Just last night, I was mulling over and trying to suss out for myself what exactly is going on with men, between men, over the bodies of raped women. And this morning, I awake to a conservative blogosphere full of outrage over reports of a paper by Tal Nitzan that seems to argue that Israeli soldiers don’t rape Palestinian women out of, in part, a motivation to send a message to the Palestinian people about their worth.
Now, I don’t want to get bogged down in talking about the Israeli/Palastinian mess. I’m not even that interested in talking about the paper, because I, like most people in the world, haven’t read it. Folks seem to be pretty creatively quoting from this news article in a way that makes it seem as if they’ve seen the article, but if it’s out there, easily accessed, I can’t find it.
And one would think that, if bloggers had found it, they would be linking to it in order to tear it to pieces.
But no, instead, based on a news report, we’re all supposed to contact The Hebrew University and express out outrage that… what?
Scholars are speculating?
Anyway, any more than that, I’m not going to defend or deride Nitzan. I haven’t read her article and I’m not going to be outraged based on wide-spread extrapolations from the interpretations of what she’s saying from one news source.
Anyone can have words taken out of context. I could write a sentence that says “I love Stalin!” in the context of, say, writing a paragraph about how things can be taken out of context, only to find that folks who disagree with me would take those three words and paint me a neo-idiot.
No, what I find interesting is how you can see being played out something similar to what I was talking about last night.
See Stickwick here. Her line of thought seems to be pretty representative, I think.:
In other words, it’s dehumanizing not to rape someone, and the IDF can’t win. I knew this student was a woman before I even read through the rest of the news article, because only a woman could conceive of a scenario in which a man is guilty no matter what he does. Unfortunately, as the rest of the article indicates, the bias of this student and her professors goes much deeper than this.
The other problem with the paper is that the author apparently sees rape, as most women do, in sexual terms while rapists see it in terms of exerting power. In a woman’s mind, someone she regards as a potential rapist refusing to rape a woman must mean that he finds her unworthy of sexual relations. In other words, she is unappealing in the extreme or less than human. In that sense, not raping is viewed as an insult. This line of reasoning, compounded with the author’s bias, led to the illogical conclusion that not committing a crime is an injustice in itself.
I quoted at length because there’s a lot to get at here. For starters, you can see how there’s this tension between understanding rape as a crime against a specific person and about that rapist’s view of that particular person and understanding rape as a message to a larger group. On the one hand, Stickwick is arguing for an understanding of rape that is just about one person committing a crime against another specific person.
And, from this perspective, claiming that we can understand Nitzan’s article in terms of women seeing men in a perpetual state of “guilt”–guilty if they do rape and, supposedly, guilty if they don’t.
But it seems to me entirely plausible that what Nitzan is talking about is what message rape (or lack thereof) sends to an entire community–“We don’t have to prove that you can’t protect your women, because everyone already knows it.”
And, in fact, if you look closely at what she’s saying, I think Stickwick tips her hand that she understands and is, in fact, sympathetic to what seems to be Nitzan’s broader claim–that rape (or the lack of) sends a message about who has power.
I know you skimmed over the sentence because it’s just so ridiculous and so easily disproven, but take a look at it again:
The other problem with the paper is that the author apparently sees rape, as most women do, in sexual terms while rapists see it in terms of exerting power. [Emphasis mine.]
Now, just for a second, ignore the fact that a person would have to be willfully ignorant of even basic feminist theory to make such a claim and look at it in terms of what she’s saying about how rapists see rape. Women, she claims, make the mistake of assuming rape is about the particular woman (she typifies this as “sexual terms;” I call it a mistake of particularity, assuming it is about you as a specific person), while the rapists see it as exerting power.
Yes, exactly. And not just over his victim, but over her entire community.
So, if Stickwick can see, and clearly she can, that rape functions not just at the level of particulars, but also at the level of being a broader message about power, why is she taking umbrage at a scholar who also seems to be arguing that rape can be understood as a broader message about power?
That, my friends, is a question for the ages.
Are we really at a point where folks can, with a straight face, argue the exact same things as their ideological opposites and not realize that they are?
I guess so.