Erica Sieg, ’13
This week, Reuters discussed the selection of the newly-elected Pope Francis and the possible repercussions this could have for women, The Huffington Post explored the male-dominated media coverage on the Steubenville, Ohio rape case, and The Washington Post discussed Hillary Clinton’s recent announcement in support of same-sex marriage.
The selection of the new Pope determines not only the official leader of 1.18 billion Catholics worldwide, but also establishes a new world leader who serves as an icon and representative of the Christian world as whole. The 600 million women in the Catholic Church have no say in the decision of who is appointed Pope. The newly-elected Pope Francis represents many firsts. As the first Jesuit and Latin American Pope, and the first to take the name Francis, there is hope that he will continue his record of firsts. This week in Reuters, Maria Caspani hopes he will set a precedent and be more “willing to change” in “embracing the massive changes that have shaken our society in the last 50 years.” Most importantly, Caspani poses the question of whether or not the new Pope will be bad news for women. She reflects that Francis’s track record suggests that he will follow a “doctrinal conservative” stance, but there are conflicting accounts of his stance on women’s issues. In one report, Francis was accused of saying that women were naturally “unfit to take on political roles,” but Caspani argues that the statement could be from an individual ignorant of Francis’s true views. Apart from this, in 2010, Francis notably supported condom use in prevention of disease (not conception). He also criticized fellow Argentinean priests who refused the baptism of babies born out of wedlock. It is still far too early to determine how Francis’s views on women’s issues will unfold throughout his papacy. However, as a world figure, his support of these important questions can potentially create new precedents on women in leadership in the Catholic religion’s world.
Also significant this week was the discussion of the Steubenville trial and the male-dominated media coverage. Last August, two Steubenville, Ohio high school football players carried an unconscious girl to several parties and posted pictures and videos of themselves brutally raping her on several social media sites. The community attempted to cover up the story and protect the boys rather than the victim. Recently, several news outlets, including Good Morning America and CNN have portrayed the boys sympathetically. Carl Gibson of The Huffington Post takes serious issue with this commiseration. Gibson argues that these outlets say nothing about how the girl will be forever scarred as a result of being brutally gang-raped. They only portray the male students as “lovable, complex human rapists” who have lost all hope of ever being able to pursue promising careers in football. In fact, he argues that the media reinforces the brutal behavior by framing it as an acceptable “masculine” show of virility and aggression. He attributes this idea of patriarchy to a “cultural brainwashing of boys” learned through a series of television shows, music idols and movies, leading to this horrible event. He calls for a cultural evolution, beginning with the Steubenville incident, to stop accepting this potent and dangerous male aggression as proof of their masculine virility.
Finally, Hillary Clinton officially stated her support for same-sex marriage in an appearance in a video for the Human Rights Campaign. According to a Washington Post article by Jonathan Capehart, while always a “champion” for the LGBT community, her official endorsement of marriage equality comes at a critical time for several reasons. First, it aligned with the announcement of Sen. Rob Portman’s (R-Ohio) support for marriage equality, and her husband’s call to the Supreme Court to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act. All three members vocalized their views prior to high profile cases related to same-sex marriage. Additionally, as a top contender for the 2016 presidential race, Clinton needs to be clear of her stance on major issues. The two other potential individuals vying for the Democratic candidacy have already vocalized their support of full LGBT equality. While the support of the LGBT community is essential to establishing equality for all, women’s continued struggle for equality in the United States also need not be ignored. Hopefully, Clinton will soon release statements advocating the importance of women’s equality and reviving the women’s movement in the United States once more.