Media Matters: The good, the bad, and the ugly

I have a dearly beloved, inspiring, mischievous coworker who loves to get me fired up by sending links to articles with subject headings like, “something else for you to blog about.” In case you haven’t met him, watch out for the NSVRC Rural Projects Specialist, because he’ll inevitably brighten your day and make you work harder to end sexual violence all at the same time. To appease my spritely coworker, and to highlight some of the most recent media pieces that have me stomping, cursing, and singing, I’m going to offer my commentary here today.

Let’s start with the ugly. It’s grotesque that someone out there in the universe felt it would be appropriate to make light and make merchandise about child rape. Recent reports of t-shirts with “I’d rather shower at Penn State than cheer for the Wolverines” led to an explosion of merchandise. Thanks to ever-classy Urban Dictionary, you can create your own awful definition and have it printed on hats, shirts, mugs, mousepads, and temporary tattoos! Thank goodness that we citizens of the earth have the opportunity to display publicly ideas that perpetuate rape culture. Maybe if people keep joking about the ongoing sexual abuse of children, institutions will forget that it’s important to prevent such things. After all, it makes a great t-shirt!

Very shortly after seeing this atrocity, my sweet, well-meaning coworker forwarded an article about the Friar who is just convinced that teens are out there seducing priests and this whole sexual abuse scandal isn’t really as serious as we think. In the article, he is quoted:

"People have this picture in their minds of a person planning to — a psychopath," Groeschel said. "But that’s not the case. Suppose you have a man having a nervous breakdown, and a youngster comes after him. A lot of the cases, the youngster — 14, 16, 18 — is the seducer."

This is bad. Let me be clear in my response. At no time, in no circumstance should the word “seduce,” or any variation thereof, be used to describe an act of sexual violence. If you disagree, I invite you to comment. It would be *so fun* to explain all of the different ways in which an adult spiritual leader having sex with a child is nonconsensual, abusive and violent.

To balance out all of the yuck that came through my inbox, I have one more story to share. Research on the “Buffy Effect” coming out of Texas demonstrates that viewers have fewer negative impressions of women when they watch strong female characters. Imagine that. It seems that negative effects of media can also be counter-balanced. Media producers among us, please, be the change.


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