Because perhaps I’m not yet cynical enough, it still amazes me that folks in the world can feel comfortable making statements, or proposing laws or writing books, that are obviously hurtful to particular groups. For instance, a couple of weeks ago Michael Bérubé wrote an online essay about a bioethicist who was analyzing disability and who made a couple of points: that having a disability makes someone's life “less good,” and that not having a disability will likely make someone's life "more flourishing." Bérubé has a complex, compelling, and important response. But one thing that struck me in this scholarly conversation is that we’re still in a field where some scholars can say, “Having a disability makes your life less good,” and other scholars, like Bérubé, have to respond with, “Ummm, what an interesting assumption you’re putting out there! Let’s talk about why that’s really troubling!”
Another for instance would be the recent No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act which explained that the only rape which should qualify a woman for federal funding for an abortion would be a “forcible rape.” As Kristen Schaal explained on the Jon Stewart show, “There’s rape, and then there’s rape rape.” Some folks I know were having an email exchange about this, and the question was raised, Why does this matter? Who cares if the law just allows for abortions in the case of forcible rape? My friend Robin responded,
When is rape not forced? When it's achieved through intimidation or fear. When the victim is a child. Or potentially any time there is no sign of extrinsic violence.This is Robin having to say, "Ummm, what an interesting assumption you all are putting out there! Let's talk about why that's really troubling!" (The wording was changed yesterday, but this law still sucks a large monkey penis.)
Susan Estrich, in her study Real Rape, makes a distinction between simple and aggravated rape: aggravated rape involves extrinsic violence, more than one assailant, or the assailant is a stranger. Most rapes are simple rapes: there isn't extrinsic violence, there's only one assailant, and the victim and perpetrator know each other. Simple rapes are not treated seriously by law enforcement or by juries. I suspect they would not be counted as forcible rapes.
Next week in my classes we’re discussing Harriet McBryde Johnson’s Too Late to Die Young, and she writes,
Don’t they hear the bigotry?
No, they don’t. When bigotry is the dominant view, it sounds like self-evident truth.