Julian Assange should not become the target for expressions of fury over sexism.

Suzanne Moore accuses Naomi Wolf of having “muddled the personal with the political” (All this polite and smiley feminism is pointless. It’s time to get angry (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jan/15/suzanne-moore-time-to-get-angry),15 January).

We know no one who’s found the protection afforded by anonymity “condescending”. Nor does it “make rape prosecutions more difficult” – low reporting (about 10% of rapes) and low conviction rates result largely from negligent and biased investigations.

But Moore herself is muddled. Somehow women concerned with the dangers the WikiLeaks founder faces – extradition, rendition and even execution –because of the effectiveness of WikiLeaks are “losing their heads around Assange. I picture Bianca Jagger washing his feet with her tears soon.”

By dismissing Jagger, Moore removes upholding human rights and opposing dictatorships from feminist concern. What an indictment of her feminism! In this way the nub of the question is avoided: rape allegations against Assange can no longer be disentangled from the political agenda shaping how they are dealt with. He’s become an easy target for expressions of fury and frustration at sexism. As part of a movement of rape survivors for over 35 years, we campaign for justice and protection, for rape victims’ right to anonymity – and defendants’ right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Moore acknowledges that “turning vulnerable young girls into drug-addicted prostitutes is disgusting in any culture“, but belittles complaints about Jack Straw’s racist comments that Asian men “target vulnerable young white girls“. Arguments “about ethnicity and faith” are not “the central issue“, she says. Yet most “groomers” and rapists in the UK are, of course, white.

Moore rails against the “pitiful results” achieved by “smiley” feminism which fears to be labelled as “man-haters“. She objects to”silicone implants“, “shopping” and the term “sex workers“: “We are all sex workers these days …we are all encouraged to pursue lifelong sexiness.” She says, “I want a movement.” And who does she propose? Pornography-obsessed Andrea Dworkin – “batty“, but she had “balls“. Are “balls” what women need? We thought we needed principles. Sadly they have been scarce.

It is reminiscent of Susan Brownmiller’s Against Our Will, the feminist anti-rape bible, which was ambivalent on the lynching of 14-year-old Emmet Till for whistling at a white woman. His whistling “was … just short of physical assault, a last reminder…that this black boy, Till, had in mind to possess her“.

Moore would do better to rail against feminists in government who rarely act for women and often act against us. When she says “Women are suffering most from the cuts that men are making“, she forgets that Yvette Cooper’s welfare cuts insisted that even victims of domestic violence had to be available for work. And when, after the Abu Ghraib horrors, we wrote to all women MPs about the rape and torture of Iraqi women, their silence was deafening.

Katrin Axelsson is a spokeswoman for Women Against Rape


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Tel: 020 7482 2496 Fax: 020 7209 4761


One thought on “WAR in Guardian: allegations vs. Assange can’t be disentangled from political agenda”
  1. Correction from WAR:

    Women Against Rape did not criticise Julian Assange’s legal team.

    On 16-17 January 2011, Women Against Rape was quoted in a number of papers as “criticising” Julian Assange’s legal team for including the names of the women making allegations against Mr Assange in their skeleton argument.

    The articles gave a misleading impression of our views. We never criticised or even mentioned Mr Assange’s legal defence in our comment to the Press Association.

    Following our complaint, the PA apologised for their mistake by circulating the advisory below with our full quote.

    Press Association wire 19 January at 1635:

    ADVISORY: In 1 POLITICS WikiLeaks (ASSANGE LEGAL TEAM UNDER FIRE AFTER ACCUSERS NAMED), sent at about 0245, on January 16, we reported that legal representatives of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had come under fire for inadvertently publicly naming two women who claim he raped them. Women Against Rape, which was quoted in the story, has asked us to make it clear that it did not criticise or even mention Mr Assange’s legal team in their comment. The Press Association regrets that the story and its headline gave a misleading impression of the views expressed by Women Against Rape.

    For reference, the following is the full quote from Women Against Rape on the issue: “The rape allegations against Julian Assange have become entangled with the politics centred on WikiLeaks. In the last few months this has led to the publication on the internet of the names of the women involved, and to a call for women who report rape to lose their anonymity. Rape victims’ right to anonymity and defendants’ right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, are both crucial. We oppose the use of rape for political agendas which undermine protection and justice for both rape victim and accused. We are appalled that rape allegations may be manipulated to facilitate Mr Assange’s extradition or even rendition to the US where elected officials have called for his execution for his Wikileaks activities. WAR cannot ignore this threat. We oppose the death penalty for any crime, let alone when no charges have been brought.”

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