Revolution #182, November 8, 2009
The Horror of the Richmond Gang Rape . . . And Making the Connections
Saturday night, October 24. A 15-year-old woman goes to a homecoming dance in Richmond, California. It should be a time for her to cut loose, have fun, and enjoy the company of friends. Her girlfriend said she was looking forward to it for weeks. “When we walked in the dance together she said, ‘I can’t wait to get my dance on!’” In any sane society, the worst fear on her mind should be a bit of teenage awkwardness.
But an occasion that should have been joyous turns quickly into a horrific nightmare. A male “friend” invites her to hang out with a group behind the school. There, for more than two hours, she is beaten and raped by more than 10 men. In the course of this assault, her attackers violate her with what has been reported to be a “foreign object.”
As the young woman’s humanity is viciously and violently robbed from her, a crowd gathers—not to interfere and stop this crime against humanity—but to laugh and take cell phone pictures.
By the time somebody finally comes to the young woman’s aid, she has been left semi-conscious underneath a bench. She is air-lifted by helicopter to the hospital, in critical condition.
To everyone reading this: Stop for a minute. Close your eyes—actually do it—and try to imagine what this young woman went through. Actually imagine the indescribable physical pain, the mental and emotional torture, she was forced to endure. Imagine her desperation and terror as she hoped with every fiber in her being that somebody—anybody—would come and save her from this nightmare. Imagine the humiliation of knowing that a crowd of people was gathering around to enjoy the “spectacle” of your destruction, taking photographs. Imagine hearing the taunting laughter of your attackers and the gathered crowd.
After imagining all this, open your eyes again. Reflect on this fact: many people in our society, in the wake of this brutal gang rape, are actually saying the young woman asked for this—that she brought it upon herself. That she shouldn’t have been out alone.
Now, ask yourself these questions: What human being on this planet would ever wish such a horror upon themselves? And what kind of society are we living in if a young woman cannot go to a school dance or hang out by herself without fear of being subjected to the most brutal crimes imaginable?
Think about it: if somebody is attacked because of their race, sexual orientation or ethnicity, this is classified (by any decent person at least) as a hate crime—and it absolutely should be classified that way. Yet somehow, the most horrific crime can be committed against a woman and it is either labeled as her fault or laughed off as “boys being boys.”
Enough! What happened to this young woman is a hate crime and a crime against humanity. But it is not enough to leave it there. Hard questions have to be asked about a society where this kind of thing goes on—and not just in this one instance either, but in every city, suburb and small town of this country.
Let’s ask ourselves: is there a connection between what happened behind a high school dance in Richmond and a multi-billion-dollar pornography industry—one that purveys images of increasing violence, cruelty and inhumanity and whose largest single audience is men under 20? Is there a connection between what happened in the dirt and leaves on a dark night in California and a society in which virtually every religion divides the female half of humanity into madonnas and whores—and which all devalue women in relation to men? Is there a connection between the horror behind the gym and a culture where young women are pressured to market themselves as sexual objects and to see their self-worth in this light and where those young women who are curious about sex are derided and defamed as sluts—while guys who see women as so many conquests to notch upon their belts are celebrated as studs? Where the media seize with glee on every mishap or misstep in the life of a Britney Spears or a Whitney Houston or a Lindsay Lohan to engage in shaming rituals that are as barbaric as they are high-tech, mercilessly spreading images of these women when they are caught at their most vulnerable moments? Where the “guardians of morality” slam and slander those women who would control their reproduction as callous and selfish “baby-killers” and devalue those women who choose not to have children at all? Where one in three women who join the U.S. military will be sexually assaulted or raped by their “fellow soldiers,” as part of a broader horror. Where every day in America, more than 600 women are raped or sexually assaulted, and nothing serious is undertaken to stop this?
And more than that—is there a connection between all that and a system that feeds off that morality, that rears young men in it in the sports teams of high school, that reinforces it in its laws and political campaigns, that fosters it in its armed forces as a key part of conditioning its young male soldiers to kill without conscience, and that uses that morality and conditioning to sell us everything from the cars we drive to the beer we drink?
If there was nothing else wrong with this system than the horror of what happened in Richmond, California, with its deep roots and its twisted branches, then that alone would be more than enough reason for revolution!
And in fact it will take nothing short of fundamental social change—nothing short of a revolution—to stop this kind of horror.
False Paths… and a Real Answer
But this is not what is being raised, or even allowed onto the air, by the wise men and women of the media. They make a big show of deploring the rape, even as they seize on it to promote an agenda of even more repression, even more policing, even more surveillance. Let’s leave aside the fact that the very police they would have people rely on are notorious for exploiting and, yes, raping vulnerable women whom they happen upon.1 Just think about the fact that the places in society that are most “secured”—the prisons—are precisely the places where rape is most widespread. Is that what we—what you—really want? A society even more policified, even more resembling the prisons that have sprung up like mushrooms over the past three decades? A society where more repressive force—repressive force, mind you, that is directed and managed from the very ruling institutions that have not just allowed but encouraged the oppressive relations and ideas to fester and grow and strangle people in the first place—is the answer to everything?
For the mouthpieces running their stuff on cable TV—these very same people who whip up the mass media shaming rituals of prominent women described above, who do everything they can to turn the people into this society into a nation of paparazzi2 and lynch-mob spectators, who hush up these kinds of outrageous crimes when committed by their “security forces”—for these people to even speak on this question, let alone pontificate 24 hours a day on it, is the height of hypocrisy. They have no right to speak—and the alternatives they propose will succeed only in getting people caught deeper into the quicksand that is rapidly dragging everybody under.
Let’s talk about a real alternative.
Revolution—real revolution—has taken huge steps toward doing away with rape, as part of an entire orientation of overcoming the oppression of women—of truly enabling women to be full actors in society, free of tradition’s chains, and the violence that enforces those chains. Such a revolution sets about dismantling all the institutions, all the ways from the most societal to the most intimate, that hold women down, that humiliate and degrade and debase and violently—yes violently—suppress their very humanity. We have talked about that at length in “A Declaration: For Women’s Liberation and the Emancipation of All Humanity” we published last March. Getting into this Declaration—and getting it out—should be a high priority of anyone seriously agonizing over the gang rape in Richmond.
Even before revolution can be made we need to be about beginning to change this NOW, as part of showing people that a whole different way can be brought in… as part of raising people’s sights to what could be possible if we had power… and as part of giving heart and backing to those who do hate this kind of thing. This can only be done by people. People who are willing to take a stand when shit like this goes down… people who are coming from a different morality about relations between men and women and who challenge and stand up against the ugly shit wherever and whenever it manifests, from the horrific to the seemingly small… people who see everything they do as part of building a different culture and a different ethos, straight up against the dominant relations and ideas of society, and as part of bringing in a whole different world, and who do everything they can to live according to those ethics.
It is in the back-and-forth process of standing up against the crimes of the system, and of struggling with the people who live in and get caught up in that system’s values to rupture with that degradation—with both of those carried through as part of contributing to making revolution and bringing in a whole different way—that the groundwork for a real fundamental change in society can be laid.
If you are one of those people who are willing to stand up to the madness now… or if you want to be one of those people… then we need to talk.
“Women are not breeders. Women are not lesser beings. Women are not objects created for the sexual pleasure of men. Women are human beings capable of participating fully and equally in every realm of human endeavor. When women are held down, all of humanity is held back. Women must win liberation, and they can only be liberated through the revolutionary transformation of the world and the emancipation of all of humanity, and through being a powerful motive force in that revolution...
“When so few will dare, this declaration is calling for something unseen in generations: an uncompromising outpouring of women and men the world over who refuse to see women oppressed, beaten, imprisoned, insulted, raped, abused, harassed, exploited, murdered, spat upon, thrown acid at, groped, shamed and systematically diminished.”
Excerpt from “A Declaration: For Women’s Liberation and the Emancipation of All Humanity,” Revolution #158, March 8, 2009, available online at revcom.us and at Revolution Books stores around the country.
1. In one recent example, two NYPD cops were indicted this April on charges of raping an intoxicated woman who they had “escorted home.” nydailynews.com/news/ny_crime/2009/04/28/2009-04-28_nypd_cops_charged_in_rape_of_druken_woman_they_escorted_home.html. [back]
2. Parasitical photographers who specialize in catching celebrities in compromising moments. [back]
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