MeToo movement opens social agenda for women
The #MeToo movement has certainly inaugurated a new era for women’s emancipation and affirmation.
This observation is demonstrated by 81-year-old US actor and comedian Bill Cosby (and our very own tennis star Bob Hewitt) having been convicted of historic sexual assault and cooling their heels on the inside.
US president Donald Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court bench, Brett Kavanaugh, is also being besieged by ghosts of sexual indiscretions from his youth.
Other opinion writers have noted that sexual assault on women goes beyond the bare facts of the matter.
The very issue of whether or not women’s testimony is credible and should be believed is at stake.
Kavanaugh has denied all wrongdoing.
His version and that of the survivor, Californian academic Dr Christine Ford, are irreconcilable: they cannot both be telling the truth and one of the two is lying.
Trump waded into the stand-off in support of his nominee saying that Kavanaugh’s denial was proof to the nation of exactly why he was nominated (whatever that may mean).
The number of women who lie about rape or sexual assault is statistically irrelevant.
It is safe and responsible to believe women who report sexual assault.
Despite this and with an FBI investigation breathing down Kavanaugh’s neck, evangelical and other anti-abortion groups have attempted to ram through his confirmation.
These vested interests have attempted to vilify his accusers, and paint their testimony as unreliable and false.
The rationale is that Kavanaugh’s successful confirmation to the Supreme Court bench will pave the way for a serious challenge to Roe v Wade (the 1973 decision which gave women pro-choice reproductive freedom).
This demonstrates that questioning women’s integrity and truthfulness has nothing to do with the facts and everything to do with a (not-so-hidden) agenda. That much is clear. What is not always evident, however, is the insidious ways in which the omnipresent threat of rape serves as a political weapon to keep women reliant on men, and acts as an inducement for women and girls to toe the line of respectability and domesticity.
But for women rape is not merely theft of sex by force or stealth.
Sexual assault results in potentially life-long post-traumatic stress syndrome-like symptoms such as anxiety, claustrophobia and panic.
Feminists have long argued that rape has an insidious function of social control in patriarchal society, namely to keep women subjugated to their male masters and in a perpetual state of fear because of the threat of male-on-female sexual assault.
All men benefit (in)directly from the phenomenon of rape in patriarchal society.
Feminists insist accordingly that the personal is political.
Pivotal to this unfolding narrative is Susan Brownmiller’s famous text, Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape, originally published in 1975 and well worth reading.
She explores the notion of rape being a political weapon in which all independentminded women face the threat of bodily invasion and injury if they don’t heed society’s message to rely on men for their “protection”.
To emphasise the political thrust of the message, sexual assault survivors are stigmatised as “damaged goods” to discourage similar “unnatural” behaviour from women who do not conform to the social mores of propriety and domesticity.
Feminists have countered this insistence on gender essentialism by suggesting that “while reproduction may be nature’s purpose … it need not be ours”.
The idea of motherhood as somehow natural to femaleness is a self-serving statement by men (and patriarchal-aligned women) who want women to remain in a state of servitude and oppression.
A statistically significant number of women (6 to 8% in the UK) have no interest in motherhood whatsoever, demonstrating that femaleness is entirely separable from motherhood.
The battle cry of the 1970s women’s liberation movement was accordingly to “reclaim the night”, namely to demand the right to move about at any hour without fear of harassment and rape.
Gender violence and especially the threat of sexual assault keeps billions of women around the globe from achieving their full potential as whole, rounded human beings.
Inequality and violence go hand in hand, and by addressing these two issues in tandem, society as a whole will benefit exponentially: we know that power only answers to power.
Until such time, however, women have caught onto the game plan of “‘rape culture” and its political message to keep all women in a state of perpetual subjugation and dependence on men.
The #MeToo movement has built on this insight and, acting as a paradigm shift in gender relations, demands that women be treated as full human beings, ready to reclaim their voice.
The #MeToo era is, therefore, worthy of celebration as it has the potential to emancipate billions of people from oppression – an unexposed form of modern slavery known euphemistically as patriarchy.
Dr Casper Lötter is a comparative criminologist (from a trans-disciplinary philosophical perspective) with research interests in advancing the project of the caring society...