Thursday, 9 December 2010

Political crying rape?

Ok, something that's bugging me (and my friend Captain Bitchface) today is the whole Julian Assange case.
Now, many other bloggers have already covered this issue, and I'm reading through them, but one thing strikes me that hasn't come up yet.

Most of the stuff I'd read before today was suggesting, hinting, if not downright accusing the USA government of trumping up these charges in order to slam the prominent whistle-blower. Now that's disturbing.

Let me just say, for the record, that I have no idea if this guy is a rapist or not. I do not know if these charges are true or not, and for the purposes of this article, I don't care: either way, we lose.

If he's guilty, then the amount of liberal support that he's been getting is... frankly concerning. It's as if we're happy to sweep the whole sex-crimes issue under the carpet for people we like... Look at how different, and yet how similar, this is to the Polanski case.
How fucked up are we as a society that we immediately jump to the defence of sexual offenders (sorry, those accused of sexual offences) based on whether we admire their politics or art? That we believe "oh, he's a nice person, he can't possibly be a rapist"... NEWS FLASH: Criminals do not always look like criminals. They are not required to carry neon signs stating as much. Rape does not become irrelevant just because you are otherwise a good person. You don't get a free pass.

If he's innocent, on the other hand, that still is not a win. Because that means that the US government has just equated rape with the non payment of income tax. It means that sex crimes in the US are treated with such blase disdain, that they are happy to throw around false accusations of it - adding to the growing pile of "evidence" that keeps getting trotted out to suggest that women always lie about rape, especially for revenge, or when they have something to gain by it. Thank you US government! For doing exactly what women all over the world keep getting disproportionately accused of! This blogger has it right on two points (though the rest of the article... hmm... no.); when he says:

The tabloid press creates an impression, by sensationalising the trials of those few women who make proveably-false fake rape claims, that lying about rape is a common thing. It isn’t, and the impression that lying about rape is common hurts rape victims and poisons the discourse about the whole subject.


It utterly demeans the ordeal of women who are actually the victims of sex crime. And it’s a cold and cynical way of exploiting the horror that sex crime understandably provokes in the eyes of bystanders to silence someone...

Even if it's just, as a friend of mine put it, "suspicious timing", it's still enough to muddy the waters over questions of consent, ideas surrounding rape, and it's horrendously insulting and disingenuous to women everywhere that consideration of their rights to bodily autonomy have been dismissed and ignored as not-as-important as consideration of the sacred right to Freedom of Speech. Let's not fool ourselves that this would have played out exactly the same were this not so high-profile a defendant. The case would not be pursued with the vigour it has been - which suggests that rape is not enough to bother with in and of itself, but when it's someone that the US government wants silenced it provides a convenient excuse. The experience of these women has been co-opted in order to serve someone else's political ends.

The US government is behaving despicably. They've been caught with their pants around their ankles and now they're crying rape, and pushing women everywhere under a bus because of it. Charming.

I hope that this wont cause problems for the two women specifically involved. I hope that the trial doesn't get polluted by all the politics, and these women, and Assange, actually get the justice that they all deserve. God knows the USG won't.

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