Sunday, May 22, 2011

Rape: What Men Can Do About It

photograph is from here
Links at the end of this post were added on 28 May 2011.

I've just finished reading a piece of thoughtful writing about rape, including the rape by a man that she survived, by feminist Suzanne Moore, a British white woman at The Guardian. Please see *here* for that, if you wish. What follows is a response the the men who she sites in her article. And to the men who continue to deny rape is something men must be responsible for ending.

Crafters and protectors of existing rape laws in whitehetmale-dominated countries like England should endeavor to make them more effective in ending rape of all women across class and political conditions (including, for example, being an immigrant, not being in the land of one's upbringing, being poor, being a prostitute, being Indigenous, being a girl in one's own home raped by one's father). But to do this, rape must be framed as a class-based form of gender terrorism and a key part of men's overall war against women.

Rape ought to be seen and responded to as a practice of social-sexual subordination by men of women and girls, as a component of the overall the gross and systematic destruction of women's and girls' social status and of women's and girls' self-esteem, self-worth.

Men's commitment of it and to it ought to be understood as one of many means by which men control female human beings and prevent them from attaining the same status and rights as men. This is to say: rape is not just an interpersonal crime committed by one man or by many men at a given time, or against one woman or many women serially.

We are, by any meaningful comprehension of morality, by basic regard for human life, required to view rape as both interpersonal and institutional, both personal and social, both a singular action and the manifestation of deeply embedded structures of misogynist, male supremacist oppression.

Is rape understood to be a violation of women's human rights or is it viewed solely as a violent crime against her personhood, with both the raper's and the harmed person's "personhood" presumed to not be gendered? Do we hold onto an assumption that rape is one of many other violent interpersonal crimes that "people seriously harm people and there ought to be legal remedies when such serious harm happens"? It is that, but is that all rape is? Which political groups get to define "harm" and "serious" in law, and which political groups determine whether law is the appropriate means through which to end an atrocity--that being not only rape, but the overall social-sexual-economic-religious subordination of women to men, by men?

Let's consider this tidbit from *here*, in a piece not written by Suzanne Moore, also at The Guardian.
Miliband told Clarke at prime minister's questions: "The role of the justice secretary is to speak for the nation on matters of justice and crime. This morning, the justice secretary was on the radio suggesting that there were serious rapes and other categories of rapes.
What is the role of a justice secretary in ending the oppression of men against women? This question seems to elude the questioners. Why? Is that political objective seen as being beyond the scope of someone allegedly empowered to address and end "injustice" and "crime"? Is men's oppression of women seen as either of those? And, if not, what is it in addition to injustice and crime? Can criminal lawyers state this clearly? Can their legal tools and the perspective on society in which these tools are made to work to remedy the problem (occasionally or allegedly, depending on what groups you are part of)? I'd say no, because law is so crafted within a context in which women are presumed to be "just human" or "not quite human" but never as fully human as men, while positioned differently (in an inferior place regarding social status and stigma) in society, structurally, by men--including by men's laws.

Whose interests are represented by people who obtain positions of parliamentary or governmental political power in a country? Are women, as a class of people? Are poor women? Are women who do not have race, ethnic, religious, and citizenship privileges and entitlements, who may not have access to the courts at all? Ought such women have remedies to stop rape? Ought men protect and support such remedies, if men say they are against any form of rape happening at all?

Here are some remedies:

1. The removal of rapists from society is understood to be a social good. Men who breach women's human rights by raping them, by domestically terrorising them, by systematically degrading them, by repeatedly procuring girls and women for sexual exploitation, are understood to not be socially valuable members of society.

Also men are seen to be dangerous, immoral, and engaging in criminal activities if they participate in the protection of any of the following:
--systems or industries of exploitation,
--practices of physical violation,
--cultural, religious, and legal defenses of discrimination,
--policy-making which effectively supports gendered, economic, or raced subordination of women by men, and
--laws refusing to acknowledge rape and other forms of interpersonal terrorism as not just interpersonal terrorism, but also as class-based terrorism, as terroristic and terrifying as any other form of terrorism recognised by law and dominant, pro-status quo society.

2. The oppression (including: discrimination, subordination, exploitation, degradation, violation, and terrorism) of women by men is both recognised and opposed. And whatever women need to do to end it is considered a social good, is considered to be politically necessary, and no men will be allowed to stand in the way of activists seeking an end to such oppression.

3. Whenever rape is discussed publicly or socially, including in reading materials, it is discussed as one of many manifestations of male supremacy and men's oppression of women, globalised across the world. The crafters of educational materials, medical reports, media statements, and news programs, must discuss rape in those terms.

4. When a girl or woman is raped by a man, the woman is presumed to be truthful, rather than the accused raper being presumed to be innocent. Law flows from this presumption, not the one that puts the interests of rapists above those of the raped.

5. Boys--all of them--are required to learn how to not rape or otherwise terrorise and degrade girls. They are taught that rape is part of a larger problem: men's domination of women, and that boys have an important role in ending this.

Social-political solutions ought not place the burden on women and girls to prevent or curb men's violence against women as by modifying girls' and women's behavior. Rape is understood to be a problem of what men and boys do that is wrong, dangerous, and shameful, not what girls and women do that is wrong, dangerous, and shameful.

Rape ought to be understood as an  intimate and intricate reinforcer of several forces, not only male supremacist war on women. Also: heterosexism, white supremacy, globalised capitalism, genocide of Indigenous People, and gross destruction of non-human animals and other Life, including the Earth. And it ought never be viewed as not male supremacist, regardless of the gender of the abused and abusers.

Now, men: get busy ending rape and all the other manifestations of men's global war against women. And stop pretending the war doesn't exist to benefit your social status as men-not-women, preserve your entitlements as men-not-women, and protect your material well-being as a member of a gendered class of people: men, not women.

See also these posts and readings: