Tuesday, April 10, 2018

"Women should start writing books about their rape experience instead of getting jobs?"

Today's provocative title comes courtesy of a thread on Recovery from Mormonism.  Someone posted about an event being held in honor of Elizabeth Smart's latest book, Where There's Hope.  Although the original topic was not really offensive, it wasn't long before people started opining about Smart and her career forged out of having been kidnapped and repeatedly raped for months when she was a teenager.  One person posted this comment, which started a flood of controversy.

Elizabeth has turned her horrific experience into a cash cow.

It's been sixteen years since her abduction and rescue. This is her second book in four years. Plus her talk circuit, she gets paid to do.

It's become a career for her.

I myself once posted about how I thought it was interesting how Elizabeth Smart kept pleading for privacy, yet was constantly in the news.  Six years later, I think my opinion about Ms. Smart has changed a bit.  I think she's done some very good work for missing and exploited children, rape victims, and even calling out the "slut shaming" that goes on among religious people.  She has-- in a way-- turned lemons into lemonade, so to speak.  But she would probably not be where she is right now had she not been through a terrible ordeal that no decent person would ever wish on anyone else.  I highly doubt that Elizabeth Smart would have chosen her career in other circumstances.

I've come to respect Elizabeth Smart, having watched her grow up over the past sixteen years.  I think she's remarkably strong and brave.  I admire her for being willing to share her trauma and use it to help other people.  And if it means she's making money, so much the better.

The thread on RfM was pretty interesting, though.  Lots of people will tirelessly defend Elizabeth Smart, while others want to tear her down.  Another poster opined...

Frankly, I don't see the problem in her monetizing her trauma.

If I'd gone through what she's been through and people were willing to pay me for it, I'd use that to make money for my family too! There wouldn't be any money if there was no willing paying audience. At least that's making something good out of her terrible experiences.

How is this any different from using your family background, education or random inherited traits such as looks or IQ to further your financial status? If anything this is MORE understandable and moral than the people who get trust funds or are legacy students at Harvard and move on to plush careers in finance. She went through trauma most of us can never imagine and it will harm her repeatedly throughout her life no matter what she does or what therapy she gets. Why not get money from it?!

It's called capitalism. 

I wasn't going to follow the thread very carefully until I noticed a comment from a poster called "logan", who posted this...

So women should start writing books about their rape experience instead of getting jobs?

Wow...  so I guess "logan" doesn't think that writers are "working" when they practice their craft.  Moreover, s/he apparently thinks that one can make a living after publishing one ghost written book.  Elizabeth Smart does work.  She is a public speaker and runs a foundation.  She's written and sold books, which makes her an author.  She's also worked for ABC News and is a child safety activist.  Would she be all of these things had she not been abducted from her home?  I really don't know.  My guess is that her life probably would have gone in a different direction, but I can't know that for sure.  All I do know is that she's done a lot of good work for a vulnerable population and has been a public face for victims of child sexual assault and kidnapping.

"logan's" comment is one of a few I've read this week coming from people who seem hellbent on tearing down women.  And sometimes women are complicit, especially when it comes to their language.  A few days ago, I read a comment from a man who body shamed a woman.  Her response was to call him a "douche".  I've ranted about my dislike of the word "douche" as an insult more than a few times.  I really dislike that word, as a pejorative, for several reasons.  For one thing, in many countries, including Germany, a "douche" (spelled differently) is a shower.  As an insult, it doesn't really make too much sense.  For another thing, used in the way that many Americans insist upon using it, it's kind of a backdoor way of calling someone a "cunt".  

Some people probably deserve to be called the c-word, but I think if that's what you really mean, that's the word you should probably use.  And you should have the temerity to use it to the person's face, too.  I think a lot of people just like the word "douche" because they like the way it sounds.  But, in reality, it's kind of a dumb word for insults.  An actual douche is not offensive.  It's the residue resulting from douching that's offensive.  Since women are generally the only ones who douche, it's also a sexist insult.  I certainly won't claim that I never use sexist insults.  I do use them; but I try to be mindful about using them.  At the same time, I try not to tell people what kind of language to use, even if I express why I don't like those terms myself.

In any case, while I'm not sure it was Elizabeth Smart's childhood wish to do the work she does, she seems to be making the best of it.  She's doing real good for a lot of people.  Her work has meaning and purpose.  She does have a job, even if it resulted from her personal trauma.  If that work affords her a comfortable life, I don't see what's wrong with it.  She could have a less fulfilling job working in a cubicle somewhere as a faceless drone for some big corporation.  Would that occupation be more acceptable to people like "logan"?