Monday, December 22, 2014

Peak "privilege"

Callie Marie Rennison is absolutely right that "[t]he focus on sexual violence against some of our most privileged young people has distracted us from the victimization of those enjoying less social and economic advantage." Unfortunately, the headline writer went with the following: "Privilege, Among Rape Victims."

Why is that headline  - which, to be clear, I'm assuming the author didn't choose - a problem? After all, didn't I just get through saying that I agree with Rennison about the dangers of focusing on campus rape rather than the greater problem of off-campus rape? That systematic inequality totally impacts which crime victims get cover stories, etc.? Because this is an important issue, and one that keeps getting forgotten in the coverage suggesting that attending college increases a young woman's chance of being the victim of rape. The headline detracts from that point.

The problem is in the headline's implication, an implication that's all-but-unavoidable once "privilege" comes into play. If some rape victims elicit more concern than others, is that relative lack of disadvantage really best classified as "privilege"? I suppose having people care that you were raped is a kind of unearned advantage, inasmuch as people whose rapes don't make the news don't deserve to be ignored. But privilege, really? If the categories up for comparison are 'terrible' and 'slightly less terrible', we shouldn't be using words that evoke luxe.

The headline gives the impression that being the victim of a campus rape is some sort of first-world problem. Something to be classified alongside green juice, toddler Mandarin classes, and whatever else signifies haves lording it over have-nots so as to further entrench their advantage. It evokes a room full of rape victims, some of whom are looking down their noses at the others, on account of insufficient pedigree. It just doesn't sit right.

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