Polanski Part II

by Louise Livesey // 30 September 2009, 09:08

It appears this week, and this story, will just keep causing disappointment after disappointment for us all... First Whoopi Goldberg comes out and say that Polanski didn't commit "rape-rape" in an interview on a US TV Chatshow. Goldberg (yes that one from the film of The Color Purple which y'know starts with something about child rape) says that "it was something else but it wasn't rape-rape". OK so here's the rub - it was a thirteen year old who he drugged with tranquilisers and alcohol and vaginally and anally raped. Goldberg - in what way is that not "rape" or "rape-rape" (I'm not sure what saying it twice means but, you know....)

Second up in the disappointment stakes is Michael Mansfield, QC who on Radio 4's morning programme today argued that Polanski should be treated "compassionately" and because his crime wasn't as bad as genocide in Guinea and Darfur it shouldn't be prosecuted. Yes the same Michael Mansfield who took on cases others wouldn't touch like the Guildford Four and Birmingham Seven, the Angry Brigade; the Orgreave miners; Stephen Lawrence's family; the Bloody Sunday families (yeah OK and some more dodgy ones like Michael Barrymore; Barry George and Mohamed al-Fayed). Don't believe me? Listen here at around 8.45am (give or take ten minutes I think).

Neither man here (Mansfield and an academic) mention that for crimes of rape, globally, prosecution and conviction rates are appallingly low and that in this saying this is an insubstantial or unworthy crime to follow through on is denigrating every single rape and child sexual abuse survivor in the world.

Update: Read this by Lauren at Feministe, this from Flip-Flopping Joy, this by Kate Harding at The Salon (in case anyone missed it) and (again in case you missed it) Kate Smurthwaite's piece at Cruella-blog for more insightful comment on this.

Comments From You

Mark // Posted 30 September 2009 at 10:06

All those who are putting Polanski on a pedestal due to his artistic 'brilliance',
would do well to remember that the man that they are defending so vigorously continues to show a complete lack of remorse for what he has admitted to doing. As well as displaying a complete contempt for the criminal justice system, which is there to protect minors in exactly this type of instance.

Goldberg and others should take a good hard look at themselves in the mirror and think about what the general public will perceive of them for displaying the same amount of contempt for both the legal process and the victim in question.

gadgetgal // Posted 30 September 2009 at 10:24

I'm upset that so many actors and directors whose work I respect have turned out to be rape apologists - does anyone know of anyway we can express our disapproval of the petition? Maybe with our own petition? If we could get one together saying we're appalled by the actions of the artistic community and the French government in endorsing this rapist/paedophile maybe we can make this argument a little more two-sided!

Kez // Posted 30 September 2009 at 10:46

I admit I haven't been following this story closely, so I may well be missing something, but the whole thing has me completely baffled at the moment. Why are people defending him? It seems there is no doubt he committed this horrible crime and he has evaded justice for many years. The fact that he is a film-maker of vast renown has no bearing on the matter whatsoever. If he was a dustbin man who had raped a 13 year old, fled the country and evaded capture for 30 years, would celebrities be rushing to defend him?

I don't know what penalty he should receive. That's for a judge to decide. But he should certainly be held responsible for what he has done, even if it was a long time ago. (And he's 76 now - thanks Wikipedia - so he was 44 at the time of the offence.)

I agree with Mark that Polanski's defenders are displaying contempt for the law and the victim. What message are they sending out? - it's OK to rape a child as long as you're famous, accomplished and distinguished, and as long as you manage to evade the law for a sufficient time?

Surely I'm missing something here because it has me baffled.

jennifer Drew // Posted 30 September 2009 at 10:49

Yes but we all seem to forget the innumerable men and a good few women defenders of men's pseudo sex right to women and children are all singing the same tune. Namely rape is never rape because hey it is all men's right to have unlimited sexual access to any woman or girl. Now this doesn't mean all men are rapists - that is too simplistic but it certainly means challenging men's right as a group goes right to the heart of white male power over women and children.

Michael Mansfield defended primarily men and yes this includes families but the families included males too. But when it concerns male rapist Polanski that is apparently a different story. Don't be deceived by Mansfield's claims Polanski is not in the same category as the mass male sexual violence inflicted on women living in Darfur or what is happening in Guinea. One can also include Honduras wherein men are inflicting sexual violence on women.

There is a clear connection between Darfur, Guinea, Honduras and of course Polanski and that is the perceived male sex right to women and girls. Whether it is one individual male rapist or many the reasons are very similar - women and girls are not 'human' so it is for men to decide when and if a man/men has/have committed rape.

Whoopi Goldberg is not the only woman excusing rapist Polanski but rather than blaming her we need to understand we all live in a patriarchal society and it is one wherein male-defined notions of 'rape and non-rape' are constantly reinforced and where women's and girls' experiences of being subjected to male sexual violence are always re-framed from the male dominant perspective.

Far too many women believe 'rape will never happen to me because I will always take the necessary steps to prevent it.' But male rapists do not have labels pinned on their bodies saying 'I'm a rapist' instead majority of rapists are ordinary, respectable men and it is this veneer of respectability which enables them to coerce and rape women and/or girls. Not forgetting of course, male sexual violence against women and girls is a global issue.

The case of Polanski clearly demonstrates curbing male sexual power and pseudo beliefs in male sex right is far from over - in fact we have barely begun to challenge the dominant notion only men are human and rape must always be defined, viewed and represented from the male perspective.

Only recently was rape in war declared to be a crime against humanity - note the term 'humanity' not a crime against women and girls because that would mean asking the pertinent question just who is then committing these acts of violence against women and children.

Men's war on women continues unabated!

aimee // Posted 30 September 2009 at 11:04

I am absolutely shocked and disgusted by this. The man is a convicted rapist! He drugged, raped and sodomised a 13 year old girl. It doesn't matter if he's a holocaust survivor. It doesn't matter if his wife was murdered. That's terrible, but it's no excuse for rape. I especially don't care if he's made interesting films. NO EXCUSE FOR RAPE. There's no 'rape-rape-' about it! It was rape. Not grey rape, not blue rape. RAPE, pure and simple. I'm not entirely sure why there's any ambiguity!? In fact, that's the worst part. There's no ambiguity. This was rape. He has admitted it. So the fact that people are defending it is so sick and shocking and disgusting. I am thoroughly appalled and I think the idea of a petition is excellent... or an out and out protest. I don't think we should stand for this. I don't think we should be told that when we are raped it doesn't matter. We need to do something now.

Samantha // Posted 30 September 2009 at 11:04

That's Whoopi Goldberg crossed off the list of celebrities I have any respect for.

Kristin // Posted 30 September 2009 at 11:06

I'm SO disappointed in Whoopi Goldberg! And how the hell does she or anyone else dare to say what did or didn't happen, or what it was or wasn't. Were they there?! What the hell is "rape-rape"?

I can only think that these people are in denial. But that is not good enough. Not not not.

saranga // Posted 30 September 2009 at 11:08

The radio 4 segment started by saying that Polanski 'had sex with' a 13 year old. I lasted another few minutes then turned the radio off because I knew I would find it ratehr upsetting. I'm furious when radio 4 states crap like this - it should be an objective news station.

She-Ra // Posted 30 September 2009 at 11:09

Sick of all these apologists who are forever making excuses for men who commit acts of violence against women and girls. Whether they are the average guy or someone famous like Polanski, OJ or Tyson. He deserves to have the book thrown at him and i hope he spends a VERY long time behind bars!

Jennifer // Posted 30 September 2009 at 11:18

Thanks for all the coverage of the Polanski case. I feel so angry and depressed with the media's coverage of this, and with the director's (David Lynch, Martin Scoreces, Woody Allen....) and actors who seem to feel that rape, if it happened ages ago, should just be forgotten about.

Is there any petition / letter writing etc campaign where we can register our anger and opinion on this? Feeling quite impotent just being angry at my desk!

Sabre // Posted 30 September 2009 at 11:23

I agree with gadgetgirl, is there some movement somewhere, ANYWHERE, that has the sense and decency to stand up to these rape apologists? I'm totally shocked that this is happening and that so many celebs are using their fame to support a child-rapist. It seems like a really sick joke.

zuri // Posted 30 September 2009 at 11:24

So there's no clear, formal way to speak out against Polanski, but I would suggest writing, directly, to the agents of those celebrities who have signed the petition for their friend. Evidently a lot of people (Whoopi included) have not learnt enough about this case to understand what actually happened, and they should probably be made aware of what they are supporting.

Laurel Dearing // Posted 30 September 2009 at 11:42

its so hard to prove most rape cases, but heres one where people know exactly what happened, which involved drugging and paedophilia, and fleeing the country and even this is not enough? what IS rape rape then if not drugged up? a 9 year old maybe? do you HAVE to threaten someone with a knife? no wonder its so hard for people to care if someone carries on when you change your mind or you just froze if people are so quick to excuse this.

Amy Clare // Posted 30 September 2009 at 11:47

There is a Facebook group called 'prison for the rapist Roman Polanski' which has 470 members thus far (seems to be the biggest group on this subject). I've just joined it. It is depressing though how many 'free Roman Polanski' groups there are. They are massively more in number than the 'jail him' etc groups. Seems it's not just celebrities and hacks leaping to his defence...

Jackie Bather // Posted 30 September 2009 at 11:52

So, Michael Mansfield has these views apparently.I am appalled, as I previously thought of him with some considerable respect. As a small token of objection, I will not now be buying the new book that he has out, outlining his career stories, nor will I be buying tickets to attend his scheduled appearances at any imminent book festivals.As for Goldberg...I think that she may need to do some serious introspective thinking about her views.

Jam // Posted 30 September 2009 at 12:42

Thanks so much for mentioning Michael Mansfield! I was listening to that this morning and it really made my blood boil. I used to have a lot of respect for him but clearly the rights of thirteen year old girls not to be drugged and raped are not the kind of human rights he has much concern for.

The other thing that is really winding me up about all of this is when people (and I think Michael Mansfield did this too) keep bringing up the fact that he already spent two months in jail. Because obviously two months is a totally commensurate amount of time for child rape.

Kit // Posted 30 September 2009 at 13:48

You know, at the very start of that video it seemed like she was doing the whole "we can't call it rape for slander reasons" thing, but then she just didn't stop. Shame on you Whoopi "it wasn't rape-rape" Goldberg. I actually thought you were one of the decent big actor types. Is there anyone remotely famous actually speaking out _not_ in defence of him?

Kez // Posted 30 September 2009 at 14:02

I wonder if any of these apologists have daughters of their own? I wonder if they would be so blase about their own daughters being drugged and raped, and find it OK because the perpetrator was a celebrated film director?

Johanne // Posted 30 September 2009 at 14:25

What a tragedy. What message are Polanski's supporters giving to rape victims? And indeed to rapists? And Whoopi, whether a great 80's icon or washed up actress, surely she has a responsiblity to the global community (having the media at her fingertips) not to come out with such idiotic comments. Maybe this is just a small representation of the views some people hold 'behind closed doors' or maybe people are simply being stunned by the glare of fame. The base line is, what Polanski and any other rapist has done is wrong and unjustifiable. There may be varying degrees as to how much a person is revered and respected (usually by the way we treat other human beings?) but there are no varying degrees of rape noted by 1-10 or declaring the word twice, depending on severity and, the world is not a courtroom. In the real world, is rape not rape?

Claire // Posted 30 September 2009 at 14:40

Here here, gadgetgirl. I took a look at the petition. You can see it at www.sacd.fr and it's in English as well as French. My idea is to sabotage it. Don't create our own, but add in the names of all child rapists we can think of as signatories, there must be a list of those somewhere and then add (fellow child rapist) after the name. DO NOT GO TO SEE Penelope Cruz in Almodovar's latest film. DO NOT GO TO SEE Stephen Frears latest production. Boycott TIlda Swinton. Thank God for all the celebs who haven't signed up.

Isa // Posted 30 September 2009 at 14:41

Thank f**k for a website where sanity reigns, I've been spending the past couple of days absolutely seething with rage at the coverage this has recieved in the press. I cannot fathom how anybody can excuse the crime that Polanski has commited. I was reading an article yesterday that was saying that he shouldn't be prosecuted as he's not a repeat sex offender. Well this is the only time he was caught out, there are no one-time rapists. As for all the celebs defending this sleazebag, well Hollywood has a long tradition of treating women as disposable sexobjects so I guess it's not too much of a leap for them to see a thirteen yr old child in the same way. In agreement with previous posts about starting a campaign, we really have to push for some serious change in attitude towards rape and rapists.

msruth // Posted 30 September 2009 at 15:01

Leaving aside the fact she does not seem to understand what rape is, I cannot believe part of Whoopi Goldberg's argument is 'people see things differently in Europe'. The only country in Europe that rules 13 year olds can consent to sex is Spain. Every other country it is at least 14. In Poland it is fifteen, even if she did consent (which she did not do) Europe still sees her as a minor.

Lara // Posted 30 September 2009 at 16:07

It’s not ‘rape-rape’ has to be the single most moronic thing I have ever heard in my life. What does it even mean?! If rape isn’t by some masked intruder during the dead of night, it’s just not ‘rape-rape’. I am genuinely baffled at why someone would say this. Are they going to use that in court? ‘We guess it was rape, but c’mon, it wasn’t ‘rape-rape’.

If Roman Polanski wasn’t a darling of the liberal media he would he treated astonishingly differently. I can’t believe the sheer gall of the celebrities signing his defence petition. How dare they throw their influence around regarding a case they can’t possibly know the full veracity of?!

Lara // Posted 30 September 2009 at 16:19

Also, has anyone noticed the profoundly disturbing scene in Rosemary’s Baby? The morning after Mia Farrow is drugged by the Satanists on the night her and her husband plan to try to conceive their child she wakes up to find her husband had sex with her whilst she was unconscious. She nonchalantly asks ‘you had me whilst I was out?’ to which he replies ‘it was kinda fun in a necrophile sort of way’, and she brushes it off with something like ‘oh well, you could have waited.’ Polanski sure does respect women, huh?

sianmarie // Posted 30 September 2009 at 16:47

msruth - not to mention the fact that that comment is bloody insulting!
"well in america we think child rape is wrong, but those europeans, they think it's ok"

i mean - that is basically what she is saying! to much wtf-ery to comprehend.

am so disappointed in whoopi goldberg. and all the others who have stepped up in defense.

isa // Posted 30 September 2009 at 17:11

great idea Claire, i've added fred west to the petition. Reading all the names on it I'm saddened to see how many are artists i've admired. A real disappointment.

saranga // Posted 30 September 2009 at 17:36

If Whoopi's comments about it not being rape-rape mean that she doesn't think it's serious, I'd like to ask her why exactly she thinks child rape is not serious.

Anne Onne // Posted 30 September 2009 at 17:42

Oh, not Whoopee Goldberg! What I find almost worse than Polanski's blatant refusal to give a shit that he drugged and raped a 13 year old is everyone else's defense of him.

@ Kes: I don't get it either. Except that I think it's the age old 'I just can't believe this man who looks perfectly normal and acts charming and smart would do something so evil, so it must have not been rape/she must have deserved it/etc...'

Shea // Posted 30 September 2009 at 21:53

Whoopi "would I want my 14 year old having sex with someone?"

She was 13 not 14, and it WASN'T SEX IT WAS RAPE!!!!!

I like that they blame the mother too- yep 44 year old man drugs, rapes and sodomises a child, but its the mother's fault and where the fuck is she?

"maybe we'll see the mother in court.....!" For what?????!!!!!!!!

I hate this, I have so so much rage. Who knew there were so many rape apologists out there. And this isn't an ambiguous case, this isn't a was it or wasn't it glamour model having a one night stand with a footballer, this is paedophilia and child abuse! What is wrong with people?

The only consolation about the petition is perhaps it is the fact that people were angry about the arrest in Switzerland which is supposed to be a neutral territory and at a film festival, rather than a desperate bid to free Polanski. I don't really believe this though.

msruth // Posted 30 September 2009 at 22:18

@sianmarie - I know! Like those Europeans, of course they think sex with a child is okay, French women don't shave their legs, it's different over there. Idiotic. I imagine it is easy on that type of panel show to get carried away by the argument and say some idiotic things, you just have to hope she watches it back at some point and realises she sounds like an idiot.

@ Claire and Isa
I also like the idea of just emailing them over and over with 'sex without consent is rape' instead of a name.

Claire // Posted 30 September 2009 at 22:23

Actually, you know, considering how huge the film industry is, the list of names on the petition is pretty paltry. There are loads more who are not speaking out. And the French government seem to be withdrawing support which is great. I checked out the Fawcett Society and End VIolence Against Women websites and there's nothing on there - rather disappointing. I think it would be brilliant if the celebs who sign up to wear the "Here's what a feminist looks like" t-shirts" for Fawcett would stand up and be counted on this issue. Or those that support Rape Crisis. We need a focal lobbying point - can't End VIolence Against Women or Fawcett take this on? What about the celebs who work as ambassadors for Save the Children and Unicef - surely they can't be seen to be supporting Polanski? Wouldn't it be lovely to see Penelope Cruz be asked by a chat show host why she condones rape?
I think the States government must have been under Hollywood pressure all this time not to pursue and have now finally decided that they must act.

sarina singh // Posted 01 October 2009 at 01:29

Please advise if there are any petitions circling the internet protesting Hollywood's support of a child molestor. Hollywood, will only get the message once their films and products are boycotted.

sarina.

zohra // Posted 01 October 2009 at 02:52

Goldberg responding to criticisms. (h/t ZA via facebook)

And France backpedaling.

Heta // Posted 01 October 2009 at 08:28

I guess it's not "rape-rape" because she was, you know, female, and therefore "asking for it".

Kez // Posted 01 October 2009 at 09:18

List of signatories here http://www.indiewire.com/article/2009/09/29/over_100_in_film_community_sign_polanski_petition/P1/

Some of the better known names include Woody Allen (no surprise there), Pedro Almodovar, Martin Scorsese, Terry Gilliam, Monica Bellucci, Wim Wenders, Tilda Swinton, Stephen Frears, Barbet Schroeder. (Whoopi Goldberg isn't on it.) Most of the signatories are French.

I don't know if this is the most up to date list, however.

As Claire says above, although there are some very high-profile names on there, there are a hell of a lot more who haven't signed.

Claire // Posted 01 October 2009 at 10:01

I have found an online petition. It only has 15 names on it so far, but hopefully with your help it will grow. http://www.petitiononline.com/mod_perl/signed.cgi?polanski&1
I am going to send it to Fawcett and End Violence Against Women too. We should ask our own MPs to sign it, councillors etc.

Kit // Posted 01 October 2009 at 10:06

@sarina There's this one: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/art-does-not-excuse-rape-polanski-must-face-justice
I don't know if there are any others.

Jackie Bather // Posted 01 October 2009 at 10:56

Hi Sarina,
In answer to your query, I did a search of the internet and found two petitons yesterday,as I too felt the need to do something.I found www.petitionspot.com also
www.the petitionsite.com.
I just typed "Polanski" into the search engine on both.There may be others, maybe from the UK but I am still looking.

Claire // Posted 01 October 2009 at 11:19

Kit
Thanks so much for that website. I have already passed it onto 30 friends and hope to get a lot more to sign up. Please all sign up.
http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/art-does-not-excuse-rape-polanski-must-face-justice

Melanie // Posted 01 October 2009 at 12:14

Please don't hate me, but I'm a huge fan of Polanski's films (not that fact that he's a great artist remotely excuses his rape of a 13-year-old or should make him above the law) and I've always found them considerably less misogynist than many of the films of his contemporaries.

@ Lara
"Also, has anyone noticed the profoundly disturbing scene in Rosemary’s Baby? [...]Polanski sure does respect women, huh?"

Actually, I've always found "Rosemary's Baby" a powerful condemnation of patriarchy. The diabolic conspiracy between the husband who thinks that marital rape is OK, the paternalistic medical profession who ignore Rosemary's wishes and hand her back into her husband's authority, and the neighbours who pressurise the liberated Rosemary into becoming a submissive wifey and mother...I've always found it powerful and chilling, not because of the supernatural, devil worship elements (which are too tongue-in-cheek to be scary), but because it mirrors a real-life misogynist society which is really terrifying.

Also, one of the many, many reasons why I find The Pianist a much better film than Schindler's List, is that in my opinion it lacks the casual sexism of the latter (I find the scene where we're supposed to find it hilarious that middle-aged, overweight women apply for the post of Schindler's secretary and obvious that he'll reject them and choose a hottie particularly sickening).

I wish I could say the same about Polanski in real life, though - quite aside from the rape of Samantha Gailey, he's said some truly awful stuff in comparatively recent interviews about sexual harassment being a ridiculous, politically correct fiction.

Have Your say

Latest Comments

Reclaiming The F-Word

Founder of The F-Word, Catherine Redfern, has co-authored a new book with Kristin Aune. Find out more at the Reclaiming The F-Word website.

Further Reading

Has The F-Word whet your appetite? Check out our Resources section, for listings of feminist blogs, campaigns, feminist networks in the UK, mailing lists, international and national websites and charities of interest.

Write for us!

Got something to say? Something to review? News to discuss? Well we want to hear from you! Click here for more info

  • The F-Word Feeds
  • #
  • #