I’m a big fan of Lallands Peat Worrier, his blog, his Tweets and his person; he’s on the side of angels and he has a lovely brain the size of a planet. His latest post disturbed me a little though, so here is me writing out my understanding of why I’m disturbed. I also ramble into more of a response to the content of his post and the case it discusses: the implications of the Neil Lennon sectarian / assault case for Scotland’s anti-sectarianism law.
Regarding my overall unease with the tone of the post: it disturbs me when people treat anything related to rape purely as an interesting intellectual analogy. I think it behooves anyone writing about such matters to remember that they are not abstract concepts to many of their readers. Sometimes they are daily dangers and traumas of real lives as they are currently lived. Sometimes the people who live those lives read one’s blog.
Anyway, that aside, I think The Worrier is touching on an interesting and important point, but I’m hoping he is being deliberately obtuse for the sake of rhetoric. The following seems obvious to me: I am in agreement with anarchist and feminist Derrick Jensen, who notes that in our hierarchical society, violence carried out down the hierarchy (man to woman, adult to child, white to black, toff to yob, Protestant to “Fenian”) is acceptable and in fact part of the larger order of things, hence is invisible, while violence carried out “up the chain” is treated as the worst-thing-ever, with demonisation of the perpetrator and fetishisation of the victim (see Premise 4 here).
In this context, “aggravated by…” and anti-rape laws are flawed and feeble attempts to offset what is part and parcel of a hierarchical society that is kept under control by, ultimately, state violence. If I was truly cynical (which I am) I might also wonder whether they are in fact tools in manufacturing consent for the status quo.
In this context the laws will always end up being ignored or side-stepped by jurors with an investment in not seeing the down-the-hierarchy violence that is part of the hegemonic social order. Most of the paltry, few-and-far-between convictions for rape, for instance, happen when the perpetrator is one or more axes below the victim, e.g. is non-white where the victim is white, underclass where the victim is respectable middle class, etc. I make that statement on no evidence whatsoever other than what I’ve noticed myself over the past 30 years or so, so my own confirmation bias may be at play. However, I challenge anyone to come up with rape convictions where this isn’t the case. Any poor immigrant women of colour working in the service industry raped by rich powerful white men for instance?
It’s part of the whole game to muddy the waters regarding who is further down the chain, the perpetrator or the victim. Neil Lennon is a successful, well-off sporting hero. He’s a famous white man. Who is he to cry “sectarianism”? He has more power and privilege than many on the “Fenian”-hating side of the spectrum.
Unfortunately, what’s happened with this case sends a message to all those on the receiving end of sectarian violence: that even if you are rich and powerful your abusers won’t be convicted, even under a special law designed to protect you. What hope in hell do you have?
Kind of how women feel every time a Polanski, Tyson or C Breezy is publicly defended, or a French politician gets away with dislocating a shoulder and bruising a vagina, or a young girl is convicted of making a “false accusation” of rape (here and here).
That jury and that court have done their job well: business as usual.