Wednesday, September 30, 2009

In Other Sad Rape News: Mackenzie Phillips

[Trigger warning.]

Last week, I heard some news that I'd describe as soul-crushing, to the extent that it just kind of makes me sad to be alive in a world where things like this happen.

Mackenzie Phillips--a child star with an infamously drug-addled adolescence--reveals in a new book that she was raped by her father, musician John Phillips of The Mamas and the Papas, and that the relationship became what she calls consensual later, ending when Mackenzie Phillips terminated a pregnancy and determined that she "would never let him touch her again."

The American media rushed to sensationalize this horror show, recalling the same issues of using the word "sex" to describe what was clearly, in at least one instance identified by Mackenzie Phillips herself as rape (see Liz's post from yesterday for a great example from the Roman Polanski coverage). For more on the shoddy coverage, see this Shakesville thread [trigger warning]. In addition to this typically ridiculous coverage, I've seen some familiar victim-blaming: She consented later, she's a junkie, she just wants attention, she shouldn't have brought it up.

All of this is depressing as hell, and really hard to talk about. I briefly tried to describe my reactions to Liz last week, and utterly failed. I've been following the story closely, though, and always leave humbled and somber. There is a lot left to be answered here, like whether consent is relevant in a case that Mackenzie calls a "betrayal" and an abuse of power, whether she could have ever really consented in a situation this rife with abuse and confusion. I'm grateful that Sady of Tiger Beatdown attempted to make heads or tails of this case with a recent post. Reading her discussion provides solidarity for those wading in the confusion and tragedy of this situation.

I know Mackenzie Phillips from two roles: the teenage tag-along in American Grafitti and the rockstar mom in So Weird. Her fucked up childhood, during which her Dad gave her hard drugs from the time she was a pre-teen, has been well documented. I remember when I watched The Disney Channel's So Weird as a kid, my mom told me the story of Mackenzie Phillips' childhood, and how she hoped Phillips' role on the show meant that she was off drugs for good. Until I heard Phillips' new claims, I was sad enough for her drug-doomed life.

Well, here's hoping future media coverage is more fair about rape, and that Phillips' story brings the dark problems of incest and rape to light, and eventually to prevention. It's a tall order.

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