Monday, September 28, 2009

And Where Was The Mother? Hmh?

I got an "aha!" experience last night while reading various stuff about Roman Polanski, to acquaint myself with the story about the drugging and rape of a thirteen-year old which lies behind the topic du jour in the American popular media. You want to go AHA!, too, you do, and I will show you how we can all do it.

But first I have to step back a little, to the previous case du jour, that one about the lead singer of the old band The Mamas&The Papas, John Phillips, whose daughter, MacKenzie Phillips, recently argued that her father had raped her one night when she was nineteen, and that they had later commenced a "consensual" adult incest relationship which lasted almost a decade.

I first learned about the whole story on Eschaton comments threads. It didn't take very long for someone to ask: "And where was Michelle when all this supposedly happened?"

Someone else then helpfully explained that Michelle Gilliam, one of John Phillip's four consecutive wives, was not the wife du jour when the presumed rape took place, nor the biological mother of Mackenzie. That let her off the hook!

So who should be strung on that hook instead? MacKenzie's mother, Susan Adams, who was John's first wife? Or Geneviève Waïte, his third wife, the one who was actually married to him at the time the presumed rape happened? Where did MacKenzie actually live? In short, which of the many available mother-figures is the one we should really hold accountable for the rape she accuses her father of?

I'm not certain if I had gotten enlightened without a case like that one, where there are so many possible mummies to choose from! Because the case showed me how women are always partially responsible for crimes committed against their children by others. Even when the child is already legally an adult! Miraculous, really.

That this happens a lot is pretty clear to me. If it's not clear to you, let me give you two recent quotes from articles discussing whether Roman Polanski should be extradited to the U.S. to face charges on "having sex" with a thirteen-year old girl many years ago. This one:

But there is more to this story. The 13-year old model "seduced" by Polanski had been thrust onto him by her mother, who wanted her in the movies. The girl was just a few weeks short of her 14th birthday, which was the age of consent in California. (It's probably 13 by now!) Polanski was demonized by the press, convicted, and managed to flee, fearing a heavy sentence.

And this one:

And it ought not to matter that Polanski is a gifted artist. In fact, it ought to be held against him. He seduced -- if that can possibly be the word -- the 13-year-old Samantha Geimer with all the power and authority of a 44-year-old movie director who could make her famous. If this did not impress the girl, it must have impressed her mother. She permitted what was supposed to be a photo shoot.

Bolds are mine.

This is all fascinating. Note that I'm not arguing that children shouldn't be kept safe. They certainly should. Indeed, we should only dole out good parents to all children, if it only were possible.

But I can't help seeing a very odd pattern in these stories: It's as if the accused rapist is just like a fox who was allowed into the chicken coop because a very careless and bad farmer left the door open! Nobody expects anything better from the fox, but the farmer should have known better!

So we look at all those mummy-figures who should have protected young women from the natural assaults of fox-like men, and we blame them for leaving the chicken coop door ajar.

Did you get any AHA!s yet? If not, here is the one I got. From the Wikipedia page on Nastassja Kinski :

At 15 Kinski began a romantic relationship with director Roman Polanski

This is a different young woman but the same Roman Polanski, note. Is it now Kinski's mother whom we should blame if fifteen is deemed a bit young for such a romantic relationship?

It goes like this: A fox goes around, raiding a chicken coop after a chicken coop, and we go on blaming the keepers for forgetting to close the doors. If you focus on each case separately it sort of makes sense. But once you see the overall pattern it does not make sense. At all.

Thanks to kmareka for links to the Kinski Wikipedia page and the HuffPO piece.