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An old truism of media reared its head this week: No amount of actual news or problems in need of solutions (uhh, the government is still shut down, people) can temper some people’s desire to instead fixate on shaming women.
That was made clear first by a disastrously unsuccessful attempt to embarrass new Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over the existence of a video showing her above-average dancing skills, then later over pearl-clutching after another congresswoman used the word “motherfucker.”
But trying to make women feel bad about things like dancing, or any type of celebration or demonstration of agency over their bodies certainly isn’t something that’s confined to D.C.
The recent fascination with these two utterly un-fascinating episodes made me think of some similarly cringe-inducing episodes here in San Diego.
Two are particularly reminiscent of the Ocasio-Cortez dancing video – one even involves a dancing video! – in that they involved attempts to make young women feel ashamed of things that aren’t remotely shameful.
Back in 2013, Scripps Ranch High School officials suspended a group of students – mostly girls – who twerked in a video that they thought was for a multimedia project. They were deemed as having committed lewd conduct and, inexplicably, sexual harassment. School officials used a provision meant to protect girls from harassing behavior and wielded it against them for something joyful and harmless.
A few months later, as Bob Filner’s mayorship was crashing down in flames, conservatives directed their anger at a bizarre target. A photo of Filner’s press secretary enjoying her bachelorette party in Vegas, with the requisite penis straw that such events require, made its way to local media, and at least one GOP consultant and a party official fired up the ol’ outrage machine. They scolded a grown woman, engaging in a private event on her own private time and doing nothing remotely illegal or even inappropriate, for a “lack of character and good judgement.”
A far darker and more disturbing instance in which local officials shamed a woman for taking agency over her own body, of course, happened when City Attorney Jan Goldsmith tried to blame a sexual assault victim for the crime committed against her. When the Union-Tribune revealed the disgusting legal logic, he dropped the argument.
Later, when I asked then-city attorney candidate Mara Elliott about her office’s argument and whether it was appropriate, she surprised me by declining to denounce the move. Later, when it was clear I’d be writing about her response, her political consultant called me and insisted she would never shame a sexual assault victim just to win a case.
What VOSD Learned This Week
The fact that a Democrat replaced a Republican in the 76th Assembly District can’t be easily explained by the blue wave. Jesse Marx dug into the 11th hour accusation against Republican Phil Graham, and the shady ways in which the charge was amplified even after police determined it was false. Jesse also peeled back the curtain on the strange case on the latest podcast.
The big story on election night was that Democrats won a supermajority on the San Diego City Council. Now that the Council is preparing to get back to work, it’s still not clear what exactly they plan to do with the newfound power.
One area where Council Dems have expressed a desire to make policy changes is in police-community relations. It’s fertile ground: A new state report on police racial profiling includes some concerning findings about police use of force and complaints of profiling.
Speaking of politics, 2020 is already rearing its head.
City and county leaders are starting to take steps to find shelter solutions for the stream of asylum-seekers arriving in San Diego with virtually nothing.
When some migrants tried to cross the border fence illegally on New Year’s Eve, Border Patrol agents fired teargas at them – a decision the Mexican government is demanding answers on. Our contributing photographer Vito Di Stefano was there, and captured these haunting images of the scene.
As you might imagine, we encounter a lot of questions from readers about how San Diego works. Lisa Halverstadt rounded up three of the questions that come up most often, and put the answers in one place.
What I’m Reading
- Women guards at a Virginia prison have been smuggling in one specific kind of contraband: breast pumps. (New York Times)
- Though he was required to disclose public statements, published materials and group memberships from the last decade, the new VA secretary didn’t provide any information on his ties to Confederate groups. (CNN)
- Is the future of fraternities … women? (Topic)
- The reaction from progressive men to Elizabeth Warren’s presidential announcement was excruciatingly predictable – and this piece does a good job poking fun at it. (McSweeney’s)
- This thoughtful essay in which a critic explains why he’s changing the name of his column combines many subjects I care about deeply: the impact of journalism, delicious food and immigrant communities. (Washington Post)
Line of the Week
“I couldn’t have been more privileged to hold your groin,” he said. – This is an absolutely lovely story about a man who has the awkward job of holding heart patients’ groins firmly in place following surgery to prevent blood clots.