused to pay up. So the stripper and her boyfriend forwarded the texts to an ESPN colleague, and ESPN FIRES Sassa. ESPN is owned by Hearst publishing company, and justified the firing thusly:

“Hearst ‘prides itself on being a very ethical, clean-cut company.’”

HAHAHAHAHAH. Journalism as a rule is so ethical and clean-cut. Especially at Hearst, the inventor of yellow journalism way back in the 19th century. Especially SPORTS journalism, wherein the very nature of the culture of professional sports involves sexualizing and objectifying women. If sports journalism was so concerned with ethics and cleanliness, how about banning GoDaddy and Cialis ads instead of giving a shit if one of their single (or married, for that matter) partners was sexting privately with some woman (and apparently her boyfriend) who takes off her clothes (and apparently is into extortion) for a living? How is this ANY of ESPN’s business? How about capping salaries at slightly less than obscene rates and charging a little less for beer?

Since I’m a big believer in lists having at least three items on them, I didn’t publish the above. Until now. Why? Because the universe dropped the biggest opportunity to call bullshit in my lap over the weekend. Steubenville. Now I have three. Cue the thunder and lightning and bats and maniacal laughter from the Count on Sesame Street.

3. Awwwwwww. Those poor boys. Can Mommy come wipe your face with a tissue as you cry remorsefully about having TAKEN PICTURES of the girl you raped and dragged around to various parties for people to witness said rape???? How dare anyone, ANYONE, let alone CNN, express the tiniest iota of sympathy for these “boys?” How dare they??? Have they even SEEN this video where drunk onlookers are laughing at how dead and raped she was? What do DESPICABLE, lower than slime, pieces of shit like these kids deserve anything but derision, dismissal and jail? Now, I’m sorry, but being drunk doesn’t turn you into a different person – I firmly believe that in most cases, it turns you into more of the person you already are.

When this video was leaked, a friend on Facebook urged us to show it to our daughters. I didn’t – my daughter already has a healthy terror in her about losing control of her senses and actions via alcohol, but I sure as hell showed it to my son. My son who is in his first year of high school, and entering the world of high school sports. I watched him come to the computer happy, and walk away sickened. I didn’t make him watch all 12 minutes. It went without saying (but I said it anyway) engaging in any type of sexual activity with a girl this drunk was rape, and while I’m not worried he’d perpetrate such an act, I want him to be aware he might witness and/or hear of something like this going on. And if he does, for god’s sake, get the hell out of there and get help for the GIRL. Make use of the technology in your hands to HELP HER. Text the address to 911. Take a snapshot and forward it to the police. Get the hell OUT OF THERE and get her help. Or, even STAY THERE and help her. Believe me, kids are as susceptible to peer pressure to do good as to do evil. And if anyone, ANYONE gives him a hard time about doing the fucking right thing, they will suffer my wrath – so help me god, I will have his back.

What do all three of these instances of bullshit have in common? Well, dear readers, they all have the effect of making women harder to take seriously.

They reinforce the stereotype of women as sexual objects above all else. Nicole with her peek-a-boobs, the stripper with her extortion, ESPN and Hearst with their hypocrisy. But the CNN coverage of Steubenville is the worst, because it perpetuates the culture of victim blaming in cases of rape and sexual abuse. It distorts beyond recognition the notion that bullies are victims, too. Oh, how SAD to see these promising young men have their lives ruined. What about the ACTUAL victim? How about being ENCOURAGED that the two most blatantly responsible for the VICTIM’S potentially lifelong nightmare are being held responsible? Where is our sense of justice?

I once read (and I cannot remember who wrote it – apologies for that, too) that the advancement of a civilization is directly proportional to its treatment of women. Well, it would appear we have a lot of goddamned work to do.

Cross-posted with permission from contributor Aliza Worthington. Aliza Worthington grew up in Brooklyn, NY, and now lives in Baltimore, MD. She began writing in 2009 at the age of 40. Sometimes her writing follows The Seinfeld Model of “no learning, no hugging.” Other times it involves lots of both. She blogs about Life, Liberty and Happiness at “The Worthington Post.” Her work also appears in Catonsville Patch, Kveller, and has been featured in the Community Spotlight section of Daily Kos under the username “Horque.” Her writing has also landed in the “Winner’s Circle” on Midlife Collage twice. Follow her on Twitter at @AlizaWrites.

Image via Aliza Worthington

  • The so-called “journalists” who expressed SYMPATHY for the rapists disgust me. Those “boys” SHOULD be haunted for the rest of their lives by this; their victim certainly will. So what if they’ll be “troubled” by being labelled as sex offenders? That’s the system working as intended to protect people from the perpetrators of these crimes.

    Any parent of a teenage boy should be having a serious conversation about consent, treating women with respect, and just basic human decency. We’re clearly lacking on that in this country.

  • I feel sympathy for them and I will continue to do so. It doesn’t minimize the horror I feel for their crime, nor does it take away from the empathy I feel for the victim. I don’t feel bad that they have been convicted (albeit to some very light sentencing). I feel bad that their parents, their educators, and their community leaders failed them so badly. And I believe that if we’re going to ever stop making it about the victim, we’re going to have to start feeling not only bad, but angry that we are failing our boys and men. Change can’t come if we simply label kids like this as “bad” and toss them away without having a serious dialogue about how they got where they are. I think these boys were stupid and arrogant and mean, but I have to believe that they would not have been this way if they were getting the very most basic education (moral – and I’m not talking about religion here – and otherwise) they should have received.

  • TOUCHE!!!!! Excellent read on all three.

  • Marti Teitelbaum

    In the tape, the guy talking was being egged on by the guy filming, both of them so disgusting I couldn’t stand it.
    But the real call for bullshit here is for CNN for acting as though the boys are the victims. How that reporter could say the things she did knowing what these guys had done is truly beyond my understanding.
    Yes, they were acting out what they had learned from society, from their coaches and from their peers. But that’s no excuse just as the racism and racial violence perpetrated by white southerners in the 1960’s is not excused by the culture in which they lived.
    Our courts held Patty Hearst (speaking of Hearst papers) responsible for her actions after the kidnapping and brainwashing she experienced. If she’s responsible, certainly these boys are even more responsible for their behavior.
    You have to wonder if people capable of abusing another human like that have any real ability to feel empathy for another person.

  • Lisa Pellegrino

    I just sent CNN a story suggestion on their website, calling for them to cover how appalling and disdainful their coverage of the trial’s verdict was. You can too here:

    http://www.cnn.com/feedback/show/?s=storyidea

  • Ann

    I have a message for everyone who has been protesting CNN’s reprehensible reporting of the Steubenville rape:

    Thank you.

    While it is likely that CNN will maintain its arrogant, self-justifying stance, I want you to know that your words and your energy have not been spent in vain.

    As a rape survivor, I am greatly encouraged by the sheer numbers of you who have weighed in.

    You see, I was raped at a time when there was no support for the victim, any victim. I was not drinking. I was not at a party. I was not behaving provocatively. I was a 13-year-old egghead, the class nerd, walking home from school in broad daylight with a stack of books in my arms.

    Everyone at school knew. Everyone treated it as a joke. Danny and his football buddies, in particular, thought it was hilarious. Even my own family dismissed it as my own problem, something I would have to deal with myself. It was a lonely road to walk.

    So today I am greatly heartened by your very well-placed outrage. I encourage you to keep speaking, even if CNN is too deaf to hear. Others like me hear you loud and clear.

    And with every word of outrage you utter against such atrocities, we heal a little inside.

    So keep writing. Keep talking. Feel free to forward this message to everyone you know and tell them to keep talking, too.

    You ARE making a difference. You ARE helping, far more than you know.

    God bless you all.

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