mercredi 18 mai 2011

Don't insult my intelligence

You know, I can understand that sometimes when two people are in a room together, there can be a point where the line between consent and rape can become blurred. This is one reason why I've always wanted our society to stop this ridiculousness about women having to be "swept away" by the moment in order to not be considered a slut. It's what keeps girls from carrying a diaphragm or condoms if they don't want to be, or can't be, on the pill. The double standard was kept at bay for many years, even if it is making a comeback now, fueled by conservatives who, masters of projection that they are, can't control themselves and can't imagine being someone who can.

But there is no universe in any kind of human consciousness where a 32-year-old West African hotel housekeeper enters the room of an aging lecher and is so seized with desire for his sagging scrotum that she falls into bed with him. And yet that is what the lawyers for IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn would have you believe.

One of the few benefits of Frank Rich leaving the New York Times (and there are precious few), is that Maureen Dowd seems to have decided it's time to grow the hell up and work on fighting her inner high school mean girl. Today in the paper she blasts this insulting framing right to smithereens:
Oh, she wanted it.

She wanted it bad.

That’s what every hard-working, God-fearing, young widow who breaks her back doing menial labor at a Times Square hotel to support her teenage daughter, justify her immigration status and take advantage of the opportunities in America wants — a crazed, rutting, wrinkly old satyr charging naked out of a bathroom, lunging at her and dragging her around the room, caveman-style.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s reputation as a thrice-married French seducer loses something in the translation.

According to the claims of the 32-year-old West African maid, what took place in the $3,000-a-day Sofitel suite had nothing to do with seduction. If the allegation is true, Strauss-Kahn’s behavior, boorish and primitive, is rape.

Was the chief of the International Monetary Fund telling other countries to tighten their belts while he was dropping his trousers? Lawyers for the 62-year-old Frenchman, who had been a leading Socialist prospect to run against Nicolas Sarkozy next year, seem ready to rebut any DNA evidence by arguing that sex with the maid who came in to clean his room was consensual.


Strauss-Kahn’s French defenders are throwing around nutty conspiracy theories, sounding like the Pakistanis about Osama. Some have suggested that he was the victim of a honey-pot arranged by the Sarkozy forces.

Bernard-Henri Lévy, a friend of the accused, says he is outraged at the portrayal of Strauss-Kahn as an “insatiable and malevolent beast.” He wrote on The Daily Beast: “It would be nice to know — and without delay — how a chambermaid could have walked in alone, contrary to the habitual practice of most of New York’s grand hotels of sending a ‘cleaning brigade’ of two people, into the room of one of the most closely watched figures on the planet.”

At least he didn’t mention Dreyfus.

For years, I’ve stayed at the Sofitel and other hotels in New York City, and I’ve never seen a “brigade,” simply single maids coming in to clean.

In Washington, they have now nicknamed the street that separates the I.M.F. and the World Bank, where Paul Wolfowitz lost his job over financial hanky-panky with his girlfriend, the Boulevard of Bad Behavior.

These are the two institutions that are globally renowned for lecturing the rest of the world on discipline and freedom, when it’s the West that’s guilty of recklessness and improvident behavior. First in finance, then in sex.

People who can’t keep their flies zipped lecturing other people.

We've had so many instances of rich and/or powerful men in rooms with women where what emerges are battling famewhore lawyers, with the lawyer for the accused rapist insisting that the women are lying, or that they consented. But to use this claim with an immigrant woman, working as a hotel housekeeper, who goes into a hotel room to clean, is just an insult to our intelligence.

Last year Mr. Brilliant and I took a 5-day cruise to Canada. Perhaps the high point of the entire trip was returning to New York on our last day, early on a sunny morning, with cool temperatures and a light breeze blowing as we stood on deck. And as we entered the harbor, there she was -- a giant green statue of a woman holding a torch. The rising sun cast a golden glow around the Statue of Liberty that morning. And as I gazed at her, I found myself moved to tears, thinking of my own grandparents, and the millions of others who saw that same statue, perhaps at that same time of the morning, standing in the harbor with a golden glow around her, beckoning like a goddess as if to say, "Come on are welcome here."

The woman at the center of this case probably didn't have that view; she probably came in by plane. But though I don't know her, I know that she came here with the same hopes that my forebears had. I hope she prevails in court against one of the most powerful men in the world. I hope that this country, the promise of which drew her here and now draws her into the system of justice that the green lady in New York harbor represents, lives up to its own self-image.

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