Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Every so often we are reminded...

The liberal "brand" is that of the big tent--a figurative club where members uphold the rights and humanity of everyone, no matter their race, religion, gender, sexuality or ability. But branding isn't necessarily truth. The truth is that progressives may be better at equality than conservatives, but better doesn't equal perfect. Indeed, Americans--as a whole and no matter where they stand on the political spectrum--have a long, long way to go when it comes to recognizing privilege and respecting marginalized people. It is easy to forget this, but every so often we are reminded.

I was reminded during the 2008 election when the New Yorker was portraying the Obamas as radicals on its cover; a liberal blogger was showcasing a graphic depicting Michelle Obama as a siren tied to a tree; Hillary Clinton invoked "hard-working white people;" liberal, white feminists like Gloria Steinem denied my experiences as a black woman; and Geraldine Ferraro...well...Geraldine Ferraro just showed her ass.

I've been reminded again as liberal lions like Keith Olbermann, Michael Moore and Naomi Wolf rush to defend Wikileaks founder Julian Assange by maligning the women who have alleged that he sexually assaulted them.

I have not written here about Wikileaks or the accusations against Julian Assange. I have not written about them, because both situations are complicated and made more complicated by conflicting information, rumor mongering, redacted documents and people's personal biases. But I have read enough to know this:

  • I don't know what happened between Assange and the women in question. Neither does anyone else who is not one of the people involved.
  • Facts surrounding the cases are contradictory and may reveal damning behavior by both Assange and his accusers.
  • The zeal with which Sweden is pursuing Assange may be politically motivated.
  • Whatever is motivating Sweden's pursuit of Assange, he may still be guilty.

I also know this:

Much discussion of the accusations against Assange bears a striking resemblance to the sexist way our society almost always talks about sexual assault. Conversation devolved quickly into attacks on the women involved. There is sneering about tight, pink sweater dresses and disbelief that a woman who said "yes" once, might say "no" later. There is a denial that it is rape when a woman says "Yes, I would like to have sex with you, but only with protection" and her partner holds her down and forces her to have sex unprotected. If true, that's rape. "Rape rape" as Whoopi Goldberg might say. There have also been attempts to minimize the women's accusations by misrepresenting Sweden's laws on sexual assault, portraying them as so far out that even if Assange is charged and found guilty, he is not truly guilty of much. (There is more than a little "American exceptionalism" in this trope.)


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