In numerous wars and genocides, women’s bodies have served as battlegrounds between conflicting cultures and nations. Used as a tactic of control and oppression, the act of rape transforms women’s bodies into political weapons, reinforcing skewed male-female power relations and reaffirming the very powerful existence of patriarchy. As women suffer these atrocities worldwide, the media also plays an intricate role in perpetuation of women’s bodies as ideological battlegrounds.
As WikiLeaks Founder, Julian Assange, walks the tightrope of “hero” and “criminal” for publishing government secrets, somehow the two women who are accusing him of rape also are becoming “fair game” for critique by the media. In this case, I argue that it should be a conflict of interest to lattice sexual assault and international politics. Yet, countless left-wing media pundits have transformed these women’s bodies and alleged experiences into a battleground for the defence of Assange’s political innocence.
Is it acceptable for rape allegations against political heroes to be coined as conspiracy? Why are male public figures automatically presumed the “victims” of deceitful women crying rape?
Perhaps, Assange’s rape allegations interfere with his image as a political idol. Yet, this “interference” causes me to reflect on the numerous Black male leaders renowned for fighting racial injustice but also allegedly abusing women. Just think, Malcolm X is still praised despite having had allegedly beaten his wife. Not to suggest that these two figures or their alleged crimes are identical, but it goes to show that gender atrocities don’t kill the respect for male political heroes. Indifference trumps the potential truth of these women’s experiences, and the images of these men remain polished.
False allegations always linger as a possibility. Undoubtedly, there are women who lie about being raped. However, this should not be promoted as the norm for allegations against male public figures. These men are human like anyone else. Public status does not make one immune to criminal activity. Limited “evidence” and “insubstantial” personal testimonies often cause women to lose when trying to “prove” that an atrocity was committed against them.
When will the public’s discussion shift from the idea of “conspiracy” to the harsh political reality of many female rape victims? The courts still lack systematic effectiveness when trying to bring consequences to many rape perpetrators, and tend to be weaker operators when dealing with male public figures.
In 1995, Amnesty International wrote, “The use of rape in conflict reflects the inequalities women face in their everyday lives in peacetime. Until governments live up to their obligations to ensure equality, and end discrimination against women, rape will continue to be a favorite weapon of the aggressor.”
Here’s a contemporary remix: the assumption of rape as a political conspiracy reflects the inequalities that women face in their everyday lives. Until the media outlets live up to their obligations to advocate for potential female rape victims, promote gender equality, and end discrimination against women’s experiences, denying rape will continue to be a favorite political weapon of individuals who don’t mind the violation of a woman’s vagina as political game play.