FIGHT: Feminists Go Head-To-Head Over Campus Rape Statistics In The New York Times

Feminist-on-feminist violence about anti-feminist violence

A New York Times book reviewer and a feminist author are going head-to-head in the paper's pages over a book review of campus rape tome, Blurred Lines: Rethinking Sex, Power, and Consent on Campus.

It's important to remember that both the reviewer, Michelle Goldberg, and Blurred Lines's author, Vanessa Grigoriadis, are out to claim that campus sexual assault is a widespread phenomenon that affects an incredible number of college-aged women, and one that must be addressed immediately, by both campus administrators and government officials.

But in their quest to put campus rape at the forefront, the two engaged in what can only be described as feminist-on-feminist violence. In reviewing Blurred Lines, Goldberg took issue with Grigoriadis's fact-checking and reporting, claiming that the book was so flawed, it would pave the way for critics of "campus rape culture" to skewer the idea completely.

It's "too sloppy with the facts to succeed," says Goldberg, “But if you’re going to challenge people’s preconceptions, you have to have your facts straight. ‘Blurred Lines’ gives readers too many reasons not to trust it, even when perhaps they should.” Goldberg also rightfully points out that Department of Justice statistics say college-attending women are less likely than non-attending women in the same age group to become victims of rape, but goes on to say that Grigoriadis fails to "reckon" with this statistic in a way that would help convince rape-deniers that it's not applicable to the campus rape epidemic.

Grigoriadis, who is a contributing writer to the New York Times magazine, fired back, saying it's not she who is factually incorrect, it's Goldberg and it's personal. "This review is factually incorrect from top to bottom. Michelle essentially threw together some ideas she gathered during her time at Slate and punched me in the face with them," she wrote to the Washington Post.

Then it was Goldberg's turn again, who says Grigoriadis tried to play off the campus rape epidemic as limited to just college campuses.

The correction turns entirely on the word “know.” Grigoriadis says that when it comes to rape, “the risk is college itself.” That’s not true; according to the Rape, Incest and Abuse National Network, “Female college-aged students (18-24) are 20% less likely than non-students of the same age to be a victim of rape or sexual assault.” I haven’t seen anyone, in Grigoriadis’s book or elsewhere, cite figures suggesting that college students are raped at higher rates than non-college students.

Now, someone like Christina Hoff Summers would probably say that they're both wrong: campus sexual assault isn't any more of an "epidemic" now than it's ever been, and risk factors for campus rape include more than just the mere presence of men; an honest assessment of the campus sexual assault crisis has to take into consideration alcohol use and abuse, and campus feminist advocacy that colors any unwanted activity as "sexual assault."

In the battle between campus rape advocates, we're all losers, she might say.

Here, though, the two feminists will likely be battling out the specifics of their movement for eternity.

Ed note: The article originally referred to Grigoriadis as an opinion columnist for the New York Times. She is actually a contributing writer to the Times Magazine. The article has been updated to reflect the change.

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