In a recent series of op-eds in The Daily Princetonian, a colleague of mine, Jacquelyn Thorbjornson ’19, and I have been exchanging arguments surrounding the issue of bias in news coverage. Both guest contributor Alis Yoo ’19 and I have rebutted Thorbjorson’s original piece. I believe the points made in both my piece and Yoo’s are still valid and remain largely unanswered. Thorbjornson argues that an alleged rape by undocumented immigrants in Rockville, Md., should be the subject of national outrage. Whereas Thorbjornson sees a liberal conspiracy to suppress truth, I see local news and good reporting.
Thorbjornson’s response to my original rebuttal confuses the issue and makes an appeal to the alleged sexism of my rebuttal. Just like her original piece, her response relies on a weak contention, attempting to justify a false equivalency. She contends that an article in The Guardian and an article in the New York Daily News on the case of Brock Turner constituted a significant amount of national news coverage before the victim’s testimony was made public. Two articles are not national outrage. Her account of events also conveniently ignores the string of similar controversial sexual assaults on college campuses that would sensitize media to other similar cases. This is just one of the many clear differences between the Turner case and the case Thorbjornson wishes to put into national conversation.
Thorbjornson's second and more incendiary contention is largely an attack on my journalistic integrity for making what she believes to be “ad hominem attacks on my argument” by calling into question her choice of this particular case. Alleging a bias without evidence would be ad hominem, but that is clearly not what occurred. I reiterate: Why should this particular piece of local news be brought to the national conversation? Having still given no reason why this particular case should be national news when so many other cases of sexual assault are not, I must again call into question Thorbjornson’s original argument. The difference between Rockville and any other local case rests on the identity of the accused. Thorbjornson could have answered in a single sentence. Instead she chose to repeat that Rockville should be an outrage on the national level simply because it is a case of sexual assault. Tautology does not a reason make.
She then, using what by her standard is an ad hominem attack, decries my title — not the substance of my contentions — for what comprises the rest of her piece. She alleges that the title of my response piece, “Becky with the Bad Bias,” was misogynistic. A general misunderstanding of this title has caused some confusion for multiple readers. I may have misjudged the degree to which the phrase referenced in my title had reached the mainstream and would like to clarify for the record.
The phrase “Becky with the Good Hair” has taken on meaning outside of the context of a Beyoncé song. As explained by Emma Pettit for the Chronicle of Higher Education, “‘Becky with the good hair’ became a succinct phrase on the internet to call out white privilege.” That meaning was further politicized in the Fisher v. Texas case regarding one student's challenge to affirmative action, as the hashtag #beckywiththebadgrades took off on Twitter. More recently, #beckywiththepinkhat exploded as people criticized the lack of intersectionality at the Women’s March.
The phrase “Becky with the ‘adjective noun’” has become a rallying cry to expose subtle and at times overt racism at large, even within feminist movements. Thorbjornson’s column is either unaware or willfully ignorant of this and dismisses the voices of people of color by distilling the phrase to a Beyoncé lyric alone. She rhetorically asks in her response if I would have chosen that title if she were a man, and if it would still be relevant. The title is not only relevant, but pointedly so with regards to the still unanswered contention about the identities of the accused in Rockville.
The feminism that would scapegoat immigrants in this case, without giving compelling reasons, is not my feminism. The feminism so unaware of its interaction with status and race is not my feminism. The feminism that would exploit a young girl’s story, without her having any say in it, is not my feminism. Thorbjornson’s feminism is not my feminism.
My title has little to do with gender and everything to do with Thorbjornson's argument’s profound lack of awareness about racial issues. Thorbjornson laments that this dialogue has become about the authors; that applies on only one side here. Just like her search for bias in reporting on Rockville, Thorbjornson is again searching for a demon where there is none.
Ryan Chavez is a sophomore from Arcadia, Calif. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.