Friday, 12 June 2009

Victim-blaming round 4,506

It’s depressing, being a feminist blogger, for the same reason that it’s depressing being a feminist. The world is quite predictable. None of the media’s coverage of the Richard Worth’s treatment of women is surprising (neither is his behaviour).

What is the message in all this for women who are being sexually assaulted or harassed?

Stay quiet, particularly if a famous man is involved.

The woman who complained to the police about Worth has been attacked in the media as someone who has made false complaints before.

The woman who took her complaint of sexual harassment to the leader of the opposition has been dismissed, outted, psychoanalysed and attacked in disgusting ways.

There couldn’t be a clearer message to women that if we complain about the way men with power treat us then we will be put on trial. In particular, if there’s anything in our past that is messy or complicated, or just capable of being construed as messy or complicated, it will be attacked. We have no right to complain of male behaviour unless we fit neatly into the ‘virgin’ side of societies virgin/whore complex.

This is so familiar, so expected, there are only so many times that I can go into great detail about the victim-blaming and impossible situations women are put into, until I have nothing left to say.

What has surprised and disappointed me this time, is the other message that has been getting louder, particularly from left-wing men. That message that Richard Worth is irrelevant, and the discussion around what he did is unimportant (Against the Current and Fatal Paradox are both left-wing bloggers who have said exactly. Dennis Welsh gave a liberal-left example of the same argument on nine to noon on Tuesday)

I understand, and share, a disgust at the party political analysis and response that has gone on – the endless discussion of political management and Goff vs. Key. I have no more interest in that than anyone else. But I would hope that left-wing men could see that there is a political issue here, both in the way Worth treated women, and in the way those women have been treated by the media. I’m not asking any of those men to write about Richard Worth. But I would like them to acknowledge that there is an important political issue involved.


A Nonny Moose said...


WHY must everything be one extreme or the other? WHY do we have to be stereotyped as extremists? Don't they know we're trying to find middle ground?

Same questions, different day.

Anonymous said...

It's not just because they're women - look how David Bain has been treated.

If the message in these two cases says anything, it's not shut up about it. It's keep politics out of it as much as you can, go to the police, and try to back up your accusations with as much evidence as possible.

I'd say the reaction of left wing men says more about you than them. The fact people disagree with you doesn't mean they suddenly hate women. You're too emotionally involved in the issues (which I'm not necessarily blaming you for, a lot of horrible shit has happened to women) to be subjective.

Anonymous said...

Anon, your Bain comparison makes no sense. I think he's been subjected to a huge injustice - but one of a completely different sort to the women harrassed by Richard Worth. They've been taken apart by the media for refusing to put up with someone else's shitty sexual behaviour. There is no suggestion that they've been guilty of crimes - they're being stigmatised simply for being complainants. The implication of this is obviously that women shouldn't be able to defend themselves from behaviour like Worth's. There's never been any suggestion that Bain shouldn't be alllowed to defend himself, or that trying to defend himself shows he's a slut.

Swimming said...

What is the message in all this for women who are being sexually assaulted or harassed?

As you pretty much implied, make sure you don't ask Phil Goff to be your pimp unless he can back up his pimping with the truth - based evidence.

R Singers said...

Karen Hay made an interesting comment the other morning. She said roughly that she finds it disempowering as a woman, that political people use sexual harassment as a political tool, and farcical that a married women would encourage a stranger to the tune of forty txts.

Cactus Kate said...

I think you need to focus on this woman. You want to see the victim - this woman is it....

Anonymous said...

The woman is question is no victim. By calling her one is putting down the integrity and strength of Labour women candidates. She isn't weak by any stretch of the imagination.

Cactus Kate said...

I hope you are talking about Mrs Choudary! The link I have posted is of a very real rape victim. You are joking to think a daughter consents to have sex with her father....Christmas....I read this report and when are the Hand Mirror chicks going to follow up on this terrible judicial decision.

Anna said...

To my surprise, Cactus Kate, I agree with you - although less because of the particular sexual activity involved, than the fact I think rape victims should be believed. It's difficult to imagine how that scenario could be construed as consensual.

A Nonny Moose said...

I had real trouble wondering how people could justify that one as "consensual" too. But knowing Blenheim society intimately, they're a whole new class of bass ackwards some days - they'd do a stellar job of victim blaming.

Cactus Kate said...

It is not even victim blaming. More fundamental to that just can't see a plausible argument at all from the defence. "She was pissed", "she wanted it", "we had a relationship in the past", "accidental"...christ none of that can apply.

While this was going on, the mother/wife was in hospital with a terminal illness. And the victim's son was in at least the house perhaps even the bed.

This is a clear case of "sick fuckness".

Anonymous said...

Going back to the original post, the basic flaw in the argument is the presumption that left-wing men wouldn't be sexist. Some left-wing men are sexist, some aren't; some right-wing men are sexist, some aren't.

Perhaps the poster was thinking that left-wing men might have a 'natural' affinity to feminism/anti-sexism because they are interested in eradicating injustice. But there are plenty of men on the left who (a) are there to accrue personal power, and/or (b) don't see sexism as a problem as important as racism, economic inequity, homophobia, or whatever.

I've been sexually assaulted or harrassed in several of the left-wing organisations I've worked or volunteered for. The assaults and harrassment were always committed by staunchly left-wing men. When I would report these incidents or describe them to other left-wing men, they would tell me "oh, that doesn't sound like him", or "but he's a great friend of the workers" or some other such line to dismiss what I was saying.

This is just my experience; however, I wouldn't be surprised if sexual harrassment and assault were actually more common in left-wing-identified organisations than right-wing organisations. Not because there's something intrinsically sexist about left-wing ideas, but because left-wing-identified organisations (academia, not-for-profits, collectivist groups - the sorts of places I was working/volunteering) tend to have fewer resources than the sorts of organisations that are generally considered to be right-wing (law firms, big corporates, employer know the sort of thing...).

Because the left-wing-identified organisations tend to have fewer resources, they tend not to have such well established human resources and other support mechanisms for junior workers. As things are often done on the the fly with what scarce resources are available, these organisations also tend not to have well established accountability mechanisms.

In short, it's easier to get away with things in these sorts of organisations. And, unfortunately, the fact that you can more easily get away with things in these sorts of organisations attracts people who want to get away things to working in these sectors.

So to conclude this three-volume-novel-length comment, the natural allies of feminist women aren't necessarily left-wing men, but feminist men. And there's no great mystery about why a left-wing man would be sexist - he's just a sexist left-winger.