Posted on | February 16, 2011 | 69 Comments
Please tell me what I am permitted to say when a gang of Egyptian men celebrates the end of the Mubarak regime by sexually assaulting an American TV news reporter:
Maybe Egyptians could use one of Filipovic’s pious lectures about “no means no” and “stop means stop.” I’d probably be accused of some sort of thought-crime if I were to suggest that the spontaneous outburst of savagery against Lara Logan of CBS News says anything about the future course of democracy in Egypt. Yet I will risk recalling how on Jan. 27, in my first post about the Egyptian crisis, I employed this quote:
“The effect of liberty to individuals is that they may do what they please; we ought to see what it will please them to do, before we risk congratulations which may be soon turned into complaints.”
— Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France
How often have Aayan Hirsi Ali and Phyllis Chesler warned feminists about the brutal subjugation of women in the Islamic world? Here we have that phenomenon distilled to its most raw and ugly essence, and what are feminists saying? Echidne of the Snakes is less concerned with the crime itself than with Internet comments:
The loathsome comments are of two major types: The first type describes Muslims or Arabs as animals and so on. The second type, the one I’m going to analyze here, consists of victim blaming. It is Logan’s fault if she gets assaulted, in short.
There is a third type, too, which is about the desire of the commentator to join in with the gang rape of various too uppity women in the public eye or a wish that some other female celebrity had been assaulted instead.
Do you see what it is that annoys me about this type of discourse? Rather than focus her wrath on the perpetrators of a gang-rape, or to engage in an examination of the cultural factors that might make a blonde American woman particularly vulnerable amid a Cairo mob scene, instead Echidne wishes her readers to focus on the terrible insensitivity exemplified by anonymous Internet comments. What this is really about:
There is only one acceptable way to discuss sex, and feminists are the self-appointed arbiters of the discussion.
There is a sort of tournament among feminists, in which they compete for prizes by striving to excel their rivals in the denunciation of misogynist scapegoats. And because feminism is a phenomenon of the Left, it’s preferable if the scapegoats can be somehow linked to the Right.
This was what made the Duke lacrosse rape hoax so irresistible to them: Here you had a bunch of affluent white athletes accused of raping a black woman — the entire gamut of archetypical race/sex/class oppression embodied in a single crime — and that was sufficient ideological incentive to trump any presumption of innocence toward the accused. (Note that the people who were prematurely certain of the guilt of the Duke lacrosse players tend to be the same people who use “McCarthyism” as an epithet, despite the fact that Sen. Joe McCarthy never falsely accused anyone of being a Communist.)
Echidne begins her discussion of insensitive comments by threatening to cast into outer darkness anyone who might be tempted to see the crime against Lara Logan as having a distinct cultural component. That would categorize you as the “loathsome” type who “describes Muslims or Arabs as animals and so on.” Scroll through the comments at I Own The World and you can see that these “loathsome” sentiments are actually quite common. To be counted among the bien-pensants, however, you can’t think of such things. No, says Echidne, you must ignore the specific context of this crime — a blonde American woman raped by Egyptians during a revolutionary demonstration — and instead focus all your wrath on the terrible sexism and insensitivity of anonymous people leaving crude comments on a Web site.
Because sexism and insensitivity are the real problems, you see.
What an amazing act of intellectual prestidigitation! And if you call attention to the element of distraction involved in Echidne’s magic trick, if you describe what she is actually doing as opposed to what she claims to be doing, your criticism will be cited as further proof of the looming menace posed by insensitive sexists. And constant vigilance against that menace is the raison d’etre of feminism.
Stipulate that the men who gang-raped Lara Logan are insensitive sexists. But she was not raped by the anonymous commenters whom Echidne denounces. So far as we know, these commenters have never raped anyone. They’re just being scapegoated for someone else’s crime, so that Echidne can invite her readership to admire her as a fierce feminist.
Perhaps it is insensitive of me to make Echidne the sole object of this scrutiny. She was merely the first feminist blogger I saw linked in the Memeorandum roundup. There are plenty of people engaged in lecturing us in similar manner, even a Salon article with the title, “What not to say about Lara Logan.” That article seems to have been provoked mainly by L.A. Weekly writer Simone Wilson, who described Logan’s “Hollywood good looks” and wrote:
“In a rush of frenzied excitement, some Egyptian protestors apparently consummated their newfound independence by sexually assaulting the blonde reporter.”
However insensitive that may be, is it “victim-blaming,” as Salon’s Mary Elizabeth Williams asserts? Did Simone Wilson mean to say that good-looking blonde women deserve to be raped? Or was she simply saying that rapists’ choice of victims is not entirely random and that, ceteris parabus, rapists prefer sexually attractive victims?
Such thoughts are impermissible, because feminists have declared that rape is not a crime of sex, but of violence. According to feminist ideology, the rapist isn’t motivated by desire, but rather by hate, and his crime is a typical manifestation of misogynistic oppression.
Politicizing rape in that manner permits feminists to ignore facts and to make tendentious generalizations without fear of contradiction because, if you disagree with them, you can then be discredited as someone who is “blaming the victim” or engaging in “rape apologism.”
Arrogating to themselves the exclusive right to speak on behalf of women, and insisting that rape can only be discussed on terms acceptable to themselves, feminists thereby transform rape into a political symbol which they exclusively control.
As with all leftist ideologies, feminism is collectivist in nature. Rape is therefore not a crime perpetrated by specific criminals against specific victims. Rather, rape is men’s collective crime, of which women are the collective victims: All men are therefore complicit in every rape, and all women suffer when any woman is raped.
Collective guilt and collective victimhood are, as Richard Weaver might have observed, ideas that have consequences. And one consequence is that people are constantly enraged at each other over distant events beyond their control. Merely say the wrong thing about some item in the news, and you are accused of complicity in evil deeds that you neither endorse nor advocate. Terrorism likewise requires the collectivist mentality: The Indonesia suicide bomber who slaughtered tourists in Bali thought of himself as avenging the collective wrongs that Westerners had supposedly committed against the collective Muslim world. The bomber himself need not have suffered any personal wrong, and the tourists he killed need not have engaged in any wrongdoing. The bomber was demonstrating his collective solidarity with fellow sufferers by killing people whom he viewed as collectively responsible for their suffering.
Collectivism absolves individuals from personal responsibility for their actions. Instead, all that matters is what group you belong to and, insofar as it is possible to choose your own group identity, collectivism impels you to signify your allegiance. As an American, you are guilty of belonging to a society that is sexist, racist and homophobic. So you must denounce sexists, racists and homophobes or else be complicit in their sins. The collectivists impose no such requirement on Egyptians because Egyptians are pre-emptively categorized as victims (unless of course, like Hosni Mubarak, they make the mistake of being pro-American).
Not coincidentally, this same sort of collectivist thought process has been evident in commentary about the Egyptian revolution from the start. Shepard Smith of Fox News memorable chose the occasion to lecture us about the Declaration of Independence (because we all have a collective stake in the human rights of Egyptians, you see) and Nicholas Kristof declared: “We are all Egyptians.”
OK, so if we’re all Egyptians, then all of us — including Nicholas Kristof — are guilty of raping Lara Logan.
This is the conclusion to which the collectivist syllogism inescapably leads us and, if we wish to dispute the conclusion, we must re-examine the premises of the argument.
There are profound and fundamental flaws in feminist ideology, flaws which this outrageous crime in Cairo might help us to understand, but we will never achieve such an understanding if we permit feminists to control the conversation. And one way they exercise that control is by threatening to cast into outer darkness anyone who, in seeking the truth, incautiously says the wrong thing out loud.
What we ought to be saying out loud, as Michelle Malkin reminds us, is prayers for Lara Logan.
It’s probably just a matter of time before liberals denounce Malkin for trying to impose her religion on others. But I’m sure she sympathizes with Lara Logan: Malkin herself has some experience with frenzied mobs of savages, and she also knows what kind of cruel things liberals say about women they consider right-wing “war mongers.”
UPDATE: When you care enough to send the very best . . .
UPDATE II: My reply to Amanda Marcotte.