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The Badger Herald

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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Letter legitimizes ‘dangerous opinion’

I will be the first to advocate the freedom of the press and its natural sister, the freedom of speech. The freedom of the press holds institutions accountable to illegal and depraved actions that otherwise would be kept concealed from the public eye. The historical bravery of journalism has gifted to the world the truth regarding war crimes, political scandals and human rights violations. There is a reason that the freedom of the press is among the first of the rights guaranteed to us in the amendments to our United States Constitution. And when it comes to average citizens who wish to express their opinions in a public forum, the press is an invaluable tool. Op-eds in newspapers give those of us who normally don’t have as loud a voice the opportunity to be heard.

However, not all opinions are created equal. Just as journalism holds institutions accountable, journalism should be held accountable to itself. I am speaking specifically of David Hookstead’s recent op-ed piece entitled “’Rape culture’ does not exist.” In this piece, Hookstead fights a valiant battle against a straw man conception of rape culture. His letter completely distorts what rape culture actually is, it victim blames and it injects another round of one of his signature doses of anti-feminism into the university’s sphere of discussion.

Though I am not here to give a lesson on definitions nor specifically engage with the claims made in Hookstead’s magnum opus (the reason being it is my personal philosophy to not argue with the inane), I must offer here a basic overview on what rape culture actually is. Being an inherently nebulous term, there will always be disagreement over its definitional nuances. However, I would personally say that at its core, rape culture is the societal normalization of sexual violence and rape. Additionally, there are misconceptions that rape culture is a narrow theory that only concerns acts of overt rape. In actuality, rape culture is unwanted touches, grabs, sexualization and objectification. Rape culture is being told that, even though you are a fully capable adult human being, you should not leave your own house without an escort past a certain time. Rape culture is being told that you can’t wear the clothes you want to wear because it might give others “the wrong idea.” This definition notably makes no note of the gender of the victims. For example, there is a huge problem with the rape culture in all-male prisons. However, this is not an issue discussed often in the national discourse. Why? Because rape culture also promotes the shaming of the victims, whether they be male, female, trans* or any other conception of gender identity. Rape culture affects all of us, even cisgendered white males.

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The reader educated on feminism and the concept of rape culture will skim his piece in disdain, recognize it for the unintellectual trolling that it is and either comment his/her disapproval or just move on with his/her life, a little less sure in the goodness of humanity but overall still psychologically intact. I worry not for these people; I simply feel badly that they had to experience seeing such an article approved and posted by what is generally a respected campus news source. What worries me instead is all of the people uneducated on women’s issues who may read this article and think Hookstead is expressing a valid opinion that should be given any real credence.

Hookstead’s piece is nothing but controversial, alarming and dangerous misinformed. Countless people at this university, around the country and around the world find themselves feeling sexually violated every single day. If they are in the minority who actually speak out about what has been done to them, so often they are told that their experiences are not legitimate. Hookstead perpetuates the degradation of the very real and painful trauma of his fellow students and his fellow human beings. And with his op-ed being published, his extremely dangerous opinion has been legitimized as one worth expressing.

Not all opinions are created equal and they should not be treated as such. Hookstead’s piece should come with a trigger warning.

Callahan Miller ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in sociology and legal studies with a criminal justice certificate.

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