Thursday, January 06, 2011

Let's Crucify the Rape Survivors

Naomi Wolf does it again. This time she has written an article in the Guardian calling for a forced outing of the accusers of Julian Assange using the stigma attached to sexual assault survivors as the reason for doing so. While there are some valid points to Wolf's argument, for instance that not identifying survivors feeds into the rape myths about how sexual assault/rape survivors should look like, act, be, et cetera, she seems to completely neglect the other side of the argument, that sexual assault/rape survivors should not be involuntarily outed because they need to be protected against, say, the mob. Instead Wolf talks about taking moral responsibility, facing the accuser and changing the perception of rape as a crime.

The real issue, however, becomes quite clear when Wolf starts talking about Assange and him being dragged before the public eye and voicing worries about this case, because of geopolitical tensions, standing little chance of actually being free and fair. These worries are very valid, and a lot of people who call against rape trivialisation are worried about exactly the same thing. There is little doubt in most people's minds that this is a politically precarious situation where the Swedish judicial system will have to seriously guard its integrity against the pressures of political giants like USA, but perhaps even its own government. These sexual assault allegations are being stretched to the point of distortion from both Wikileaks supporters and Wikileaks opponents to further their own political agendas. (Key here being Wikileaks opponents and/or supporters of the organisation which is, as argued before, separate from the person Julian Assange.) Making sure that the trial is, therefore, free and fair and without political motivations (meaning keeping the trial to the allegations made, not ones possibly made in the future) is essential not only to supporters of free speech, but also to feminists and other people against rape trivialising around the world.

Wolf has previously complained how these rape allegations have been made to further a political agenda and that the women doing so should be ashamed of themselves. She, along with other self-proclaimed feminists have called this entire case a slap in the face against all rape survivors, basing this on the fact that because rape accusations have in the past been made against politically powerful people, this case must be the same. As I have written before, just because states and other power players can benefit from this situation does not mean that they have orchestrated it. The logic saying it inevitably has to be so is severely flawed, indeed, there is no logic behind it at all. Powerful states, people, organisations or any kind of players have always benefited from unconnected situations that happen to play neatly into their agenda. They can simply be capitalising from a situation that occurred simultaneously. Is it a big coincidence this is happening at the same time? Yes. Does it mean that Julian Assange cannot be a man who sexually assaults and/or rapes women? No.

This entire article by Naomi Wolf is nothing more than to further her own agenda. She is obviously a strong believer in Wikileaks and what it does. So am I. The difference between us is that I will not crucify potential sexual assault survivors just because of it. I can still believe strongly in free speech and not trivialise rape. In fact, I think it is contradictory to do what Wolf does. These women deserve to be heard, they deserve to be taken seriously - they deserve to be able to exercise their rights to free speech without being ostracised, bullied and crucified for it. That Assange became a victim of the press who published the leak of these allegations (appreciate the irony here) does not mean that it is right to bring these women to a public trial as well. Two wrongs don't make a right, as it is said.

What still baffles me, though, is how Wolf fails to understand that what she is doing is just as much a slap in the face to rape survivors all over. She has consistently said that rape allegations should not be used to further political agendas, and she is correct. That states are using these accusations as some kind of proof that Assange (read Wikileaks) is a bad man (organisation) is nothing but wrong. That does not mean, however, that these accusations are false or that these women are simply pawns in some greater political game. These accusations could be true and these women could be used to further political agendas at the same time. None of those statements are mutually exclusive. What Wolf does when she completely dismisses these accusations offhand is to feed further into the rape myths. She is doing exactly what she claims she wants to prevent: she is setting the terms and boundaries of who can and who cannot be rape/ sexual assault survivors. Apparently, Wolf has decided, to qualify as someone who can be raped or sexually assaulted in another way, the accusations must be made against someone who does not have political power. Because if these accusations are made against someone in political power, especially someone working as a rogue self-proclaimed hero of the average person, that being noble and all, it inevitably means these accusations are false. I wonder what Wolf would have written if these accusations would have been made against some powerful political player who works within the nation-state apparatus?

It is just as important today as it was a month ago to be able to hold two thoughts at the same time. Using these accusations to further a political cause related to Wikileaks is nothing but wrong, and that goes for both sides. The beautiful irony in this entire series of debate articles that Wolf has written against states using rape accusations for their own purposes is that she is doing exactly the same. She is no better herself than the states that she is criticising. What is more is that it becomes more and more obvious for each article she writes. What is sad is that she is losing credibility among feminists, but perhaps it is all for the best. If Wolf is to continue trivialising rape and feeding into rape myths she may as well stay far away from feminism and the feminist base, as far as I am concerned.


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  2. Thank you! I appreciate it and I'm glad you like what I have to say :)