Monday, November 20, 2017

Short posts, 11/20/17: On Vaginas, EarthSea, On Believing Sexual Assault Victims and The Tweeting President

1.  On vaginas.  There's an odd sense in which pron (I believe) has turned vulvas and vaginas into something public.  Probably penises, too.  I doubt it's a good thing for people's peace of mind.

2.  Reading this story a week ago made me think of Ursula le Guin's Earthsea trilogy (though it's longer than that now).  That work uses a different religious or theological structure from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and most other similar books I have read.  Le Guin's theology is based on something very much like Taoism, or the concept of an equilibrium, balance, not necessarily the victory of good over evil.  That appealed to me, given that most of us believe the good is on our own side.

3.  "Believe the women."  This is a frequent plea among feminists when it comes to sexual assault.  My take on it is nuanced.  I don't think that it is realistic to always believe that one side in a court case is automatically right, because that would obviate the need for any kind of legal proceedings.  So I don't take the exhortation literally.

Rather, to me it's a request to cease the centuries-old practice of pretty much never believing a woman who accuses someone of rape or other forms of sexual assault, unless the victim is badly mutilated or almost dead. 

We are all familiar with the traditional speculations over "what she might have worn," or on "whether she really fought back" or "why didn't she scream" or "perhaps she led him on" and many other similar doubts, and I have read a few reports of police investigations into rape where the investigating officer appears to have been skeptical of the claims from the very beginning, without any evidence that would cause such skepticism.

My own early experience* of calling a police when a female student at my dorm found a strange man standing by his bed at night and managed to escape to my room gave me an inkling of that attitude:

I carefully explained that a) the dorm rooms had functioned as a summer hotel, b) the man had rented the room when it was empty during the summer,  but c) had failed to return the key when the students returned for the fall semester.  He had then used the key to enter the room, drunk,  while its regular occupant was back living in it.  He refused to leave and had started pawing her.

The police I spoke to responded to this explanation and my request for help by asking if it wasn't just a lover's quarrel.  And the car didn't arrive until half an hour had passed.  Even then it just drove slowly past.  Nobody even bothered to come in.

That example, minor one as it is,  is the background against which "believe the women" must be set.

Anyone going to the authorities claiming rape or other forms of sexual assault deserves to be treated with respect and courtesy, deserves to have access to the kind of medical care and other help rape victims require, and deserves to have the claims correctly and speedily investigated.  Cynical questioning at the onset, without any evidence causing it, is unprofessional, biased and probably one of the reasons why most rape victims don't go to the authorities.

4.  And yet he tweets, sigh.  It's difficult to pick the worst of his tweets, but these two can serve as a general examples.  First, on taxes:

 Given that the tax cuts have been tailored to benefit the Trump family and others of similar wealth and income levels, the "American public" that would be disappointed if they are not passed is a very tiny percent on the top of the income and wealth distributions.  But that tiny percent is, of course, the true base of the Republican Party, the Donor Class.  Our new overlords (and a few overladies).

Second, on the maturity and statesmanship of one Donald Trump:

A squabbling child who wastes his working time (paid by the American citizens) on various private quarrels, boasts and chest-thumping.  Yet millions of voters thought he would be suitable for governing this country.

*  I hope this would be rare today, but have no idea.