I am writing to you as someone who had long admired you, just as I had admired Ken Loach and Noam Chomsky who join you in their unwavering Assange support, in your pursuit for “justice, freedom and truth” against imperialism. As my close friends will know, I had especially admired the three of you (that is, yourself, Loach and Chomsky) for your devotion for the largely forgotten Western Sahara cause. Yet, as Shakespeare said, lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds, and my deep admiration has turned to deeper disappointment.
In your V-Day (the international day of the global campaign to end violence against women) piece in The Guardian, you described Julian Assange’s “allies” as devoted to “an epic struggle for justice, truth and freedom.” Sadly, this piece disappoints me so much that I cannot even find it in myself to respond sarcastically, which is my normal reaction to opinions that displease me. I consider myself as anti-imperialist, pro-transparency and generally devoted to “justice, freedom and truth.” However, within my commitment to “justice, freedom and truth” I tend to include “justice, freedom and truth” for women.
Right now, in the UK and elsewhere in the world, the singular issue where “justice, freedom and truth” is most lacking, in my opinion, for women, is that of rape, or “sexual misconduct”, as you might put it. I find that, in my daily life, I am constantly preoccupied by the threat of rape, of Schrödinger’s Rapist (the stranger, who takes it upon himself to approach me, for example by cat-calling, in public, and who may or may not turn out to be my future rapist), and by the weighty “rape culture” in which a number of my actions may, in future, be considered to be “asking for” my own rape.
You claim that the allegations against Assange of “sexual misconduct” (is that a softer way for you to say “rape”?) are “falsehoods”, and imply that, since the women that accuse him had previously consented to sex with Assange, their accusations of rape are dismissible. As a woman, I find this offensive. The idea that any man with whom I have previously consented to sex can come and hump me at will – with or without a condom and certainly without my express consent – does not sit well with my idea of “justice, freedom and truth.” This idea does, however, sit well with the wider rape culture that permeates our society, in which women are expected to follow rape prevention tips if they wish to avoid being blamed for “causing” sexual assault.
I will fight for Western Sahara’s self-determination to the end, yet I will denounce the hushing-up of claims made by Saharawi women of rape by their compatriots (not that this is any worse than the lack of justice for rape survivors anywhere else, the UK included), just as I support the cause of the Palestinian people whilst simultaneously being disgusted by the placing of women’s rights in second place to those of the Palestinian nation as a whole, (which, to me, implies that the Palestinian nation is only for men). Likewise, I support efforts, such as those of wikileaks, to call out government and corporate corruption, but am equally committed to calling out Julian Assange for his lack of respect for women.
I cannot think of a situation where I would not feel hatred towards a rapist. I hate Assange for disrespecting women’s autonomy over their bodies. Therefore, I am a member of the, what you call in your article, “Julian Assange Hate Cult”. Yet, I am not a US government ally “out to crush someone who has revealed its dirty secrets.” Not everything is black and white, a dichotomy of goodies and badies. You can be an anti-imperialist and a rapist. You can be an investigative, leftie journalist and a misogynist.