Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"A response to atrocity denied"

In her essay Women's Status, Men's States, Catharine MacKinnon writes about human rights as "a response to an atrocity denied".

She could very easily have been writing about discussions of marital rape in Singapore. I've Magically added bold bits. Watch out, it's a lot of text.
Before atrocities are recognized as such, they are authoritatively regarded as either too extraordinary to be believable or too ordinary to be atrocious. If the events are considered socially unusual, the fact that they happened is denied in specific instances; if they are regarded as usual, the fact that they are violating is denied: if it's happening, it's not so bad, and if it's really bad, it isn't happening. The given status of a certain people is seen as tautologous with, even justified by, the deprivations of their human rights. Law often collaborates by making an unusual or extreme form of a common violation illegal, so that what is illegal almost never happens, yet the law appears to stand against the violation. Victims are thereby ideologically rendered appropriate to their treatment, the unequal treatment serving to confirm their ontological status as lesser humans. When nothing is done, the treatment, and social status accordingly, confirm and create who one is. Legally, one is less than human when one's violations do not violate the human rights that are recognized. Acts common in human experience, such as rape in war and rape in peace, have been beneath serious notice because they are so familiar, while acts that are uncommon, like the Nazi's industrial murder and the Serbs' industrial rape, have been beyond belief. While disbelief and associated impunity reign, the violated are--systematically and effectively speaking--rendered not fully human legally or socially. When and where this denial is overcome the rights against the extreme and the normal are recognized, the treatment is defined as inhuman and the victims human. Women are in the midst of this process.
Did you catch all that? Familiar, isn't it? Many opponents of No To Rape argue:

  • All men regularly fuck their wives without consent (it's the only way sex could happen, with those selfish bitches), so it's no big deal - how dare the state intrude in the bedroom! ("if it's happening, it's not so bad")
  • Only rape with further accompanying violence counts as rape, and that is both vanishingly rare and already comprehensively dealt with; ("if it's really bad, it's not happening")
  • The law already acts against all those rapes where women employed telepathic powers and their infinite legal savvy to get a protection order prior to the rape happening. ("Law [...] collaborates by making an unusual or extreme form of a common violation illegal")

    The reason why they make these arguments is that in their view there is no need for the law to treat the rape of women as the punishable violation of human beings. In their view, women are not fully human. Moreover, they make the arguments specifically in order to maintain a law which prevents women from obtaining fully human status in society.

    This is why many of them bring up Geylang at every conceivable opportunity. Because that goes to the interest of an actual human being in the equation, i.e. a man. What's really important here, and needs protection, is the male right to ejaculate, whenever he chooses, into a vagina. That the vagina happens, typically, to be attached to a woman, with all sorts of troublesome notions about wishing to control her own body, is perceived by them as unfortunate and inconvenient. And they want the law to continue to agree.
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