I’ll admit that, when that woman accused the Duke Lacrosse Team of raping her, I believed her.
And I’ll admit that, as it became obvious that her story was “problematic,” I kind of just refrained from writing about it because I was secretly hoping that the prosecution had evidence that the rest of us have not seen, that would back up her claims.
That doesn’t seem to be the case.
Slate has a story up right now about how the New York Times has all but convicted the three suspects. Here’s the part that made me feel kind of sick to my stomach:
Imagine you are the world’s most powerful newspaper and you have invested your credibility in yet another story line that is falling apart, crumbling as inexorably as Jayson Blair’s fabrications and the flawed reporting on Saddam Hussein’s supposed WMD.
This is, as you may note, the opening paragraph of the story. It’s pretty much down-hill from there for a girl who believed that the Duke Lacrosse Team was the epitome of evil.
Tangentially, can I just say that I’m reluctantly in the “You just can’t trust the New York Times.” camp?
Anyway, this is not about blaming the New York Times, this is about taking stock of where we are and then some side notes about how I feel about feminism.
So, where we are. In some ways, we’re neck-deep in the same shit we’ve always been neck-deep in. It’s easy enough to assume that groups of young men will easily do evil. It’s easy enough to assume that sex workers are untrustworthy and fucked up. That cops lie and that the justice system isn’t often actually about achieving justice.
I was thinking about how one in twenty-two college men admits to having forced a girl to have sex with him. I was thinking about Plimco* and my other friends who’ve been assaulted and how I can count on one hand the women I know who’ve never felt they were in danger of being hurt by a man, at least once.
Most of the women I know who’ve been attacked never reported it to the police because they were afraid they wouldn’t be believed.
I think, at least for me, it’s hearing all these stories over and over again told by women I deeply love that makes it very hard for me to believe that any woman would ever lie about being raped. It’s such a horrendous thing and the aftermath can be gruesome and the justice system is perceived of as no safe place for rape victims–it’s hard to imagine who would ever claim to have gone through a rape knowing that the scrutiny the claimant faces is also its own kind of hell.
And yet, I’m now convinced that this is my own blindspot–that I don’t believe women are capable of lying about rape.
I’ve gone off here before about this very danger: about how traditional ideas about women are that we’re either idiots in need of a big strong man to guide us or that we’re morally superior to men (at least, I believe this to be the dynamic on the ‘Madonna’ side of the Madonna/Whore dichotomy). And I do believe that feminists have a tendency, while fighting against the idea that we’re innocent idiots who need male guidance, to gladly latch on to this idea that we’re morally superior to men.
And, frankly, I think that’s what I did in this case. I thought that a woman wouldn’t lie about being raped and that, of course, a bunch of entitled jackasses at a prestigious school would feel entitled to her body if they wanted and that they’d then protect each other. In other words, I believed her to be morally superior to them.
It’s more than a little embarrassing to admit that and to take my lumps from those of you who will line up to do the lump handing-out, but I think it’s necessary.
As for feminism, I’m still a feminist. But I have to say that I’m kind of at the “what the fuck?!” point with other feminists. I’m a feminist because I want to live my life in as pleasant a manner as possible. That’s my goal. I find being a feminist pleasant, for the most part, because I like being smart, funny, obnoxious, and independent. I like knowing that I can take care of myself, if need be. I like having a set of theoretical tools to help me understand certain societal dynamics and to help me work on dismantling the ones that get in the way of my pleasure.
Where I went wrong with the Duke case was clearly to react out of fear instead of proactively moving towards increasing my pleasure. I don’t mean that in some “why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?” way. I mean it in some sense of the deep satisfaction that comes from striving for wisdom**.
I don’t think that it’s just me who’s not trying to strive towards wisdom (though, honestly, I may be the only feminist in the world striving towards the pleasure of wisdom–whatever I might mean by that). I’m not being clear, in part because I’m just watching from the sidelines and it’s not all clear to me. But I love I Blame the Patriarchy and even though I thought that Twisty’s post about blow jobs was ridiculous, I thought it was supposed to be ridiculous for the sake of making a point.
And I love Pandagon and have learned a shit-ton from Amanda Marcotte.
And I love mocking the stupid as much as the next person.
But I wonder if they’re happy. If happiness is even a goal of their feminism. Maybe it’s not and that’s fine. But maybe I need to stop reading so uncritically feminists whose goals don’t align with my own, even if I adore them.
*Sorry, Plimco, maybe I should have warned you about how having a forum sometimes seems to be a catalyst for dealing with things you’d rather have left behind you.
**Well, well. I had until this moment no idea that I so closely linked wisdom and pleasure. That’s interesting.