Given the troubles Kelly Chopard and Teenage magazine had recently gone through, we thought it would be a good idea for us to write an advice column for, well, advice columnists. Unlike Dear Kelly, however, where there have been questions about the authenticity of the column, ours is 100% fictional.
Introducing our advice columnist for advice columnists, Cally Dohperk. Cally has never been a teacher and while she has never attended counselling classes, she did watch every episode of Frasier. Over the past 30 years, she hasn’t given any talks to youths, but often leaves comments on Facebook, which she reckons has a lot of youths on it.
Cally would like you to know that she is a real person, but she can’t really provide any evidence of that. However, seeing the amount of fake news going around on Facebook during the US Elections, she doesn’t think it’s a real issue.
I have no one to turn to. My best friend, let’s call her Editor, recommends that I write to you. Please give me your helpful advice. Help me!
I am so miserable. Just one week ago, I was a well-regarded columnist for a prestigious journalistic publication called Teenage magazine and dishing out tough love to teenagers. Now my name is being dragged through the dirt on social media for ‘slut-shaming’.
Here’s what happened. About 2 weeks ago, a girl wrote in to my column asking for help after she was raped by a ‘best boy buddy’. Well, she didn’t explicitly say that she had been raped, but we put it in our headline. She had gone to his apartment for a sleepover and gotten drunk.
The morning after, she realized that they had sex. I mean, you have to agree that was a pretty naive thing to do, right? So I just told her what I thought.
So, okay, my exact words were “you acted like a girl who had been around” and to be “grateful that he wore a condom”, but I’m known for my tough love, which the magazine explained in my introduction.
The next thing I knew, the internet exploded in my face. Social media is disgusted with my ‘victim-blaming’ behaviour. Mothership.sg published a scathing article of every ‘bad’ phrase I wrote. Even AWARE has stepped in and criticized me for my “condescending and unsupportive tone.”
Where did I go wrong? Doesn’t the girl bear some sort of responsibility for failing to protest when the guy made some pretty obvious sexual advances? Urgh, now I have to deal with all these Social Justice Warriors who are throwing terms like consent at me.
I’ve already apologized twice but the internet is still angry. Is there anything I can do to make the internets calm down?
(Not my real name)
Cally: Of course I will help you. You are lucky to have a best friend who knows how to advise you to seek unprofessional help.
It is never a good idea to blame your reader, especially if you believe that she was raped. Besides, I am amazed you were so bold to make her feel as though it was her fault that she had agreed to stay over at the guy’s house. Didn’t you think you might just give everyone reading your column the wrong idea about whose fault it is when rape happens?
When I read the sentence, “I was a well-regarded columnist for a prestigious journalistic publication called Teenage magazine and dishing out tough love to teenagers,” I said, “Oh, oh.” This was not a good start.
At this point you should have guessed that “tough love” doesn’t apply to every teenager, especially not a rape victim, and that social media would go into a huge frenzy. Warning bells should have sounded and you should have packed your bags and left for a cave in Timbuktu. However, I believe you didn’t have a clue.
Worse, everyone reading your column would have gotten the idea that you had no adult supervision. You are the perfect example of why parents should always be careful of what their children read. However, you are naive and somehow didn’t seem to realise what could happen to you when you decided to blame the girl for her behaviour. Most people won’t believe you are so innocent.
I don’t blame the public for thinking you were not a virgin writer. You certainly claimed to have been around for 30 years or so.
I know you think you are a total innocent. Yet I can’t help but wonder how a supposedly seasoned youth counsellor could be so naive?
Don’t you read newspapers, magazines or watch YouTube about SlutWalk or AWARE or the many organisations that have come out against victim blaming, or even read The Pride to understand the kind of stress youths go through today? You are expected to know what happens when a columnist tells a supposed rape victim to be grateful that her assailant wore a condom. Frankly, I understand why many people want to hide your body where it can never be found.
You cannot turn back the clock. You can be grateful that no Internet CSI seem to be able to dig out your personal details, nor even prove that you exist, so there is little fear of needing to fly to Perth.
After this horrendous experience, I expect you will not do anything foolish again.
Editor’s note: This entire column is obviously a satire. The “advice” given to Kelly is written as a replica of the one she gave to the teenage girl. The purpose of this is not to further shame Kelly or Teenage’s editorial team, but to help them understand how their words can really hurt when it’s turned back on them.
Tough love may be called for in some circumstances, but not when it involves a victim of a crime. The impact on Kelly’s column isn’t just on the girl receiving the “advice”, but it also invariably influences other teenagers who might read Kelly’s advice and start judging rape victims as “deserving it”. While we understand Dear Kelly’s style of tough love is part of the magazine’s branding, such editorial needs to be tempered with kindness, especially when your audience is often easily influenced by seeming voices of authority.
We don’t know if Kelly Chopard or the letter writer is real, but many readers of the magazine would think it is. Unlike this column where we made it very clear from the start that it is a satire, it is important for media outlets to exercise a degree of responsibility when it comes to shaping young minds.