Jennifer Braceras recently wrote an op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal that every college-age woman would benefit from reading. In it she suggests some common-sense ideas on how to protect oneself from harm; like not getting drunk and going home with men you don’t really know, making sure you travel – especially on foot – with a group of friends who will look out for each other and finally, rejecting the casual hook-up culture so prevalent on many campuses today. As a result, she’s being criticized by some as a rape apologist and victim blamer.
Her article, coincidently published at about the same time as Education Secretary DeVoss’ announcement of her intention to redirect former President Obama’s directives concerning how Universities receiving federal funds were to respond to allegations of sexual misconduct on their campuses, has heightened the debate of what a “preponderance of evidence” looks like and if we are going to continue to view people as innocent until proven guilty. The argument not being that egregious sexual assaults have never happened but protecting against false allegations and a rush to judgement before all the facts are known and understood. Thus depriving the accused of their constitutional right to due process.
Complicating the issue is the need to decide how much responsibility – if any – women should assume for their own actions that may contribute to the situation they find themselves in, without unfairly blaming them for someone else’s actions.
Feminists have long demanded sexual “liberty” and interpreted that as a right to sleep around (although they probably wouldn’t put it quite that way), but are equally adamant about not assuming any responsibility for outcomes that are less than ideal even when they are largely predictable – such as mixing large amounts of alcohol and young people. Questions like: ‘Why should women have to pair up or travel in a group when walking across campus or returning there from a bar or club in town?’ or ‘Why shouldn’t I be able to drink at a party – up to and including getting drunk – without fearing assault?’; indignantly asked by them. The answer being relatively simple. We don’t live in a utopian society where you can leave your house or car unlocked or walk carefree and alone down a darkened street carrying exposed cash – or anything else “exposed”. The world we live in has dangerous people in it who commit heinous crimes.
Should a woman be able to walk across campus or town without being accosted? Absolutely. Should a woman be able to attend a party or meeting and not have to fend off unwanted advances? Certainly. Should we teach boys – and girls – decent behavior and respect? Of course. But some will continue to reject social norms, even in the face of prosecution for illegal behavior. So why not protect yourself as much as you can?
Braceras offers realistic suggestions for college women in particular, on how to protect themselves in the real world. (And yes, that involved how they comport themselves in dress and behavior when in mixed company.) In the process offering solid evidence that refutes the claim that 1 in 4 women living on campus will be sexually assaulted, that claim having been previously debunked by others as well. Many believing the real number is somewhere around 1 in 50, which is still entirely unacceptable; the perpetrators rightly being prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. But exaggerating the statistics to make a point – even a good one – is irresponsible and detrimental to a cause in the long run, casting doubt on everything else you say or do. (Similar to the “campaign” to legalize abortion and its over-inflated estimates of back-alley procedures and the complications accompanying them.)
Which raises the issue of freedom of speech, and just what that constitutes. And to be honest, people have the right – within certain legal limits – to say and promote whatever they want; freedom of speech being a bed-rock principle of our country. But everyone must be afforded that right and not be mis-represented, heckled off-stage or prevented from speaking at all in certain venues. You can choose not to attend or sponsor those people you legitimately disagree with, but you have no more right to shut them up then they do of you. Besides, how do you know what they're really saying or if you disagree with them without giving them the opportunity to fully explain themselves? Going on hearsay is not fair to them or you.
It’s only natural that we get defensive concerning what we believe, and desire to promote those beliefs undeterred. But for our right to speak openly and freely to be legitimate, we can’t suppress someone else’s right to do likewise. And to the surprise and consternation of many, there is often a price to be paid for our freedom of expression. (Think Colin Kaepernick – and now the entire NFL – as well as country music’s Dixie Chicks back in former Pres. Bush’s day. Freely expressing themselves but finding many not agreeing with their personal view and then expressing that disapproval by choosing not to add a “disruptive element” to their team or by fans refusing to attend games or concerts.) A good rule of thumb being to think before you speak, and then go ahead if you must; being fully prepared to face the consequences come what may.
The central point of contention summed up by Amy Clark and Miriam Weaver, aka Chicks on the Right, in defending and promoting Miss Braceras’ recommendations, “It’s appropriate and important that we encourage young people to reject today’s hook-up culture.”1 A simple comment that both challenges and promotes on the one hand even as it offends on the other. Imagine that.
1From an op-ed piece appearing in the IndyStar titled, “Common Sense Meets Campus Hook-up Culture,” Chicks on the Right also host a radio program and blog at chicksontheright.com
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