First of all, if you just clicked over here to find out which state has the highest rate of rape, it is Alaska. Let’s get that out the way now, because it is not actually all that important to the rant I am about to go on.
Since the advent of BuzzFeed and Upworthy, people have been doing an increasing amount of, “X Ways That…” “You’ll never guess who…” and “This is what happened, but you’ll never believe what happened next” titles. We, too, are guilty of this because the Internet trends and rules do not exclude smaller blogs (if anything, we have to pay even more attention to them), so I am by no means saying writers, editors and casual bloggers shouldn’t be doing this. But when CNN posted the following tweet, I got a bit annoyed:
Which links to this:
There are limits to everything (yes, even on the Internet, which I know you real humans out there already know, but it’s hard for us people who pay our bills by working online to recognize sometimes). In the past 24 hours, I have seen so many disgustingly sensationalistic titles and tweets about things we should not be sensationalizing because they suck enough as is. You can be both intriguing and tactful, but I’ve seen tweets in the past two days along the lines of, “You’ll never guess how much heroin Philip Seymour Hoffman had!” which is just…it’s just…no. Just no. You don’t need to guess. We know he has died and that is completely awful and that the glamorization of drugs is horrible, but being remotely playful about something like that–or, in this case, the rate of rape state-by-state–is ridiculous. It’s offensive. Stop fucking doing it.
I do not think people who do these things are trying to offend anybody nor hurt anybody; they’re not awful people, just like I do not think Neetzan Zimmerman was a bad guy just because he posted a photo of that woman’s dead body on Gawker not 24 hours after she was murdered, nor was the BuzzFeed person who did the same. We all need (not want) pageviews because that is literally how we make a living–writing on the Internet. There are limits, though, and sensationalizing rape headlines to be more like Upworthy’s is beyond absurd.
So, why does the rate of rape being highest in Alaska not surprise me? Because no matter what state it was, it would not have surprised me. Sexual assault is prevalent no matter where you go. In Alaska, it is three times the national average which is horrifying in so many ways, but it does not necessarily surprise me–no matter what state it was, I would be shocked. It’s not like anybody imagined Alaska to be a happy-go-lucky rape-free zone; any woman who’s ever taken a health class, a self-defense class or a “violence prevention” class knows that society essentially warns women to change how we behave no matter where we go because we’re never really safe from rape. For many of us, the high rates of rape all over the world are never surprising. Horrifying, yes, but no surprise.