Our answers, in story list.
1. We wondered how popular culture may shape societal expectations.
“How many students watch outsized frat-boy fantasies like “Neighbors
” and feel, as Rodger did, unjustly shut out of college life that should be full of “sex and fun and pleasure”? How many men, raised on a steady diet of Judd Apatow comedies in which the schlubby arrested adolescent always gets the girl, find that those happy endings constantly elude them and conclude, ‘It’s not fair’? Movies may not reflect reality, but they powerfully condition what we desire, expect and feel we deserve from it.”
2. More than ever, we questioned how colleges handle cases of sexual violence.
In September, Vanessa Grigoriadis wrote a New York Magazine piece about the rising tide of college activists, connected by social media, who protest not only assailants but schools they believe fail to protect victims:
“But shattering silence, in 2014, means not just coming out with an atrocity tale about your assault but offering what Danielle Dirks, a sociologist at Occidental, calls ‘an atrocity tale about how poorly you were treated by the people you pay $62,500 a year to protect you.’ By owning those accusations, and pointing a finger not only at assailants but also the American university, the ivory tower of privilege, these survivors have built the most effective, organized anti-rape movement since the late ’70s. Rape activists now don’t talk much about women’s self-care and protection like they did in the ’90s with Take Back the Night marches, self-defense classes, and cans of Mace. Today, the militant cry is aimed at the university: Kick the bastards out.”
3. We considered the accusations against Bill Cosby. Finally.
Since fall, at least 21 women have accused Cosby of sexual assaults spanning decades. Personal essays detailing charges against the iconic actor dominated news feeds. Barbara Bowen, an artist who lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., recounted her experience in The Washington Post:
“Cosby won my trust as a 17-year-old aspiring actress in 1985, brainwashed me into viewing him as a father figure, and then assaulted me multiple times. In one case, I blacked out after having dinner and one glass of wine at his New York City brownstone, where he had offered to mentor me and discuss the entertainment industry. When I came to, I was in my panties and a man’s t-shirt, and Cosby was looming over me. I’m certain now that he drugged and raped me. But as a teenager, I tried to convince myself I had imagined it.”
“My head became woozy, my speech became slurred, and the room began to spin nonstop. Cosby motioned for me to come over to him as though we were really about to act out the scene. He put his hands around my waist, and I managed to put my hand on his shoulder in order to steady myself.
As I felt my body go completely limp, my brain switched into automatic-survival mode. That meant making sure Cosby understood that I knew exactly what was happening at that very moment.”
4. We asked our fathers, brothers, sons and uncles to help out.
The White House launched the It’s On Us campaign, asking men to join the fight against sexual assault. Emma Watson did the same in a viral U.N. speech. One fraternity brother led the charge at the University of Maryland at College Park, where 22 instances of forcible sex offenses were reported between 2010 and 2012.
“Tolino introduces himself. He’s a senior here at the University of Maryland, studying criminal justice. A bouncer at the Cornerstone bar (who recognizes some faces from half-price wing night). A Chi Phi brother navigating the increasingly confusing landscape of casual hook-ups.
But tonight, he’s the Consent Bro, here to answer your questions. Without judgement. In a language you can understand. His black T-shirt, the sole deviation from his unofficial fraternity uniform, reads: PEER EDUCATOR.
“So,” Tolino says, “What do you guys think is consent?”
5. We celebrated the youngest-ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
“The threats against Malala have not ended; they simply haven’t silenced her. She is not only a witness whose story warms our hearts. She is an activist, and soon will be an adult, who will, one hopes, also make some of her casual admirers uncomfortable by asking for more than wonder at her bravery. She is a compelling speaker and an adept organizer. The worst insult to Malala would be to regard her as nothing more than a child performer for peace, kept in a moment we want to keep hearing about.”
6. We took on Time — and trolls.
“No matter how hard we attempt to ignore it, this type of gendered harassment—and the sheer volume of it—has severe implications for women’s status on the Internet. Threats of rape, death, and stalking can overpower our emotional bandwidth, take up our time, and cost us money through legal fees, online protection services, and missed wages. I’ve spent countless hours over the past four years logging the online activity of one particularly committed cyberstalker, just in case. And as the Internet becomes increasingly central to the human experience, the ability of women to live and work freely online will be shaped, and too often limited, by the technology companies that host these threats, the constellation of local and federal law enforcement officers who investigate them, and the popular commentators who dismiss them — all arenas that remain dominated by men, many of whom have little personal understanding of what women face online every day.”
7. We called on the media to do better.
Perception that accusers lie angers sexual assault survivor Katie Hnida, who reported her rape 11 years ago at the University of Colorado and, Griego writes, “slammed into a wall of skepticism and scorn.”
“I can tell you we don’t have a giant problem with women lying about rape in our society. We do have a major problem with women being raped, especially on college campuses.
And we have a long way to go in creating a safe space for survivors to come forward in a way where they are not going to be immediately attacked. I understand people don’t want to believe this is common, that it might be the boy next door. But most rapists function in everyday life. Very well.”
8. We stopped blaming nude photo takers for nude photo leaks.
Julia Carpenter, social media editor for The Post, says: “This year, conversation took a more serious tone beyond ‘don’t take nudes’ or ‘someone will find your private photos.’ This year, we talked about such a hack as a form of sexual violence.”
“It is also an offense that threatens to affect all women, famous and unknown. The eventual outcome here matters for everyone. Representatives for the women victimized in this week’s incident have pledged to pursue charges
against those responsible; Apple is now “actively investigating” a potential weakness
in its iCloud system that may have facilitated the hack; and the FBI says it is “addressing” the “unlawful release of material involving high profile individuals.” Not all women have the clout
to put tech companies and law enforcement agencies on notice when they are victimized online, but they should, and high-profile incidents like this one can help secure legal recourse for lesser-known victims down the line.”
9. We denounced cat-callers.
Did you watch this viral video, released in October? It features a woman walking for 10 hours through New York City — and a barrage of guys yelling some variation of “Hey, baby!” (Important to note: It was also criticized for editing out white men.)
The Hollaback campaign against street harassment sparked debate about what constitutes threatening language in public spaces. The Post’s Emma Grdina, a digital designer, shares a story about an interaction that tipped from annoying to terrifying: “A piece Justine Maki wrote this year stayed with me. She’s a copy editor at the New York Times. She was followed home after leaving work late one night.”
Maki’s story in Medium:“Because someone will ask, it was late. About 2 a.m. on a Tuesday morning. Because someone will ask, I was coming home from work after staying an extra hour to edit an obituary. Because someone will ask, I was dressed conservatively. Teal corduroy pants, sneakers, sleeves to my elbows, a down vest. But even if I were naked, nobody should touch me. Nobody should feel entitled to touch me, to follow me.”
(Disclosure: Maki was a former Washington Post employee.)
Grdina adds: “As a single woman in a big city, traveling alone during many times of the day is nearly unavoidable. On the bus or walk home, I don’t listen to music. I rarely read, and I avoid eye contact with nearly everyone I pass — all precautions that provide me with a false sense of security. The commute home is unavoidable. The jeers and once-overs should not be.”
10. We couldn’t stop listening to “Serial.”
(And telling other people to listen to “Serial.”) Journalist Sarah Koenig’s investigation of a murder became the most popular podcast ever. The grisly engine: Baltimore teen Adnan Syed was sentenced to life in prison for killing Hae Min Lee, his high school girlfriend. But did he really do it?
The breakout podcast, which started in the fall, created an army of amateur Web sleuths. It also turned violence against women into a drama “where the heroine was forgotten,” writes Radhika Sanghani in the Telegraph:
“The point here is not whether Syed did kill Lee in a moment of violence or not – it’s the fact that Serial doesn’t really explore the wider issue of someone killing a woman. Currently, in the UK, two women are killed every week by their current or former partner, according to charity Women’s Aid
As Dustin says, Koenig does spend a lot of time questioning whether there was racism or cultural prejudice at play in this case. But she does not do the same for domestic violence, and in a way her endless analysis into Syed’s character is damaging.
It almost suggests that someone cannot commit violence against a woman if they are well-liked, popular, handsome and their friends can’t imagine them ever acting like that – when clearly that’s not the case.”