Wednesday, 22 August 2012

misogyny and rape: in Western DNA?

Certain men’s views on rape have been prominent recently, with Julian Assange’s votaries trying to smear the woman who has complained about being raped by him, George Galloway going beyond Ken Clarke’s "serious rape" gaffe by indicating that having sex with an unconscious woman who cannot consent is not an assault and, across the water, Tod Akin talking about "legitimate rape". It’s no wonder that Louise Mensch MP has entered the debate with fury.

Unfortunately for women and for society in general, misogyny has been embedded in Western social and cultural DNA from the start. When Plato put his romantic fantasies about Sparta to work as a basis for his Republic, he decided that in his ideal state – which Bertrand Russell saw echoes of in the USSR and Karl Popper in Nazi Germany – property would be held in common. Unfortunately, women counted as property.

Plato’s ideas fired the Enlightenment philosophes; so when Admiral Bougainville returned from Tahiti with tales of a polygamous, communal social order, Denis Diderot was inspired to write his Supplément au voyage de Bougainville, containing improbable dialogues that misappropriated the traveller’s tales to describe a society where, again, women were held in common as property and a visitor could pay a young girl no greater complement than to get her pregnant.

Marx, however, wrote that education should be focussed towards emancipation; but this might have surprised his mistress and mother of his son, who was also his servant and received board and lodgings in lieu of money.

As Mensch says, "all too often, the media pretends that feminism’s work is done". When a woman’s right to ownership of her body and her dignity is absolute and does not depend on the identity and political views of her violator, women's rights will have moved forward like never before.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words

Resources

Click to read Still Getting it Wrong on Rape by Louise Mensch

Go to Louise Mensch's Parliamentary webpage

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