Friday, March 30, 2007

Mothers of Color, Pt. 2

A long post for here, but hearing that the judge in Shaquanda Cotton's case (God bless her) thought it better to send her to jail than home with her mother made me think of other times "suitable home" provisions have been used to judge black mothers deficient and prevent them from caring for their children.

In 1960, southern states were embroiled in a fight against H.R. 8601, a bill "to enforce constitutional rights and for other purposes." It was, according to Senator Allen Ellender of Louisiana, a "nefarious bill" designed to make "a political whipping boy out of the South."

H.R. 8601 was, of course, civil rights legislation, prompted in part by reports from the DOJ's Civil Rights Commission. The Commission had been created by the 1957 Civil Rights Act and was charged with investigating and ameliorating the disfranchisement of black voters in the South. But between 1957 and 1960, very little changed about the racial makeup of southern voters. In Louisiana, the establishment of the commission didn't even make a dent in the Citizens' Council's voter cleanup, an effort that began with the purge of over 3000 black residents from the Ouachita Parish rolls and culminated in the purge of 1,377 black voters from the Washington Parish rolls.* Using an arsenal of literacy tests, poll taxes, and good character requirements, a few white citizens of any parish could challenge thousands of black voters.

By 1960, Louisiana politicians were ready to find a new way to discourage civil rights' agitation. The good character requirements for voter eligibility were also used in the system of social services. Welfare was an effective tool for attacking the black population. By 1960, despite white protest and a growing vilification of black single mothers, 66% of approximately 100,000 ADC recipients in Louisiana were black.

In talking about why such a vilification was possible and why the state's poorest mothers seemed a prime target for political backlash requires mention (again :-) of the construction of our system of social provision as a two-tier system with welfare relegated to the "less honorable" tier. But it also requires acknowledgement of the presumptions about single motherhood in our society. In a study about single mothers and child neglect, Linda Gordon writes
single mothers are consistently overrepresented as neglectful parents... An attempt to understand why single mothers appeared so often negligent illuminates both the historical construction of modern single motherhood and the modern concept of child neglect. In fact, these two social problems were mutually constructed. The very definition of child neglect arose as part of an ideology about proper family life that automatically conceived of single mothers as inadequate parents.
There is a compulsion in American society to punish poor single mothers for their allegedly immoral behavior. According to Gwendolyn Mink, welfare served two primary functions initially: to allow poor single mothers to stay home with their children and, since their single parenthood was based on some flaw within the women themselves, to reform and instill morals in these women. Americans abandoned that first function and now seek only to reform single mothers and to either link them with a man or a job to make them more acceptable. Stringent work requirements, time limitations, and child exclusion provisions all serve to force women into more "appropriate" behavior.

This is the context in which Louisiana politicians acted. The state legislature amended Revised Statute 14:79.1 with Acts number 73 and 75. Act 73 made entering into common law marriage a crime. Act 75 prohibited "conceiving and giving birth to two or more illegitimate children." Violation of Act 75 could result in a $1000 fine and a year in jail. Both laws were specifically targeted at blacks who had higher rates of cohabitation and out-of-wedlock births than whites. The legislature also amended the State Constitution, through Act 613, to strengthen the good character and literacy requirement of voting laws. These acts worked together to circumvent the repeal of poll taxes and new restrictions on white challenges of black voters.

Individuals guilty of defying Act 73 or 75, whether criminally charged or not, were considered not of good character, and thus, ineligible to vote. But Acts 73 and 75 worked in another, more immediately harmful manner. Louisiana was a strong supporter of "suitable home" guidelines for ADC recipients, rules that required caretakers to provide a home that met predetermined standards before the state would grant assistance. The passage of Acts 73 and 75 led to changes in the laws regulating welfare. Act 251 amended Louisiana Revised Statute 46:233:

In no instance shall assistance be granted to any person who is living with his or her mother if the mother has had an illegitimate child after a check has been received from the welfare department, unless and until proof satisfactory to the parish board of public welfare has been presented showing that the mother has ceased illicit relationships and is maintaining a suitable home for the child or children.
In one paragraph, Louisiana had laid the groundwork to deny thousands of children aid to meet their most basic needs.

Louisiana legislators and welfare administrators went to work immediately to implement Act 251. 5,991 families were notified by letter in July that, as of August, they would no longer receive ADC because they had failed to provide a suitable home for their children. The letters failed to mention any means of appeal. Further efforts led to the termination of 290 more cases. These 6,281 families included 23,459 children. 95% of these children were black.***

To borrow an argument from Mink, the way in which Louisiana's suitable home laws were enforced further undermined political equality-guaranteed by the Constitution and legislation-because it erased social equality-afforded by some degree of economic independence.**** The state removed the only source of income from thousands of Black families, forcing their focus to shift from civil and political rights to sheer survival.

I'll rush ahead to note that Louisiana lost the battle--by October 1960, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare stepped in to effectively void suitable home laws everywhere. But, according to Levenstein, Louisiana won the "war" over how welfare and poor black mothers would be perceived, as undeserved, paltry handouts to "brood sows" and "welfare queens." The shift in public opinion led to the destruction of our safety net.

For mothers of color, beyond the violation of political and economic rights, this was an attack on more intimate rights: sexual practices, childbearing, and caring for our children. The devaluation of our motherwork is compounded by the continual need to defend ourselves as mothers.


*Adam Fairclough, Race and Democracy: The Civil Rights Struggle in Louisiana, 1915-1972. The latter would result in a suit brought by the DOJ.
**Persuaded is an apt word--in its first years, the Commission had to be poked and prodded--knowing the challenge southern politicians would mount, they only wanted to accept airtight cases.
***Bell, Winifred. Aid to Dependent Children; Levenstein, Lisa. "From Innocent Children to Unwanted Migrants and Unwed Moms: Two Chapters in Public Discourse on Welfare in the United States 1960-1961;" Lindhorst, Taaryn and Leslie Leighninger. " `Ending Welfare as We Know It' in 1960: Louisiana's Suitable Home Law."
****Mink, Gwendolyn. Welfare's End.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Breaking Down

Okay, today was a bad day, made worse by the fact that there was no exact reason for it to be bad. My advisor told me she liked what she was reading and made some preliminary suggestions that included small things like "you have to use the date as well as the volume and issue when you cite articles." No, "elle, this is the worst thing ever!" I found out that I could bring some of the government docs from my university home, saving time and money. My car interior finally dried out from its shampooing and it was well worth the money.
And on and on.

And still, I felt out of sorts.

Then one of my students, a fresh-faced boy with a nice smile, came to my office after class to tell me he might miss an upcoming quiz. I had my generic look of disbelief pasted on and then he said:

"Because I got called back to active duty and I have a screening that day."

My jaw dropped. "Oh no," I said. "If you've been once-"

"That's the way it works ma'am," he told me.

At which point, my eyes filled and I shook my head. "But it's not fair," I said.

Of course, he tried to comfort me. "It's okay." he said. Then he smiled and tried to make a joke: "I'm going to try to get out of it."

When I didn't visibly "cheer up," he added, "And if have to go, it won't be until the fall, so I can finish the class."

That damned class was the last thing on my mind but I told him, quite feebly, "You'll be excused from whatever."

I know some people will be horrified, but I don't care that that kid saw me get emotional for a minute. All I could think was, My God, what if he doesn't come back?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

I want to say something...

...really. But I'm treading water. Update soon.

In the meantime, describe what's going on in your life. I'd like the sweet reminders of what life outside a library is like.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

On the Dissertation

The overdue update:

Last Monday, I submitted the first draft of it, sans conclusion, to my advisor.

Made some corrections, tightened up my notes, and submitted it to my labor history prof on Tuesday. He's not on my committee, but advisor wants him to be.

Made more corrections, expanded the intro (per some early suggestions from advisor) and fed-exed it to my outside reader Thursday evening.

Spent Thursday night and all day Friday going through microfilm from the Amalgamated Meatcutters and Butcher Workmen. Discovered the local I'm studying had a ba-a-a-d reputation in the 1970s for not responding to the members and that there may have been a strike at my plant.

Per advisor's request, sent her the new-and-improved intro.

And now, my biggest problem is time. I had to make myself stop writing/revising yesterday because I'm supposed to be grading. Prof gave an exam the Thursday before spring break and commented that we could use spring break to grade. I told him that wouldn't be happening, so he gave us an extra weekend--exams due back Tuesday and I am way behind on grading.

Also, I can't gloss over a strike at "my" plant, but the microfilm ends without details of whether or not it actually occurred, the town's newspaper does not exist on microfilm, so I'd have to make a trip back to the cold, scary newspaper morgue to dig there, and I've been able to find only one extant copy of the local's newsletter for the 1970s. My point--I'm sure more info exists, but I don't have the time to find it. Labor prof has been telling me (because I'm freaked about a few other loose ends), "Save it for the book!" But that's hard for me.

And revisions, time wise--Advisor promised to have it back next week. I have every intention of getting it revised (again) before Easter, but then it goes to my whole committee. What if they have a million suggestions? I have to defend by the end of April to graduate in May!

On the other hand, I've been thinking--this is the last semester for which I'm eligible for a TAship. And, I'm not sure I have financial aid available for the summer (though, I suppose my dad, all grumbly and mumbly, would help me pay in the summer, if I needed to). I have no summer job (though I might teach a class at my MA university or do the little thing through the state of Louisiana that I did last summer--still, no news on either possibility, yet).

So, for financial reasons, I do need to graduate. Badly. Advisor says it is possible--difficult, but possible. But, I work exceedingly well under pressure--open-ended deadlines and meandering on my own time have gotten me into this situation. Knowing that I have to do some things has me writing and reading my ass off. I won't have any more grading to do until May and my fellow TAs and prof are all very encouraging and supportive.

If anyone wants to help me work out a mental timeline...

Friday, March 23, 2007

A Duh Moment


I was thinking about your little pic of Jem, which got me to singing the theme song. So, my brain is going, "Whoa-o-o Jem (Jem) is truly outrageous, truly, truly, truly outrageous. Jem and the Holograms..."


Truly Outrageous.


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Y'all Ain't Ready!

I knew I was forgetting to mention something. This is James Anderson. Check him out:


Oklahoma State signee James Anderson finished off an outstanding high school career in spectacular fashion in leading his Junction City High School team to the Arkansas Class 2A state championship. The 6-6 Anderson was named the game’s MVP after scoring 43 points in leading Junction City to a 68-35 victory over Jessieville on Thursday night in Hot Springs, Ark.
He's a McDonald's All-American.

And guess who taught him in fifth grade?

Yep, this is one of my kids!!!! And he is a sweetheart. He was bright and shy and, to borrow a phrase from my grandma, very mannerable.

I am so proud of him.

Stuff I Did on Spring Break, pt. 1

Well, you knew I didn't spend all my time writing! Images from Best Friend LA's baby shower (I'm going to call her "V").

The table by the doorway with the game booklets, prizes, and favor bags.

The fireplace in the town's civic clubhouse where we had it--it's on a national register of historic places.

Some of her gifts.

A darling "diaper cake" from our friend, Dee. Yes, those are rolled up pampers.

V and my cousin, Trinity (who calls herself my "real" sister :-)

Trinity and our cousin, Bridgitte.

Beginning of the good part--Dee, Trinity, and I made all the food except the cake. Turtles in the back. Strawberries (which V requested pints and pints of) in the front with a cream cheese dip. A rotel/ground beef/velveeta/taco seasoning combo in the Crockpot.

Dee's famous fried chicken. Trinity's chicken salad sandwiches. My white-or-milk-chocolate dipped, almond-pecan-or-coconut dusted strawberries.

Dee's babrbecued wings. My deviled eggs and hot ham & cheese sandwiches with spinach/cream cheese spread.

Dee's meat and cheese tray. Yes, she took the time to do all that rolling and stuff.

More of my spring break activities to come.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Mothers of Color

I really did have my head buried in the sand over the last couple of weeks. I was horrified to come back and read news on some of my favorite blogs of the New Bedford, MA, raid, conducted by Immigration and Customs, that separated children and families. BfP has video here and asks again why feminists' definition of reproductive justice is based so narrowly on access to contraception and abortion. One question she asks:
I mean, does it not count as reproductive issues that a woman’s breasts become engorged and possibly infected with mastis because she stops breast feeding so quickly?
BfP also brings up the silence of mainstream (white) feminists blogs on the raid, a thread Sylvia and BlackAmazon pick up quite fiercely here and here.

The name of BfP's post is "Do Immigrant Women Count as Women?" My answer was an immediate no--not to the employers who insist on defining them solely as employees and an exploitable workforce; not to the government officials who think it is okay to rip them away from their children, not to the general U.S. public that think of them as lawbreakers out to rob the country--of what, I don't know. But it would seem that immigrant women may not even count as women to those whose politics and/or life work is supposedly centered around women!

That federal officials could do this, then defend their actions, I think, lies in the fact that women of color don't count as mothers, either. A discourse has developed in this country to support stealing our children away from us that attacks us as immoral, "illegal," or uneducated. I see this raid on a historical continuum with black children sold away from their mothers and Native children forced into "Indian schools" so they could be "properly" Christianized and Americanized. In fact, Americanizers of the late 19th/early 20th century spent inordinate amounts of time threatening to take immigrant children from their parents, telling immigrant mothers how their methods of child-rearing were substandard to those of more WASP-y Americans, probably as much time as 20th century welfare critics spent convincing themselves that poor black women did not really love or want their children--they only had them to get more out of the system--and as much time as 21st century anti-immigration proponents spend convincing themselves that Latinas don't really love or want their children--they just want anchor babies.

At the same time all these theories hurt our children, they hurt us, too. They justify the exploitation of our labor--it's okay if we work long hours in dangerous jobs; our children don't really need us. They justify the exploitation of our bodies--after all we're manipulative women not above using them for material gain. They justify the continual denial of the most basic rights to us. BfP is right--we should be angry.

The Mira Coalition on how to help.

I'm Back...

...and finished. :-)

More later.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Hello, Darlings!

I've always wanted to say that--a desire rooted somewhere in my illusions (or is it delusions) of grandeur.

The revising/writing is proceeding, though the introduction is troublesome.

And I'm apparently vying for the "shortest dissertation of the year" award. In defense of my brevity, I must say that there is some good stuff in there. Plus, I'm feeling good about it--I'd forgotten that my advisor had gone over some chapters 3 times with me, so some of them only needed a few changes before I could submit for more feedback.

Anyway, two chapters and the rest of the intro to go. Thanks for all the well-wishes!

Friday, March 09, 2007

Dissertation Update

I'm off to basically hibernate. The first full draft of my dissertation (minus conclusion) is due MARCH 16TH!! Well, I could stretch it to March 19th, as I'll be out of town, but the 16th is the date for the first round of revisions and a butchered intro (cuz trust me, that's what it will be).

I don't think it's fully hit me yet--I've been revising and some of the chapters are in okay shape. But the notes and the bibliography (the bibliography stops at chapter 3!!) and the chapters 2 and 4 (damned even numbers): aargh!!! My plan is to take a chapter a day over the next week and look at it more. The end of the day means move on. That's the hardest thing for me--letting go.

If I plan to graduate in May, all my ducks have to be in a row (defense done, dissertation submitted) by May 4.

Keep reminding me that it doesn't have to be perfect, that I actually need feedback (I hate getting backed the damned marked up papers!!), and that I can conceivably do this. Well, Texter and Sharonica, we can do this.

I leave for Louisiana this afternoon and I'll be spending most of the week in my dad's room (much to his dismay). None of the distractions of my own room, not as bright as the kitchen (I can't work in a lot of light), and people are more hesitant to come in there.

Prayers, good vibes, powerful thoughts--send 'em out.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Options (and Way Too Many Questions) on Unionization

crossposted at Progressive Historians

Because Ragey asked for an update, here is an issue I'm struggling with in writing the conclusion to my chapter four, and to the dissertation. A more informative update shortly!

This morning, I received an H-net e-mail that had the following phrase in the subject: "Non-Union Forms of Employee Representation." Because of the labor history class, I've been thinking about such things. U.S. union membership is perilously low and unions are troubled by a persistent association of corruption with unionism, a culture that prizes the individual over the collective, and the nature of U.S. capitalism.

The primary question on my mind is, are unions still viable vehicles for employee representation? Neither Sweeney's 1995 ascension to AFL-CIO leadership nor all the promises of change-to-come have sparked mass organization. Is it time for a new dominant form of organization?

A recurrent critique I've read/heard of unions attributes much of union membership decline to exclusionary practices. From the early years of exclusion based on race, gender, and skill-levels to the AFL-CIO's current uncertainty over whether or not to organize undocumented immigrants, organized labor in the U.S. has always seemed to "miss" significant numbers of laborers. In Hard Work, Fantasia and Voss noted that at the moment U.S. labor was becoming more diverse (because of immigration at the end of the 19th/beginning of the 20th century), organized labor, with its focus on craft unionism and its racist policies was becoming more exclusionary.

Unions are also critiqued for their lack of "broadness" in at least two ways. First, they focused almost exclusively on workplace issues and were hesitant to take the lead in the social justice struggles of some of their more marginalized members. Even in unions known for such activities--notably UCAPAWA, its later incarnation, the Food, Tobacco, and Allied Workers, and the UAW--officials often withdrew support or dispersed "radicals." Within the poultry industry, when a coalition of civil rights and labor organizations formed the Committee for Justice in Mississippi to fight for workers' rights, the ICWU "pulled the rug out from under the coalition."* Secondly, they have never been able to formulate a "plan" for class-based struggle or foster class-consciousness--from some studies, it would appear that union leaders, like most Americans were/are loathe to even acknowledge the existence of a poor working class. As my professor says, if asked, all Americans claim middle class status.

While I tend to agree with the criticisms outlined above, I also see the validity in the arguments of scholars who assert that exclusion and the narrow focus of unions have not been top-down phenomena. In other words, workers have prioritized parts of their identities over their economic class and have often not wanted a broader-based movement or a movement that transcended these identies. Alan Draper wrote of the white southern union men who viciously attacked union leaders who pushed for civil rights. Women, according to Dorothy Sue Cobble, feared the loss of autonomy and focus on issues relevant to them if they joined with men in union locals. F. Ray Marshall (and more recent works) recorded a similar hesitance on the part of black unionists. Herbert Hill wrote that the AFL from its inception, with Samuel Gompers as president, was virulently anti-Asian, thus it is no wonder that Chinese, Japanese, and initially, Filipino cannery workers organized themselves based on other (e.g. ethnic, community) forms of solidarity.** I do not mean that the reasons for segregation and union exclusion are acceptable to me, but how marginalized workers coped--by fashioning something uniquely their own--is admirable.

There are also the reasons for union decline that I do not fully engage--the disappearance of heavily unionized jobs, the effects of technology, and globalization (i.e. capital's mobility vs. labor's relative lack of mobility) and the reasons I have mentioned before--the power of employers, the failure of the U.S. government to intervene on workers' behalf. All together, these create a pretty dismal picture for unions. Can they be reinvigorated and learn to effectively use grassroots techniques? Will the Employee Free Choice Act be enough? Can unions effectively reach a diverse workforce?

Of course, if the answers are no, my next question would have to be, what does organized labor without unions look like? I, for one, cannot fully imagine it. I interviewed the executive secretary of the Georgia Poultry Justice Alliance for my dissertation, and while she was proud of the work the PJAs have done, she insisted that unions were still the best options for employees who wanted to engage in collective action to improve their working conditions and quality of life. And workers' committees and the like seem to be a product of an anti-union nation.

What are the alternatives? Do we need them?

*See Vicki Ruiz, Cannery Women, Cannery Lives: Mexican Women, Unionization, and the California Food Processing Industry, 1930-1950 on how Latinas were pushed out of union leadership; Robert Korstad and Nelson Lichtenstein, "Opportunities Found and Lost: Labor, Radicals, and the Early Civil Rights Movement ," Journal of American History, 75, no. 3: 786-811 and Ken Lawrence and Anne Braden, "The Long Struggle," Southern Exposure, November/December 1983: 85-89. Marion Crain and Ken Matheny maintain that unions marginalized themselves by helping shaping labor law in a way that "social justice issues were severed from class issues," Labor's Identity Crisis, California Law Review, 89, no.6 (2001): 1767-1846.
**Hill, "Anti-Oriental Agitation and the Rise of Working-Class Racism," Society, 10 (January/February 1973); Chris Friday, Organizing Asian American Labor: The Pacific Coast Canned-Salmon Industry, 1870-1942.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


Situation #1: My son is home today with a sinus infection. He's milking that for all it's worth.

Situation #2: My sister and I are on the outs--- a child-rearing disagreement. Her son cried for an hour last night because he wanted to sleep with her. Cried until he threw up. And, because she stripped his bed and didn't feel like re-making it (which I understand), he got to sleep with her.

And I told her, "You could've just done that in the first place if you were going to let him."

Much attitude and hot words ensued. The thing is, I don't care if her son sleeps with her or not. The issue at hand is that my parents and I have told her and she has said herself that he cries to get his way. Tell him no, and the tears come. Reprimand him for something, and the pout and miniature attitude come.

That shit pisses me off. It is manipulation--I'm going to cry until you give me what I want. I don't think it should be reinforced. Yes, I know it's not my kid, but I have to live with him and am expected to discipline him.

Her argument is that I'm hard-hearted because the tears don't move me. And I wonder myself sometimes if I am. I'm far from perfect; I don't 100% of the time stick to "no," but typically, when I tell my son he is not going to do something, I mean it. No amount of tears and begging change my mind. For that reason, my son is more likely to try the "being an angel route" to sway me.

So anyway, that is the latest dilemma at chez elle. What's going on with y'all?

Friday, March 02, 2007

Blogging Historians...

Quinn, Kristen, and anyone else that I'm an un-purposely not mentioning right now...
Progressive Historians wants you! The truncated call from Nonpartisan:
It's my goal to build this site into not just a platform for a few specific writers, but a clearinghouse for the history blogosphere at large. So far, most of our diarists and front-page bloggers have come from the left-wing political blogosphere. They've been excellent contributors and have built this site into what it is today -- one of the fastest-growing history blogs on the Net, with a readership that's tripled over the past four months to three hundred hits and 1,000-2,000 pageviews a day. But there are also a whole lot of just plain history bloggers out there whose writing would fit in wonderfully with the content and mission of this site...

Do you have to give up posting on your own blog to post here? Absolutely not -- cross-posting is welcome and encouraged. Do you have to be liberal or even political as a blogger? No -- non-political pieces are completely welcome here, as are pieces by conservatives (just be aware that you're in for an intellectually-rigorous but polite grilling).
I love the site--I try to crosspost often. Progressive Historians actually inspired my post on becoming a labor historian and how historical interpretations shape my feminism.

So, if you ever get time...

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Becoming Part of the Fabric They Wove

"I hope that [my answer] is a reasonably satisfactory one, but I shall be enormously surprised— and greatly disappointed—if I am not shown to be wrong on some matters." (In his book, White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812)

“I have lived through interesting times and had the luck of knowing some interesting people.”

“The ancients did not fall into the error of biological racism; black skin color was not a sign of inferiority"
H/T Kai and Rebecca G. at Cliopatria.

Carnival Time!!

First up, the 49th edition of the History Carnival, at History is Elementary, including a post about my inimitable Soror, Barbara Jordan at Disability Studies, Temple U.:
In 1966, she became the first African-American woman to serve in the Texas Senate. She started her term in Congress in 1973--the same year she learned that she had multiple sclerosis. Important moments in her career included her service on the House Judiciary Committee, where she made a memorable televised speech in favor of Nixon's impeachment (audio and text available here), and her keynote address to the 1976 Democratic Convention. titled "Who, then, will speak for the common good?" (audio and text available here).
And I'm glad my school isn't on this list of "[A] Dozen or More Doctoral Programs in History that Ought to be Shut Down." Ouch.

The Carnival Against Sexual Violence is up at abyss2hope. The myths about sexual assault by Rekha Basu posted at HOLLY'S FIGHT TO STOP VIOLENCE reveals "how the myths about sexual assault impact laws and justice for sexual assault victims." Excerpts:
That gives lie to the biggest myth about sexual assault: of the stranger jumping out of the bushes. While that may be the most common media image, the vast majority of sexual assaults are by people known to their victims.

Here are two more myths: That famous, rich or good-looking men would have plenty of access to consensual sex, so they don't need to rape. That presumption has worked against the victims of rape by sports icons.

And a particularly ugly one: That rapes are likely to be of white women by black men. In fact, the overwhelming majority of rapes are committed by someone of the same race.

Recent reporting on the Duke lacrosse case, including a "60 Minutes" segment, also gives the impression that the prosecution's case fell apart because the victim recanted the allegation (and therefore that it didn't happen). But she didn't recant about being assaulted. Only one charge, of rape, was dropped. Two others remain: first-degree sexual offense (also a Class B felony) and kidnapping. Those are still awaiting trial.

As to why the rape charge was withdrawn, instead of blaming the victim, you could blame the limitations of North Carolina law, which limits its definition of rape to penile-vaginal penetration... the woman was not certain whether a male organ or some other object had been used against her.
Finally, this isn't carnival related, but since I'm pointing you towards reading material, please, please, PLEASE do yourself a favor and read Quaker Dave. Just read him!
Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...