Laurie Penny and the Cologne rapes

re:publica 2013
Laurie Penny

This week we’re studying the oeuvre of Laurie Penny, a young firebrand who, despite being a benificiary of British upper-class privilege, has made a successful career of standing at lecterns and scolding Western society – and, especially, Western men – for oppressing her as a woman.

When it comes to genuine sexual oppression in non-Western societies, however, Penny does the usual far-left shuffle. In other words, while she’s quick to condemn Western men as oppressive patriarchs, she refuses to criticize honest-to-goodness Muslim patriarchs – the guys who beat and rape their wives, who subject their daughters to FGM and deny them an education, and who make sure that none of the women in their lives enjoy the kind of freedom that Penny has enjoyed every day since she was born.

koln2
Cologne, New Year’s Eve

Take Penny’s response, back in January, to the mass rapes in Cologne, Germany. Her angle, as articulated in her article’s subhead, was as follows: “Why can’t we always take sexual assault as seriously as we do when migrants and Muslims are involved as perpetrators?” Which is a slick way of instantly turning from a very real problem, rooted in dramatic cultural differences, to a B.S. issue. The fact, of course, is that in the West, rape is taken very seriously indeed: it is reported by women, prosecuted in courts, punished by imprisonment, and looked upon with repulsion by all decent citizens. Under sharia, however, rape is not only permitted but, under certain circumstances, required; in most Muslim countries, rapists enjoy a degree of legal impunity and social acceptance unthinkable in the West.

koln3But Penny doesn’t want to go there. Instead she pretends that Western authorities always treat rape with indifference. For her, the government of Cologne’s suggestion that women should dress more modestly is not a sign of irresponsible cultural relativism and of a cowardly refusal to stand up for Western values, but just another example of what she describes as a Western habit of blaming women for rape. An then she offers this:

The attacks in Cologne were horrific. The responses – both by officials and by the armies of Islamophobes and xenophobes who have jumped at the chance to condemn Muslim and migrant men as savages – have also been horrific.

koln4For, you see, conservatives (meaning, apparently, anyone to her right – i.e. pretty much everybody) never care about rape except when the perpetrators are Muslims. Only then do they get worked up, using rape as an excuse to bash Islam. She neglects one minor detail: there is no case in modern history of hundreds of Western men committing mass rape in the center of a major city. This, whether Penny likes it or not, is an imported phenomenon – imported from a society where women really are oppressed, and where there really is something deserving of the name of rape culture.

But no, she’d rather serve up inane statements like this:

You know what has never yet prevented sexual violence? Unbridled racism.

More tomorrow.

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