January 4, 2010


Brownmiller, Susan, Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1975) (Brownmiller's Against Our Will remains a required read. Its rhetoric, though perhaps not the argument taken as a whole, is often dishonest. A case in point is the the beginning of Chapter 3, which addresses rape in war. The chapter begins with a quotation from General George S. Patton, Jr.: "I then told him that, in spite of my most diligent efforts, there would unquestionably be some raping, and that I should like to have the details as early as possible so that the offenders could be properly hanged." Id. at 31. Read that sentence again and note the phrase, "in spite of my most diligent efforts, there would unquestionably be some raping . . . ." Then comes Brownmiller's first full paragraph. "It's funny about man's attitude toward rape in war. Unquestionably there shall be some raping. When men are men, slugging it out among themselves, conquering new land, subjugating new people, driving on toward victory, unquestionably there shall be some raping." Id. at 31 (italics in original). Read that paragraph again, and note that the two appearances of "unquestionably", and only that word, are italicized by Brownmiller for emphasis; and, note that what is unquestionable for her is not that there would be some raping, but rather that there unquestionably there "shall be" some raping. 'Would be' has dishonestly morphed into "shall be" for rhetoric purposes. Such rhetorical moves lessened a nevertheless (though not "nonetheless") important book. Then again, I recall a certain cartoon in The New Yorker. A woman and a man are sitting on a sofa, apparently watching television. The woman essentially informs the man that the reason he did not understand whatever was on the television is because he is not the targeted audience. Men (or at least certain men) don't get the message because the message is not intended for you. Against Our Will, political tract in the Second Wave of American feminism, is pitched toward (most?) women and toward (few?) men; so it is understandable that (a lot of) men and few women took issue with Brownmiller's discussion of the political history of rape. They did not get it, but then again they were meant to get it. Read, for instance, Diane Johnson's book review, "The War Between Men and Women," in the New York Review of Books, Volume 22, Number 20, December 11, 1975. It should also be noted that some of the heated rhetoric in the politics of rape got muted in the Third Wave, as the Second Wave became mothers of sons. It is a lot harder to view one's sons as potential rapists. Though one' sons must be potential rapists if all men rape. This is also one of the reasons why the politics of "date rape" is heartwrenching for mothers with sons. Moreover, there are all those sons, fathers, brothers, husbands, etc., who are serving in the military during times of war. Soldier rape in war. American soldiers rape in war. See the recent New York Times series, "Women at Arms.," especially Steven Lee Myers, "A Peril in War Zones: Sexual Abuse by Fellow G.I.’s," NYT, December 27, 2009.).

Dworkin, Andrea, Heartbreak: The Political Memoir of a Feminist Militant (New York: Basic Books, 2002) ("The worst immoralities are but one, a single sin of human nothingness and stupidity. 'Do no harm' is the counterpoint to apathy, indifference, and passive aggression; it is the fundamental moral imperative. 'Do no harm' is the opposite of immoral. One must do something and at the same time do no harm. 'Do no harm' remains the hardest ethic." Id. at 204.).

Dworkin, Andrea, Life and Death: Unapologetic Writings on the Continuing War Against Women (New York: Free Press, 1997) (From "Terror, Torture, and Resistance": "I want to talk about the violence against women, and you're here to talk about healing. I wish that you could raise the dead. That is what I would like to see. This is a political point. One of the reasons that the Right reaches so many women is that the Right has a transcendent god who says I will heal all your hurt and all your pain and all your wounds: 'I died for you. I will heal you.' Feminists do not have a transcendent god who can heal that way. We have ideas about fairness and justice and equality. And we have to find ways to make them real. We don't have magic. We don't have supernatural powers. And we can't keep sticking together women who have been broken into little pieces. Fighting back is as close to healing as we are going to come. It is important to understand that we will live with a fair amount of pain for most of our lives. If your priority is to live a painless life, you will not be able to help yourself or other women. What matters is to be a warrior. Having a sense of honor about political struggle is healing. Discipline is necessary. Actions against men who hurt women must be real. We need to win. We are in a war. We have not been fighting back. We need to win this war. We need a political resistance. We need it aboveground. We need it with our lawmakers, with our government officials. We need it with our professional women. We need it aboveground. We need it underground too." Id. at 115, 123-124.).

Dworkin, Andrea, Scapegoat: The Jews, Israel, and Women’s Liberation (New York: Free Press, 2000) ("Put concretely, women need land and guns or other armament or defense; or women need to organize nonviolently in great masses that grow out of small demonstrations using civil disobedience. The latter is harder than the former but gets fairer results. One needs to target individual men who commit crimes against women and institutions that objectify, demean, and hurt women; using either violence or nonviolence. Indiscriminate violence is never justified; there are always innocents." "One needs a commitment to discipline and sacrifice. One needs either equality or political and economic superiority. The former is harder than the later. One needs strong girls who grow up to be strong and fierce women. One needs a sense of what is urgent, including the huge problem of female illiteracy and poverty, both of which take children with them. One needs food, shelter, health care, and education for women as well as political rights. One needs a concrete militancy, grassroots organizations, the female practice of cooperation seen in Nazi concentration camps and Argentinean jails. One needs a nonrhetorical commitment to justice. One needs the rulership and political autonomy of women: the eventual taking over of public policy and civil power. One needs fair treatment of the male minority. One needs to revisit the principles of eighteenth-century political thinkers and philosophers with a clarity about what is missing: principles and practices that did not speak to the honor and dignity of women as citizens. Thomas Jefferson and the other U.S. founders did not give women anything: no rights; no freedom; no money; no land. Neither the American Revolution nor the French Revolution nor the Enlightenment nor the aftermath of the U.S. Civil War (in which the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteen Amendments to the U.S. Constitution were ratified) dared to hand over rights to women." "One needs rules in courts of law based on how crimes really happen--rape, for instance--and the development of rules of evidence that are fair from the point of view of the raped, not the raper. One needs rape museums to put in one place the cogency and significance of the act of rape; a story told through artifacts and stories. One needs the deep study of prostitution as a paradigm for scapegoating." "Remember that men are biologically vulnerable: they war their genitals on the outside of their bodies; it is easier for women to hurt men than for men to get inside their bodies--except that women don't want to hurt men and men do want to get inside women. One must turn this around: men must be made aware of their fragility and vulnerability--or is that what creates make aggression, precisely that awareness, never spoken?" Id. at 336-337.).

Feimster, Crystal N., Southern Horrors: Women and the Politics of Rape and Lynching (Cambridge, Massachusetts, & London, England: Harvard University Press, 2009) ("This is a history of two southern women, Rebecca Latimer Felton (1835-1930) and Ida B. Wells (186201931), and the thousands of women who joined their campaigns against rape and for women's rights in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries during the height of lynching in the American South. . . . Despite differences in their age, race, class, and status, they both, in very different contexts, took radical stances on rape and lynching. Together, their struggles against sexual violence--Wells advocated on the black women's behalf and Felton mostly fought for the protection of poor white women--brought to southern politics the concerns of women who historically had been excluded from debates about rape and protection. Although both campaigned for women's safety, they confronted the problem of lynching in completely different ways. While Wells became internationally known for her radical anti-lunching crusade, it was Felton's notorious plea to 'lynch a thousand a week' that thrust her into the national spotlight. From different sides of the color line, Felton and Wells were women's rights pioneers who negotiated and challenged the racial and sexual politics of the New South." Id. at 1. "After the [Civil] war, as white anxiety about the political, economic, and social meanings of emancipation intensified, different constituencies assembled a convergent set of racial and sexual fantasies. During the overthrow of Reconstruction, southern white men managed to flip the antebellum script of racial and sexual violence. Whereas prior to the war abolitionists had espoused a political narrative that centered on the rape of black women by white men, in the postwar years southern men articulated a political discourse that defined rape as a crime committed by black men against white women. In constructing the image of the 'black rapist,' southern white men sought to challenge black men's right as citizens while simultaneously expanding their own sexual power over both black and white women. The portrayal of black men as beastly and unable to control their sexual desires served to justify the practice of lynching, segregation laws, and disfranchisement of black men." Id. at 4-5. "By 1920 . . . Felton no longer believed that black men were the primary threat to white womanhood. Instead, she now re-embraced the view she had held in the 1880s and early 1890s, that white men represented the great danger to southern women, both black and white." Id. at 205. "Despite scholarly claims that the Civil War was a low-rape war, the fact that many women feared sexual assault and that hundreds, and possibly thousands, of women suffered rape cannot be ignored. Men and women not only wrote about sexual assault and the fear of rape in their diaries and letters, but women, black and white, free and enslaved, pressed charges against alleged rapists. At least 250 Union soldiers were court-martialed for the crime of rape." Id. at 20. This is an interesting read. For those who are puzzled over the continuing presence of race, ethnic, socio-economic class fault-lines among American feminists, the book will provide a longer historical perspective.).

Pamuk, Orhan, Other Colors: Essays and a Story (New York: Knopf, 2007) ("We all know that the longer this campaign continues, the more the U.S. Army seeks to satisfy its won nation by killing innocent people in Afghanistan and elsewhere, the more it will exacerbate the manufactured tension between East and West, thereby playing into the hands of the very terrorists it wishes to punish. It is at present morally reprehensible to suggest this savage terrorism is a response to America's world domination. But it is nevertheless important to understand why millions of people living in poor and marginalized countries that have lost even the right to shape their own histories might feel such anger against America. This is not simply that we must see their anger as justified. It is important to remember that many Third World and Islamic countries use anti-American sentiment to occlude their democratic shorting comings and shore up dictatorships. Muslim countries that are struggling to establish secular democracies are not helped in the least when America allies itself with closed societies like Saudi Arabia which claim democracy and Islam to be irreconcilable. In much the same way, the more superficial variety of anti-Americanism that one sees in Turkey allows those at the top to waste and misappropriate the money given to them by international financial bodies and to conceal the ever-growing gap between rich and poor. There are many in the United States who support the offensive unconditionally, just because they wish to demonstrate their military dominance and give the terrorists a symbolic 'lesson,' and some who discuss the likely locations of the next bombing raid cheerfully as if they were playing a video game, but they should understand that decisions taken in the heat of battle can only intensify the anger and humiliation that the millions in the world's poor Islamic countries feel against a West that sees itself as superior. It is not Islam that makes people side with the terrorists, nor is it poverty; it is the crushing humiliation felt throughout the Third World." Id. 219-220. "Nothing nurtures support for the 'Islamist' throwing nitric acid in the faces of women more than the West's refusal to understand the anger of the damned." Id. at 221.).