A TPM Reader takes stock of the week and what it means …
As someone who defended “Jackie” and the story all week, I felt let down, and then realized with some disgust I was disappointed that she had not been raped. In thinking further about my reaction, it seems what this really is about – and Ferguson and the countless other deaths of young Black teens – is balance of power. And the reason I, and others, are quick to defend the victims in these cases is because it confirms a version of the world we already believe: that young women and African-Americans are often disenfranchised in our culture, specifically with regard to large and traditional bastions of power where the loudest, richest, highest-status voices tend to drown out minority perspectives.
I went to Harvard in the early aughts and spent many late, dark nights in final clubs – their version of frats, as I’m sure you know – and can’t say any of these details surprised me or rung false. And while the specifics and veracity of this particular story (and RS’ reporting in general) are relevant, I’m worried we’re missing the macro point that women are perpetual guests in these establishments and what that does to the overall culture and mentality of otherwise self-respecting men.
I’m sure you remember Lord of the Flies. I don’t know how it is with frats but at least at Harvard there was ZERO oversight from the school, (presumably to avoid lawsuits about underage drinking and sexual assault), which only reinforced a feeling that these boys were above the law.
Senior year, I was dating someone in one of the oldest final clubs, where non-members are not allowed past the foyer. One late night, a friend of mine found herself alone in the entryroom with two guys, one of whom was a member, both of whom were in the closet. They somehow made it upstairs, as a threesome, where, according to my friend, the two guys proceeded to hook up. (She felt as though she were only there to legitimize their behavior in their own eyes.) When she shared this story with my boyfriend, he freaked out and called a meeting with the other members in his class. They proceeded to alert the graduate board, who also met and eventually made my friend and the other non-member sign some kind of nondisclosure agreement. And no one was even concerned about rape accusations; this was all because they were worried about being outed.
I had my own murky sexual encounter in one of these clubs – the first time I ever drank and smoked weed on the same night – and the University stopped at recommending a counselor, whom I spoke to on the phone a few times. (To be clear, I have no idea what their response would have been had I been more inclined to pursue the issue.)
Of course, it may turn out that none of these details are true and the story is completely fabricated. But my point is, in our rush to “solve” this rape like journalistic detectives, we’re avoiding a larger conversation about the male/female balance of power at these large universities and how the universities themselves address it.