Post Editor on Violence Against Women Headline: “That Was My Bad”
The Washington Post published an article on its PostEverything opinion blog today under a headline that basically boiled down to: "Women, don't sleep around if you don't want men to hit you."
Within a few hours, though, the headline was replaced with one that was a bit more tempered. The original: "One way to end violence against women? Stop taking lovers and get married." The new one: "One way to end violence against women? Married dads."
"I think the headline we originally put on the piece distracted people from taking seriously a raft of social science that the authors discuss," Adam Kushner, the editor of PostEverything, writes in an email to City Desk. "That was my bad."
But the article's problems didn't end there. The underlying message of the piece was that in order to end violence against women, women should stop sleeping around and get married. Not, say, that men should stop being violent to women. The headline change suggests that the editors decided to shift away from implying that the onus is on women to stop this violence by getting married, but the piece still only focused on that factor.
The authors included stats that show a definite correlation between marriage and sexual violence, but they only included stats related to marriage. There's no mention, for instance, of the roles that alcohol or drug use, socioeconomics, or anything else—like, say, men—could have in increasing the chances that a woman may be assaulted.
Predictably, the Post was a popular target on social media all afternoon.
— Rebecca Lave (@RebeccaLave) June 10, 2014
Washington Post just won the Pulitzer for Most Rapiest (and Least Factiest) Opinion writing.
— rachelsklar (@rachelsklar) June 10, 2014
I grew up with a married biological father. Today I am married. I'm also a rape survivor. This article is infuriating.http://t.co/DEujKn7UPy
— Elaisha Stokes (@ElaishaStokes) June 10, 2014
— Matt Algren (@MattAlgren) June 10, 2014
Although Kushner concedes the headline was misguided, he says he stands by the article.
"Regarding the substance of the piece, we’ve said from the beginning that PostEverything is dedicated to publishing a wide range of perspectives about issues in politics and culture," he wrote.
One of the article's authors, Robin Fretwell Wilson, is the director of the Program in Family Law and Policy at the University of Illinois. Her co-author, W. Bradford Wilcox, is the director of the National Marriage Project and also sometimes writes for Slate's XX blog, where he has published a number of articles touting the benefits of marriage and two-parent households.
To top it all off, this wasn't even the most controversial article the paper published on sexual assault this week. Syndicated Post columnist George Will wrote in a column this weekend that "the supposed campus epidemic of rape, a.k.a. ‘sexual assault’" is a result of making victimhood a "privileged status."