When Ashe Schow graduated from Florida State with a major in creative writing and a minor in theatre, she expected to become a starving artist toiling away in her solitary garret to gain literary laurels as the next William Faulkner.
Instead the twenty-eight-year-old Schow, who works for the Washington Examiner, is becoming known as the reporter who dares to cover "war on women" issues factually rather than by blindly embracing a popular agenda. Schow, for example, has debunked the widely-accepted, Obama-administration-promoted figure that one in five women on campus is the victim of rape.
"The idea that women are being assaulted at that rate didn't make sense, so I kept digging into the numbers," she says. In a piece in the Examiner last year, she called the one in five figure "misleading at best." She cited a flawed, online 2007 study that had a limited sampling and interpreted the results in an arguably biased manner. Schow called the number a "shock claim" that is being parroted by "those who are hoping to score points defending women in a supposed war against them."
Schow is winning praise from fans who would like a more sober, fact-based discussion about the issue of sexual assault on campus, and a justice system that preserves core principles, such as that one is innocent until proven guilty. Stuart Taylor—who with KC Johnson, exposed the shaky foundations of the 2006 Duke Lacrosse scandal in the book entitled Until Proven Innocent: Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustices of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case, when the Lacrosse team was accused of rape in what turned out to be a fabrication—is one of her admirers.
"More great work, Ashe! I would nominate you for a Pulitzer but for concern that the nomination would be doomed by my making it," Taylor enthused in a group email after a Schow article earlier this year exposed the inherent elitism of the campus rape tribunals, which have replaced the criminal justice system on many campuses. Schow observed, that such tribunals are not only unfair to the accused, but are unfair to poor women who cannot avail themselves of these tribunals.
Ironically, these campus tribunals, according to Schow, are also unfair to college women who are assaulted: a real rapist can be expelled but won't go to jail where he belongs. Meanwhile, young men who are innocent but lack due process, are also likely to be expelled. But they are a special justice system for affluent women who can afford college.
"If one wanted to find a blatant example of wealthy, privileged people getting their own justice system they can bend to their will," Schow wrote, "look no further than the anti-campus sexual assault movement. Born of false statistics and exaggerated (or wholly made up) victimhood, the movement has created (and seeks to maintain) a separate court system for those who can afford college.”
"What we're left with is a movement that seeks 'easy justice for me, but not for thee.' It's a slap in the face to the millions of Americans who are at a higher risk for sexual assault and who cannot afford college, many of them poor, minority women," she wrote.
How did Schow find her way to this unusual beat?
"I've always been interested in hoaxes," she says. "I'm interested in how stories get told, multiplied and then completely debunked. I'm interested in people like Tania Head, the 9/11 hoaxer [who claimed to have been in the Twin Towers but wasn't] and in criminal hoaxes.
"I was just beginning to get interested in women's issues when an editor sent me a story by KC Johnson about two young men who had been wrongfully accused of rape. I ended up interviewing them, and hearing what they had to say and looking at the conflicting accounts that were presented, I started to see that something wasn't right."
Why is the women as victims story so prevalent?
"It's easy for the media to sell a 'war on women' story," she says, "because women are seen by many as still being at such a disadvantage in every aspect of their lives. And there is an entire group of women who have their hearts set on righting wrongs against women, but there aren't as many wrongs as existed back when crime was higher, before women had the right to vote, or opportunities to go to college. But there is this whole group of women who must invent slights against women to have their careers continue."
The remedy, Schow argues, is dazzlingly simple: people must become better informed.
"More people need to look at the figures," she says. "You don't even have to dig into the figures. You just sit down and look at them. One in five college women are victims of rape? That is extremely high. Could that really be true? No, it is based on flawed and false statistics. People also need to realize that the reaction has been such an over-reaction that it's leading to more problems than it is solving, such as the evisceration of due process for the accused, which is a cornerstone of our justice system and is right there in the Constitution."
Schow does see some progress in pushing back against these excesses. "Just in the past year," she notes, "the issue of due process has come to the forefront. Now, you do see lawmakers mentioning due process. They may not be putting it into their bills, except for the Safe Campus Act, but they are at least talking about it. The pendulum is beginning to swing."
Schow believes that the "war on women" will be important in the 2016 presidential race, even though it was not effective for Democrats in the 2014 midterms. "The whole narrative is going to be that, if you disagree with Hillary, you are a misogynist," she says. "Even if Carly Fiorina were to become the Republican nominee, the Democrats would use this narrative because Republican women, as you know, are not the right kind of women."
Schow grew up mostly in Florida, the daughter of an engineer father and stay-at-home mother. The family had moved to Massachusetts just in time for Ashe' junior year in high school. The public schools were politicized. "I would come home and tell my dad these horrible things about George W. Bush, and then he would tell me the Republican side. "I'd been getting only one side in school, and that side was saying Republicans were evil."
Schow, who says she leans libertarian but is a bit more hawkish that most libertarians on international issues, planned to be a writer after college but her father encouraged her to take an internship with a Republican congressional campaign in New Jersey. She was hooked. She subsequently worked for a website and then joined Heritage Action as a blogger. She learned about the day's issues and legislation and also wrote fundraising letters. After a year, she moved to the Heritage Foundation proper, where she continued to blog.
Her intellectual role models are Christina Hoff Sommers, whose Factual Feminist she watches carefully, and Stuart Taylor and KC Johnson.
A fact that many people don't know about Ashe: she is an avid gamer and is something of a heroine to the gamer community because she has defended it from charges that it is sexist and misogynistic. "It wasn't until I met gamers and began hanging out with them that I felt as if I belonged," she said.
Schow admits that occasionally gets bitten by the "fiction bug" but says that she never shows her fiction to friends. Given her college major, she says that it is "kind of strange that I have this job." Her readers, who admire both her writing and digging skills, however, are very glad that she does.