Feminism, Assange rape charges, free speech, and Wikileaks
Today’s arrest of Julian Assange on rape charges is being framed by many people as a conflict between feminism and free speech. I won’t link to them all, but here is a sample: Kirk Murphy from Firedoglake apparently thinks anyone gets to rape Known Feminists with impunity. That article made me especially angry.
I support Wikileaks and ALL the people who worked to create and maintain it, because it’s important political work. I’m very concerned that once Assange enters the court system he will not be treated fairly.
At the same time, I think it’s extremely important for anyone who’s been raped or sexually assaulted to report that crime and for perpetrators to be called to account for it. I would never advise someone to hold back from charging their rapist with a crime just because the rapist is in a position of importance.
I think we can see, though, that Assange is not being treated in proportion with the crime.
I agree with Lindsay Beyerstein and Jill Filipovic that the media story of the charges against Assange and much of the public discussion of them have been shoddy and sensationalist. I actually find myself agreeing with Jezebel bloggers . This excellent post by Leigh Honeywell sums up my feelings on sex and consent very well..
I’m fine with Assange going to trial. I just want him to be treated with justice and to face only what other people accused with rape would face.
Does that seem likely to you?
We need to be watchdogs on this case – yes, for what happens to Assange. Not because he faces rape charges. I don’t care what charges he is facing, actually. It could be murder, or a lot of parking tickets. He is in an especially vulnerable position as a free speech advocate that many governments including my government in the U.S. have openly said they want to destroy. They don’t want to destroy him because of rape charges, they want to destroy him because he is riding point as the PR contact of a collective effort to make secret government information public. The Wikileaks crew worked intelligently to publish information in as robust a way as they could imagine.
We need to call bullshit very strongly for what has already happened in the media to his accusers, who have had their identities outed and who are being attacked by shamers and rape apologists.
But as feminists we also need to defend, not rapists or men’s right to rape with impunity, but free speech and the laws and political climate that help it flourish. That is also an important part of feminism. It’s crucial. It’s THE MOST IMPORTANT part of feminism. We need free speech, the laws that protect it, and the tools that make public free speech possible, as women who have fought hard to have a public voice.
About Wikileaks itself, I understand why it hasn’t been more transparent. But I disagree with that decision.
As a feminist, I believe strongly in collective action. As a riot grrrl I got behind the idea that we should “Kill Rock Stars”. Not literally kill a rock star, duh. We need to kill the idea that we need rock stars, or Great Men, or figureheads, because important political action doesn’t happen because of a lone hero. It really doesn’t. Political solidarity and collective action, and collective statements, have always been a key part of feminist and womanist politics. Wikileaks and Assange have this to learn, I think. They should stand together. And we should stand behind them at the same time as we stand behind Assange’s accusers.
I need to be able to report rape to the “justice” system with some amount of trust. Can any of us say that that’s true? I haven’t found it to be true. Instead, reporting rape or sexual assault becomes simultaneously political fuel if the people in power want to use it that way, and a path to attack and discredit the rape survivor, which will happen no matter what.
Extradite all the rapists you can find, Interpol. Do it right now. Go for it. Great. Enforce the laws against rape. Please! Extradite some war criminals from the U.S. while you’re at it.
Meanwhile, here is an article by Assange: Don’t Shoot the Messenger
He was refused bail.
Continuing coverage is at The Guardian.
Sen. Joe Lieberman is agitating to push a bill through that will make what Wikileaks did illegal so that Assange can be extradited for THAT: the Espionage Act amendments.
Here’s a petition against that from DemandProgress.
Do you think the U.S. will succeed in extraditing Assange from the UK or from Sweden? What do you think will happen to him then? I think we can care about *that* whether he is a douchey rapist or not. Frankly, as a feminist, I would fight to the death to defend the basic human rights of my own rapists. As we all should.