By Jeni Harvey @GappyTales
In partnership with the Good Law Project, a non-profit company founded by Jolyon Maugham, a new group named Right to Equality have recently come to prominence in seeking social change through advocating changes to the law, campaigning for what they term ‘gender justice.’ Their mission statement says that they are committed to eliminating ‘structural inequality and oppression,’ that they are ‘ambitious’ and not ‘afraid to push boundaries.’ They claim to ‘educate, speak up, and raise awareness for all suffering and violence’ while working to ensure the safety of women and girls.
Right to Equality is founded and directed by Dr Charlotte Proudman and advised by longstanding feminist activist and legal scholar, Professor Catharine A MacKinnon as well as Mandu Reid, leader of the Women’s Equality Party. On their website is a section on redefining rape in law to be more in keeping with the Swedish model of affirmative consent that has apparently seen rape convictions in the country rise drastically. Given the woeful state of successful convictions here in the UK, with fewer than 1 in 60 rape cases resulting in the perpetrator even being charged, this is again something that should interest us as women and feminists:
“MacKinnon argues that consent is an intrinsically unequal concept and should be eliminated from the law of sexual assault. To redefine rape as the crime of inequality that it is, the prohibited act should centre instead on a concept of force that, beyond physical force, incorporates multiple inequalities of power — such as age, race, disability, celebrity, caste, sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex/gender — when used to coerce a sexual interaction. Instead of focusing on what he did to her or what she ‘allowed’ him to do to her body, the court should scrutinise the context in which sex happened: Was the sex willing, wanted, respectful and mutual?”
On the face of it, a move towards an affirmative consent model should come as welcome news. There is a serious lack of understanding around sexed power dynamics and how men’s greater physical, political, social, professional, and financial power can all contribute to a climate in which women feel unable to get away, shout no, and/or physically resist sex they do not consent to.
But as ever, the devil is in the detail. In September of this year, the Good Law Project supported the now widely discredited charity Mermaids in their attempt to appeal the Charity Commission’s decision to grant LGB Alliance charitable status, on the basis that they advocate exclusively for lesbian, gay and bi-sexual people. In fact the LGB Alliance are the only charity now to do so, in recognition that all other charities for same sex attracted people have been captured by a trans ideology that considers their sexual orientation exclusionary and bigoted.
In November this year Right to Equality then tweeted that they were:
“proud to be trans allies. We stand with the LGBTQIA+ community. We support women, girls and marginalised people. We do not police who is a woman that’s reserved for the patriarchy”.
Given that ‘the patriarchy’ refers to a system in which men as a sex hold the power, discriminating against and oppressing women who, as a sex are largely excluded from it, I struggle to understand what is even meant by the above tweet. Needless to say both Proudman and MacKinnon advocate for a society in which ones subjective feelings of gender identity trump the material reality of ones sex, and so using that as our starting point, how might we interpret a move to change the law around rape in such a way that it takes into account “multiple inequalities of power.”
In other words, how do we mix and reconcile a belief in both affirmative consent and gender ideology without it quickly becoming an indecipherable mess? Are the Right to Equality group using plausible and convincing feminist language to dress up what is, in fact, a profoundly anti-woman agenda?
To redefine rape as a crime of inequality, based purely on ideas of power differential, when one believes that not only does a male person become magically female if they claim so, but that he is uniquely and systemically oppressed by both men and biological women alike, is terrifying. I would ask that all readers of this article take pause and consider that on social media I have long seen men who identify as trans women attempt to make the case that they could not possibly be guilty of raping a so called ‘cis’ woman, as rape is a crime of power and ‘cis’ women are in a position of power and privilege over all trans identifying people.
Crime statistics the globe over show rape to be a crime committed almost exclusively by men with women and girls making up the vast majority of their victims. In UK law rape can only be committed by intentional penetration of the vagina, anus or mouth of another person with a penis. In other words, only men (or penis-havers) can be guilty of the crime of rape.
The feminist analysis of rape as a brutal tool of the patriarchy is a sex-based analysis. It posits that the threat and fear of rape serves to keep all women and girls in line, controlling their behaviour and limiting their freedoms. Don’t go out after dark, you’ll get raped. Don’t flirt too obviously, you’ll get raped. Don’t get drunk, you’ll get raped. Don’t wear that, you’ll get raped. Girls grow up internalising the message that they invite sexual violence with every misstep and therefore it is their behaviour that must be policed, not the behaviour of men who may move through the world as they wish. Men cannot be expected to change, their violence is innate, they have all the power. So no justice for you little girl, best just shrink yourself small and don’t make trouble. It is an inherent part of our female socialisation.
Of course not all men are rapists and not all women are victims, but all women have grown up limited by fear of sexual violence, and women restricted and limited serve to maintain men’s greater power and privileged status. To erase this sex-based analysis of rape as a tool of patriarchal power and control, and reduce it to a crime that potentially any individual can commit against any other individual based on very specific and subjective ideas of inequality, serves to take the focus away from just who is using violence as a tool of oppression and why.
It is impossible to advocate for women’s freedom and the eradication of male violence while simultaneously supporting the abolition of single sex services and refusing to accept the trut
h and validity of women’s fear around mixed sex changing rooms. You cannot push for a mash up of affirmative consent and gender ideology to be made law when the loopholes and confusion this has the potential to create are so starkly obvious. You cannot claim your organisation is pro woman when you support an ideology that seeks to erase sex as a politically and socially significant category, therefore turning upside down any framework for understanding the endemic violence committed against us because we are women.
All that glitters is not gold. Do not be fooled by Right to Equality and their egregious sleight of hand. Read the small print. Know the law. Fight for an end to male violence.
Republished for Jeni Harvey @GappyTales