Dr. Rebecca Hains

All Rapists are Legitimate Rapists. #EndRapeCulture #BrockTurner

In our fight against rape culture, we need to raise awareness of who commits rape and why all rapists deserve to be brought to justice, no matter their background.The trial and sentencing of Stanford rapist Brock Turner underscores this: Contrary to popular belief, rapists are not just strangers who leap from dark alleys to attack women. They legitimately come from all walks of life.

It should not surprise any of us, including court justices, that even affluent, talented, well-educated white men like Turner commit rape. And yet in Turner case, the judge who sentenced him seems to be suffering from cognitive dissonance, incapable of grasping that Turner is as much of a rapist as any other. In fact, in sentencing Turner, Judge Aaron Persky stated, “I think he will not be a danger to others.” This assumption seemed to be that Brock Turner was a good kid who made a bad mistake, rather than a legitimate rapist.

Yet Brock Turner is indeed a rapist who already harmed at least one woman, if not more. He should be punished for his crimes in the same way Persky would sentence other rapists from less affluent, less promising backgrounds.

It’s unfortunate that in this case, justice has been so inadequately served, despite the gains we have made in the fight against rape culture. For example, in the 1960s and 70s, second-wave feminists raised awareness of rape from a victim’s perspective, clarifying it as not just a “sex crime,” but an act of true violence. In 1990, 18-year-old rape victim Katie Koestner helped the world understand that women can be raped by the men they date. And in 2011, protesters launched #SlutWalk and made headlines for provocatively asserting that women are never “asking” to be raped, regardless of their attire, location, or behavior.

These efforts clarified that any woman can be raped, no matter what she’s wearing, even by an acquaintance. They also clarified that rape is inherently a violent act, rather than a sexual one. To this end, in 1994, after sustained activist efforts, the U.S. government passed the Violence Against Women Act, which mandated the treatment of rape as a crime. (Previously, it had generally been brushed aside as a private matter.)

Despite these gains, however, justice is hard to come by, as Turner’s trial and sentencing demonstrate.

First, he was handled with kid gloves: During his trial, Turner’s the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s office protected his image. It was only after his sentencing that freelance journalist Diana Prichard succeeded in her fight to see his mugshot released.

Then, although Turner was found unanimously guilty on three charges of felony sexual assault, his sentence was ludicrously light. Judge Aaron Persky sentenced him to a mere six months in prison. This will likely be reduced to three months with good behavior. In sentencing him, Persky reasoned that “a prison sentence would have a severe impact on him.”

Clear-eyed people read those words and wonder: What could possibly be wrong Brock Turner’s life being severely impacted by a more serious punishment? In comparison to the 14-year maximum sentence he could have received, 6 months is an insult to his victim, her supporters, and rape victims everywhere. In fact, it sends the message that affluent white young men who happen to be student athletes can basically rape with impunity. (Note that more student athletes than the general population commit rape, but they receive less punishment.)

In sentencing Turner, Judge Persky weighed various factors. One consideration was a harrowing, eloquent, incisive, and profound statement that Turner’s victim read aloud and then made publicly available. (If you haven’t read it yet, please, read it now. Her voice and perspective are crucial.)

Another consideration was a bundle of letters written by Turner’s supporters, who appear to cling to outdated stereotypes about what constitutes rape. For example, Turner’s father asserted that his son “has never been violent to anyone including his actions on the night of Jan 17th 2015.” Meanwhile, a young female friend  asserted that when Turner dragged his unconscious victim behind a dumpster and raped her, it was “completely different from a woman getting kidnapped and raped as she is walking to her car in a parking lot. That is a rapist. These are not rapists.”

These lines of thinking constitute a serious problem. Rape is not just something perpetuated by big scary men in dark alleys, or by guys who are pathetic and can’t attract women. The stereotypical rapists of film and television are not the only faces of rape. Brock Turner is also what a rapist looks like.

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It’s outrageous that in the judge’s mind, the defense team’s ill-conceived, poorly-written letters seem to have trumped the victim’s eloquent impact statement. How could this have happened?

In considering the evidence and the various letters, Persky seems to have been unduly influenced by his own identification with Turner. As criminal defense attorney Ken White explained,

Judge Aaron Persky empathized with Brock Allen Turner and could easily imagine what it would be like to lose sports fame (as Persky enjoyed), to lose a Sanford education (as Persky enjoyed), to lose the sort of easy success and high regard that a young, reasonably affluent Stanford graduate (like Persky was) can expect as a matter of right.  Judge Persky could easily imagine how dramatically different a state prison is from Stanford frat parties, and how calamitous was Turner’s fall.

This analysis reinforces my argument: To make further progress in our fight to end rape culture, we must make it much clearer that anyone can be a rapist, and all rapists must be treated equally in the judicial system. We cannot guess who is a rapist by looking at their relatives, their profession, their attire, their bank account, their skin color, or their hairstyle, and people from all backgrounds should be sentenced with equal severity.

This understanding needs to become so common, so widespread, that it serves as a deterrent to every would-be rapist.

Congressman Todd Akin was once held accountable for implying that only some types of rape are “legitimate rape.” His words sparked a national conversation in which we clarified that all forms of rape are legitimately rape, whether date-rape or acquaintance-rape or back-alley rape.

The Brock Turner case makes it clear that we must move that conversation forward. All rape is legitimate, and all rapists are legitimate rapists. Full stop.


Rebecca Hains, Ph.D. is a media studies professor at Salem State University and the author of The Princess Problem: Guiding Our Girls Through the Princess-Obsessed Years, a book meant to help parents raise empowered, media-literate daughters. 

Rebecca is on Facebook and Twitter. If you enjoyed this post, you may follow Rebecca’s blog by hitting the “follow blog” button at rebeccahains.com/blog.

 

 

Internet mob shames mom in Harambe’s name

The tragic killing of Harambe the gorilla has prompted an international outpouring of grief and rage. Harambe was killed by Cincinnati zoo officials to save the life of a preschooler who somehow entered the gorillas’ enclosure. It’s a decision officials maintain was their only possible course of action, given Harambe’s great strength and the fact that tranquilizers can enrage animals before they take effect.

Since then, more than 350,000 people have signed a Change.org petition demanding “justice for Harambe,” which blames Harambe’s death on “parental negligence,” insisting, “the zoo is not responsible for the child’s injuries and possible trauma.” The signatories ask for Child Protective Services to investigate the family and for the Zoo and the Cincinnati Police to “hold the parents responsible” for Harambe’s death.

As many parents of young children can intuit, the logic of this petition is questionable. It is reasonable for parents to expect a zoo to have barriers sufficient to prevent small children from entering the enclosures of dangerous animals. According to a statement made by primatologist Julia Gallucci, the design of Harambe’s enclosure was faulty: “The gorilla enclosure should have been surrounded by a secondary barrier between the humans and the animals to prevent exactly this type of incident,” she noted.

Furthermore, calling the parents “negligent” is excessive. It contradicts eyewitness accounts of how fast the little boy was.  As bystander Deirdre Lykins has reported, the boy’s mother said, “He was right here! I took a pic and his hand was in my back pocket and then gone.” Lykins said she had to stop the boy’s distraught mother from entering the enclosure.

Despite these facts, the conversation attached to the petition and elsewhere online has taken an ugly turn. Internet commentators have directed excessive vitriol at the boy’s parents and, especially, his mother. But why?

In my analysis, the hatred towards the boy’s parents reveals some unpleasant insights about widespread cultural assumptions about parenting today.

First, the call for Child Protective Services to become involved indicates an unreasonable belief that parents should be able to keep their kids safe 100% of the time. If we are being reasonable, and not lashing out in grief at the loss of a majestic primate, we know this is not possible: Kids are fast and fearless, and accidents happen.

 

And yet people supporting the petition have angrily commented, “CPS should take their kids, first thing! Obviously they can’t be bother [sic] with supervising them!” The Mirror reports even worse: that the little boy’s parents are now receiving death threats from an angry internet mob.

Many of the commenters have dwelled particularly upon the mother, harboring a tremendous amount of ill-will towards her. One commenter on the Change.org petition wrote, “This lady was obviously not paying attention to her kids! Child neglect!” Others were quick to suggest that the mother deserved to die, with another commenter writing: “The mom should have got put down for not knowing how to take care of her damn [sic] child. The gorilla was doing a better job at parenting then [sic] she was!!” People have been sharing memes on the subject via social media, with one example reading: “I was killed because a bitch wasn’t watching her child.”

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When I read words such as these, I am keenly aware that the outrage towards the little boy’s mom reveals an undercurrent of sexism and misogyny that permeate our culture.

The sexism is found in the assumption that childcare is the mother’s responsibility—an assumption that goes hand in hand with talking about dads “babysitting” their kids and “helping around the house,” when honestly, doing 50% of child care and house care is simply doing their share. Note that in most of the comments and facebook conversations I’ve read, angry remarks focus either on “the mom” or “the parents.” What about the dad, who was also there? The absence of comments criticizing the father underscores that people really believe tending children is on the mom, even if the dad is right there. Despite espousing the equality of the sexes, as a society, we still tend to hold moms to a much higher standard than we do fathers. If a dad is inept, it’s a source of comedy material; in fact, in recent days, a few posts have gone viral in which fathers have played up just how helpless and inept they are with their own kids when their wives aren’t around. People find it hilarious, and comment and share the posts laughingly–but I doubt they’d find similar commentary hilarious from a mom. We as a society still hold moms to a much higher standard than we do fathers. When we expect parents to be 100% perfect, we are really expecting moms to be 100% perfect.

The misogyny rears its head in the hateful words and ideas people are communicating. For example, the sentiment that this mother is a “bitch” who deserves to be “put down” for taking her eyes off one of her four children is misogynist. It denigrates her for failing to live up to an unreasonable standard of maternal perfection.

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail published an unjust piece dredging up the father’s criminal history, in which the article’s author even noted that “in recent years he appears to have turned his life around to become the proud father of four.” Commenters sensibly remarked that the father’s past is irrelevant to this case. As one astutely noted, “In this instance it dies not matter about his past. His child fell into a gorilla enclosure.”

And yet the piece’s most popular comment (with more than a thousand upvotes and counting), concludes by returning the focus of outrage to zoo officials and the little boy’s mom, noting: “The child’s mother and zoo officials make me sick.”

Harambe’s death is tragic, and his loss is absolutely worth mourning. But as we mourn him, let’s not victim-blame, parent-shame, or perpetuate misogyny. Harabe’s death is a wake-up call that we need to do better by the precious animals in our care. But it’s also a potent reminder that scrutinizing and shaming humanly imperfect parents does no good.

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Rebecca Hains, Ph.D. is a media studies professor at Salem State University and the author of The Princess Problem: Guiding Our Girls Through the Princess-Obsessed Years, a book meant to help parents raise empowered, media-literate daughters. 

Rebecca is on Facebook and Twitter. If you enjoyed this post, you may follow Rebecca’s blog by hitting the “follow blog” button at rebeccahains.com/blog.

My 5-Month-Old Baby to Enter the GOP Primary. You’re Welcome, America. 

The latest GOP “debate” demonstrated an all-time low in the maturity level of the GOP’s remaining presidential candidates.

As a result, people keep telling me:

“Rebecca, your 5-month-old baby would be a better candidate than those guys.”

That’s what they keep telling me, from all around the country.

So, the baby and I had a quick chat about it this morning.

When I asked his position on the issues, he gurgled and cooed charmingly.

He didn’t yell or scream once.

He’s got a good face for television, too.

So, it’s official. He’s entering the race!

People of America: Do you want to vote Red but wish you had a better candidate than those who were on TV last night?

If so, my 5-month-old baby is here for you.

My 5-month-old baby may not have policy ideas, but he doesn’t have *dangerous* policy ideas, either.

He also resembles an adult more closely than those guys do.

Give it some thought. It could work.


Voting Republican? Vote for Baby!

Thank you, America. And, you’re welcome.

P.S. If you’re not planning to vote for my 5-month-old baby, please, please, please, get out and vote in November—for whichever candidate wins the Democratic primary.

Thanks again, America. My 5-month-old baby and his future are counting on you.

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Rebecca Hains, Ph.D. is a media studies professor at Salem State University and the author of The Princess Problem: Guiding Our Girls Through the Princess-Obsessed Years, a book meant to help parents raise empowered, media-literate daughters. 

Rebecca is on Facebook and Twitter. If you enjoyed this post, you may follow Rebecca’s blog by hitting the “follow blog” button at rebeccahains.com/blog.

An End to Toy Awards’ Gender Divide?

The Toy Industry Association is considering abolishing its gender-stereotyped Toy of the Year. But will it?

The Toy Industry Association (TIA) needs to bring its prestigious Toy of the Year (TOTY) awards up to date. Honors in two categories—the “Boy Toy of the Year” and the “Girl Toy of the Year”—rely upon and reinforce the outdated gender stereotyping of toys.

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The ultra-stereotypical winner of the Boy Toy and Girl Toy TOTY Awards. Image courtesy of John Marcotte / Heroic Girls.

As I explained last week in the Washington Post:

Contenders for the “Boy Toy” award include three Star Wars toys, a remote-controlled Hulk toy, a Hot Wheels garage, a Nerf blaster and a video streaming drone. In contrast, the “Girl Toy” contenders include a Disney’s Frozen Sing-A-Long Elsa doll, a Nerf Rebelle bow and arrow, a Girl Scout cookie oven, a Shopkins ice cream truck, a blacklight-illuminated nature journal and the interactive Zoomer Kitty toy pet.

Such segregation is unnecessary. Many girls like “Star Wars” and Hot Wheels and drones. Many boys like Frozen and cookies and kittens. All of these toys are suitable for children of either sex, as long one doesn’t mind boys playing with the occasional pink-tinged item.

When asked by entrepreneurial toy reviewer Dan Nessel to consider retiring these categories, however, Toy Industry Association executives declined to reply to him. Instead, VP Ken Seiter accidentally copied Nessel on an internal conversation about his request, which read:

“Needless to say we don’t touch this. Obviously this guy needs a job.”

Perhaps owing to the Washington Post piece, however, the TIA appears to be reconsidering the matter. In fact, the TIA’s CEO addressed the subject from stage that evening, according to Debra Sterling, Founder and CEO of GoldieBlox, who tweeted live from the TOTY Awards:

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Stating this publicly, before the assembled award-goers, is a great sign. A question remains, though: How serious is the TIA about addressing the matter? Nessel worries they may be merely paying lip service to their critics: When he saw Seiter at the Toy Fair, Seiter indicated that he really didn’t understand Nessel’s perspective.

“He told me there are so many bigger issues, like toxins in toys—why would I spend my time on this?” Nessel said. “Thus his ‘get a job’ comment: He thought I was wasting my time on a minor issue.”

The conversation continues nevertheless. Yesterday, Toy News followed up with a report stating that the TIA may be open to dropping these gender-based award categories, based on their interview with TIA president Steve Pasierb. Toy News wrote:

TIA president Steve Pasierb has revealed that the organisation is open to shaking up its Toy of the Year Awards categories, including dropping those based around gender.

At this year’s Toy of the Year Awards, the Girls Toy of the Year category was won by Shopkins Scoops Ice Cream Truck while LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens Millenium Falcon won the Boys Toy of the Year.

As the association firms up its strategic plans up to 2020, Pasierb is looking at how the Awards categories can steer clear of “false dichotomies”.

“We try to rethink everything we do at the TIA,” said Pasierb.

“We know that with our Toy of the Year Awards, there are categories we need to add and there are categories we need to change. The question keeps coming up: if you have a boys’ toy of the year and a girls’ toy of the year, why don’t you have a boys’ outdoor toy of the year or a girls’ outdoor toy of the year?’ Is dividing by boys and girls the best way to do it? Some shows do it by age group. We’ve encouraged our TOTY committee to go back and look at this.”

I hope the committee looks at the issue with an open mind. The segregated awards—and their incredibly stereotypical results-–shortchange children. Because of this, to those who care about the industry and understand the problems with gender stereotyping, the current awards are an embarrassment.

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Rebecca Hains, Ph.D. is a media studies professor at Salem State University and the author of The Princess Problem: Guiding Our Girls Through the Princess-Obsessed Years, a book meant to help parents raise empowered, media-literate daughters. 

Rebecca is on Facebook and Twitter. If you enjoyed this post, you may follow Rebecca’s blog by hitting the “follow blog” button at rebeccahains.com/blog.

Boys play with dolls, and girls play with spaceships. Someone tell the toymakers.

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The toy world’s biggest convention starts this weekend in New York, where more than 900 members of the Toy Industry Association — brands, manufacturers, licensors and retailers who account for about 90 percent of the annual $22 billion U.S. domestic toy market — will gather to talk about the future of the business.

Unfortunately, they’ll start off with something that seems more like it should be a throwback to the past. At the prestigious Toy of the Year Awards Friday evening, honors in two categories — the “Boy Toy of the Year” and the “Girl Toy of the Year” — will rely upon and reinforce the outdated gender stereotyping of toys.

Contenders for the “Boy Toy” award include three Star Wars toys, a remote-controlled Hulk toy, a Hot Wheels garage, a Nerf blaster and a video streaming drone. In contrast, the “Girl Toy” contenders include a Disney’s Frozen Sing-A-Long Elsa doll, a Nerf Rebelle bow and arrow, a Girl Scout cookie oven, a Shopkins ice cream truck, a blacklight-illuminated nature journal and the interactive Zoomer Kitty toy pet.

Such segregation is unnecessary. Many girls like “Star Wars” and Hot Wheels and drones. Many boys like Frozen and cookies and kittens. All of these toys are suitable for children of either sex, as long one doesn’t mind boys playing with the occasional pink-tinged item.

And in fact, the industry was never as heavily gendered as it is today: Children’s toys are now more divided by gender than they were 50 years ago, during an era we like to think of as less enlightened about sexism. If adults’ jobs are no longer segregated by restrictive gender roles, why should our children be taught that some toys are for boys and others for girls — a retrograde idea that limits their creativity and their development of well-rounded skills and interests?

That’s the question entrepreneur Dan Nessel of Northampton, Mass., has been trying to ask the industry. Nessel is a father of two and the founder and editor of DadDoes.com, whose video reviews of toys and gadgets on YouTubeboast more 56 million views and 91,000 subscribers. He is attuned to ongoing conversations about stereotypes in children’s toy marketing and found the list of nominees “embarrassing.” As a regular attendee of the annual Toy Fair, Nessel decided early last month to launch a Change.org petition to end the boy and girl awards. He also sent the TIA’s vice president of marketing, Ken Seiter, and its director of strategic communications, Adrienne Appell, a few emails asking them to consider a change.

Neither Seiter nor Appell replied. Instead, last week, upon receiving Nessel’s fourth email request, Seiter shot Appell a quick message, which read: “Needless to say we don’t touch this. Obviously this guy needs a job.”

Nessel, whom Seiter accidentally copied on the message, was disappointed.

“I was fully prepared to have a civilized debate on the merits of having Boy and Girl Toy of The Year Awards,” says Nessel, whose work for DadDoes.com is so successful that it is his day job. “I was not prepared to learn they just don’t want to touch the issue and believe I should ‘get a job’ for caring about gender stereotypes in toys.”

Seiter’s off-the-cuff response is revealing, however, of how hard it is for concerned parents to engage industry leaders. Individuals’ queries usually result in either calculated public relations responses or silence. Social media campaigns, however, have been a bit more effective, because of how much easier it is to engage in collective action online. Consider the new curvy Barbie dolls, the increase in Star Wars products featuring Rey and the release ofLEGO’s first wheelchair: Campaigns like #NormalBarbie (praising Barbie’s indie rival Lammily), #WheresRey and #ToyLikeMe have aggregated and amplified individuals’ voices, making it hard for industry executives to ignore them. Organizations that respond quickly and adeptly to such campaigns can reap many rewards — but the larger the organization, the harder it is to do move deftly.

Read more at The Washington Post.

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Rebecca Hains, Ph.D. is a media studies professor at Salem State University and the author of The Princess Problem: Guiding Our Girls Through the Princess-Obsessed Years, a book meant to help parents raise empowered, media-literate daughters. 

Rebecca is on Facebook and Twitter. If you enjoyed this post, you may follow Rebecca’s blog by hitting the “follow blog” button at rebeccahains.com/blog.

A Barbie with curves is still all about looks.

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Last week, Time reported a significant change for the Barbie brand: Beginning in March, shoppers will be able to choose from three new Barbie body shapes. In addition to the original model, the “Fashionistas” line of Barbies will offer the doll in tall, petite and curvy forms. But why?

For decades, Barbie has endured more criticism than perhaps any other toy. Her critics’ chief complaint (although not their only one): Barbie’s exaggeratedly thin body shape, which various studies have found can harm girls’ body images and cause them to restrict their eating.

Against such complaints, the company behind Barbie, Mattel, had a long history of standing its ground. As recently as February 2014, Mattel executives rebuffed critics by asserting that girls’ body image problems come from their mothers and peers — not their dolls.

But today’s parents are increasingly well informed. Owing to this factor and increased competition from other fashion doll brands, Barbie’s worldwide sales have dropped annually since 2012, with sales down 14 percent in the most recent quarter alone. Simultaneously, “Frozen” dolls, which have empowering backstories that don’t center on physical appearance, quickly rose to the top.

That’s bad news for a toy that was the world’s top doll for more than 40 years, and that a decade ago was still the number one girls’ brand worldwide.

At the same time, indie brands have taken risks and proved there is demand for fashion dolls that defy the body molds of the Barbies and Disney princesses. For example, the Lammily fashion doll, with the body proportions of an average 19-year-old woman (which “curvy” Barbie brings to mind), was a crowdfunding success story in 2014. Likewise, Lottie has a body shape based on the average dimensions of a 9-year-old child (evoking the proportions of “petite” Barbie). Since her introduction in 2012, Lottie has received more than 20 international toy awards and is now available in 30 countries.

Mattel’s announcement about the new Barbie body types may have been inevitable, then. To compete in today’s market, Mattel had to bring Barbie up to date. By offering three new body molds less than a year after introducing aracially diverse range of skin tones, facial shapes, hairstyles and eye colors, Mattel appears to be making a good-faith effort to respond to critics not by rebuffing them but by accepting their concerns as valid.

Given Mattel’s history, the news came as a surprise and garnered significant publicity for Barbie, much of it positive. “Curvy Barbie is way overdue,” gushed a Mashable headline. “I needed her long ago.” People quoted Queen Latifah remarking, “This is groundbreaking.” A humor piece written in the voice of Barbie’s boyfriend, Ken, for Time concludes with a sales pitch: Barbie “loves all of you so much she is willing to change herself, right along with your changing nation. Can you celebrate her resilience, by purchasing her, in several versions?”

But Mattel’s progress with its Fashionistas collection — the only one of Barbie’s two-dozen themes to have the progressive elements the company is now being lauded for — does not mean Barbie is free of all problematic issues.

For example, Barbie as a brand still overemphasizes beauty. Although some Barbies have careers, the doll’s basic story and appeal is about fashion, beauty and physical appearance, at the expense of other potential interests or passions. (This, by the way, is something the Lottie dolls in particular have handled nicely. Each Lottie doll has an interest-based identity, such as “Stargazer Lottie,” “Kawaii Karate Lottie,” “Fossil Hunter Lottie,” “Pirate Queen Lottie” and so on.) By adding Barbie’s three new body types and racially diverse characteristics into the fashion-centric “Fashionistas” line, Barbie reinforces the message that regardless of a girl’s shape or color, her appearance should still be at the forefront of her identity — a regressive idea that is not communicated in equal measure to boys, and that many parents are desperate to help their daughters escape, as efforts by grass-roots organizations such as Let Toys Be Toys illustrate.

Barbie’s over-emphasis on appearance is made worse by Mattel’s history of gaffes that have portrayed the character as unintelligent. From the 1992 Teen Talk Barbie that used to say, “Math class is tough!” to the more recent “I Can Be A Computer Engineer!” Barbie picture book, in which Barbie needed her male classmates to help her code her computer science project, Barbie’s other personas have been undercut repeatedly. Would Astronaut Barbie really have such struggles in STEM classes? […]

Read the rest of this article at The Washington Post.

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Rebecca Hains, Ph.D. is a media studies professor at Salem State University and the author of The Princess Problem: Guiding Our Girls Through the Princess-Obsessed Years, a book meant to help parents raise empowered, media-literate daughters. 

Rebecca is on Facebook and Twitter. If you enjoyed this post, you may follow Rebecca’s blog by hitting the “follow blog” button at rebeccahains.com/blog.

This is rape culture. 

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Here’s a thread from my latest blog post that exemplifies what rape culture looks like.

It begins when a commenter asserts that girls who are “physically adult” can consent to sex. This seems reasonable enough when applied to the girls ages 17 and 18 he uses as examples; indeed, in most U.S. states, 17-year-olds have legally reached the age of consent. 

But this language is incredibly problematic. What makes a girl “physically adult”? As the first response notes, we were discussing the statutory rape of young teenage girls. 13-year-old girls are children.  
Another commenter supports this, explaining that 13-year-old girls “cannot legally consent” to sex.  

But an anonymous commenter responds that girls are women who can consent to sex, if they’ve had their first period. 

“18 is the age of majority,” s/he writes, “not the age when a girl becomes a woman. That happens when menarch happens.”

Menarche? Really? No. 
 A fifth commenter notes that the age of menarche and the age of majority are unrelated, and should be. After all, the onset of puberty is happening earlier and earlier: Girls as young as eight have their period now. 

Are third-graders women now? Or fifth- or sixth-graders? No, they are not. It’s a reprehensible, backwards argument. 

  
In response to this, another commenter reaches back 2,000 years to Biblical times and replies: “Hmmm…Mary gave birth to Jesus at 13.”
 
This is appalling. If you’re using a 2,000-year-old story from another time and place to support the idea that 13-year-old girls can consent to sex with adult men, you are part of the problem. 

Elsewhere in the comments, another commenter offers a similar justification to support the idea that underage girls should be considered able to consent to sex: The fictional Elizabethan tale of Romeo and Juliet. 

He writes: “Juliet was 14 and we celebrate Romeo (17) in high schools across the country.”

Gee, I wonder which other Shakesperean plays he thinks should be touchstones of modern law?

 But he doesn’t stop there. He continues: “Not saying there shouldn’t be age laws but let’s stop equating real rape with the statutory version. That’s what makes people take real rape less seriously.”

 

Take a look at those last two sentences again, which remind me of Todd Akin’s roundly condemned comments about “legitimate rape”: 

“Let’s stop equating real rape with the statutory version. That’s what makes people take real rape less seriously.”

No. Actually, let’s stop insisting it’s fine for young girls to have sex with adult men.

This, my friends, is rape culture. 

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Rebecca Hains, Ph.D. is a media studies professor at Salem State University and the author of The Princess Problem: Guiding Our Girls Through the Princess-Obsessed Years, a book meant to help parents raise empowered, media-literate daughters. 

Rebecca is on Facebook and Twitter. You may also follow Rebecca’s blog by hitting the “follow blog” button at rebeccahains.com/blog.