My Role/Reboot piece this week revisits an old and troubling question: Why Some Activist Groups Tolerate Rapists .
Obviously, sexual abuse is not just a phenomenon found on the left. It’s rampant in conservative churches, as we well know. But most secular progressives aren’t terribly surprised when organizations dedicated to upholding traditional sexist values condone or cover up the worst of sexist behavior. As a person of faith of course, I am appalled when religious texts I regard as sacred are distorted and deliberately misinterpreted to excuse or enable rape. And as a liberal, I am equally infuriated when women in supposedly progressive organizations are told that a climate of sexual harassment and abuse must be endured for the sake of some “greater good.”
Particularly among radicals, there remains an ugly tendency to see feminism as being a bourgeois white woman’s phenomenon. The insistence that women’s liberation is anti-revolutionary, or insignificant, or just so much liberal navel-gazing, allows rape culture to thrive in far too many radical political and ethnic organizations. And brave young women like Dinah get raped and tossed aside.
It is true that in 2012, women’s issues seem to have moved to the forefront of the national dialogue. At its convention in Charlotte, the Democratic Party did an excellent job of centering the fight for reproductive justice and equal pay. At the same time, even on the left, the relentless pressure to de-prioritize sexual liberation in favor of some other ideal remains. While feminism is not the only cause worth fighting for, the feminist principles of women’s equality, autonomy, and body integrity must be incorporated into every political and social movement.