BY ERIN HOLLABACK DES MOINES
Make no mistake, we are at war. We are engaged in battle with gender binaries, expectations of gender presentation, rape culture, and a great many number of things- we are most certainly at war. And in war, there are casualties.
I want to apologize. We at Hollaback! Des Moines have not yet addressed the case of Amber Cole, the 14-year-old Baltimore teen who is depicted in a video performing oral sex on a teen boy. The video went viral, and Amber has faced endless shaming, threats, and harassment. The boys have been arrested, and Cole has decided to press charges against them. This is an important subject to discuss, and I’d like to address it now- better late than never.
The following is an excerpt from the Washington Post’s online blog, written by school psychologist and doctoral student Erin Harper:
“The boys who participated in this act are also children who should not have their human rights violated by dragging their names through the same mud as Amber’s. Instead, they should be taught why their behavior is wrong, why it is “okay” for child pornography to be circulated as entertainment, and why society is so twisted that an internet search for Amber Cole’s name yields an “Official” video when the only thing official about the video is that consumers who “know better” are OFFICIAL FREAKING IDIOTS WHO DESERVE OFFICIAL CHILD PORNOGRAPHY CHARGES AND OFFICIAL TIME IN JAIL.”
Granted, her caps-lock near the end there reveals some heavy bias, but I believe Harper is tackling an issue few people have- why the boys felt it was alright to upload that video onto the Internet. Why we need to educate our children about sex, laws pertaining to sex, and how despite what they may think, there are consequences to one’s actions. So many parents, bloggers, reporters, etc. have been consumed with “choosing a side” that they have not addressed the reason reasons we’re even talking about this case.
Here: (http://jezebel.com/5853116/i-am-amber-coles-father?tag=amber-cole) is a man who at first claims to be Amber’s father, bashes Amber’s mother, and essentially promotes a “boys will be boys” policy before revealing that is is actually Jimi Izrael. Here: (http://www.amptoons.com/blog/2011/10/26/no-you-arent-amber-coles-father/) is a response by Jeff Fecke, relatively constructive, but still hell-bent on choosing a side.
My personal stance on the Amber Cole case is not to automatically jump on the offensive, bash these boys, and applaud Cole for her bravery; it is instead to examine what deep-seeded issues led to the problem, and how we can address them so things like these cease happening. Amber Cole is not the only teen that has been slandered across the Internet, and yet she has been singled out. Why is that, do we think? Is it her race, her age, her geographic, location, what is it about her?
I don’t know the answer to this question. I have my musings, but no definitive, concrete answer. So I’ll pose the question to you all- why is it, do you think, that among all the American teens who have experienced this type of harassment, we have singled out Amber Cole? Why is it so much easier to either blame her or rally around her, than the address the underlying issues of sexism, racism, and rape culture?