Friday, December 5, 2008

Classic column: Only when we deny men's humanity are we not sympathetic to victims of false rape claims

This classic column from the Harvard Crimson archives titled "In Many Different Voices," speaks truths that, if followed today, would go a long way toward eradicating our false rape culture. Among other things author Rebecca M.C. Boggs writes:

. . . diatribes about women's oppression at the hands of male-dominated society have become the norm for modern feminism. We all want something to be impassioned about, and at times being enraged is both easier and more glamorous than being rational. Too often, debates on gender issues become polarized between a feminist left and an antifeminist right, leaving precious little room for those who criticize both of these camps as flawed.

There are, however, women and men who want to create a fair society that does not judge individuals on the basis of gender. These "equality" or "individualist" feminists hold to the ideals of treating men and women the same way, as human beings, rather than calling for legislation that enshrines the alleged difference of women, as "gender" or "difference" feminists have done.

Equality feminism rejects the idea that there are separate female standards of morality or justice, that there is a "woman's way" of approaching the world. To assert different natures for men and women is to deny our common humanity. Believing in gender war brings women no closer to their goals of equal treatment. Instead, men and women continually switch roles of domination and submission in a societal game of S&M. Equality deteriorates from a vision of true partnership between the sexes to a hope that men will spend equal time on the bottom.

In this brave new world, some people's suffering is more valid than others'. When several male students at Vassar were declared innocent of false charges of date rape, the college's Catherine Comins, the assistant dean of students, said she recognized their pain, "but it is not a pain that I would necessarily have spared them. I think it ideally initiates a process of self-exploration. 'How do I see women?' 'If I did not violate her, could I have?'... These are good questions." Perhaps they are--but if I were falsely accused of murder, I doubt I would thank my accusers for giving me the opportunity to reflect upon whether I was capable of killing someone. Nor would I expect others to justify my ordeal as a vehicle for consciousness-raising.

Only when we distance ourselves from the people in question and deny that their humanity makes any demands on our sympathy--only when we see those Vassar students as men and not as people--do we dare to callously declare that their suffering should be a learning experience.
. . . .
I am an equality feminist not because I am angry with men or with difference feminists, but because I have great hope for the future and confidence in the abilities of women. I hope that the young women I knew at TIP will become advocates of a feminism based on abilities and strengths rather than on constraints and weaknesses. I hope they will fight sexism and gender stereotyping wherever they find it, whether it comes from male chauvinists who think women are incompetent or from difference feminists who think men are violent, dangerous and evil.