What’s in a naming? When it comes to rape allegations, a lot of pain and public debate.
Case in point: writer Naomi Wolf’s controversial take on the Julian Assange rape accusations. Her pieces for the Huffington Post and the Guardian and her debate on Democracy Now! have been pulling feathers out by the root in the feminist community.
Her argument? That rape victims should not be allowed to remain anonymous, claiming that the practice has allowed the state to “pimp out feminism,” feeding political motivations. Many, many disagree.
Here are her basic arguments:
- Anonymity is archaic. A “relic of the Victorian era, when rape and other sex crimes were being codified in what descended to us as modern law.”
- Women are not children. As she put in a BBC interview, “feminism shouldn’t mean special treatment for either gender; it should mean absolute fairness and equity in the rule of law.”
Seemingly pretty points. But—as Ms. magazine (and others) have pointed out—hopelessly inaccurate.
Firstly, the shame of rape is still very much alive. As Kathy Pollitt of The Nation puts it:
[T]he Victorian code that shamed rape victims is with us today … it’s just that to the stereotypes of the sullied virgin and chaste wife have been added the crazy lying slut, the cocktease, and the repressed frump who secretly “wants it.”
Secondly, the “equity” that Wolf refers to isn’t equity at all; it’s “equality” described in its least pragmatic strictest form.
Here’s Ms. magazine:
Equity—as distinguished from equality—is not about infantilizing a group of people and patting them on their heads: Equity is for grownups, based on the idea that in order to achieve a fair and just society, you have to account for the fact that some groups of people are oppressed, disadvantaged, and do not have the same access to, say, bodily integrity, justice, or safety that other groups of people have.
What Wolf is suggesting is a gender-blind policy which treats rape the same as any other crimes. But as we know from current research, color-blind ideology only perpetuates racial oppression by ignoring differences, it doesn’t end the oppression.
And that’s just talking about this in its most ambiguous form. Bring in the Pandora’s box of Julian Assange and Wikileaks, and no wonder the Internet is burning with spitfire.
This post isn’t meant to incriminate Assange, nor does it even pretend to cover all the complex nuances of this debate. But the question is an important one—and who better to ask than Good Men Project readers?
What’s your take?