International Day Against Victim-Blaming, Steubenville, & Steven Landsburg

3 Apr

Oh, no, he DI’INN!

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Let’s take a step back here. Roughly a month ago, University of Rochester Professor Steven Landsburg publishes a couple of blog posts. The Dean of the University, Joel Seligman, described them like this:

[Professor Landsburg praised] Rush Limbaugh for a “spot-on analogy” with respect to his offensive remarks about Georgetown student Sandra Fluke (although Landsburg parted company with Limbaugh for calling Fluke a “slut”).  Landsburg went further.  He stated that Ms. Fluke’s position deserved “only to be ridiculed, mocked and jeered.”  He further stated that the right word for her position was “extortionist,” characterized those who disagreed with his view as “contraceptive sponges,” and added that there is nothing wrong with being paid for sex.

Further, Professor Landsburg has blogged about the Steubenville rape trial as well, defending the rapists.

From Women Organized to Resist and Defend:

In a shocking March 20 blog post titled “Censorship, Environmentalism and Steubenville,” University of Rochester economics professor Steven Landsburg questioned the harm of raping an unconscious woman who may not remember the attack, and wondered why rapists should not “reap the benefits” of women’s bodies. Landsburg’s hypothetical “dilemma” ignores material reality in a hateful attempt to further his sexist beliefs, and goes on to question whether rape should be against the law:

“Let’s suppose that you, or I, or someone we love, or someone we care about from afar, is raped while unconscious in a way that causes no direct physical harm—no injury, no pregnancy, no disease transmission. (Note: The Steubenville rape victim, according to all the accounts I’ve read, was not even aware that she’d been sexually assaulted until she learned about it from the Internet some days later.) Despite the lack of physical damage, we are shocked, appalled and horrified at the thought of being treated in this way, and suffer deep trauma as a result. Ought the law discourage such acts of rape? Should they be illegal?”

Landsburg’s awful, misogynist rant continues, musing:

“Why shouldn’t the rest of the world…be allowed to reap the benefits?”

The rapists, "reaping the benefits."

The rapists, “reaping the benefits” of an underage girl.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to conclude that his role as an educator of young adults should preclude him from engaging in this kind of rhetoric, online or anywhere. Unfortunately for us, him, the college, and especially his students, he didn’t appear to know any better.

I wanted to give him some credit. He appears to be otherwise rather bright. Though the elephant in the room is really, how can you argue that rape is ever “harmless?!” That was the most glaringly obvious and telling mistake of all (keep in mind, she may have been passed out, but she is receiving DEATH threats now. Harmless my big fat feminist ass).

At first, I was furious, and then I received an email alert from Women Organized to Resist and Defend (WORD) to sign a petition calling for his immediate termination. Suddenly, I realized this got very real for the professor. As a veteran academic provocateur and all-around hell-raiser, I knew that if it didn’t happen now, sooner rather than later, this professor would lose his footing on the thin ice upon which he stands. Academia does not want to stand upon free speech. That is a given. But million-dollar schools don’t take too kindly to such negative publicity from the keystroke of one short-sighted, foolish, and chauvinistic man.

I felt that his doom was imminent. I signed and promoted it on twitter. But then – I had an idea. I called the college.

First, I called the Dean. Then, I had a lengthy conversation with a VP of Communications and we definitely agreed on some mutual feelings and points. Ultimately, though, colleges are spooked at the idea of intruding upon free speech. They don’t want to be sued or anything. Obvs. But what if there was something else that could be done?

Next, I reached out to the professor himself on twitter. I told him to man up, hold himself accountable, own up to his mistake, retract the articles, issue a public apology, take a sensitivity course, and enroll in the college’s introductory women’s studies class, WST 100.

The Women’s Studies Department had their own response as well. I’m glad to see people speaking up about this. They wrote up some great pieces. But Professor Misogynist was back at it, trying to pick apart points and debate people to death. No sense of ownership or accountability for his shameful statements. Needless to say, I left my own comment on the page.

Finally, there was a conference held today at the school (coincidentally) on sexual assault on college campuses. Word on the street was clear: there was no sign of him there. What a missed opportunity to educate yourself, Mr. Landsburg, and show some respect and humility. After all – an educator is, if nothing else, a seeker of knowledge – some seeker you are.

So after talking to the school representative and investigating this further, especially after learning that the Professor did not attend that conference, I can wholeheartedly endorse the petition to have him fired. It’s one thing when you admit that you were wrong. It’s another to take a hateful, dangerous stance in the name of free speech, violating the trust of the students you are charged to guide, and run like the devil with it!

Please sign, share & feel free to shame Mr Landsburg on twitter (@StevenLandsburg). He definitely needs some educating for himself!

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Happy International Day Against Victim-Blaming – read more about today, what you can do & tweet your support with #vaw, #victimblaming, #IDAVB & #endrape!

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2 Responses to “International Day Against Victim-Blaming, Steubenville, & Steven Landsburg”

  1. Mercedes Rief April 19, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

    Hello.This post was really motivating, particularly because I was browsing for thoughts on this issue last Friday.

  2. Russell Tobias May 13, 2014 at 1:53 pm #

    Hey interesting post! I think however that Landsburg was getting more at the fact that if our current laws, by their most fundamental definitions, allow for something as heinous as rape then those laws obviously need to be modified, not that rape is harmless. But I can’t help feel like Landsburg deliberately chooses topics that he knows will be controversial, so he does need to be prepared for this kind of backlash.

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