How do you fight…?

I read an article in the Guardian on Saturday that really stuck in my mind. It was comment by Eve Ensler on the furore surrounding the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case, in which she asked a series of questions. I want to reproduce those questions here:

This is a stream of the questions running in my head all morning.

How do you fight a rape case if you have lied in your past? How do you fight a rape case if you have been sexually active? How do you fight a rape case as a woman who wants a future in journalism, politics, banking, international affairs? How do you fight a rape case and ever hope to be taken seriously again or be perceived as anything other than a raped victim?

How do you fight a rape case as a woman in places like Congo where there are no real courts and no one is held accountable? How do you fight a rape case as an illegal immigrant with no rights in that country? 

How do you fight a rape case if you still believe rape is your fault, if you don’t even know what rape is, if you are afraid of upsetting your boyfriend/husband, or afraid of getting him in trouble because he will be more violent to you?

How do we get men to stop raping lesbians or independent or highly sexual women as a “corrective act” rather than addressing the forces and powers they are truly angry at? How do we get men to understand the impact of rape: how the external bruises are internalised and remain for ever?

How do you speak out against rape and not be called a man hater, a gold digger, a slut? How do you convince women to speak out when their character is called into public question?

How do you speak out against incest or childhood sexual abuse if your mother is sleeping with the man who is abusing you, and you know she loves that man or will not believe you? 

How do you speak out against the adored, handsome, powerful, charming company president/caring psychotherapist/honoured history professor/visionary film director when you risk being despised by those around him? How do you speak out against the charismatic leader of the party or country when to do so jeopardises the standing of the party, the country itself, and could let the opposition take power?

How do you press charges for sexual harassment and not worry about losing your job, or being seen as weak or unable to protect yourself or hang with the guys and “take a joke”.

When do we stop separating how we treat women from our vision of a free, equal, just world – ie how do you call yourself a socialist, an intellectual, a leader, a freedom fighter, an anti-apartheid, anti-racism, pro-earth champion, and not make honouring women a central part of that equation?

How do we create a real dialogue between men and woman about violence: what it does, how it hurts? How do we stop saying that women who are opposed to violence hate sex? When do we stop seeing them as the same thing?

I am a man, and as such I’m not sure if you will allow me to be a feminist. But these questions haunt me as well, and I want to see them answered. I want us, as a society, to honour women and treat them as equals. I want to see sexual harassment, objectification and subjugation removed. I want us to treat rape as what it is – the worst of all possible crimes.

How do we do that?

4 thoughts on “How do you fight…?

  1. R N says:

    Yes, you are definitely allowed to be a feminist. Major props!

    I am interested to know why you think rape is the worst of all possible crimes. I must admit, I am fortunate (and if you believe the statistics, in the minority) in that I have never been raped (although I managed to ward off 2 likely assaults). What makes rape worse than, say, torture? (I suppose you could argue that the former is a subset of the latter.) What about sustained mental cruelty like gaslighting?

    And when it comes to changing the world’s attitude, I think we should educate juries about sexual violence, in the same way they are educated about fraud before a trial. For example, why the victims aren’t exactly keen on maintaining eye contact while testifying. I’d want to see an end to cross-examination of the victim, and a ban on raking over sexual histories. (As if the fact somebody has had houseguests means they deserved a burglary!)

    Finally, I think more openness about sexual assaults on men would reveal the ridiculous non-logic of the fallacies that I still hear, including any hint that the victim is somehow to blame. And it would do the power of good for all those men who are suffering not only from the trauma of the act itself, but from the shame and disbelief that accompanies any attempt to bring about justice. I think there is a lot more benefit for all men in this (joining women in this struggle) than they realise, and I feel a bit let down by the feminists who would have you believe that it’s only women who are the victims.

    • smiler says:

      unless you yourself have been raped , you never will understand how it affects your whole life , i was 11 when my innocence was cruelly stolen from me . i call this a major crime ! and torture for the rest of my life , whatever you go through , its how you deal with it that matters.

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