22 August 2012

Legitimate Rape from a Left perspective

In the United Kingdom this week's counterpart to Todd Akin is George Galloway. Like Akin, Galloway is a legislator in the lower of his nation's two houses. Unlike Akin, Galloway is a man of the "Left." Americans may remember him as one of Britain's bitterest opponents of the invasion of Iraq, and some, depending on their partisanship, may still think of him as an apologist, or worse, for Saddam Hussein. He has more recently come to the defense of Wikileaks mastermind Julian Assange, who currently sits in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, having been granted political asylum by that country. The British authorities have threatened to arrest Assange should he step outside the building, as they remain determined to extradite him to Sweden, where he must answer accusations of rape. This is an old, ugly story that has brought out the partisan-immunity instincts of Assange's sympathizers, who assume that any criminal charge against a political figure must be essentially political and therefore less than, to use Rep. Akin's terminology, "legitimate." Such is Galloway's position. He questions whether Assange is guilty of anything more than "bad manners" for supposedly having sex with a sleeping woman. For his trouble Galloway has lost his job as a columnist for a Scottish magazine, and has received severe criticism within his own Respect party. Whether the party will let him stand for his seat again is uncertain at this time.

Rape, when politicized, changes the polarity of politics. At its most polarized, the rape question pits people who believe, more or less, that no woman's cry of "rape" is ever to be questioned against people who, for whatever reason, assert an objective definition of rape in order to distinguish between "legitimate rape" and mere instances of "bad manners" or cases when the motive behind a cry of rape should be questioned. For one side, it's arguably an instance of one-way accountability: men must answer when women cry rape, but men may not question the cry. With the other, the intellectual line separating objectivity from misogyny is often hard to perceive. People on both "Left" and "Right" discover occasions to question whether every cry of rape is "legitimate," though leftists are perhaps more likely to question specific accusations they suspect to be politically motivated, and rightists are possibly more likely to question rape charges more generally. You might expect, or want, leftists to show more consistent solidarity with women claiming victimization, but so long as leftists play the politics of personalities or idolize indispensable persons they may sometimes identify with the accused more than the accuser. To the extent that feminism presumably gives every accuser the benefit of the doubt, instances like the Assange case demonstrate that the integration of feminism with the broader left is not as thorough as some might hope and others may fear.  To the extent that rape is a political issue, there may not be coherent "left" or "right" positions. If so, that's at least one proof that "left" and "right" as generally understood don't have all the answers between them, and may not even ask all the questions.

1 comment:

Aaron Christiansen said...

What seems to be the basic problem here is simple. Assange has, in the past, agreed to go to Sweden to answer questions. He has asked for a guarantee that the Swedish government will not extradite him to the United States. They have not agreed to this. So you can see why Mr. Assange is unwilling to go. It is becoming very apparent that these charges are, in all probability, little more than a ruse for the Obama administration to score some points by getting their filthy paws on someone ignorant Americans would like to see hung.