I haven’t had much time to write this week, but I wanted to quickly take a look at the unfolding DSK sexual assault case.
The framing of cases is so important, as it shifts judgements in the court of public opinion. Since Diallo has chosen to step forward as the accuser (perhaps in response to the media backlash around her life and reputation), news outlets have clamored to get the scoop. Newsweek published an exclusive interview a few days ago, with some telling language:
“Nafi” Diallo is not glamorous. Her light-brown skin is pitted with what look like faint acne scars, and her dark hair is hennaed, straightened, and worn flat to her head, but she has a womanly, statuesque figure. When her face is in repose, there is an opaque melancholy to it. Working at the Sofitel for the last three years, with its security and stability, was clearly the best job she’d ever hoped to have, after years braiding hair and working in a friend’s store in the Bronx as a newcomer from Guinea in 2003.
Only in cases involving rape or assault is how the victim appears a subject for commentary. This is part of rape culture, the idea that we have to evaluate the attractiveness of a person alleging assault along with the other facts in the case. Melissa McEwan so succinctly put it, rape is not a compliment. Neither is sexual assault. Yet time and time again, we see people accused of sexual assault, abuse, or rape try to weasel out of it by saying that they weren’t attracted to the person in the first place. (We see you, Albert Haynesworth.) It’s disturbing to see reporters play into the same idea. This is why feminists continually stress that rape is a crime of power, not desire. Rape is not related to the attractiveness of the victim. Rape occurs because one party does not consent to a sexual encounter, but they are forced into it anyway.
Also, that first discussion of “clearly the best job she’d ever hoped to have?” It sets the stage for more prejudical plays on class, race, and immigration status later in the piece. Continue reading