At CNN, whose coverage of the Steubenville rape case continues to be abysmal, Rachel Simmons, author of Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls, has a novel approach to holding girls and women accountable for rape:
Is anyone else wondering why the Steubenville, Ohio rape victim's two best friends testified against her? With this week's arrest of two other girls who "menaced" the teen victim on Facebook and Twitter, we have the beginnings of an answer.That is how the piece opens. It is followed my many paragraphs about how girls are socialized to see their worth via sexual appeal to boys, and how that can make girls competitive and traitorous toward one another, with some parts of which I agree and some I don't.
Rape culture is not only the province of boys. The often hidden culture of girl cruelty can discourage accusers from coming forward and punish them viciously once they do.
It is certainly not a universal experience: None, and I mean none, of my close girl friends in middle- and high school were ever nasty to me or one another over a guy, and we wouldn't in a million years have failed to support and defend one another against sexual violence. Nothing piqued our ire more than a dude who mistreated another of our circle. And it certainly wasn't because we didn't view our value as defined by the ability to get and keep boyfriends: I regret to say we did. But that doesn't necessarily intersect with the "mean girl" apathy to sexual violence that Simmons asserts it routinely does.
The piece ends thus:
I am not saying that Jane Doe was raped because of girls' silence. Girls may choose not to speak up for many reasons, but it's hard to ignore the power of a culture that pushes them to choose boys over each other and punish other girls to protect their own reputations.So, she's "not saying that Jane Doe was raped because of girls' silence," but she is saying that boys "would be less inclined" to commit and share on social media acts of sexual violence if only girls "banded together to support each other." Okay.
We must talk to girls about their responsibility in situations like this. If we want to prevent another Steubenville, we need to teach children from an early age about gender-based violence. The word "slut" is not just an epithet; it is a word that has given adolescents permission to abandon and hurt each other when a girl needs support most.
Girls must understand not only their moral obligation but their power to be allies to each other at parties and other potentially unsafe spaces for girls. If boys knew that girls banded together to support each other, they would be less inclined to share on social media, much less commit, these horrific acts of sexual violence.
There is truth to that, in the sense that any number of people showing unified condemnation of sexual violence is an effective deterrent. But that's not just on girls. It isn't enough for boys to not rape; they need to stand in solidarity against the boys who do, too.
Especially because boys largely aren't risking retributive sexual violence being visited upon them if they stand on the line between a rapist and his target.
It's remarkable the number of ways we can find to blame girls for their own disproportionate victimization and excuse boys from any responsibility whatsoever.