There's a really interesting post at Feministe on tensions between feminist attitudes towards violence against women and a radical (or liberal, or progressive) analysis of the prison system. It's certainly been a tension I've felt as I've cheered some men being locked-up (Brad Shipton and John Dewar) and despaired when others were let free (Clint Rickards). Bean quotes from Daniel Lazare's discussion of Marie Gottschalk's book:
Gottschalk’s assault on ’70s feminism is sure to raise the most eyebrows. She argues that the women’s movement helped facilitate the carceral state by promoting a punitive approach to sexual violence that was unmitigated by any larger political considerations. This single-minded focus led to what The Prison and the Gallows describes as unsavory coalitions with tough-on-crime types. In the State of Washington, women’s groups successfully marketed rape reform as a law-and-order issue so that, when the measure finally passed in 1975, it was “in part by riding on the coattails of a new death penalty statute.”I don't think any coalition between anti-rape activism and law-and-order types is necessary, but I don't think it's the responsibility of anti-rape activists to make sure our work doesn't get co-opted.
I was listening to the radio today and heard that the supreme court had allowed the appeal of a man who had murdered his wife and one of the reasons was because the judge in the case had wrongly said that the defence of provocation isn't available if someone had decided to kill someone else. I said to myself "Jeez didn't the judge know that a defence of provocation is always available when a man kills his sexual partner?" (for full details the supreme court decision is available in pdf
The hate the provocation defence - I am sick of hearing 'the bitch asked for it'. But here's the thing - ultimately I don't want Laxman Rajamani to be in jail. I don't believe in jail. I don't think the threat of jail stops men being violent against women. I think violent men who go into jail almost all come out more violent. I don't think the protection that while in jail violent men are mostly only going to be violent to other men is enough for a system that churns out men more violent than they go in.
So when I argue that the provocation defence should be scrapped, or talk about the defences that should not be available to rapists, I'm not arguing that because I think these men should be in prison. I'm arguing against these defences because I think they do real damage to women, either individually as witnesses in trials, or collectively as rape myths and women-as-property is all throughout the court and media.
I think feminists need to continue standing up against our court system, and the way it values women's words and women's lives, but we need to do so from a stand-point that the current justice system offers abused women almost nothing.*
The article bean quoted seemed to run together non-state actions against rapists, with the war on crime:
In Berkeley, antirape activists picketed an accused rapist’s home. In East Lansing in 1973, they “reportedly scrawled Rapist on a suspect’s car, spray-painted the word across a front porch and made warning telephone calls late at night.”To which I say "Awesome". I believe that the most powerful women have against rapists isn't prison or the state (which will not act in our interests), but naming.
* In my original version of this post I included this sentence: "As a friend joked, when I talked about this tension: "The correct political position is that they should let Brad Shipton out of jail so we can lynch him." One of the dangers of writing on the internet is that words can have very different historical and political meaning in different places. I know enough about American history that I shouldn't have included that sentence.