Woman As Reason: Will Stanford rape be a turning point?

From the July-August 2016 issue of News & Letters

by Terry Moon

A woman who was raped at Stanford spoke up and created a turning point in this nation’s view of rape. She was not the “perfect victim.” Her rapist was not an absolute stranger, he did not beat her to a bloody pulp, she was not kidnapped from her home or car. She went to a party, she got so drunk she passed out; her rapist was a “good boy,” an athlete, a white boy. But, he raped her and two men saw him, stopped him, he ran, they chased him and caught him. It is not as if this hasn’t happened before, and it is arguable that what made the difference is that he was caught in the act and ran, and that his victim was so clearly unable to consent that the jury had to convict.

What was actually so different was the woman’s statement, read before Judge Aaron Persky passed a paltry, insulting and shameful sentence of six months in jail (the rapist may get out in three) for three felony counts. 

What this woman did so eloquently to bring about a turning point was simply to describe the entire process that she endured—and is still enduring and may forever endure. If you haven’t already read her statement you can find it here: https://www.buzzfeed.com/katiejmbaker/heres-the-powerful-letter-the-stanford-victim-read-to-her-ra.

LIMITATIONS OF A TURNING POINT

While this woman did something unique in articulating what rape really means, we have to be cognizant that there have been other turning points and yet rape culture still exists worldwide. In fact it thrives.

In December 2012 was the vicious gang rape and murder of student, Jyoti Singh Pandey, on a Delhi bus in India. Thousands poured into the streets for months, demanding deep changes in the laws, in society and in actual human relationships. And laws did change. Yet in May 2014 in a village in Uttar Pradesh, India, two girls, 12 and 14, were gang-raped, strangled and hanged by their scarves from a tree. Shortly after, two other Indian women were found in the same condition. Countless Indian women have been raped since Pandey was murdered on a Delhi bus.

Women and men gather in Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey, Feb. 14, 2015, to protest the murder of Özgecan Aslan. Photo by Selim Girit

Women and men gather in Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey, Feb. 14, 2015, to protest the murder of Özgecan Aslan. Photo by Selim Girit

In February 2015, this time in Turkey, the rape, murder and mutilation of Özgecan Aslan again brought thousands into the streets. Aslan, like Pandey, was a student taking a bus home at the end of the day. Like Pandey, Aslan fought back. After the bus driver raped Aslan he stabbed her and beat her to death with an iron bar and disfigured her body in an effort to hide it. While the outcry was tremendous, rape continues in Turkey, as do attacks on women and feminism by Turkey’s President, Tayyip Erdogan.

This list could include Egypt, where attacks on women in Tahrir Square after the ouster of Mubarak shook up society and created an unprecedented discussion as well as action against rape in a country where almost every woman has experienced sexual harassment of one kind or another. Yet rape continues in Egypt, including state-sponsored rape in the guise of police “virginity tests.”

We do not lack turning points, or demonstrations and determination, or organizing in the streets or statements that are so crystal clear on what rape is and the human consequences that, finally, everyone can comprehend it.

NEEDED NEW CONCEPT OF REVOLUTION

But rape flourishes and will continue as long as we live in a world where human relationships are alienated, where we treat others as things; where women, Blacks, workers, LGBTQ people, youth, the differently abled—and the list goes on—are not comprehended as human beings. Simplistic leftist explanations such as “capitalism profits from rape,” just won’t do.

The persistence of the degraded, dehumanized reality of women’s lives has to impact our concept of revolution and the banner raised to fight for a freedom-filled future. We have to sweep away the idea that if we ask for less, we’ll get something, because whatever that paltry something is, it won’t free women. 

Women’s lives show us that revolution has to be total from the start and our freedom has to be fought for at every step; revolution has to be permanent and cannot stop with a change in government, leaders, or an economic change. It must be so deep that all human relationships are transformed. According to popular leftist belief, that is an unrealistic, idealistic view that will lead to defeat. On the contrary, it is the realistic idea that can lead to a new society grounded in new human relationships where everyone can experience freedom.

One thought on “Woman As Reason: Will Stanford rape be a turning point?

  1. Terry is absolutely right. Men have been raping women as long as there has been a patriarchal society. Even today, in many countries, a wife cannot charge a husband with rape even if he does rape her. In other countries, women are shamed and ostracized after they are raped and the men go free, And it is little better here. The Stanford decision shows how little value this sexist system places on the safety and well-being of women. But getting rid of capitalism or state capitalism in itself will not solve the problem of the domination of women by men. For that we need to have a revolution that is explicitly anti-patriarchal, that sees the elimination of patriarchal institutions, ideas, and customs as a primary goal of the revolution. If you read any account of the Russian revolution of 1917, although there was a lot of resistance by social forces and even people in the party, Alexandra Kollontai did forge a new standard of life for millions of Russian women. Under her leadership, women could divorce men without the consent of the man, men were obliged to pay alimony if there were children, abortion and birth control were legalized and widely diffused, nursing mothers were given special privileges, nurseries were set up in factories, and lesbianism flourished. Now that was a revolution! And that is exactly what we need here : a Marxist-humanist revolution that is also explicitly anti-patriarchal, that will not stop until women are truly free of every type and vestige of male domination.

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