Sunday, June 23, 2013

Proof 'Progress" Isn't

Really? Rape? Still?


I don’t know about you, but the massive amount of stories about rape in the last year is something out of the ordinary. During the presidential campaign we had various troglodyte chauvinist Republicans claiming rapes don’t cause pregnancy much, or women who were raped deserved it in some way. They were ‘easy’ and as such, this might be a case of ‘legitimate rape’ or “God intended’ rape. Or that ‘rape’ was a chance to have more children! This was a head-scratcher. Even though they knew that women vote, they couldn’t help themselves saying incredibly stupid and unscientific shit. 191,670 rapes were reported in 2005 in the U.S. – no small number.

Then the scandal in the U.S. military broke about the ‘rape cult’ there involving a large minority of men and officers, leading to possibly a third of all combat women being assaulted in some way. No real follow-up, no prosecution, all kept ‘in-house,’ like the Catholic Church. Even some officers in charge of looking into assaults on females were accused of harassment and assault. This was no surprise, as anti-female, anti-gay, anti-hippie, anti-foreigner slurs are all part of basic training, and have been for many years. After all, not all men join the ‘volunteer’ army due to economics or patriotism. Many join because they want to be a ‘man’ – whatever that seems to them. And being a ‘man’ in the military means hating female characteristics. Even male draftees in Vietnam who were not macho enough were abused.

Then there was the publicizing of rapes, first of foreigners, then of many local women in India, with Mumbai and Delhi being the capitals of Indian rape. 24,000+ rapes were reported in one year, but campaigners estimate the real number is far greater. Massive demonstrations followed, but the cops and government, as usual, sat on their hands. Rapists are typically not convicted. Domestic rape is not illegal. Of course, India is one of the most chauvinist cultures in the world. Sexual harassment in Mumbai is endemic. Rape has doubled between 1990 and 2008, as neo-liberal economic polices have grown. Arundhati Roy, in her recent book, “Walking with the Comrades” (reviewed below) revealed how many rural Indian women have joined the armed revolutionary groups in the forests because it is the one way to get away from Indian chauvinism.

Recently Serena Williams, a rich black woman, said that the drunk girl in Steubenville is an example of why girls shouldn’t be drunk or they’ll get raped. This ‘blame the victim’ moralism is big among the black and white middle-class. Or male comedians making rape ‘jokes.’ You gotta wonder.

U.S. colleges like University of North Carolina, Dartmouth, Occidental College, Amherst, Swarthmore, Univeristy of Montana, Oklahoma State, University of Notre Dame, Yale and UC Berkely have all recently been accused of ignoring sexual assaults - treating them as private matters like the Catholic Church and the military do.  Now Chile is in the midst of a controversy over a pregnant 11-year-old who was raped, and in which Chilean law (also heavily influenced by the Catholic Church) forbids an abortion.  These kind of events are repeated all over the world.  

This is astonishing really. At this time in history, women are still treated like sexual dog-meat across the whole world. The backwardness this reveals, even in so-called ‘progressive’ cultures, is extremely significant. As Chairman Mao said, “Women hold up more than half the sky” – ok, I paraphrase – and yet women are demonized, belittled, raped and killed, all promoted by various male chauvinist conservative cultures – Hindu, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Mormon, even Buddhist. Those cultures do not stand alone without a material foundation, much as shallow Democrats would have you believe it is all just a culture war with ‘bad people.’ Women provide vast amounts of unpaid or low-paid labor across the world (See review of “In Letter of Blood & Fire,” below), and in order to keep this coming, women HAVE to be kept in their place. It is an economic imperative for an exploitative system.

As if to emphasize this, reports have just been made about rape of female Latino farm workers in the San Joaquin Valley by supervisors in the fields.   Of course, some are 'illegal' so they are afraid to report the rapes and harassment. And now we have reports that a Norwegian woman in Dubai was raped, and then jailed for having 'sex outside of marriage.'  Yeah, you got that right.  The Muslim-crazy millionaire sheiks of this country still believe in jailing rape victims.  To top that off, female genital mutilation remains almost universal in Somalia, Guinea, Djibouti, and Egypt, with more than nine out of 10 women and girls aged 15-49 being cut. In countries such as Chad, Gambia, Mali, Senegal, Sudan, or Yemen, there has been no discernible decline in female genital mutilation... even with laws against it.  Its not the laws - it is the male chauvinist version of the religion and the subsequent culture that dictate these behaviors.  And of course, the 'laws' are not enforced.

It is also a ‘male bribe’ paid to some men in order that they can at least say, “well, I’m not a woman, thank god” much as whites in the U.S. south and now north can say, ‘well, at least I’m not black.” This divides the working class, and diverts male anger from capitalism to women – and mostly to the women they know. According to a recent WHO study, 80% of all assaults are by people known to the attacker. World-wide according to WHO, a third of all women are raped or assaulted. I suspect economic and material conditions play a large role in this.

Rape is merely a physical manifestation of economic and political domination, of the class system, of inequality, of capitalism, projected onto personal relations. Yet women have the power to upset every traditional capitalist society in the world, if they would only gain the confidence to do so. This has been lacking for years, especially in the U.S., as many women think everything is solved, and follow in the trail of the Democratic Party. Because, after all, oppression oppresses. Many don’t understand this. Many think oppression only creates ‘nobility.’ It doesn’t. It damages people, sometimes permanently, sometimes in many ways that people don’t even recognize. Fear and passivity are results of this. Even being out after dark is still a fear, so more fearful women limit their mobility.

Take Title 9, adopted in the U.S. in 1972. Title 9 changed a lot of things. For the generation of women who grew up in the U.S. prior to Title 9 (women now in their 50s and 60s) many don’t have many physical skills – self-defence, bicycling, sports skills, physical strength in lifting, etc. Some swim or garden, and that is about it. After Title 9 women were allowed to participate in sports in schools, and now many young women can do more than swim. Women are at least 1/3rd of bicyclists in our town, if not more, which means they can handle that bit of risk and effort. Younger women are less reticent to carry heavy things, to play sports, to run, to sweat, to box or fight, to canoe and portage, to roller-blade – you name it.

Affirmative action programs in federal and state, and later private employment, allowed women to enter some blue-collar working-class jobs that demand physical strength – laws that did not exist in the ‘60s or prior. Of course, these laws don’t address the role of class backgrounds, in which working-class and poor women do much more physical work than middle and upper-class women anyway, something no ‘law’ can change. Many middle class women look down on physical work as something fit for ‘washer-women,’ ‘fish-wives’ and ‘farm wives.’ Somehow they think it makes them less feminine and lowers their class standing. What it actually reveals is that they have not really absorbed the women’s movement.  Of course, middle-class men are no different.

Title 9 and affirmative action ultimately allowed some women to defend themselves better, and deflect the view of many men that women are mostly just wimps and physically helpless. There are even some female action stars in films, reflecting this development – Linda Hamilton in Terminator II, Angelina Jolie, Kate Beckinsale, etc. However, even the tougher women in the military are still raped and abused, so this is no ultimate defence - because the system protects rape and violence. Women are still second-class citizens – and in many places in the world, third-class. Yet they have one of the keys to the class war, if only they would use it.

P.S. - As if to emphasize the point on bringing back a real women's movement to the U.S., thousands of Texans flooded the Texas Legislature in Austin Tuesday night (25th) to back up a long, long filibuster by Democrat Wendy Davis against abortion restrictions.  Not content to watch on U-Tube or comment on Twitter, the huge crowd - in person - helped derail a vote to virtually end the right of abortion in Texas.  It was a small re-play of Wisconsin, an occupation of the government chambers.  What we really need is a permanent occupation of the government chambers, as representative democracy is a sham.  We need real and permanent 'participatory democracy,'  not a 'representative' democracy owned by big business, the bourgeois state and corporate media.

Red Frog
June 23, 2013

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