I have been thinking about the accused rapist/IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn. In the end my thoughts seem to circle around power, entitlement and violence.
Power. This case is important because of the relationship between power and the expectation of silence about sexual assault. Entitlement. Because of the insulting sense that this rape is some how different — that the identity and status of the perpetrator and survivor might be twisted to justify the attack. Violence. The systemic violence of rape-supportive culture and the terrible media which envelop us.
. . . and I start to get angry.
Well in these moments of lack of personal eloquence, one can often turn to that gentleman farmer and/or spinster aunt, intellectual heavyweight Twisty Faster for clarity. First Twisty reminds us of the linguistic impact of the term “maid.”
The woman Strauss-Kahn attacked is being referred to as a “maid” or “chambermaid.”
Maid is a creepy-ass word. No matter what, a maid is not a good thing to be. In days of yore the term was used to denote a mythical female who had so far escaped — but would soon be forced into — getting pronged by some entitled prick. Denoting females thusly was of vital importance back in yore; owing to a lot of macho-religious nonsense that equated women with sex, as-yet-unpronged ladies were worth more than pronged ones. Intact virtue could make or break your career.
Nowadays maid still refers most commonly to a member of the sex class, but with less emphasis on purity, and more emphasis on the flipside of the misogyny nickel — suitability for interaction with other people’s filth. It means “low-status servant who cleans up after high-status assholes.”
And of course Twisty covers the secondary usage of the survivor — as a tool to bring the IMF head down. Don’t forget Twisty’s view of the Strauss-Kahn apologists, and the silencing of sexual assaults which get some crisp analysis in two awesome paragraphs.
Anyway, in the narrative of IMF rapist Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the victim’s status as a sub-human hotel cleaner is an important detail. Apparently this Strauss-Kahn shitsack is a celebrated rapscallion, rake, and ladies’ man. Boys will be boys! His nickname in the classy world of international finance is reportedly “the great seducer.” So it makes titillating how-the-mighty-have-fallen news copy to depict him, not as a suave Casanova jetsetting around with supermodel heiresses, but as a privileged fiend predating a powerless, lower-caste menial. In a world where it’s generally considered OK to use women according to their universally-acknowledged purpose (sex), it is sometimes permissible to use them, as long as patriarchal prurience is served, for other stuff, such as, in this case, leverage in toppling a poobah. As for the actual woman herself, nobody gives a rat’s ass about her. She is merely a symbol of a towering potentate’s descent into ignominy, frothily recounted by patriarchal media. Like the virginal maids of yore, hotel maids are also receptacles for male disdain.
Anyone who goes around calling himself “the great seducer” is undoubtedly a serial rapist, so naturally other women are beginning to turn up with accounts of Strauss-Kahn’s abuses. One of them, a young journalist who had previously publicly recounted her assault (with Strauss-Kahn’s name redacted), now describes his behavior during her attempted rape as that of a “rutting chimp.” Not surprisingly, the woman didn’t press charges at the time. She didn’t want her career to be permanently stained with “she’s the girl who accused Strauss-Kahn of rape.” Which is exactly how rapists get away with it: fear, humiliation, and shame are superb silencers.
Spend some time going through I blame the patriarchy for more wisdom!