If you like legal dramas that portray all the glam and fortune of practicing at an elite law firm – and almost none of the long hours and tedious research – then you’re probably a fan of The Good Wife. I know I am. Or was. Until last night.
This week’s episode of The Good Wife delves into the politically-charged issue of sexual assault on college campuses. And it did a true disservice not only to the serious issue of rape, but also to women.
It goes without saying – but I’ll put it up top lest there is any room for confusion –rape is a heinous crime, and it’s critical that when it occurs perpetrators are brought to justice. But what should also go without saying – although I fear I need to emphasize this, as well – is that we want to make sure accused boys and men are given due process.
The story begins when Alicia Florrick, the lead character in The Good Wife, is asked to help a young female freshman, who claims a male student raped her, by acting as a silent advocate when she goes before an academic judiciary committee to request expulsion for the accused student.
Within minutes Alicia inserts herself into the case, which is a standard “he said, she said” situation with no physical evidence and a security guard as a witness, who makes it clear the events of the evening were a little unclear. The young woman – who refused a rape kit or an official police investigation – certainly has some holes in her story. And the male student – while he tries to interject throughout the “hearing” – never gets to give his side of the story.
Viewers quickly learn that this male student was acting within a larger “culture” of rape on campus, made evident not only by the official “red zone” – a time in the first few months of school when young girls are considered particularly vulnerable – as well as a “rape wall,” where young women write the names of their attackers. Yet the conservative school that doesn’t want to create concerns among new applicants concludes there isn’t enough evidence to support an expulsion of the accused student. And Alicia then determines that the college – not even the accused young man – has been negligent in allowing this assault to have taken place and takes the college to court.
At the heart of it, the episode reveals just how insidious the effort by the White House and their feminist allies has been in suggesting that one-in-five women on college campuses have been sexually assaulted. As I’ve written before, there are many reasons to question this number, not the least being that we could expect to see female students running for the exit doors if there was truly a crime wave of that proportion.
The more likely story is that some women – like some men – make decisions that they regret. They drink too much and they act too quickly, and in the morning they regret their actions. That’s not to say that there aren’t some real perpetrators on college campuses who seek out vulnerable women; but it’s good to keep the problem in perspective. Exaggerating the statistics and suggesting that colleges have become a haven for sexual assault doesn’t actually help women. In fact, it does just the opposite, by reinforcing the idea that women are always a victim with no agency or control and men always a perpetrator.
At an event hosted by the Independent Women’s Forum on this issue last spring, Christina Hoff Sommers emphasized that, “Inflated statistics lead to ineffective policies. Worse than that, they can breed panic and overreaction. And that is exactly what we have now. . .Like other panics, it’s doing little to address a real problem and it’s turning ugly.”
Ugly indeed. As The Good Wife revealed, these college “hearings” are turning into “kangaroo courts,” where a young man’s life literally rested on some college administrators trying to sort out what may or may not have happened.
And how absurd that a university should be in the business of making these judgments, anyway. Again, Sommers drew the analogy, “If a woman accused a man of raping her while on a cruise ship, would we suddenly gather all the staff on the ship and try to figure out the crime?” Of course not.
None of this is an attack on women who have been assaulted or harmed. Like the writers on the show, I too agree that sex must be consensual and that men should never assume anything – whether she was drinking beer, tequila, or nothing at all. But if we actually want to improve the social scene on college campuses and make life better for women and men, then we should have an honest conversation about what’s actually happening. We all want to make sure the problem of sexual violence is defined correctly; but exaggerating statistics and suggesting colleges are turning a blind eye to truly violent behavior simply drives alarmism and does little to help women.
What The Good Wife tragically misses is that we all want to encourage a culture of responsibility among both men and women so that we can have a healthier and safer society with happier, more stable relationships for everyone. We want our daughters to make smart choices; and we want our sons to learn good behavior.
Too bad the show simply bought into the political playbook.