I’ve seen this question posed in different ways and different places and the question has always been answered (by male and female writers) in the affirmative. Women not only have maternal instincts, so conventional wisdom goes, but they also are more attuned to the possibility of sexual assault. I think this is bullshit, and that the real problem is society’s deference to power and (in the case of college and pro football scandals) its love of jocks and sporting events.
So I was prepared to dislike this piece in the Washington Post by Melinda Hellenberger because I assumed it would be so much received wisdom on the matter. Much to my surprise, she pretty much nails it:
It was Joe Pa’s wife, Sue Paterno, who reportedly pressured Triponey to go easy on one of the players in trouble. And it was Sandusky’s wife, Dottie Sandusky, who testified that she never heard or saw a thing while her husband’s victims were being assaulted — and screaming for help, one of them said — in her basement while she was home.
Some of the angriest e-mails I received after reporting on the Sandusky trial were from female Penn State fans, staunchly defending the school’s handling of the matter even after he was found guilty on 45 counts, in cases involving 10 boys over 15 years.
And I can’t say I was surprised. In reporting on the way my own alma mater, the University of Notre Dame, has handled reports of sexual assaults, I never detected any gender divide in the wagon-circling of administrators and trustees, which was definitely a coed event.
Then there was the football scandal at Colorado University a few years back. When players there were accused, and not for the first time, of setting recruits up to rape drunk women, the response of the school’s female president, Elizabeth Hoffman, was to support the athletic director and football coach in denying there was a problem.
Having attended football powerhouse University of Nebraska, I witnessed firsthand how much football players are coddled and pampered and allowed to be jerks, even when they break the law in numerous ways. And the women did it just as much as the men, if not more so when they were in the actual presence of a player or coach.
Hellenberger’s piece (“Would more women at the top at Penn State have stopped Sandusky sooner?”) can be found here.
Oh, and I think it’s crossed the line into pathological for the people who are still defending good old Joe PA. He deserves whatever notoriety has followed him to his grave. Not protecting children is just about the worst thing you can do to protect your job and high social status.