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A Worthy "Pardon"

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There’s good news out of Saudi Arabia today. King Abdullah has “pardoned” the rape victim who had been sentenced to six months in jail and 200 lashes for being in a car with a man who was not her relative. As the Times put it in their lede, the 19-year-old woman was sentenced “after pressing charges against the seven men who raped her,” and who also raped the man – an ex-boyfriend – in whose car she sat. According to the Saudi justice ministry, she invited the attack because she violated the sexual segregation laws and because she was indecently dressed.

Not only has the woman suffered emotional and medical problems since the rape, but she has also survived an attempted murder by her brother. The perpetrators of the rape received sentences ranging from 10 months to 5 years and 80 to 1000 lashes.

In pardoning the woman, the King did not indicate that the sentence was unfair or the sexual segregation law wrongheaded. Instead, the pardon was because of the “psychological effects” the punishment would have had on her.

I’m not sure what I can add by way of commentary. Obviously, the fact that women are punished for being raped is appalling. But it shouldn’t be that surprising to us — not only because we’ve heard so many similar stories but also because we harbor similar attitudes (if only attitudes alone) in our own society, where judges call rape victims “stupid” and where Maryland state rape law holds that once consent is given, it cannot be withdrawn. It’s a different magnitude of misogyny, but not a different animal.

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  • Don’t forget the Philadelphia judge who ruled that the gang rape of a prostitute was “theft of services” and the judge in Australia who ruled that a ten year old girl consented to group sex with grown men.
    Both of whom were FEMALE judges, by the way. what is that? really. do these women really believe that only ‘bad’ girls get raped?

  • McKingford

    Instead, the pardon was because of the “psychological effects” the punishment would have had on her.
    Which would be much more harmful than the “physical effects” of 200 lashes, presumably…

  • Bloix

    The comparison of Saudi Arabia to Maryland reminds of the PETA types who compare meat-eating to the Holocaust. It IS a different animal. You belittle the oppression of the women of Saudi Arabia when you argue that the women of Chevy Chase have it just as bad.

  • bosdcla14

    Technically, her sentence was for violating SA’s law against women being alone in the company of men who are not their husband or related to them. But, of course, no charges would have been brought for that if she hadn’t mentioned the rape.
    Its a crazy law, but given what her brother tried to do, it may be right in line with what the Saudis think. I thought the sentence for the English teacher in Sudan was insane, only to watch in total shock as there were protests demanding harsher punishment, namely, that the teacher be put to death.

  • Bloix, Bean *didn’t* say women in Maryland have it “just as bad.” She said it was “a different magnitude of misogyny.” See the difference that the word “different” makes?

  • mds

    You belittle the oppression of the women of Saudi Arabia when you argue that the women of Chevy Chase have it just as bad.
    No, she’s belittling the standard right-wing hypocrites who are predictably shrieking that all this just goes to prove how evil Islam is, yet either don’t give a rat’s ass about rape victims or women’s rights in general, or are actively working to roll back women’s rights, when they can’t flog Muslims over them. See also “How come feminists never criticized the Taliban?”.

  • Robert Johnston

    “It’s a different magnitude of misogyny.”
    You’re much less cynical than I am. Seems to me that the degree of misogyny is pretty much the same. The big difference lies in the degree of fear of being caught and punished for various expressions of that misogyny. When rabid misogynists believe that they can get away with violence against women, they commit violence against women. When misogynists control the levers of governmental power they change the law as much as they can get away with to the detriment of women.
    The difference between Saudi Arabia and the U.S. is that in the U.S. we have a critical mass of people with political power who object to some extreme expressions of misogyny. Not all extreme expressions–witness Gonzales v. Carhart and Kennedy’s extremist misogynistic language–but enough so that women are treated as people in most polite society, if not exactly as first class citizens.
    Our hard core misogynists as exemplified in the examples you give are just as misogynistic as the Saudi’s; we just don’t have quite as many of them and they don’t have the same kind of political stranglehold on government.

  • Bloix

    John Potevi – there is a difference between using the machinery of the state to imprison, torture, and murder rape victims, which is what happens in Saudi, and failing to use the machinery of the state to punish rapists sufficiently, which is what Bean says happens in Maryland. This is a difference in quality, not quantity. Arguing to the contrary, as Bean does here, diminishes the horror of the situation in Saudi.
    mds- you could be right, I suppose, except that you’re not. Bean (and zuzu, and some others) routinely argue that institutionalized sexism in the US and Europe (particularly in the criminal justice system) is comparable to that in middle eastern and south Asian countries.

  • Matt Weiner

    there is a difference between using the machinery of the state to imprison, torture, and murder rape victims, which is what happens in Saudi, and failing to use the machinery of the state to punish rapists sufficiently, which is what Bean says happens in Maryland.
    Hey, I found some boldfaced words in this quote:
    we harbor similar attitudes (if only attitudes alone) in our own society
    I wonder what they mean?

  • aimai

    Rememeber, matt, every time Bean comments on issues regarding women a devil gets his wings! Bean is *always* wrong and Bloix is *always* right.
    aimai

  • phil

    The difference between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia on that score probably boils down to the 19th Amendment. The majority of voters in this country is willing to put up with a lot of crap, but there probably are limits.

  • Bloix

    Matt- apparently the words mean that the attitude that an unmarried woman who is found in the presence of a man who is not related to her is a whore is prevalent in our society. Do you think this is true? Or is it so obviously ridiculous that it is not worth talking about?

  • Bean (and zuzu, and some others) routinely argue that institutionalized sexism in the US and Europe (particularly in the criminal justice system) is comparable to that in middle eastern and south Asian countries.
    Oh, Bloix, there you go again.
    Really, reading for comprehension, and not just spluttering outrage, is a good skill to have.

  • aimai

    Bloix,
    You might want to read up on the right wing coverage of the gang rapes of american women by their fellow halliburton/KBR contractors. Almost uniformly the fact that women attend events with men, drink with men, or work with men are adduced by regular american males (at least of the right wing persuasion) as proof positive that they were a) asking for it or b) weren’t really “raped” but simply engaging in the kind of consensual sex that women in the company of men not their husbands supposedly aquiesce in.
    What’s that got to do with it? Pretty much nothing. As little as your criticism of bean’s point has to do with anything.
    I know that giving you an example is never enough because you are simply determined to accuse Bean of somehow getting it wrong. But she’s not. She made a pretty uncontroversial statement about the prevalance of anti-female attitudes among americans, american jurists, and even among american laws. Doing so can’t possibly take anything away from the fact that saudia arabia’s laws are abysmal. Its not meant to. So stop throwing up these straw men arguments. Just because things are very, very, bad somewhere else doesn’t mean that they can’t be bad here. The fact that people are starving to death in Africa doesn’t mean there aren’t people starving to death in the US. Just because there are war refugees in another country doesn’t mean that the Katrina diaspora isn’t also composed of refugees.
    This “ohmygod you feminists think that your problems in the US are worse than other women’s problems elsewhere” is just a red herring. Check out Yoffe in today’s Salon for a classic version of it in which she accuses NOW of failing to criticize islamist violence against women/honor killings because they are too busy defending Hillary Clinton’s cleavage. A totally false charge as two seconds of googling and a little historical perspective would demonstrate. But that won’t stop Yoffe, or you, from insisting that american feminists who talk about issues in our own country are somehow failing also to work on issues important to women in other countries. Its not your call to make. But in addition, its tediously and pathetically incorrect. American feminists have work to do in America *and* work to do to help women in other countries. Its precisely because we *try to do both* that we are feminists and not libertarians.
    aimai
    aimai

  • Bloix

    zuzu, I rarely splutter. I’ve been known to pontificate, and even to bloviate, but generally I don’t expectorate. And I’m not in the least outraged. I’m not even annoyed. Why the projection?
    aimai, I’m aware of Yoffe’s article – it’s the usual tired stuff. But her point is not “you feminists in the US think you have it so bad.” The point she’s making is, “you US feminists are operating in bad faith – you really don’t care about women, you just hate America.” Which is itself an argument in horrific bad faith. If you think I’m making the same argument as Yoffe, well, you’re just mistaken, as I explained to mds upthread.
    And aimai, my argument is not that there is no work to do against sexism here in the US. Of course there is, and more power to those who do it. But to argue that women in the US are as powerless and victimized as those in Saudi is like arguing — oh, like arguing that
    poverty in the US is comparable to poverty in Darfur. It has the unintended effect of minimizing the actual state of women in Saudi without doing anything to combat sexism here in the US.

  • aimai

    Bloix,
    Sure, except that bean never argued, and has never argued, that women are powerless in the US. So what was your point in attacking her for pointing out that there is misogyny in the US? You, yourself, admit it. So what on earth is the point of these posts attacking Bean for something you, yourself, when pushed agree is correct?
    aimai

  • Bloix, if you wanted to argue that Bean’s use of “different magnitude” missed a difference in quality concerning the role of the state, then you should have said that, instead of trying to foist on her something she didn’t say, didn’t mean, and which isn’t implied in what she wrote. Something that is, to boot, a tired old cliche. Then we might have had an interesting conversation, instead of correcting your misreading. Oh, wait — maybe that was your aim all along.

  • PiotrB

    I think that the incident of raping an American girl by co-workers in Iraq is rather significant. Number one, how people react to the situation when the writ of law does not hold. Number two, it was not one or two bad apples the the whole corporate structure, and our proconsuls in Iraq, who were oblivious at best.
    Clearly, those are not the Saudi attitudes, but we have reasons to be disturbed.

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