The Stanford case was not simply a horrible fluke or a standalone instance of injustice, feminists cried. It indicated a “systemic” problem where Westerners blame victims of sexual assault and normalize male sexual violence (particularly straight white male sexual violence). Open letters to American fathers criticizing the way they raised their sons were featured on sites like Mashable and CNN; popular mommy bloggers wrote several-paragraph-long statuses about how “we need to talk about rape culture” and “we should teach men not to rape instead of victim-blaming by teaching our daughters how to ‘avoid’ being raped.”
I saw athlete culture get criticized; white people—as a group—got criticized, too. But the main lesson we were supposed to take away from Stanford was that there’s a problem, particularly with the straight white Western man, that needs fixing. There is something about straight white male culture that is causing sexual assault, and we have an obligation to step up and stop it—whatever “it” is.
While I was happy to see that people were outraged over a young woman not receiving justice, I was also a little confused. I wondered then why the reactions to the Cologne attacks had been so radically different from the reactions to the Stanford case. Was the disparity just a fluke? With the latest news coming out of Rotherham, I can’t say that it is.
While cries of “rape culture” were everywhere during Stanford, they are nowhere to be heard in the discourse surrounding the scant coverage of Rotherham, nor was it anywhere to be heard after the Cologne attack— despite the fact that the men these gangs were comprised of did come from cultures that routinely and systemically abuse women and treat them as inferior.