Note: When reading this post, please hear every word as though spoken aloud in shrill, hysterical, high-pitched and undeniably female tones.
Women! Do you have opinions on rape and how it should be defined? Would you like others to share these opinions? Excellent! Here’s what you need to do: make sure you already agree with what the majority of people think, even if it’s wrong. And if you can’t do this? Well, then, it’s best to shut the fuck up.
In today’s Sunday Times Minette Marrin has written a lovely companion piece to Jonathan Freedland’s Guardian effort on talking about rape. Freedland’s piece, if you recall, explored how many men (but not the author himself) got it wrong when discussing consent. Marrin’s piece does pretty much the same thing, only this time the focus is on women in general, and feminists in particular. Entitled “Less rage, girls, and we can be reasonable about rape”, it’s a serious examination of why stupid feminists can’t be trusted to discuss issues about which they might actually give a shit. They’re too emotional, you see. Is it any wonder that we end up having to rely on the men to tell us what to think about our own bodies?
Marrin feels that, while protesting against rape apologism “ought to be an excellent thing”, in recent times it hasn’t been, what with feminists having got cross and said things without the prior approval of their husbands or guardians:
It seemed to me that in their rage at people – usually men [...] – feminist protesters struck a nastily totalitarian note, and seemed to want to silence all debate, however reasonable. I have always thought this controlling tendency a disgrace to our sex.
Cripes! As a feminist who’s dared to express views about these things, I can only say I’m sorry. I’ve gone back over all the posts I wrote in which it was claimed that George Galloway and Todd Akin should not be allowed to speak in public. This took me all of no time, what with there being no such posts. I don’t like what these people say; I don’t question their right to say it, just as I don’t question my own to respond. Does this really make me a disgrace to my sex? I don’t think it does, but perhaps I’m not that extreme. After all, it’s not like I’m a true radfem, unlike ex-Tory MP and Glamour columnist Louise Mensch.
Mensch is the sole example of extreme feminist intolerance to debate that Marrin seems able to find. Mensch is appalled at Tory MP Roger Helmer writing that in certain circumstances a rape victim “surely shares a part of the responsibility, if only for establishing reasonable expectations in her boyfriend’s mind”; Marrin is appalled at Mensch being appalled:
What is loathesome about that? It is a point of view, however much one might disagree, and it does not make Helmer an unforgiveable rape-denier [...]. His arguments were, in fact, reasonable.
It’s strange, isn’t it? When Louise Mensch calls a man’s perspective on rape “loathesome”, I’d argue that this in itself is “a point of view, however much one might disagree”. But apparently it’s not. Whereas the perspective on rape itself is excusable in precisely this way. Why? Because it’s “reasonable”. In Marrin’s understanding of free speech, the only opinions that should be aired must be the “right” ones.
Like Mensch, I don’t believe defining all non-consensual sex as rape is something which should be up for negotiation (even though it is). This isn’t the same as wanting “to silence all debate”. Sure, it makes the whole debate a bit more “meta” than people such as Marrin would like, but that’s just the nature of disagreement. I’ve always known that if feminists were a bit less feminist, we’d be way more marketable to anti-feminists. For some reason, though, I fear that’s missing the point.
Marrin ends her piece with one massive, Cameron-esque “calm down, dear”:
Anger stops people listening and reflecting. It convinces them they are always right and their opponents always hateful. That is dangerous. Besides, feminists should not open themselves to the age-old misogynist charge of being over-emotional and unreasonable.
Or, to put it another way:
Shut up, feminists. I’m done with listening and reflecting if people don’t already agree with me. Besides, you’re over-emotional and unreasonable. And that’s not sexist because I’ve already acknowledged that such an insult could be sexist. Or something. So ner.
And so the piece ends. A rallying-call for all women wanting to say things that are unlikely to irritate those who don’t like women saying things. A manifesto for echoing the status quo, albeit in a weak, unobtrusively girly voice. Thank you, Minette. Is this what makes those in power listen? Mirroring their view of what’s “reasonable”, regardless of what you think and feel? What, then, is the point of saying anything at all? You’ve just said it all for me. Anything else, well, that’s just unreasonable.