Monday, August 6, 2007

Semantics, Anyone?

I wasn’t surprised when I saw that the reporter who said Michael Vick “would have been better off raping a woman” was from Pittsburgh, but I was disappointed. The Post-Gazette’s Paul Zeise, who did express regret for “the poor choice of analogies (he) used to characterize a professional athlete's legal situation," does appear to have slipped up.

Granted, his choice of the words “better off” was dreadful. But of all the crimes Zeise could have used in constructing his metaphor -- stealing cars, selling drugs, aiding and abetting – he chose sexual assault. Now, had his point been to lament the prevalence of rape or the degree to which offenders fail to be prosecuted, his comments may have been defensible. The sad day to which he refers, however, appears to have nothing to do with the safety of women. It is a day in which the career of a spectacular athlete can be interrupted by the investigation of crimes that may be arguably less disgusting than other heinous crimes.

My opinion is that, as a media professional, Zeise accepts responsibility for his words. His expertise is expression. And his expression this time was utterly wrong. I’m not saying the guy can’t make mistakes. But whatever was behind Zeise’s choice of words, the statement that hit the airwaves was offensive and did communicate a negative message. So I think the situation, with its retraction, apology, and minor punishment, went pretty much as was appropriate.

Deadspin pretty much agrees.

Mike Gallagher of, however, calls the Post-Gazette “spineless” for issuing a retraction.

And Antirust at doesn’t understand what was so offensive about Zeise’s remarks.

What do you ladies think?


  1. using rape as an example was the wrong thing for many different reasons no matter what his intentions were.

    it's like using the N word and then wondering why a lot of people became upset and did not even stop to ponder what was or may have been meant by the usage.

    it is a word loaded with emotion and way too familiar to many who have been touched in some way.

    there are also way too many examples of "important" men, especially atheletes that are automatically defended by fans.
    remember mike tyson? his fans prodded by his pr machine were sure that the young lady he was accused of raping in his hotel room was some sort of star f***er
    or looking for money. then they villified his wife when she accused him of flying into rages and beating her.

    that's just 1 example of many going all the way back to high schools giving the benifit of doubt to the jocks no matter what they did or didn't do.

    ( a rare thing, the duke lacrosse case)

    he could have just used,"rob a bank" but no, he didn't and i doubt he had anything nearing a concern for the way rape victums are treated.

    i could be wrong so i'll give him the benefit of the doubt and take that last bit back.

  2. Are you kidding me? These guys are actually upset that Vick's crime isn't accorded its proper place in the hierarchy of athletic crimes? Seriously? They are complaining that rapists get off easier than animal sadists?

    Let us all remember that here in Pgh our very own Steelers protectes Santonio Holmes from domestic abuse charges. Yes, I know she "dropped" the charges. Shocking.

    Zeise and Gallagher can split hairs all they want. The NFL shouldn't want to harbor either rapists or animal abusers. Period.

    Instead of whining about the unfairness of it all, it would be nice to see Zeise and Gallagher deconstruct a system that produces these thuggish brutes in the name of faster, higher, longer, bigger, etc.

    I doubt the Steeler Nation could handle that kind of introspection.

  3. they just had a segment on msnbc about zeise. funny how many different ways people took his comments to mean.

    he got himself more publicity than he ever dreamed.

    now, i'm curious to see just where that leads.

  4. Ew. Went looking for that MSNBC spot, Sherry, and found this.

    This entire discussion is getting disturbing. Where it's going looks ugly.

  5. hi, yes, it is ugly but it shines a light on it for men and women not old enough to remember the bad old days when even more rapes were hidden if at all possible because the blame the shame and the burden was almost always on the woman.
    just as in backstreet abortions, when a death did hit the papers, many people aloud or to themselves blamed the girl or woman for their own deaths(wages of sin and all that crap)
    yes, it's getting ugly and i hope perhaps THIS time more people see that the old days and ways were sad and sick and immoral and dehumanizing.

  6. If Paul Zeisse is sincere about his "mea culpa," perhaps he should consider doing contributing some serious volunteer time at Pittsburgh Action Against Rape. Obviously, he's never dated a woman who's been raped or, apparently, had rape violate anybody in his life. His statement was very telling about his capacity for compassion toward defenseless humans AND animals. There's no

  7. More men than I care to think about value their sports entertainment more than the women/animals that these entertainers torture/abuse/kill.

    It is clear from Zeise's statement that his concern is more with athletes being allowed to play and less with the victims of those athletes, human or not. If the victim had been a human male, he probably would care more. In that Zeise is no different from most men, just stupid enough to make his abhorrent views public knowledge.

  8. Disclaimer: I didn't see the journalist's comments in context. I only know the short version.

    And with that short version I agree: Michael Vick would have been better off being accused of rape. Rape allegations against athletes are viewed with suspicion heightened even further above normal rape accusations, and the victims rarely prevail.

    In contrast, it seems likely Vick will be forced to plea guilty and will suffer sanctions from the NFL. When's the last time that happened to an athlete accused of rape?

    I don't see the journalist's comments being per se sexist. Rather, they reflect the sad "conventional wisdom" that dog fighting is a deeply immoral crime, while rape is a he-said-she-said dispute among likely-consensual sexual partners.

  9. I don't see the journalist's comments being per se sexist. Rather, they reflect the sad "conventional wisdom" that dog fighting is a deeply immoral crime, while rape is a he-said-she-said dispute among likely-consensual sexual partners.

    He did not say that Vick would be better off being accused of rape, he said Vick would be better off raping a woman. In Zeise's worldview the woman he advocates being raped is less important in the grand scheme of things than Vick being allowed to play.

    Also questionable is the idea that "rape is a he-said-she-said dispute among likely-consensual sexual partners" is conventional wisdom. Just because people use that excuse (to let men off when they rape) doesn't mean that they really believe it.

    We could just as easily assume that the men who instituted sharia law really believe that 4 male witnesses are necessary because women lie about rape. No, Sharia law exists to make it easier for men to get away with raping women as often as men want to allow it. Just as the overused defense of consent in modern courts exists to allow men to to get away with raping women as often as men want to allow it.