Tuesday, September 22

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Outrageous conversation

Recently, I penned an opinion column about the lack of liberal news coverage of the alleged rape of a 14-year-old girl at a high school in Rockville, Maryland. My column was, arguably, both conservative and controversial. I expected some would naturally take issue with my opinion, and indeed, my colleague Ryan Chavez wrote a response almost immediately. But Chavez’s response was riddled with problems in itself, both in its logic and, more importantly, in its journalistic integrity. It warrants a response.

The crux of his opposition to my piece is his claim that the “outrage” to the Brock Turner case only came after Turner received his light sentencing. This, Chavez claims, was the only reason the case constituted national news. This is an interesting manipulation of truth, considering that Turner’s crime was covered extensively in national media before Turner’s conviction. In January and February, the New York Post and The Guardian, among other networks, expressed disgust and outrage about the crime, which was, at the time, only an allegation. Interestingly enough, Chavez did not think these reports constituted a national response to the crime.

Chavez’s integrity declined to a new level when, in the absence of any more facts to misconstrue, he resorts to ad hominem attacks on my argument, making less than subtle allegations about my journalistic intent. Chavez claims that my “call to spread information about this incomplete case may have less to do with the alleged crime itself and more to do with the identities of the accused.” My original column could not have been clearer; a 14-year-old girl was brutally raped in a bathroom stall, and “we should be outraged.” It is precisely because the identities of the accused should not matter that I called out the comparatively weak public and local response to the Rockville case, in contrast with the Turner case. The crime that occurred at Rockville High School should disgust everyone who hears of it, and the fact that the accused were undocumented immigrants, rather than white, male Stanford swimmers, should do nothing to quell that disgust. If Chavez is cunningly manipulating my argument, he attempts to skirt around this point entirely.

In light of Chavez’s falsities and misinterpretations, one would be disappointed to find that something more insidious exists in Chavez’s response. But Chavez does not disappoint. The title of Chavez’s column, “Becky with the Bad Bias,” is a play on Beyoncé’s “Sorry” song lyric “Becky with the good hair,” and it invokes gender in what is both a grossly unnecessary and overtly condescending way. Take a step back and consider the hypothetical: would this title be relevant if I were a male? If I was a male author, would Chavez have selected the same title, and if so, would it have had the same effect? This title is absolutely irrelevant to the debate at hand. There is no “Becky” to speak of, nor “good hair,” nor “bad biases”; there is only a female columnist calling for a stronger media response to an alleged rape. Instead of bolstering his already botched opinion, Chavez's title serves no purpose other than to highlight my gender, and the fact that my gender would be considered relevant to a debate is a reflection of the sexism that opinionated women must combat every day. Such a gendered attack threatens all female authors, by distracting from our arguments and forcing us to instead respond to discriminatory efforts based on our sex. The exhibited paternalism is not only patronizing, it is reprehensible. Yet again, we should be outraged. I know I am.

Sexism and misogyny plague many aspects of our culture. Chavez’s title is evidence of that. To dissolve these binding social constructs, individuals must recognize blatant acts of misogyny and misandry for what they are and stand up against them. Abolition compels action. Sexism need not persist and pervade in our culture — but it must be actively reproached. When an individual’s thoughts, opinions, or writing is trivialized based on their gender, it demands a response.

The title of my original column, “Outrage,” would, ironically, be a fitting title for this column as well. It is outrageous that in response to my call for mainstream media on both sides to condemn rape despite the political implications, Chavez made a casual display of misogyny. Chavez’s article detracted from the integrity of the political discourse that could have surrounded this contentious current event. Instead, Chavez relied on ad hominem attacks and sexism to articulate his opposition to my opinion. Where he could have contributed to meaningful political dialogue, Chavez contributed instead to a conversation about people — a conversation about authors.

Jacquelyn Thorbjornson is a sophomore from South Thomaston, Maine. She can be reached at jot@princeton.edu.