I don’t know anything about Swedish law. I don’t know any more about the Assange case than what’s been circulated in the press. But I do know sexism when I see it.
The irony of the Assange case is that, not unlike the purpose of Wikileaks, these rape allegations are exposing the latent misogyny of many commenting on the case. The Assange case is busy exposing us all, and we’re completely unaware.
Some commentators on the issue outright dismiss the allegations simply because Assange created Wikileaks, citing internet rumours ‘one of the women may have CIA links‘ or that ‘one of the women threw a party for him the day after she claimed she had been ‘raped’- a real victim of rape would not do such a thing’. Others scrunch up their faces in disdain before informing twitter/the blogosphere that there is only one real, credible, kind of rape- the kind that involves strangers, attacks, and weapons. All other claims of rape must be false rape, then. Those women must be overreacting.
Who are these people, and on what grounds do they have permission to redefine rape?
I couldn’t agree more with this article from The Independent’s Johann Hari. In it, Hari makes his stance clear, stating ‘we will never unlearn or unknow the great truths that Julian Assange has brought to the world’, as well confirming ‘I do not believe in reflexively dismissing rape claims by any woman, in any circumstances.’ See, it’s not that hard to separate the website from the rape allegations. After his article was published, Hari had an exchange with one of his twitter followers, in which he must have felt he was banging his head against a brick wall:
Wikileaks can exist without Assange. I’ve always considered Wikileaks an invaluable source of information. I doubt that will change. But this case needs to stand alone.
Glenn Beck, the American right wing tea party patriot known for his reasonable and level headed comments on American politics, has stuck his oar in, with his own take on the Assange case. Just in case those of us who are reluctant to judge until the courts do don’t quite understand just how innocent Assange is, Beck has kindly broken the situation down into a chalkboard re-enactment. It’s quite amusing to watch this video circulated amongst men who define as left wing- amusing, as well as incredibly depressing. Not unlike the Daily Mail, Beck must have undergone a fair amount of mental turmoil when he made the decision on who to attack.
Some say that the rape allegations is being used as an excuse to imprison Assange as quickly as possible. It’s likely this is true. Shock Doctrine author Naomi Klein tweeted yesterday- ‘Rape is being used in the #Assange prosecution in the same way that women’s freedom was used to invade Afghanistan. Wake up!’ What does this prove? That Interpol, the International Criminal Police Organization that have issued a red notice on Assange, don’t really give two hoots about rape victims. Have a root around Interpol’s website if you like- they appear to investigate criminal organisations, pharmaceutical crimes, genocide, war crimes, financial and high tech crime, corruption, terrorism, human trafficking, drugs, and even stolen works of art- but there’s very little about rape or sexual assault. Klein is probably right- and if she is, what an insult this red notice is, to rape victims around the world. Like it or not, these rape allegations are a feminist issue.
Where do you stand when it comes to the rape allegations? To completely dismiss them trivialises rape as a crime.
Do I regret dipping my opinionated toe into the Assange case? Of course not. The amount of opposition I received for daring to suggest that we separate Wikileaks from the rape allegations has been incredible- from the reasonably tame ‘[keep] fighting your corner – hats off to you – but you should give freedom of speech to those that have already made up their mind’, to mindless racist abuse from a random celebrity watcher on twitter. But the most farcical I received was two little words – ‘typical woman’.
Thank goodness that I’ve seen evidence to the contrary in the form of countless blog posts from men who also abhor the smearing of the accusers in the Assange case. Because, if it is true that only ‘typical women’ care about rape, and that only ‘typical women’ are prepared to attempt to counteract the overwhelming tide of misogyny that’s currently enveloping opinions around the case, then by jove, we’ve got some work to do.