A very good-looking issue (and ‘Gym gains’ was my headline)…
Oh, Issue 664. You seemed so simple at the time… until it came to Friday evening, when there were only two of the four editors around, and a crisis stuck….
We’d been sent an article for Comment which completely denied there was a rape culture in the UK, which was tasteless and not the opinion of the senior editors. However, some of us thought it was important to listen to alternative opinions, especially in this post-Tr*mp world. I blame myself, especially, for being inspired by Jonathan Pie’s recent videos, in which he argues that we need to break through our echo chambers and stop insulting people with different opinions to our own…
… So, we included the article. The problems came thick and fast.
It had some incorrect – or at least misleading – statistics, which we set about correcting.
Our Comment editor wanted to write a retaliation/response, so I took on the editorial role myself to preserve impartiality.
And, late in the day, we received a caution from one of our helpful staff advisors that this would stir up far more hostility than we thought, particularly if people took it to be the opinion of the paper.
Cue hours of wrangling over damage limitation and wording. In the end, we decided it was best to ensure we weren’t misunderstood, by adding a short editors’ note emphasising our opinions. (I stand by this decision, although I still feel sorry for the writer, who was potentially overshadowed by our cautionary words.)
I’m not entirely sure how much antagonism the piece stirred up in the end, but it did lead to this fascinating question at the Sabb election debates a few weeks after:
Some reflections on the topic of rape culture:
If I had to put my two cents in, I’d say this:
I think the writer was completely wrong to deny rape culture in the way that he did. I’m obviously not alone when I say that any number of rapes in the UK is despicable – enough to make us look long and hard at our society. In particular, it’s my opinion that the writer’s line of argument was terrible, especially his suggestion that the larger number of rape crises in other countries makes ours unimportant.
However – and this wasn’t covered at all in the article – part of me thinks the phrase ‘rape culture’ is somewhat unhelpful, as it tars all of society with an inaccurate brush, and – to me – suggests linguistically that our entire culture is focused on rape. To me, ‘rape culture’ should perhaps be re-named ‘rape normalisation’: something which is definitely an insidious problem in society. For example, there’s an alleyway in Exeter which has been nicknamed ‘Rape Alley’, and whenever I hear that it sends shivers down my spine; if a friend uses the name, I normally explain why I hate it so much.
However, perhaps I’m just lucky enough not to see the UK’s rape culture. At university, I frequently see signs of a ‘lad culture’, and I even hear stories about harassment when discussing nights out with female friends. If society will only take steps to fix these problems by referring to them as signs of ‘rape culture’, I will unequivocally support the term. It’s better to debate the problem than to debate the phrase.
A small note: If you disagree with my thoughts, just send me a message (as Jonathan Pie suggests), and tell me where you think I’m wrong.