Julian Assange should not become the target for expressions of fury over sexism
The Guardian, Friday 21 January 2011
Suzanne Moore accuses Naomi Wolf of having "muddled the personal with the political" (All this polite and smiley feminism is pointless. It's time to get angry, 15 January). True, Wolf's call for an end to anonymity for rape victims – following the Julian Assange extradition case – shows ignorance (The morality of anonymity, 5 January). We know no one who's found the protection afforded by anonymity "condescending". Nor does it "make rape prosecutions more difficult" – low reporting (about 10% of rapes) and low conviction rates result largely from negligent and biased investigations.
But Moore herself is muddled. Somehow women concerned with the dangers the WikiLeaks founder faces – extradition, rendition and even execution – because of the effectiveness of WikiLeaks are "losing their heads around Assange. I picture Bianca Jagger washing his feet with her tears soon."
By dismissing Jagger, Moore removes upholding human rights and opposing dictatorships from feminist concern. What an indictment of her feminism! In this way the nub of the question is avoided: rape allegations against Assange can no longer be disentangled from the political agenda shaping how they are dealt with. He's become an easy target for expressions of fury and frustration at sexism. As part of a movement of rape survivors for over 35 years, we campaign for justice and protection, for rape victims' right to anonymity – and defendants' right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Moore rails against the "pitiful results" achieved by "smiley" feminism which fears to be labelled as "man-haters". She objects to "silicone implants", "shopping" and the term "sex workers": "We are all sex workers these days … we are all encouraged to pursue lifelong sexiness." She says, "I want a movement." And who does she propose? Pornography-obsessed Andrea Dworkin – "batty", but she had "balls". Are "balls" what women need? We thought we needed principles. Sadly they have been scarce.
Moore acknowledges that "turning vulnerable young girls into drug-addicted prostitutes is disgusting in any culture", but belittles complaints about Jack Straw's racist comments that Asian men "target vulnerable young white girls". Arguments "about ethnicity and faith" are not "the central issue", she says. Yet most "groomers" and rapists in the UK are, of course, white.
It is reminiscent of Susan Brownmiller's Against Our Will, the feminist anti-rape bible, which was ambivalent on the lynching of 14-year-old Emmet Till for whistling at a white woman. His whistling "was … just short of physical assault, a last reminder … that this black boy, Till, had in mind to possess her".
Moore would do better to rail against feminists in government who rarely act for women and often act against us. When she says "Women are suffering most from the cuts that men are making", she forgets that Yvette Cooper's welfare cuts insisted that even victims of domestic violence had to be available for work. And when, after the Abu Ghraib horrors, we wrote to all women MPs about the rape and torture of Iraqi women, their silence was deafening.