× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.
In Defense of the Struggle Against Sexism
With this issue of the PLN I conclude my three part series on sex offenders. And while I am writing this before the first installment of the series has been mailed out to readers, I am sufficiently confident of the adverse response by prisoners and outside folks that I can write my defense now. The charge will be that I am "soft" on rape because I don't think prisoners should subject other prisoners to additional punishments due to the nature of their crimes (in fact I don't believe in the usefulness of punishment at all), because I believe it ultimately hurts the interest of prisoners in general to do so, and because I say that if change is to come in this area it must be organized by sex offenders themselves.
Those who have known me for a long time remember that I organized Men Against Sexism inside the walls at Walla Walla back in 1977. We accomplished many things, one of which was the virtual elimination of the widespread practice of prisoner-on-prisoner rape and the buying and selling of prisoners by each other. We fought against rape with our lives and our struggle was often against those who talked the worst about sex offenders. Indeed, it was often the nature of a man's offense that gave these prisoner-parasites license to prey on the weak and vulnerable.
My "line" on rape has not changed in any significant respect since those days. It is my position that it is more important to get to the actual root of the problem than it is to scapegoat the few sex offenders who get caught and got to prison. Moreover, the problem is deeper than just rape and child molesting. It goes on to include the man who "punishes" sex offenders while on the inside, yet when free he beats his wife and children and routinely subjects women in general to various forms of sexual harassment. Sex offenders are not the problem. The problem is one of sexism and violence against women and children. Sex offenders are but symptoms of that problem.
What this series has been trying to communicate is that it is too simplistic to place all of the blame on the sex offender. Sure, each individual is responsible for his or her crime. But let us not forget that the murdering and battering and rape and sexual harassment of women are natural consequences of a social order in which domination and subordination are eroticized. The surprising thing is that some men do not rape, batter, or sexually harass women.
Just stop and listen to the messages you get in your conversations with other men about women, or from media outlets such as the movies or television. They teach you macho sex roles (what it is to "be a man"), that men are naturally entitled to women's sexual services, and that women actually enjoy being subservient to and abused by men.
The other day I was reading the appeal of an Alaskan rape conviction a law book. "Shut up bitch -- we know what you want, give it to us." Said a product of our masculine culture, as he and his friends beat and gang raped a screaming high school girl who had been walking home from work when attacked. The quote represents the latent attitude of many men. The point we want to make is that rape and similar forms of violence against women (and children) are not exceptional, not the work of a few deviant men, but are done b men who are normal in our society.
All forms of violence against women and girls are interrelated, yet the legal system, legislators, the news media, and even prisoners and their supporters treats such issues as rape, battering, and harassment separately. I have been trying to expose this interconnectedness, along with its roots in the sexist culture of international capitalism. I have argued that it is wrong to scapegoat individual sex offenders for this situation, and advocated support for any efforts they may make to organize themselves. I think these things are good and progressive.
As always, if you have a disagreement fell free to write it down and send it to me. On the other hand, if you agree with most of the positions taken in this series, then your day-to-day practice should reflect your agreement. Say something when any form of discrimination takes place in your presence, be it racial, sexual or offense based. Take a stand.
"Prison is not a good place for any human being. It is a cruel thing to imprison people for anything."
-- Nelson Mandela, 1990
As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.
Already a subscriber? Login