Misogyny by proxy

Moira Donegan at the Guardian has more on Sonmez and the Post.

When Sonmez tweeted a link to a Daily Beast story about the 2003 rape allegation against Bryant, with no commentary of her own, she received a torrent of abuse and threats from his fans.

They were angry at what they saw as Sonmez besmirching Bryant’s memory by acknowledging the accusation that he had been sexually violent towards a Colorado woman; they were willing to avenge this disrespect, or so they claimed, with more violence against women. The name-calling escalated into threats, and some of those threats seemed credible. Her home address was published online. For her own safety, Sonmez went briefly into hiding.

The Post did not stand up for her.

“A real lack of judgment to tweet this,” Marty Baron, the Post’s executive editor, wrote to Sonmez in an email, which contained a screenshot of Sonmez’ tweet. “Please stop. You’re hurting the institution by doing this.” Shortly thereafter, Barron suspended Sonmez from the Post as punishment for the tweet. She was not reinstated until a groundswell of support from hundreds of other reporters embarrassed the Post into retracting their decision.

You can look at it another way – you can see it as not Sonmez hurting the Post, but the Post and other news media hurting their own reputations by glorifying a man while ignoring his alleged violence against a woman. You can see that as the real issue here. Why do we treat male athletes as heroes and women as trivial expendable riffraff who should shut up about violence done to them by those male athlete heroes? Why is what we value and what we throw under the bus so wrong way around?

Sonmez first came forward as a survivor of sexual violence in the spring of 2018, when she wrote of being attacked by a colleague she had had worked alongside in China. Her descriptions of the man’s conduct mirrored allegations made by other women. But the exposure of coming forward subjected Sonmez to a new ordeal: public scrutiny, some of it hostile. A libertarian magazine published a long piece arguing that the fate of Sonmez’ attacker, who resigned from his job after an investigation, was an example of #MeToo gone too far – the piece was amplified by conservative media personalities. Then, at the Post, Sonmez was informed that because of her past history, and her public statements about it, she would not be permitted to cover stories that pertained to sexual violence.

The libertarian magazine was Reason, and the author of the piece was Emily Yoffe.

Donegan continues:

According to Sonmez’s Twitter, the Post has posited a curious rationale for the ban, claiming that they do not feel that Sonmez’ personal history would make her biased in her coverage of sexual violence – and indeed there seem to be no complaints about the quality of her work – but that other people would perceive her as biased. Indeed, the Post’s decisions about Sonmez seem to have been motivated largely by social media pressures and the fear of bad press. 

If we can take the Post at their word that they are worried not about Sonmez’ capacities, but about the perceptions of others, this is a very strange choice. In effect, this rationale is misogyny by proxy, with the Post outsourcing the moral responsibility for a sexist outcome on to their readers. They have to do a sexist thing not because they are sexist, but because other people are sexist, and those other people might be mad if the Post does not enforce a sexist outcome. The Post’s account of their own choices regarding Sonmez’ work, then, is that in personnel decisions, they defer to what they imagine are their readers worst impulses, and therefore are obligated to reproduces the bigotries of the public.

Or, more simply, when in doubt, assume/act as if the woman is lying.

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