I learned to loathe George Will very early in my political consciousness. That means sometime back when Reagan was president. It’s not that he’s more contemptible than all the other conservatives, but my dislike for him is unique in its quality, if not necessarily its quantity. His entire image, his entire career, is based on projecting a certain patrician condescension that makes my skin itch. In some ways he’s more a true conservative than any of the neo-Fascists that dominate right-wing commentary these days, like John Derbyshire, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, or Glenn Beck. He truly is a conservative in his longing to return to the old days; his writing drips with a barely-concealed loathing for the working classes and brown people, and I can easily imagine that he looks back nostalgically for the times of child labor. Given a TARDIS, I imagine that he would immediately zip back to London, circa 1820, and establish himself as an industrial baron of some kind, perhaps investing in a plantation in Jamaica or something. He’s not the kind that I can imagine ever getting his own hands dirty with slave-owning or labor exploitation. Will is much more the kind who likes to enjoy quiet, dignified luxury while allowing other people to spill blood for him.
I could go on for pages and pages about my pet loathing for George F. Will, and it might even be entertaining before it ultimately became tedious. But the point is this: his recent column about rape, where he posited that being a rape victim is what all the cool girls want, just kind of cranked my loathing up to 12. It was already at 11, so he practically shattered the meter with this one.
Rape is mostly an abstract evil to me: I know and have known many people who have been raped, but it’s not something that I’ve had to experience myself. Even with my friends, it’s been something that happened to them in the past, not something I went through with them. But at least I can see it as an evil; Will treats it as a fashion statement.
Rape is a much more concrete evil to women like Dr. Jen Gunter, an OB/GYN who wrote an open letter responding to Will in today’s Talking Points Memo. It’s not an abstraction to her: She talks, very clearly and explicitly about her own rape and its consequences:
I was specifically moved to write to you because the rape scenario that you describe somewhat incredulously is not unfamiliar to me. Not because I’ve heard it in many different iterations (I have sadly done many rape kits), but because it was not unlike my own rape. The lead up was slightly different, but I too was raped by someone I knew and did not emerge with any obvious physical evidence that a crime had been committed. I tried to push him away, I said “No!” and “Get off” multiple times,” but he was much stronger and suddenly I found my hands pinned behind my back and a forearm crushing my neck and for a few minutes I found it hard to breathe. I was 22, far from home, scared, and shocked and so at some point I just stopped kicking and let him finish. Sound familiar? For several weeks I didn’t even think about it as a rape because that was easier than admitting the truth. Again, sound familiar?[…]
You labor under the fear (as some men do) that there is an epidemic of false rape. That good young men will go to jail for consent withdrawn after the fact. And while false accusations likely do happen (the Duke Lacrosse case is a recent, well-known example) these are the exception and not the rule and each time a male with a platform spouts off about a false epidemic of rape it only makes it harder for women who have been violated to come forward.
And your confusion about the under reporting statistics? First a woman has to get over her fear of her assailant and the shame imparted by society and then she has to deal with the police. There are no Special Victims Units like you see on T.V. protectively shepherding women through the process of facing assailants. And if fear and shame and being disbelieved by law enforcement were not enough of a deterrent think about having your pubic hair combed for your rapist’s DNA while you are dripping with his ejaculate. And you have the gall to wonder why some women might not immediately (if ever) report a rape? I am a 47 year-old financially and professionally secure woman in a stable, loving relationship and it took 25 years and your jackass column to get me to speak up about my rape. How easy do you think it is for a scared 20 year-old to call 911 or walk into a police station and say, “I was just raped?”
The last line, which is the title of this post, is the perfect response to Will and all the people who think like him. Surviving isn’t a privilege, it isn’t a fashion statement; it’s a right, the first and last one that any person has. If you look at Will’s record, though, it’s one that he’s long been unwilling to grant to those who are less privileged than he.