The (Mis)education of Cathy Young

On Wednesday, May 18, the Washington College of Law Federalist Society hosted libertarian columnist Cathy Young to present a talk which she titled "Presumed Guilty? Rape, Feminism, and False Accusations." 

Ms. Young is not a lawyer.  She is a long-time columnist for The Boston Globe and Reason Magazine , libertarian publication extrodinare.  Ms. Young has written extensively on both feminism and false rape accusations:  here , here , here , here , HERE , here , etc.  Her general premise seems to be that First Wave Feminism was a boon to women, but now that we can all get jobs and stuff, shouldn’t we look out for the menz?  I realize I am oversimplifying her argument, but I will get to the substance of her speech in a moment.

The Women’s Law Association got wind of the event and staged an amelioration, during which we tabled the entire day of the presentation, distributed teal ribbons in support of survivors of sexual violence, passed out information regarding the myths of false rape claims, and urged any and everyone to attend the event well-informed and ready to question her position. 

The tabling was an incredible success – I would estimate the turn-out to be approximately 35 students supporting the Women’s Law Association and 10 students supporting the Federalist Society.  The Federalists had kindly provided free Thai food, which we promptly ate ALL of.  The students of the WLA dominated the room, lining the front row, standing in the back when the seats filled up.  Pencils out, we were armed with notepads and the NDAA’s newly released report regarding the reality of false rape charges.  (Hint:  the numbers are between 2% and 7%, just like the FBI, feminists, and the entire rational world has been claiming for years).

Ms. Young’s speech was disappointing at best.  Although she is not a lawyer, I was prepared for a libertarian, conservative onslaught of misinformation and misogyny.  Instead, she provided us with a brief and helpful history of rape law and feminism and touched on Eugene Kanin’s uncorroborated report from the 1990s that cited 41% of all rape charges as false.  (Hint:  He relied solely on uncorroborated police reports from a single small town). 

Then she swung into that tried-and-true tactic: SCARY STORIES!  Duke Lacrosse!  That guy from Oregon!  These kids from this random university! Don’t these stories scare you!?

And it was then I realized that she had no chance.  She had no chance against the staggering mountain of statistical data and legal thought that shows that there is NO DATA that indicates that false rape charges are brought at a higher rate than any other claims:

1) Rape survivors have no incentive to lie.

2) Police interrogation, hospital procedures, and trials are not experiences that people relish having to go through.

3) Cases where the defendant was acquitted or the survivor misidentified the defendant are NOT FALSE CLAIMS.  If they were, the rate of false claims of every crime would sky rocket. 

4) All evidence indicates that the vast majority of rape and sexual violence goes UN- and UNDER-REPORTED, not exaggerated.

The list goes on. 

When Ms. Young finished speaking, she took a few questions from the audience.  The WLA stepped up to the challenge with several pointed rational questions that poked huge holes in Ms. Young’s logic. 

1)  Why do the Duke Lacross players deserve an apology from the same media that demonized R. Kelly’s victims and never apologized?

2) Do you seriously think that the so-called "radical feminist" viewpoints that you cite are influencing judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys to not follow the bed-rock of American law – the presumption of innocence?

3) What is your point?

Because readers, she had no point.  And that was the sweetest victory of all.  That 35 people could sit in a room, armed well with research and feminist theory and know that this woman had no point at all.

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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