Issac Bailey blog: Rape as political theatre: Liberal Hillary Clinton and conservative George Will under fire for doing their jobs

June 20, 2014 

Seems everyone is getting in on the act of turning rape into a political game, with opposing sides calling into question the morality of a high-profile member of the other.

First, long-time conservative commentator George Will (Fox News, Washington Post, etc.) penned a piece decrying what he called the liberal tendency to bestow privilege upon victims and that liberal colleges were now being subjected to the regulatory state they had pined for in other industries.

He also mentioned micro-aggressions and trigger warnings on books, but his comments about rape have received the most attention.

Read his piece here: http://tinyurl.com/mokz4l5

Here’s one of the best responses to Will from a doctor and former rape victim: http://tinyurl.com/lak6tfd

Since then, a group of Democratic Senators publicly questioned Will, a variety of commentators and anti-rape advocates penned pieces in response, at least one major newspaper has dropped his syndicated column, and a petition has been circulated asking the Washington Post to fire him.

Read some of that here: http://tinyurl.com/kulmvk2

Then there’s the dredging up of an almost four-decade-old interview of Hillary Clinton. She was a young defense attorney assigned to defend an alleged child rapist. On the tape, she could be heard suggesting she knew the man was guilty but was proud of how she was able to get him a much lighter sentence and charge than initially expected. Conservatives, in an effort to derail Clinton before 2016, says this speaks poorly of her character and is evidence of a real war on women.

The victim in that case is now speaking out, saying similar things.

A piece done about her saying Clinton put her “through Hell” can be read here: ttp://tinyurl.com/nuwm52x

All of this is ugly, of course, but no longer unexpected. Not even something as sensitive as rape can overcome the politic winds and ideological differences that seem to be growing by the day.

I disagreed with Will’s column because it shows that he, and others of like-mind, have become so obsessed with being anti-government that they have blinded themselves to the complexities of real life. Victim status does not bestow a certain kind of privilege on anyone. It would be the rare woman (or man) who would prefer to endure rape, or dealing with a trial, or wondering if what just happened really counted or if their character would be slammed if they came forward, than to never find themselves in that situation. That Will doesn’t understand this – or doesn’t care if he does – is remarkably tin-eared, at best, and downright ugly at worst. He distilled rape down into just another example of political correctness during the period in which we are discovering that women – and a fair number of men – are victims in our beloved armed forces, reluctant to come forward knowing many prosecutors will view them the way Will apparently does.

Having said all of that, I don’t think Will should be fired, and that the Washington Post was right in saying that’s what strong opinion pieces are supposed to do, spark a reaction and foster a debate, which has clearly happened in this case. (Read the thoughtful, powerful response above to Will by a rape victim who is now an OB-GYN if you doubt me.) I know what it means to have a group of readers actively try to get you fired for saying something that you believe because they vehemently disagree that I should have a platform to challenge their view of things.

And if we followed the suggestion by many conservatives in the wake of the release of the Clinton recording, we’d undermine the foundation of our entire criminal justice system. Clinton’s critics are claiming that she is unfit to lead because she defended an alleged child rapist back in the ‘70s. But providing a vigorous defense for even the worst actors is a bedrock of our system. What is the alternative? Assume every one of the accused automatically guilty? The system has enough problems without gutting it in this way. And about her seeming chuckling. Gallows humor is known in just about every industry, including among soldiers who have to find a way to cope with killing fellow human beings, defense attorneys who have to represent those who have done monstrous things, and even journalists who sometimes laugh off the horrors that they have to report.

Not everyone needs to agree on what ‘rape culture’ means or how society should combat it. But reducing it to just another way to dig at a political opponent hurts us all.

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