Fox News, You Need to Stop

As long-time readers of this blog already know, I’ve never been a fan of Fox News.  I try not to talk about it too much, but I can’t sit here, and call myself an activist, and pretend that Fox News isn’t actively promoting ideas that are fundamentally harmful to people, and especially to women, and which ultimately allow for more women to be hurt.

Fox News hosts have said plenty of things I have disagreed with.  Last week, they claimed that there was no such thing as an assault rifle.  They’ve claimed that Obamacare was worse than slavery…then amended that statement to say it was worse than 9/11.  They publicly called actor Robin Williams a coward following his death, though they later apologized for it.  Fox News hosts have made all kinds of Islamaphobic comments, and refused to apologize for them.  Each of these have been disgusting, and each of these have promoted hate that, as it becomes entrenched in our culture, places people in danger.  Shaming people for struggling with mental illness, attacking people for their race or religion…these are not the hallmarks of an actual news agency.  This is ideological spin at best, and publicly accepted endorsement of violence at worst.  I’ve brought this up more on the Radical Idea tumblr, but the thing I really need to get into here, now, on the WordPress, is their acceptance and apparent endorsement of violence against women.

Fox News, what are you doing?

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I want to make something clear: violence against women is no more horrifying, no more offensive, no greater a rights violation than violence against any other person or group.  I’m not picking this moment to attack the way Fox News talks about people and espouses its ideology because I think that misogyny is despicable but Islamaphobia is somehow acceptable.  Hate is wrong in all of its iterations.  But as I’m not Jon Stewart, and I’m not paid to comb through all the horrible things that Fox News hosts say and point out all the problems, I pick my battles for this blog (and privately glare at the internet and TV whenever I see further examples of this somehow-subsidized hate speech).  I’m picking this one now.  I’ll pick more in the future.

So what happened?  A week or so ago, Fox News hosts slapped on their internalized misogyny hats and declared, “let men be men” in a segment devoted to how street harassment is good.  How it’s just men complimenting women, and how there are “classy” ways to do it…like just clapping.  The Daily Show‘s  Jessica Williams responds to this beautifully, pointing out that “it’s not a runway, it’s a sidewalk” and “since going to work isn’t a performance, we don’t want your applause”.  It’s creepy, and it’s designed not to make women feel appreciated, but to make women feel like the sidewalks are not theirs to walk, like they don’t have a right to public spaces.  Even if an individual clapping or calling out to a woman means well, intent doesn’t matter because the root cause, and the effect, are the same.  Those men who believe they’re just trying to “appreciate” a woman walking down the street only believe that this is a thing they should do because societal norms, which say that women’s bodies are men’s to comment upon and control, tell them that they ought to, and that they have a right to.

But was this where the sexism train stopped?  Of course not.  Earlier this week, Fox News hosts crossed the line once again by mocking the victim of the Ray Rice elevator assault, joking that the lesson was to “take the stairs”.  I frankly don’t have the space left within this post to adequately get into the issue of organized sports and their relationship to gender norms and gender-based violence, but I’ll talk about it soon.  The issue I do want to focus on here is the idea that Fox News anchors, including their female anchors, continue to prop up detrimental behaviors that endanger individuals’ health or sense of safety, and shame survivors for what happens to them.  Janay Palmer was in no way responsible for Ray Rice’s behavior-~-no matter what their relationship was like, his behavior was inexcusable and frankly, criminal.  For this to be in any way downplayed or excused is offensive and unjustifiable.  It simply reinforces the idea that it’s acceptable to harm women, an idea that already manifests itself in the form of widespread gender-based violence around the world.

This isn’t about political ideology.  It isn’t about whether Obamacare was good for America or whether we need more gun laws.  This is about the rights of people to operate safely within our society.  A HUGE majority of women continue to do things like change the routes they take while commuting, walk with keys out to use as weapons, or even move to a new residence as a result of street harassment.  It’s not funny, it’s not sweet, it makes people feel like they are unsafe-~-and that’s wrong.  And there are thousands of survivors of domestic violence out there who genuinely believe that it is their fault, or who fear that they’ll be blamed or dismissed by family or friends if they come forward, who are stuck in dangerous situations, and when society-~-or those prominent in society-~-condone the behavior of abusers, it becomes that much more difficult for those individuals to extract themselves.  It’s downright irresponsible for individuals who have the ability to articulate a message that could counter this abuse to do the opposite, and it’s time to see a change.

That’s not to say that NO ONE is saying anything.  CBS Sportscaster James Brown gave a great segment talking about football, sexism, and domestic violence, for example, and Mic.com published a piece containing powerful tweets about the experiences of survivors of domestic violence.  But when major media outlets continue to cover stories with victim-blaming rhetoric and downright dismissal of the experience of survivors, they contribute to the problem.  Fox News can do better, and frankly should do better.  No one deserves to be attacked, no matter who they are, and those who continue to perpetrate harms against those around them need to be stopped.

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~ by Randi Saunders on September 19, 2014.

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