Letters

Hey, I'm not odious! says NPR's Scott Simon. Plus: Women do lie about rape, say readers of Cathy Young's piece on Kobe Bryant and rape shield laws.


Salon Staff
April 6, 2004 9:19PM (UTC)

[Read "What About Bob?" by Alexandra Marshall.]

I am in complete agreement with Alexandra Marshall's esteem for my colleague, Bob Edwards. But I wonder about her sense of judgment (or at least her powers of expression) when she characterizes me as "odious."

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No doubt on any given week I can give any listener a reason to dispute me. So can anyone who has been lucky enough to have had a rich career covering wars, social conflicts, disasters and crimes, as well as arts, sports and features.

But the only example of "odiousness" Ms. Marshall offers is the way I read children's stories once a month with Daniel Pinkwater. A lot of listeners like those stories, if not the way I read them. Alexandra Marshall doesn't. Fine. The stories are short and pass quickly.

But I think the term "odious" ought to be reserved for the likes of Slobodan Milosovic or Saddam Hussein -- not some guy who reads children's stories once a month on the radio.

-- Scott Simon

[Read "Hair Apparent," by Maura Kelly.]

Like the author, I went gray early and refused to dye my hair because I thought my gray hair symbolized the authentic me. As my hair got more and more salt 'n' pepper during my 20s, I started thinking about dyeing it. But my husband assured me that my hair was turning a lovely silver, not gray, so I kept putting it off.

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I was out with my son one day when an older couple came up to us. "What a sweet little boy," the woman said. "Are you his mother or his grandmother?"

"I'm his mother," I growled. When I got home, I immediately called my hair stylist and scheduled a color appointment.

Since then I've been practicing better living through chemistry. I suppose I'll have to go gray again when I'm older, but I'll burn that bridge when it falls out from under me.

-- Nancy Ott

[Read "How Much Should We Know About the Sex Life of Kobe's Accuser?" by Cathy Young.

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I agree completely that we must find a fair balance between protections for rape victims and the constitutional rights of defendants. However, I found your article to be one-sided in the extreme. The treatment of women in rape cases before the feminist rape-law-reform movement of the '70s was not "often" but routinely shameful. Until that time the alleged victim was put to more intense scrutiny than the accused. It is still true that a person, male or female, who is raped is considered "damaged goods" -- that, no matter how brutal the attack, there are some who feel that the victim must have done something to provoke it. There is a reason that rape is one of the most underreported crimes in the country.

-- W. Pfeister

Kudos to Cathy Young for her article explaining the difficulties inherent in balancing rape shield laws against an accused's right to defend himself. As someone who is both an ardent feminist and the daughter of a criminal defense attorney, I've never understood the so-called feminists who insist that a woman could never lie about rape. Both men and women are capable of lying about anything and do so daily. To deny that women are capable of the same base behaviors that men are is to deny them an essentially human complexity. I thought that was the sort of thinking that feminism was supposed to debunk.

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-- Amy Blakeley

I cannot thank you enough for publishing Cathy Young's enlightened, timely and tremendously balanced piece about our country's vital but flawed rape shield laws. As a young feminist of the hip-hop generation I have found my opinions on this issue harshly criticized by a lot of my peers even as they loudly preach the rhetoric of equality between the sexes.

Like everyone else who is neither Kobe Bryant nor his accuser, I have no idea what really happened in that hotel room. Like so many other people I have opinions. In the discussions I have participated in about this case and its implications, I have listened to women and men decry the defense's desire to present evidence of this young woman's mental history and sexual activity in the periods directly surrounding the encounter with Bryant. They immediately follow this outrage with a pronouncement of Bryant's obvious guilt because he is such an arrogant basketball player. Few are willing to acknowledge the double standard.

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I have no desire to move back to a time in judicial history when a woman's consensual sex life made acquaintance rape nearly impossible to convict. I too, have no love for the "nuts and sluts" smear campaigns employed to defame victims. I do, however, believe that to move forward we must acknowledge the differences of our era, the greater acknowledgement and acceptance of female sexuality, the assumed prevalance of premarital sex, and the unfortunate reality that there are women who bring false rape charges for all kinds of reasons.

-- Wenona Daniel

I'm a self-described feminist who worked at a sheriff's department for two years. Women file false reports of rape more often than people realize, with varying motives, including revenge, mental illness, or to provide an alibi for adultery. Most bogus claims are ferreted out at the investigative level and never make it to a hearing. Just ask conservative pundit Tucker Carlson, accused of rape by a woman he'd never even met.

I empathize with rape victims. Thirty years ago, a stranger raped my mother at knifepoint. He was apprehended but she was traumatized, refused to testify, and the case was dropped. Her attacker went free, a risk we face if we allow aggressive and humiliating questioning of accusers. This is a worthwhile risk if it prevents ruining the life of an innocent man and his family. People forget that due process laws were not established to protect "criminals," but rather to prevent the convictions of individuals falsely accused of crimes.

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We must not shield the jury from pertinent facts in order to shield the accuser from emotional distress. Any fact that could instill reasonable doubt, such as an accuser's mental illness or sexual activity that may relate to injuries or motive, must be admitted if the defendant is to receive a fair trial, especially when courts allow the mental state and sexual past of the accused to be introduced to the jury.

-- Christin White


Salon Staff

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