The Left

Clear-eyed feminists on Assange

Fortunately there are some leftwing feminists who are not rushing to minimize the gravity of the sexual assault charges against WikiLeaks honcho Julian Assange.

Among them is our old acquaintance Laurie Penny, who writes at The New Statesman:

If global justice movements had to rely solely on people of impeccable character to further their cause, we would probably still be trying to end slavery. And yet, now that the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been arrested over rape allegations – just as his organisation happens to be spearheading the biggest revelation of military secrets in history – this has led many on the left to assume his innocence is beyond question.

The substance of the allegations is for the courts to decide. So why does the left-wing logic run that Assange is one of the good guys – and everyone knows that good guys don’t rape, particularly not good guys who are the public face of crusading international whistle-blowing organisations?

I have no idea whether Assange, who firmly denies the accusations, did or did not commit sex attacks in Sweden last August. But just as we would condemn anyone who pronounced him guilty at this early stage, should we also not be concerned that many liberals, some of whom would count themselves feminists, have leapt to the conclusion that Assange must be the innocent victim of a smear campaign? Some have gone further, actively attacking the women in question and accusing them of colluding in a conspiracy to destroy Assange. This plays easily into the narrative that most women who accuse men of rape are liars, and most men who attract such accusations are just saucy scamps with, as the commentator John Band put it, “poor bedroom etiquette”.

Libby Brooks of The Guardian writes:

Assange’s status as embattled warrior for free speech is taken as giving permission – by those on the left as well as right – to indulge in the basest slut-shaming and misogyny. It’s terrifying to witness how swiftly rape orthodoxies reassert themselves: that impugning a man’s sexual propriety is a political act, that sexual assault complainants are prone to a level of mendacity others are not (and, in this case, deserving of the same crowd-sourced scrutiny afforded leaked diplomatic cables), that not all forms of non-consensual sex count as “rape-rape”.

And Jill at the Feministe blog writes:

[J]ust because the vigor with which Assange was pursued was clearly politically motivated doesn’t mean that the accusations against Assange are totally incredible, or that it’s unjust that he will have to face them. It doesn’t make Interpol the “dating police.” It doesn’t mean that the women are motivated by “personal injured feelings.” In fact, it is totally possible to support the WikiLeaks project and to think that the international response to Assange and the project is thoroughly fucked up and to think we should withhold judgment on whether or not Assange is actually a rapist and also to think that we should withhold judgment on whether the women are lying, and to not discredit the women involved, and to not create a hostile climate for rape survivors, and to not play into every tired old stereotype about women and rape.

Seriously, we can chew gum and walk at the same time.

OK, they’re wrong to defend without qualification Assange’s actions with the leaked documents, or to assume without evidence that the the pursuit of Assange on the sex charges is politically motivated, but otherwise– well said.

(Hat tip: Jolene)

Update: Josh Scholar comments:

Feminists should be up in arms because he betrayed people to the Taliban, a group devoted to keeping an entire country’s worth of women as prisoners indoors, keeping girls from being educated – killing those who disobey, known for the mass slaughter of women (and even their children) for the crime of being westernized…

Agreed. The New York Times reports:

A Taliban spokesman in Afghanistan using the pseudonym Zabiullah Mujahid said in a telephone interview that the Taliban had formed a nine-member “commission” after the Afghan documents were posted “to find about people who are spying.” He said the Taliban had a “wanted” list of 1,800 Afghans and was comparing that with names WikiLeaks provided.

“After the process is completed, our Taliban court will decide about such people,” he said.

Unfortunately their vision is clear in only one eye. The other is still extremely clouded.