A few days before hundreds of people took to the streets for the event SlutWalk San Diego, Dan Rottenberg, editor of the Broad Street Review, posted a column titled “Male sex abuse and female naiveté”. In the lead-in to the column he advises us,
“Earth to liberated women: When you display legs, thighs or cleavage, some liberated men will see it as a sign that you feel good about yourself and your sexuality. But most men will see it as a sign that you want to get laid. Forewarned is forearmed.”
His column is a blatant case of victim blaming where he targets CBS News reporter Lara Logan (who was brutally gang raped while covering the political demonstrations in Cairo’s Tahrir Square) by posting a picture of her in an evening gown and asking, “What message was the TV journaiist (sic) Lara Logan sending here?”
He writes about a woman who lived in his neighborhood, who “dressed like a flower child (she wasn’t a druggie, but she looked like one), had no burglar alarm and only the flimsiest of front doors; and in any case she often kept her front door ajar, where she could be seen puttering around her living room in shorts and a halter”, and “was the victim of four burglaries, one attempted rape and one molestation of her young daughter.” Rottenberg then compares her to another woman on the block that “dressed conservatively, installed a burglar alarm, locked her sturdy front door at all times and kept a gun (in) her front hallway.” She never had any problems.
Puttering in her living room in shorts and a halter? Seriously? Is he offering this as a first hand account?
Listen Up My Brothers
Oh, and it gets even better. With an offensive, apologist’s tone while comparing war and rape he states,
“rape and the notion of sexual conquest persist for the same reason that warfare persists: because the human animal— especially the male animal— craves drama as much as food, shelter and clothing. Conquering an unwilling sex partner is about as much drama as a man can find without shooting a gun”
He goes on to admonish us,
“Don’t trust your male friends. Don’t go to a man’s home at night unless you’re prepared to have sex with him. Don’t disrobe in front of a male masseur. If you take a job as a masseuse, don’t be shocked if your male customers think you’re a prostitute. And if you want to be taken seriously as a journalist, don’t pose for pictures that emphasize your cleavage.”
He seems to have a worse view of men than he does of women, but he excuses the behavior of “the male animal” because it it somehow inherent in them to be brutish. WTF?
The Fallout for Rottenberg
Rottenberg is the editor of a Philadelphia publication that posts reviews of local theater, music and other cultural events and venues. The Broad Street Review (BSR) claims to be “Where Art and Ideas Meet.” But Rottenberg’s victim blaming ideas have outraged artists to the point where some local theater companies have banned Rottenberg, and anyone else from BSR, from attending performances.
The Women’s Media Center, a media watchdog organization founded by Jane Fonda, Gloria Steinem, and Robin Morgan, has started a Change.org petition calling for the Board of the Broad Street Review to remove Rottenberg as editor. The petition has, as of this report, over 14,000 signatures. Including mine.
The Fallout for Us
Have you ever heard of the Broad Street Review or Dan Rottenberg before now? I hadn’t. I live across the continent from him. But word travels fast on the interwebs, which is all the more reason we need to take note of destructive ideas like his.
From the biography at his own website, Rottenberg declares he has been the chief editor of seven publications, has written more than 300 articles for such magazines as Town & Country, Reader’s Digest, The New York Times Magazine, Forbes, Civilization, American Benefactor, Bloomberg Personal Finance, TV Guide, Playboy, Rolling Stone, Chicago and many others.
He’s out there. And I wonder how his attitude has colored those articles in the past. But short of digging through the archives at the public library how would I ever know? But now, a little known author can post an article on a little known website and it’s there for the whole wide world to see. Now it’s viral. Just like his thinking.
I agree, let’s educate!
At the bottom of Rottenberg’s article is a link to a response by Madeline Schaefer, a self professed “young woman with a fairly progressive sexual education.” I thought, “Alright! A voice of reason!” Although she doesn’t outright agree with him, she describes Rottenberg as coming from an older generation that is uneducated to the fact that no woman wants to be violently forced upon by a man. Uneducated? Again, I say WTF? What kind of pathetic excuse is that? She is put off by the “tactic of hate and alienation as a response to his article. This is an opportunity to educate, not to blame.”
But Schaefer continues the misinformation campaign by contrasting two trains of thought on the repercussions of how a woman dresses, “The first extreme is that women invite attacks by their dress or conduct. The second extreme is that women should dress however they like, regardless of what men or anyone else might think of them.”
It has been shown, time and time again, that rape is an act of anger, power, and control rather than of lust. Women are not naive of this fact, as Roddenberg would have people think. We are the ones who the act is inflicted upon. That “hippie” woman that he wrote about, wearing her shorts and halter top in her living room? What extreme does she fall into?
The apologist, Schaefer, goes on to say “Personally, I find it very embarrassing to see women dressed in revealing clothing— not because I’m worried about their safety, but because I see that they’re playing into a system that condones male sexual aggression.” (my emphasis)
I’m sorry if you are embarrassed Ms. Schaefer, but coddling an old man or defending thinking like Roddenberg’s IS playing into a system that condones male sexual aggression. We will probably never stop the act of rape, but we damn well better stop enabling the perpetrators and blaming the victims.