Steubenville Media Coverage Is a Case Study in Rape Culture

no-more-rapeby Jasmine Peterson

By now, you’d have to have been living under a rock to have not heard about the Steubenville rape case (I essentially do live under a rock, and I’ve heard of it). The feminist community has been abuzz about the case, how it was handled, and also how the mainstream media has covered it.

As tired as I am of hearing and saying the term ”rape culture” this week, I am about to say it again. Media coverage of the case and the resulting convictions of the two accused is a glaring example of it. When I first heard about the case a couple of months ago, my question to myself was: “How could young men think that this behaviour was okay? How could bystanders not intervene? How could nobody have come forward before now?”

The questions were rhetorical and the answer simple: rape culture. And rape culture has been perpetuated and reinforced in how this crime has been talked about.

When reporters and media sources place emphasis on how sexual assault has negatively impacted the perpetrators’ lives, giving them a sympathetic portrayal, that is rape culture.

Poppy Harlow, a CNN correspondent, stated that it was “incredibly difficult even for an outsider like me to watch what happened as these two young men that had such promising futures, star football players, very good students, literally watched as they believe their life fell apart.” When Brian Duncan, representing  one of the rapists, Trent Mays, told 20/20 that what had occurred was consensual, that was rape culture (and it baffles me that a lawyer would not know, or would assert otherwise, that intoxication negates consent).

When media focuses on the fact that the victim was drunk, that she dressed “inappropriately”, that’s rape culture. The message that is internalized, for both victim and perpetrator, is that rape is the victim’s responsibility (and so how could we then expect 16 and 17-year-old boys to take responsibility for their actions when we’ve already told them that it was the victim’s fault because she drank too much, dressed a certain way, acted in a certain manner?).

What is essentially being said by these media sources is that these poor boys’ lives are somehow more valuable or important than that of the young woman they raped because they’re “good students” and football players. What is being said is that, even though they’ve been convicted of a heinous crime, their loss is somehow more tangible. And this tone, this victim-blaming, rape apologia, is exactly why crimes like this happen. The media didn’t seem quite as concerned about what a good student the victim was, that she has people who care about her, and that her life and future are impacted by this. Read more

Posted on by Jasmine Peterson in Can-Con 5 Comments

Indigenous and Women of Colour Media Makers Resist!

Tailfeathers (center) with star of A Red Girl’s Reasoning Jessica Matten (left) and Rose Stiffarm (right)

4th post as part of  Joanna Chiu‘s series of posts for Vancouver’s Battered Women’s Support Services on media representations of violence against women in recognition of Prevention of Violence Against Women Week. Read the whole series at the BWSS Ending Violence blog.

Today, as I was walking down the street to write at my favorite coffee shop, I received the usual afternoon greetings from my neighbours: “Hey baby!” “Konichee-wa!” “Ni hao! “Look at that ass!!”

As all Indigenous women and women of colour know, if sexism wasn’t bad enough, we encounter racism on a daily basis as well—on the street, in the classroom, in the workplace, and in the media. (See the theory of intersectionality on how oppressions like racism, ageism and classism intersect.)

In media, women of colour are often hyper-sexualized, and depicted in racial caricatures: Kung Fu ladies, geishas, sexy Latina sirens, Pocahontas types, etc. That is, if we see ourselves represented in the media at all. According to’s State of the Media report, race and gender issues only accounted for 1% of overall news coverage. And how many women of colour lead actresses can you name in Hollywood, or who have graced the covers of glossy magazines?

The absence of representations of people of colour in the media is as bad as racist representations in the media, because it implies that we simply don’t matter. Read more

Posted on by Joanna Chiu in Feminism, Pop Culture, Racism 2 Comments

How Twitter Reflects the Themes of Our Society

This was originally posted at A Nerdy Feminist. Cross-posted with permission of the author.

Let me set this all out from the get-go: I love social media. I’m an early adopter and heavy user of the biggest platforms. I was Facebooking it back in late 2004 when you had to request your college to be added to the network and I’ve been a regular tweeter since 2008. In fact, I’ve racked up almost 6000 tweets. I’m even into Tumbling now. All of this is just to demonstrate that the following is not me hating on social media or fearing progress. (We know how I feel about that.)

Besides, Twitter has been proven to be hugely influential in some really big things, like the Arab Spring, as well as many other grassroots, activist movements including Occupy. It also regularly allows me to connect with feminists from all over the country and world, making the theory feel united, my thoughts more widely informed, and allowing me to be supported and lend support.

But the fact of the matter is that for all the good Twitter can do, it is still is a direct reflection of the “-isms” that still exist in our society. A vast majority of its users are not necessarily engaging in activism, but rather sharing “funny” quips or personal thoughts. Unfortunately, racist, heterosexist, classist, and sexist hashtags often are amongst the top trending topics. So much so, that as a self-preservation tactic (read: I don’t want to get pissed off all the time) I’ve stopped regularly looking at them…which is a damn shame, since it could keep me from knowing about the great stuff I just referenced.

Despite my recent decision to ignore trending topics, I took a little glance last night and, of course, one of them was problematic.


But more on that particular trending topic in a moment. Read more

Posted on by A Lynn in Feminism Leave a comment