Sunday, January 28, 2007

What we're really talking about

Exhibit A: Freepers consider the story of Mukhtar Mai, rape-victim's rights activist from Pakistan.

Exhibit B: Freepers discuss the infamous Duke rape case, and its impact on the accused.

It's quite interesting typical that no one questions Mai's claim of being raped by Arab Muslim men, but when we have a high-profile case where white men have been alleged to have sexually assaulted a black woman, it's clearly a case of he-said-she-lied. Not that this phenomenon is confined to freepers. The Daily Kos thread regarding Ashley Cross' rape-apology NYT article is filled with existential questions about whether we can ever really truly know if rape occurred - but no one bothers to question Mai's story when it comes up there, either. This is exactly why I roll my eyes when I hear about the "plight*" of Muslim women from American-Taliban types. And frankly, I can sympathize with the prejudice being displayed here because of my own prejudicial demons, but clearly it's about time I work them out.

To be sure, fundamentalist Muslim governments and societies tend to have a violently patriarchal streak that's indefensible. That's not the point here, though. What we see in this contrast is a major problem with taking sexual assault seriously as it affects women's lives. Especially at freep, Mai is not the subject - she is the object that proves that Arab men are monstrous. ** The accusations against the Duke players leave freepers worried about their hold on their racist, patriarchal birthright.*** A woman's violation is being used as a prop in an argument about men's economic and racial power structures. It's a revealing and disturbing show of hypocrisy - one that liberals, feminists, and anyone else concerned with justice would do well to be aware of when discussing cross-cultural values and human rights.

*This term is an especially strong indicator of hypocritical spouting off about human rights. I'm not sure why.
**D'oh. People from Pakistan aren't actually Arabs, which I guess I knew, but I got wrong anyway.
***Notice I'm not actually saying that the Duke rape happened - I'm looking at the scrutiny the story was under from the beginning - scritiny that Mai's story didn't face in our media.

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