Harriet J at Fugitivus writes an open letter:
Dear Second and Third Wave Feminists With Publicly Recognizable Names
I struggle every day to hold on to my own label of feminism, because I do not think the people who distrust feminism are wrong. I think they are keeping me honest, if I am willing to let them.
I do not want, a generation from now, to find that the new wave has dropped the label “feminist” because it became synonymous with defiant rape apologism, because it damaged more people than it served. If I ever stop calling myself a feminist, I want it to be because I found something better, not because feminism got worse.
So here is what I am asking of you.
I ask that you denounce Naomi Wolf’s comments on Assange’s rape charges.
I ask that you denounce that “no means no” is all there is to rape.
I ask that you acknowledge that “yes means yes” is now a part of the feminist lexicon, wherever it might go, however it might evolve from here.
I ask that you acknowledge that “enthusiastic consent” is a theory highly worth pursuing.
I ask you to do this because you have names that people recognize as part of feminism. So does Naomi Wolf. And now we are all experiencing, en masse, the old phenomenon: “I know somebody who is a feminist, and they think this is fine.” A big-name feminist has said, publicly, that initiating sex with a partner who is asleep is not rape. That ripping a woman’s clothes off is not a force, is not a threat, is not violence, has no bearing upon the context of safety. That political targets are incapable of raping, because there can be no reason for them to be accused that is not politically motivated. This has given permission to all those who believe the same to tell us that we are wrong. The new guard, we know each other’s names, but the general public doesn’t know us very well yet. We do not have the weight of years of revolution behind us. When Naomi Wolf says that sleeping women can be raped legally, this becomes public knowledge. When we say, “yes means yes,” the general public does not hear, and the general public does not care. They can now point to Naomi Wolf and say, “You are wrong. You are not feminism. She is. And she says I can do this to you, and you can’t do anything about it.”
You have names. You have voices. Please give us somebody else to point to when we are told that we can be raped in the ways Naomi Wolf has decreed are acceptable. Please let us know that we are not on our own, that we have not already broken away, and did not hear the crack until Naomi Wolf “agreed to disagree” about our bodily autonomy, our safety. Please let us know that, with one arrogant statement, feminists cannot really erase the rapes that have been experienced by countless survivors. Please let us know that you hear us, that you believe we are feminism, too. Please do not let Naomi Wolf become the voice of what is rape, because rapists were listening when she spoke, and judges, and juries, and future victims who will spend their lives believing it was their fault, and they are always saying “yes” if they are not shouting “no.”
There’s so much more in the post leading up to Harriet’s heartfelt plea to public “faces” of feminism like Germaine Greer, Gloria Steinem & Susan Brownmiller to not allow Wolf’s statements to stand unchallenged as the public position of feminism regarding what is and isn’t really rape so far as the general public are concerned. Read the whole thing.
Categories: ethics & philosophy, gender & feminism, violence
Harriet’s essay really gave me chills (and I told her so, in comments) – if life was just and fair, that essay would be required reading.
As a woman in my 50’s with a daughter who is 16 I cannot even begin to express my horror at the number of well known people, people who I used to think of were articulate thinking people who have expressed views like Naomi Wolf.
I would have thought that in this day and age it wouldn’t be so hard to be able to acknowledge that rapists are not all stereotypical lurking in the bushes types, but are generally often the most ordinary, even extraordinary, people in other aspects of their lives. Why wouldn’t somebody like Julian Assange be capable of raping just because he does other admirable things?
It is not a hard concept to get, yet so many people seem to see the world only in black and white.