Try as one might to ignore her, Kathleen Parker’s claim to so many prime column inches of Op Ed real estate makes her a force to contend with in the swaying of public opinion. Recently however, Parker has hit an all time low in obsessively missing the point. While it is practically obligatory for those in the punditry business to ‘analyze’ the Duke rape case, Parker has managed to wax poetic about it not just once but three times, and added a piece about a totally unrelated “he said, she said” case just for good measure.
All of these pieces include the standard disclaimer that of course no woman deserves to be raped. But from where Parker sits, the main issue is the press and public’s scandalous treatment of the accused,
“About the only thing to emerge with any clarity since a black exotic dancer claimed that three white lacrosse players raped her last month is our willingness to believe the worst about males.”
In questioning the veracity of the rape charges made in a case that Parker considers similar to the Duke case, she sarcastically refers to the victim as “Chastity”. Not once in any of these pieces does she take offense to comments such as Rush Limbaugh’s much publicized characterization of the young woman in the Duke as as a “ho”. This is also not the first time Parker has bent over backward to defend male honor. In 2003 she wrote a column about another case where she thought the verdict was unfair,
“I’m sorry, but when did girls get so stupid? In the old days when girls were apparently both smarter and tougher a girl who didn’t want to have sex didn’t have sex. She said no thanks, grabbed her purse and walked out the door.”
It would be edifying if Ms. Parker would specify the era in which she contends date rape was non-existent.
None of this however is to the point. What Parker, her editors and all of the rest of us ought to be offended by is not the occasional sensationalized case but the pandemic levels of rape and sexual assault that occur every day in this country and throughout the world. The fact of the matter is that most sexual violence is committed by men and it is committed against women.
According to a report by the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces:
–Between 1.5 and 3 million women and girls are killed in gender related violence every year.
–Globally one in five women will be the victim of rape or attempted rape during her lifetime (in the U.S. the number is one in six).
–According to UNICEF, as many as 130 million women worldwide have been subjected to Female Genital Mutilation.
–Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen estimates that 60 million women are ‘missing’ because of female infanticide and selective abortion.
–As many as 400 million women are forced into prostitution every year.
–Worldwide studies have found that 11-32% of women reported experiencing sexual abuse as children.
–UNFPA estimates that as many as two million women are trafficked every year.
Yet despite the systemic global assault on women’s lives, all too frequently, women who report rape are not believed. A survey in the United Kingdom found that fully 34% of those polled believed that if a woman is behaving flirtatiously, she is at least partly responsible if she is raped. 8% believed that she is totally responsible if she had many sexual partners and 30% believed she bore responsibility if she was drunk when the rape occurred. The respondents also far underestimated the number of rapes that occur each year and overestimated the conviction rate.
Unfortunately, Parker and a good number of her colleagues ignore the pandemic of sexual violence against women in favor of sensationalizing the few stories that feed our misogynist, racist and classist stereotypes of rape. In doing so, they minimize and trivialize the very real threats that women everywhere face every day.
Lucinda Marshall is a feminist artist, writer and activist. She is the Founder of the Feminist Peace Network, www.feministpeacenetwork.org. Her work has been published in numerous publications in the U.S. and abroad including, Counterpunch, Alternet, Dissident Voice, Off Our Backs, The Progressive, Countercurrents, Z Magazine , Common Dreams and Information Clearinghouse. She blogs at WIMN Online.