Posted Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011, at 2:08 PM
Amanda, I have to disagree with your opposition to Naomi Wolf’s argument that rape claimants should identify themselves in order to prosecute. I’m with Wolf: Women-anyone-who files rape charges should put their name, and face, on the accusation.
My eyes quickly glazed over with Yalie-Wolf’s disquisition on the relics of the Victorian age in The Guardian , the Suffragettes and Oscar Wilde yadda yadda because we don’t need more than a splash of historical argument to cut to this chase. We’ve been through this: Rights that we aren’t willing to face danger for will never be recognized. Power concedes nothing without a demand and that demand needs to be full-throated. It needs to be in their faces. If all the liberation movements of the past century haven’t taught us that, I don’t know what will.
In the short term, fewer women will file rape charges. More rapists will roam free. In the long term, more women will file rape charges and those charges will have full force behind them, not women understandably hiding behind blue dots, weakening their claims. It was the Klansmen who hid their faces; they made sure the world saw their victims’ faces . Let the scum-sucking rapists, and those who defend them, vainly demand the blue dots of shame. Let us hound and expose those who try to slut-shame the victims.
Regardless of however many more rapists are punished, the world will start to get it that it’s the rapist who should hide their faces, not the raped. The world will also be forced to see what happens to raped women who demand justice (even, sadly, on the left when a sacred cow is in the dock ). The world couldn’t see rape, violence and injustice when it was directed at blacks by whites-not until the Civil Rights Movement made it do so with its judicious selection of victims willing to risk it all -and the same must continue to happen with violence against women in general. Most important of all, as more raped women identify themselves to prosecute, the stigma (if never the psychic toll) associated with having been raped will fade. Eventually. Not at all quickly. This sucks. But it’s already much better than it once was and that change was brought about by feminists who faced beatings, jail, stigma, loss of their children, the whole schmear. What we face today is awful. But it aint the above.
But even if the stigma never fades, identifying yourself to invoke the power of the state to prosecute a fellow human, is , as Wolf puts it, a requirement of moral adulthood. I just have a hard time understanding why women fought so hard to exist as legal entities, as persons, apart from their fathers and husbands but demand anonymity when trying to deprive someone else of their liberty. Rather, I do understand it. I just can’t defend it. That’s what’s called in the law a ' one way ratchet ,’ and ipso facto suspect. Blows that rape goes to the heart, perhaps is the heart, of male privilege, misogyny, and the diabolically clever job done on women’s sense of sovereignty since the beginning of time, but we have to play the cards we’re dealt. We have to be brave and we have to fight, and we have to speak truth to power, whatever the knuckle-draggers pull from their bottomless bag of tricks. We have to make judicious use of our victims. Unless, of course, we’re not actually trying to change the world’s rape culture. We can try (vainly) to protect women from the horrors of rape prosecution or we can expose rape prosecution for the horror shows that they are so we can change them.
I’ve debated about adding this part but here it goes: A co-worker raped me in my own bed on Christmas night 1981 at Osan Air Base South Korea. I pressed charges, in that tiny little world we shared halfway around the world from my support system. I was 22. We all lived, worked and partied together. Mayberry was less claustrophobic. Anonymity? Yeah. Right. My rapist confessed within minutes of the investigators showing up at his door. It made no difference. The weight of the military tried to squash me. My fellow soldiers were…let’s go with 'unsupportive’. I couldn’t run. I couldn’t hide. But I couldn’t live with the injustice so I lived with the consequences of demanding my rights instead. Good lord I was naive: I honestly didn't see the alternative. There’s nothing special about me that either got me raped or got me to stand up for my rights. I just knew I had to though I was a psychological wreck for the following decade. I spent eleven more years in the Air Force, excelling and living with the constant, out of the blue punishment. My fave was a new commander introducing himself to me thusly: "So. Hear you were raped." Air quotes were involved. (For the record: the USAF slapped my confessed rapist as lightly on the wrists as possible. After a few months of playing volleyball in the military's version of Camp Cupcake, he went on to finish his career and retire honorably. A wrench stolen from the flight line would have had him cashiered, after doing hard time.)
In the 60’s, my embittered, Jim Crow’d dad used to carp that those "Civil Rights fools need to get their fists out the air and get jobs!’ He had no faith that things could, or would, change. Had it been up to him, with his fully internalized oppression, they wouldn’t have, bless his heart. Imagine his surprise-and guilt-when those fools made him free. We needed folks going to work everyday during the Movement. We needed them to do that while the MLKs and the Marian Wright Edelman’s put their bodies and soul on the public line while they demanded their rights. Fuck the blue dots.