Thursday, June 24, 2010

Thursday, Again. And The Accusations Against Al Gore.

On posts: There are always some big ones that got away. Like in a fishing tale. I often have these ghost posts in my mind or even in a draft form. Why some posts stay that way is a mystery, though one good reason is that certain topics require so much work that I couldn't write on anything else the whole week, whereas others are half-thoughts which don't quite make it to the stage where I want to expose them for scrutiny. Others are my pet posts which nobody else probably likes (such as planned obsolescence and computers where the obsolescence is now front-loaded and may not in fact raise profits or my desire to have a prehensile tail and all the uses it could have.)

And then you get topics like the accusations against Al Gore. Those just cropped up, and although I have read everything I can find on the case I don't have enough information to be the judge and the jury on it yet. What I do dislike, however, is the new pattern I see where women are first thought of as lying when it comes to accusations of sexual assault.

I'm sure that some women do lie. I'm also equally sure that there are people who burn down a warehouse to collect on the insurance or people who otherwise stage crimes. Yet those cases are not used as an argument about the prevalence of some crime in general or about the presumed innocence of victims who come forward. Rape, however, is beginning to be different*.

And this is bad for the victims of rape. A comment to this post argued that if this accusation is a false one it makes getting justice more difficult for women who actually have been attacked. That is a strange way of looking at it. It makes all women the same, once again: just a piece out of that amorphous pile of femaleness. It therefore argues that sexism in the form of statistical discrimination is AOK or at least understandable, and it puts the onus on this accuser (assumed to be making it all up) hurting other women rather than on -- oh, say the rapists.

Likewise, if the apriori assumption that rape accusations are false becomes more and more common then rapists have less to worry when they plan their crimes, as punishment will be even less likely than now.

Even less likely, because the court system already tends not to pursue cases which don't look very strong on the evidence, and because many rape victims do not want to undergo a second horrible experience by going to court.

That's what I worry about when reading all those blog comments about the accuser of Al Gore just being after his money or the Salon post about how celebrities are often the target of false accusations.

The problem with the latter argument is that we have no idea how many true allegations could be fielded against various celebrities, given that any victims of such might not come forward.

This means that we have no idea how common, in the relative sense, false sexual assault accusations against celebrities might be. That they seem common to the author of the Salon piece is probably because the false accusations, or those which are deemed false even if they are not, get the lion's share of publicity whether they are aimed against celebrities or not.

None of this is directly about the accusations against Al Gore. But these are my thoughts on how feminist thinking would interact with these news.
*MB pointed out that the law has had such a tendency for a long time and she is quite right. I had in mind a shift in the public coverage of rapes and alleged rapes rather than the overall bias that has been and still is a problem in the judicial systems of many countries.