What’s a feminist to do?

Today, I awarded this week the title of Worst News Cycle of 2012. This is the week that brought us the Pussy Riot verdict and the ongoing slaughter of Syrian civilians in addition to a truly glorious phenomenon, one as rare as the birth of a white buffalo or a atheist in Alabama: unity on the right and left. Behold, ladies and gentlemen, that sound you hear is the sound of consensus! Is it about global warming, you ask? You’re hilarious! Is it concern over growing rates of domestic terrorism? LOL. Free speech? Well, funny you should mention that. Actually, excuse me while I beat my head against my desk, repeatedly, until I forget that Julian Assange and Todd Akin share an atmosphere with me.

This blog typically has an academic tone. Tonight’s post will be different. It’s derived from exhaustion, disappointment, and absolute fury because this week, I learned that the only belief that can successfully unite the right and the left is the belief that women aren’t to be trusted. Our rapes aren’t legitimate and our rights are secondary to the reputations of popular political heroes. As a feminist, rape culture isn’t news to me. As a leftist, I expect to see that culture reinforced by socially conservative policies. I don’t expect others in my own movement to adopt exactly the same rhetoric in the defense of an accused rapist.

Maybe I’m naive. Maybe I’m stupider than I thought. Maybe it’s really that I’m too gullible, and so I’ve merely exchanged religious oppression for a secularised version. But when I think of revolution, I think of freedom. I think of the ability to walk down the street without fearing attack or verbal harassment. I think of a day when I won’t be stigmatised as a liar and a slut for experiencing an attempted rape.  And that day seems further today away than it has in recent memory. So what’s left for me? Who do I stand with? Because I can tell you now that every man (and it has always been a man, this week) who demands that I do their research for them, who defies logic and fact to insist that Assange is a victim, is not my ally. You’re closer to Todd Akin than you are to me. When you say that Assange’s accusers are sluts or they are lying pawns of a political conspiracy you devalue my experience and the experiences of my friends. You tell me that my experiences aren’t legitimate, that I am not legitimate. And I hate to tell you this, because I wish it were true, but the female body does not actually possess magic anti-rape powers. We can’t “shut down” rape-induced pregnancies any more than we can “shut down” rape itself.

So what’s a feminist to do? We’ve known for decades that we will find no allies in the religious right. Todd Akin’s views are hardly news. But you tell me how to fight for gender equality when I’ve got to fight the left as well as the right. Please. Tell me, all you so-called revolutionaries and activists who support Assange. Explain to me why my rights don’t matter. Explain to me why gender equality and free speech are suddenly mutually exclusive and divergent causes. Explain to me why Todd Akin is the devil and Julian Assange is a hero when they possess fundamentally similar views about rape. You explain that to me, because I’ve done enough explaining myself this week.


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