Despite that, offers pointers about the ways a good person can talk: Over the last year, Salon has been transformed into a deeply instructive intellectual wreck.
Today, Katie McDonough continues to flail at Richard Cohen, who criticized Miley Cyrus this week for her now-famous VMA performance.
“[L]et me also suggest that acts such as hers not only objectify women but debase them,” Cohen wrote near the end of his piece. “They encourage a teenage culture that has set the women’s movement back on its heels. What is being celebrated is not sexuality but sexual exploitation, a mean casualness that deprives intimacy of all intimacy.”
Could fiercely independent artistic performance of a type which is quite widespread in the culture really encourage sexual exploitation and/or mean casualness among young, dumb, impressionable teen-aged boys? Might such deeply principled artistic presentations perhaps inspire teen-age males to feel and display contempt for young women? To “objectify” teen-aged girls? To perceive them as sexual objects, and perhaps as nothing else?
To say the kinds of things about teen-age girls Cohen quoted teen-aged boys saying in Steubenville?
We don’t know how to answer that question, but it doesn’t strike us as a crazy idea. Presumably, people are widely influenced by the culture around them. Presumably, that would even include young, dumb teen-aged boys surrounded by dumb-assed sleazeball culture, of the kind which is designed to separate them from their money.
Today, though, McDonough is still writing peculiar things about what Cohen said in his column. In her new piece, the endlessly helpful Salonista shares five “pointers” (that word comes from Salon’s headline) concerning the right way to talk about rape.
“Writing about sexual assault with accuracy, empathy and common sense is really about taking the time and forethought just to be a good person,” McDonough thoughtfully says. She then instructs us in “five ways to start.”
This is the way she starts explaining her second “pointer:”
MCDONOUGH (5/5/13): Female sexuality does not invite rape, ever (ever, ever, ever, ever, ever).We’re sorry, but the highlighted claim is just weird. Obviously, Cohen did not “suggest that Cyrus might be somehow responsible for the crimes committed in Steubenville.”
On Tuesday, the Washington Post ran a piece by Richard Cohen suggesting that Miley Cyrus might be somehow responsible for the crimes committed in Steubenville. And while it’s tempting to dismiss Cohen as an out-of-touch man with a horrible track record of saying deeply misogynistic and racist things on the Internet (all of which is also true), he’s not the only one blaming female raunch culture for sexual violence.
This is a minor point in a much larger scheme which McDonough thoroughly manhandles. But why do writers at Salon say things which are so weird?
Did Cohen “suggest that Cyrus might be somehow responsible for the crimes committed in Steubenville?” Please. Cyrus performed at the VMA last week. The crimes in Steubenville—and the associated conduct Cohen discussed—happened in August 2012.
Why does McDonough keep writing that Cohen said the event from last week was somehow responsible for the events from last year? Whatever he did, he didn’t do that. Does McDonough know how to make sense?
We think Cohen was careless (or something more) in a few of the things he said. But he didn’t say that Cyrus somehow caused the events in Steubenville, and he also didn’t say that “female sexuality invites rape,” except inside McDonough’s head, where many people say many vile things, and where it’s perfectly A-OK to toss major bombs all around.
Sorry, kiddos! When you accuse people of saying “deeply misogynistic and racist things on the Internet,” you need to pick up your jacks and your ball for a minute and offer a few examples. Has Cohen been saying “deeply misogynistic and racist things” on the web? Our McCarthyistic culture lord needs to explain what they are.
No such luck! With her R-bombs and M-bombs at her side, McDonough’s a budding Stalinist and a rambling wreck. As she continues, she also hammers Joanne Bamberger for a “story” in USA Today:
MCDONOUGH (continuing directly): In a story for USA Today, Joanne Bamberger took a similar position on Cyrus, this time blaming her, bizarrely, for gross failures of accountability from the criminal justice system. While Cohen believes Cyrus is guilty of “debasing” women and girls and effectively inviting teenagers to sexually assault other teenagers, Bamberger cites the pop star’s onstage writhing and grinding as the reason that judges like Baugh think girls like Rambold’s victim are “as much in control of the situation” as their assailants...We decided to read the “story,” which turned out to be an opinion column. We’re sorry, but Bamberger had a lot of perfectly sensible things to say about the ways creepy corporate institutions sell tricked-up images of girls, perhaps helping to build an unhealthy sexual culture:
BAMBERGER: Even outlets like New York Times have responsibility for a growing cultural view that girls entice inappropriate sexual advances. One 2011 article about an 11-year-old girl who was gang-raped in a small Texas town suggested that she provoked the attack by her provocative attire.Are young girls “increasingly sexualized in the media?” If so, might that not be a problem? Might this encourage mixed-up men, of which there are some, to get stupid thoughts in their heads?
The increased media sexualization of young girls isn't just anecdotal. A recent study by The Parents Television Council found a "very real problem" of teen girls being shown in sexually exploitive ways that are often presented as humorous.
Whether there is a connection between these images and teen sexual abuse isn't clear, but according to the Department of Justice, one-third of sexual assaults victims are ages 12-17, and those ages 16-19 are three-and-a-half times more likely to be sexually assaulted or become victims of rape than the general population.
In light of these statistics and the Parents Television Council's study, it doesn't seem to be a huge leap to suggest that with young girls increasingly sexualized in the media, teen victims of sexual assault may be judged more harshly because too many see a child as being "in control."
Bamberger is asking sensible questions from a perspective most people would think of as feminist. But McDonough is one of her journal’s new Stalinistas. Such people will give us pointers about the ways, the only ways, a “good person” is able to talk. If you say one thing that rubs her wrong, she will fly into a rage and she will open her bomb bays.
McDonough doesn’t know how to paraphrase well. She tends to hear what she tends to hear. She tends to throw away the rest. In this and several other ways, Salon is becoming a wreck.
(Ironically, this is almost surely being done for commercial purposes, though we don't suggest in any way that this is McDonough's motive.)
One last point about McDonough’s Stalinism: In her first pointer about the correct way for a good person to talk, she tells us this about the two teen-agers who were convicted of digital penetration of the equally young victim in Steubenville:
“It isn’t a tragedy when people who commit crimes face consequences. It’s actually called justice when that happens.”
When McDonough gets a little older, she may even get a bit wiser. To slightly older people, it is a tragedy when dumb, impressionable young people fail to get the help they need—from their parents, from their coaches, from their community, from the rapacious institutions which peddle sexy-time candy at their slowly developing brains all across the culture.
Presumably, it’s bad for girls when Hollywood does that; presumably, it’s bad for boys too. It's bad for all people in various ways. As a general rule, it’s done to separate teens from their parents’ money, not for fiercely independent artistic purposes.
Surely we all understand that.
It is a tragedy when teenagers end up doing something which is tremendously dumb, though much less transgressive than it might have been. (They didn’t have intercourse with the victim, a more serious legal offense, an offense which can lead to the unwanted outcome called pregnancy.) Their conduct was very, very dumb—and, as Cohen writes, it was surrounded by ugly behavior on the part of some of their peers, ugly behavior which suggests a teen culture built upon very shaky values.
But they were only 16 years old, and a whole lot of people refused to guide them. Salon, with its silly declamations aimed at people who are denouncing misogyny, will only make the world worse.
McDonough makes a joke of life itself with her ridiculous junior high dicta. Let us draw one more S-bomb from our own bay:
For the most part, Bamberger and Cohen made sensible comments. Their comments were worth discussing fairly. Stalinism of this emerging type rarely helps the world.
We're sure McDonough is a good person. But good God! Let’s put bombs away!