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No Responsibility?

December 7, 2009

I read one of the most ridiculous articles I have ever read on Friday.  I just now have time to write about it.  The article concerns 13 year old Hope Witsell of Florida.  Hope committed suicide after being taunted with the labels “whore” and “slut”.  These taunts were in response to a picture Hope had taken of herself naked and sent it to a boy she liked.  The photo was then circulated around the school.

The article in question, 13-Year-Old Girl Commits Suicide After Classmates Spread Nude Photos at the site The Curvature: a feminist perspective on politics & culture, uses some rather twisted logic to place the blame ENTIRELY on the classmates of the girl for spreading the photo and NO responsibility on the girl herself.  Even the title is biased to make it sound like Hope had nothing to do with the photo.  Let me state, unequivocally, that I DO NOT think Hope deserved the taunts nor should those involved in circulating the picture get away with no punishment.  What I will say is the obvioius – if Hope had never taken the picture, none of this would have happened.

The author, Cara Kulwicki, insists that Hope bears no responsibility for what happened and that saying she bore any responsibility for the situation would be a case of “victim-blaming”.  That, to me, seems silly.  Here’s a taste:

Non-consensual sexual conduct is no more consensual, no more right, and no less devastating when committed by a girl against another girl. Bullying is no better when committed by girls — and anecdotal evidence seems to show that while boys are more likely to spread the photographs in the first place, girls are more likely to attack the victim afterward. Sexual harassment and slut-shaming does not magically turn into something else when it’s not boys doing it. And while a partial explanation, internalized misogyny is no more of an excuse for girls and women who commit such acts than rape culture is an excuse for boys and men.

And no matter who is the perpetrator, victim-blaming is still victim-blaming, which is something else Hope was made a victim of. First, she was a victim of cultural messages that told her that what her classmates did to her was her own fault:

At the same time, friends say, Hope knew that the biggest mistakes made were her own.

“She didn’t blame it on anybody,” said Rebecca Knowles, 14. “She realized it was her fault for sending them in the first place.

Secondly, she was a victim of attitudes like ones in that quote right above: attitudes that confirm and refuse to contradict this false belief. Even after she died because she couldn’t cope anymore, the newspaper is sitting there telling her that she was the one to blame. Hope didn’t believe that she made the biggest mistakes. She didn’tthink it. Apparently, she knew it, because who could ever question the idea that if you send a nude photograph of yourself to another person, you’re obviously a slutty slutty slut slut who deserves whatever is coming to you?

That is some twisted logic.

Personally, I don’t think the school should have punished Hope at all.  If she wants to send pictures of herself to someone, whether naked or not, she should be able to do so.  If that other person is of similar age (i.e. not over 18 if the sender is a minor) and has no objection, I don’t see why it’s a school issue.

I am truly sorry for Hope’s friends and family for their loss.  I can’t imagine their grief and I’m not trying to make things worse for them.  I just think that you cannot look at this situation without placing some of the responsibility at the feet of the person who actually took the picture – Hope Witsell.


From → Feminism, General, News, Stupid

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