The “We are not Julian” round-up
Laura // 21 August 2012
Well, it’s been a rather horrible week or so on the rape apologism front, hasn’t it? With Julian Assange in the spotlight again, the misogynists have come crawling out of the woodwork, culminating last night in Craig Murray naming one of Assange’s alleged victims live on Newsnight (followed by complaints that she didn’t behave as a good rape victim should).
This came hot on the heels of George Galloway’s assertion that Assange’s alleged behaviour was nothing more than “bad sexual etiquette”. Apparently, if you consent to sex with someone once, that gives them carte blanche to penetrate you whenever they feel like it. He also reminded us that sex is just something men “do” to women. The man is living proof of the desperate need to educate both adults and young people about the importance and meaning of consent.
These are just two high profile examples of the kind of rape apologism that has been springing up left, right and centre (all too often on the former).
In light of all this and the seriousness of the charges Assange is facing, it was quite frankly disgusting to see Assange’s supporters chanting “I am Julian” outside the Ecuadorian Embassy on Sunday. Though at least we can safely add them to our list of people we’d never want to fall asleep next to.
If you’ve been wondering why we haven’t covered the topic thus far, it’s because we’re struggling to find the spoons to address it. However, plenty of others have written some great posts, and I wanted to highlight a few here. Please feel free to link to any others in comments.
Firstly, some essential reading on the legal issues surrounding the case, in which David Allen Green busts a number of the myths being circulated by Assange’s supporters, including:
“Sweden should guarantee that there be no extradition to USA”
It would not be legally possible for Swedish government to give any guarantee about a future extradition, and nor would it have any binding effect on the Swedish legal system in the event of a future extradition request.
By asking for this ‘guarantee’, Assange is asking the impossible, as he probably knows. Under international law, all extradition requests have to be dealt with on their merits and in accordance with the applicable law; and any final word on an extradition would (quite properly) be with an independent Swedish court, and not the government giving the purported ‘guarantee’.
Also Sweden (like the United Kingdom) is bound by EU and ECHR law not to extradite in circumstances where there is any risk of the death penalty or torture. There would be no extradition to the United States in such circumstances.
Martin Schultz has more on the Swedish legal system.
Edinburgh Eye highlights a few stories from Ecuador that we’ll “never now hear from Wikileaks”, involving the suppression of free speech.
Moving on to feminist perspectives, Sian Norris questions Assange’s human rights credentials and asks “What about the women?”:
The danger of Assange supporters saying that the crime he is accused of isn’t rape and sexual assault is clear. It’s saying that women and girls who are raped in their sleep haven’t been really been raped. It’s saying that women and girls who didn’t fight back or who knew their attacker or willingly got into bed with their attacker, or went to a party with their attacker weren’t raped. And this is simply not acceptable. It’s not. It’s silencing. It’s invalidating the experiences of millions of women. The more Pilger, Chomsky, Moore etc. stand up there and mock the idea that a woman could be raped whilst she slept are mocking the millions of women and girls who have been.
In my ideal anarcho-utopia, there would be no courts and no extraditions (for there would be no borders). Sexual violence would be addressed through transformative justice and community accountability, with the needs of the survivor put first. But here’s the pinch: it requires engagement from everyone. It requires the Assanges of the world to stop running and start to accept that they have crossed boundaries. It requires the rape apologists of the world to shut the fuck up and stop spinning conspiracies, expressing deep misogyny and outright lying about survivors.
Many feminists have been voicing their frustration and disgust at the willingness of many on the Left (mostly men) to toss women’s rights aside in their pursuit of what they view as a bigger, more important issue (plus ça change, huh?).
Cath Elliot writes:
It’s like one minute feminism’s an attractive and right-on proposition for some men, but as soon as things start getting a bit iffy, as soon as one of their own comes under scrutiny, suddenly it’s all boys together and women’s opinions don’t count – or “bros before hos” as I’ve seen it referred to elsewhere.
And Stef Newton, who came into feminism through the left-wing student protest movement, is similarly disappointed:
The uncritical support of Assange from parts of the Left has left a very sour taste in my mouth. It comes from a culture of silence and fear. It has made me think twice, like when I have to think twice about getting a bus alone at night. It has shown me who is willing to silence my voice, and it has shown me how much work we still have ahead of us as feminists.
I’m not usually one for patting male feminist allies on the back, but in this context I did let out a little hurrah for Owen Jones, one of the few men on the Left who has publicly spoken out against the rape apologists.
So we’ve got angry all over the internet. Many of us have exhausted ourselves engaging with these apologists, often to frustratingly little avail. Now, surely, it’s time to harness this anger and act collectively to make our voices heard on the streets and show our support for rape survivors everywhere. If I could make it down to London, I’d be outside the Ecuadorian Embassy like a shot…
Photo of a placard that reads “Combat rape culture everywhere for everyone”, lying on a lawn next to a pair of black boots, by Alan Wilfahrt, shared under a Creative Commons licence.