Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Off-base and cruel

    George Will is a veteran newspaper columnist, widely acknowledged by those who frequent opinion pages and political talk shows as perhaps the most thoughtful of moderate conservative voices. Will gave up that status in his June 6, 2014, rant on oversensitivity about and overregulation of violence on college campuses. He showed himself to be anything but a well reasoned voice.  
    Will declared that he just doesn’t believe that 20 percent of college women have been sexually assaulted. He does believe he has the necessary insights to appreciate the true nature of the behavior of college-age men and women. Applying those assumptions to his distain for the current status of institutes of higher education and government regulation, Will absurdly declared that being a rape victim brings a “coveted status” on college campuses, so privileged that women actively seek rape-victim status.
    The charge is absurd and cruel. Is it even imaginable that someone would declare it a coveted status for a young man to have the crap kicked out of him? Would he be “asking for it” or at fault for his injuries if he drank too much or dressed too provocatively? Would we dismiss his pain if he failed to fight back? What if it were women committing assaults? Would their male victims then have a coveted status?
    Once again, Will’s words appear to be a case of an old white guy imposing his assumptions about women. It’s an archaic view that makes it seem reasonable that a woman’s sense of abuse at the hands of a male might well be misguided. It is a view that’s unfit for the 21st century. It makes it believable that a woman would get some perverted joy out of terrifying young men. It’s a view that does not expect young men to restrain their behavior unless they are very certain their partner does not wish to have sexual relations.
    Whether Will likes it or not, whether he believes it results from government interference or not, fewer and fewer women are willing to let the self-righteous men of his world make decisions for them, particularly those decisions involving their bodies.  
    It is hard to accept that Will actually believes rape includes any kind of “coveted status that confers privileges,” but his is a reputation earned through careful thought and elegant writing. That is what he wrote and that is how he should be judged. The punishment should be that fewer people care at all about what he has to say.

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