Sunday, June 9, 2013

What Is "Equality"?

The women's movement has made invaluable progress in lifting the stigma of rape and reforming sexist laws-ones that, as recently as the 1970s, required women to fight back to prove rape and instructed juries that an accuser's unchaste morals could detract from her credibility. The fact that today, a rape case can be successfully prosecuted even when the victim was drunk and flirtatious, or engaged in consensual intimacies before the attack, is a victory for justice as well as women's rights. Yet the fact remains that charges of sexual assault involving people who know each other in a "he said/she said" situation are very difficult to prove in court-not because of "rape culture," but because of the presumption of innocence. Gender equality requires equal concern for the rights of accused men.

Let us, by all means, confront ugly, sexist, victim-blaming attitudes when we see them. But this can be done without promoting sexist attitudes in feminist clothing: that a woman's word automatically deserves more weight than a man's; that all men bear responsibility for rape and "normal" men need to be taught not to rape; or that a woman who is inebriated but fully conscious is not responsible for her actions while an equally inebriated man is.

Human sexuality and alcohol or mental illness is an ugly brew.  Describing the culture as a rape culture isn't helping.  I can do nothing to stop the pain this issue causes except - can I teach my daughter to take care of herself?  Can I teach my sons how wrong this is an how to stay out of the situations that lead to these issues?

I'll know that equality has arrived in our country when women are as dismayed to drunken flirtatious women who then claim victimization as some men are.

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