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Conservatives angle to exploit rape of 13-year-old to score points

By Amanda Marcotte
Friday, October 9, 2009 1:39 EDT
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Let this be a lesson to all of us. One should always be wary when movement conservatives join up with you on an issue. Movement conservatives joined feminists, most liberals, and basically anyone with common sense to suggest that Roman Polanski’s arrest and extradition were properly understood as just desserts for raping a 13-year-old in 1977, and I was immediately suspicious. What’s their game? What do they think they can get out of this? The answer seemed to be that they saw it as a cudgel to beat some of their favorite targets they claim define liberalism: the French elite, Hollywood types, etc. The Polanski case gave conservatives an opportunity to claim that liberalism is decadent, and that leads directly to child rape. As I argued at RH Reality Check, focusing on Hollywood culture is missing the point. The ugly reality is that there’s nothing unique about the wagon-circling going on around Polanski. Quoting myself:

But I’d suggest that the Hollywood rush to defend Polanski is something simpler: the same apologism you see every time a man assaults a woman with the same or lower social status that he has. Every time a frat boy rapes a sorority girl, an athlete rapes a fan, a famous musician beats his girlfriend, a bunch of rich high school kids rape a classmate, high school athletes rape a mentally retarded girl, or a Hollywood star takes advantage of an underage girl, the story is the same: The man or men can expect friends, family, admirers, and perfect strangers invested in the sexist status quo to rally around and support him while denouncing the victim as a liar and a slut who asked for it.

Indeed, as I noted yesterday, usually movement conservatives are only too happy to perpetuate rape apologism, unless the accused rapist fits neatly into one of their demonized categories, and then suddenly they act like they just discovered rape is a crime. Indeed, a lot of conservative rape apologism takes the form of demanding that feminists stop caring about rapes committed by men they like, and start caring more about rapes committed by men they don’t.

Today’s example of how rape is alright by right wingers if performed by approved males: 30 Republican men voted against an appropriations amendment that would defund any contractor who bullies rape victims into not reporting the crime.

So when right wingers gather around to condemn a rape, it’s worth asking—what are you trying to get out of this? I hate to be cynical, and I wish that I could assume that sometimes common human decency overrules their uglier instincts, but when it comes to the Polanski thing, I’m afraid that it was too much to ask right wingers to stand for justice, and not try to angle this to score points against the liberal/hippie/Democrat team. Instead, we get this disgusting article from Politico that tries to transfer blame for Polanski’s crime to President Obama.

Movie industry types calling for the release of director Roman Polanski last year gave $34,000 to Obama’s presidential campaign and the Democratic Party, FEC records show.

It’s hard to describe the excessive assholery of this move, but let’s just say that the headline is in the enormous block font that indicates that this is A MAJOR STORY ON PAR WITH A MASSIVE TERRORIST ATTACK OR ASSASSINATION. It’s particularly disingenuous when you consider that our sitting Vice President pushed the original Violence Against Women Act through in 1994, and most of the votes opposing in the Senate were Republicans. I don’t want to oversimplify this; it was a large anti-crime bill, and the VAWA was just part of it, which means some of the votes against it could have been objections to other parts of the bill. But the vast majority of antagonism against policy-based approaches to reducing rape and domestic violence have come from the right, and using the Polanski situation to distract from this is sleazy. I fear now that right wingers are going to treat their opinions on the Polanski situation as a permanent Get Out Of Jail Free card, to be played every time they denounce a rape victim, defend an accused or convicted rapist, or minimize the prevalence. They’re going to say, hey I was against rape that one time, so you can’t say I don’t care about rape.

Indeed, I’d suggest that’s part of why Politico ran this piece right after 30 Republican Senators thought that rape cover-ups were not enough reason to stop the money flowing into military contractor coffers.

The real lesson of this Polanski thing is that rape apologism flows from people who identify with the rapist, and since the “liberal elite” are not immune to raping someone, nor are they immune to defending one of their own who does it. Since conservatives identify strongly with the generic male, especially a generic white male, and denounce the feminine as corrosive, they’re mostly going to find themselves attracted to rape denial and supporting rapists, but there are always going to be situations where they don’t identify with rapists (if they’re not white, or they’re “Hollywood liberals” or they’re Democrats), and so they won’t feel that urge. But they don’t deserve a cookie, and we should not overlook incidents like this, where rape is treated more like a political tool than a crime against a human being that demands justice.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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