vendredi 27 août 2010

The Polanski Case: Worthless Girls and Leagues of Men.

Some tunes never get old; they are to be sung arm in arm in unison, loud and clear, as one man. For several months now, an unalterable song has been repeating, again and again, the story of an All (mighty) “above all this,” “great artist,” a “benefactor of Humanity,” under house arrest in his “prison,” a 20,000 sq. ft Swiss chalet. Facing nothing, a couple of sad wenches looking for their pound of flesh. Of course this has nothing of a fable, this incessant commotion, this background noise, this permanent buzzing forever renewed at the pleasure of the media. It's a “silly” story, “of no importance,” a “nonsensical” accusation, “absurd,” “despicable,” a mere “misdemeanor,” this “thirty-three year old affair” is “ridiculous!”

With, on one side, those who, as one man, protest, have petitions signed, and speak up, taking the Pen and the audience as witnesses: it's intolerable, it “makes them sick to the stomach” to see one of them under attack, hunted down, diminished, slandered. From cocktail parties to interviews, on front pages everywhere, like one man, with outraged faces and eloquent words, here they are making themselves judges because they know it as fact: this “pure and simple blackmail operation” is “in all likeliness” a lie...

So we listen carefully to this league of men in close, tight ranks, with the nerve that their station allows, this self-proclaimed intellectual elite, arrogant, astounded to be called into question by nobodies, by expendable ones. A male elite which assumes the right to the bodies of some interchangeable victims, unruly enough to finally open their mouths.

Those for whom she was always wearing something too short, too tight, too revealing, she wanted it, she looked like a woman, she was a whore, he wasn't her first, and it suited her well that he was the one to initiate... Such a tease, so reckless, full of lies, she's crazy! And if it's not her, it must be her mother, who let her go on such a date. And no-means-yes, of course...

And who are they, those who are being talked about, ripped from their silence where they had carefully been put away after use? To this question, as one man, we are told there is nothing to see, come on, the plaintiffs are: nothing.

Nothing, merely a couple asses and anonymous utilitarian vaginas turned rotten meat, “housewife” for one, “publicity-craving” “prostitute perhaps” for the other, little forgotten thing, worthless girl, a little voice out of the past and a picture off the Internet, the story of a disgusting night with endless commentary.

Meanwhile, we are spending sleepless nights rolling in the echoes of their sordid details “it wasn't a rape, it was an illegal intercourse with a minor.” Asking ourselves what is going on here, what is unravelling in front of our eyes so that they can all assert, without blushing, without sweating, that the rape of a thirteen year old teenager, drugged, sodomized, after she had said No seventeen times and pressed charges that very evening could be defined in such light terms. This story, we've known it for a long time, and all these words, these qualifiers, we have heard them or we will hear them. Trite, common, vulgar words. Appalling. The same words for the same stories, again, always, again.

We are all worthless girls. Or have been. We, worthless girls, don't remember how many men we've had sex with. We said no, but not loud enough, it seems, to have been heard. We never forgot what it was to be a doormat, a reversible hole. We never could put words on that night until one year, ten years, twenty years later, but we never forgot what we hadn't yet said.

We, worthless girls, have been or will be one day called “fibbers,” “pathological liars,” “prostitutes” by courts of men. We have been, or will be, accused of “destroying family lives” when we charge a man beyond suspicion.

We, worthless girls, have been probed by medical hands, by words and questions, prodded, interrogated, all of this to conclude that we might not have been “innocent victims” after all. (There must be guilty victims then...)
We are worth nothing. But so many of us are or have been made worthless. Some are still walled in alive in these polite silences.

And we detect them, these ploys: brandishing the “sexual revolution” as an excuse, warning about the return of puritanism, conveniently coming up with charges against “sectarian” and “heinous” “moralism,” glaring at the countless anonymous commodities who step out of “line,” forget to be quiet and speak of justice. Reeks of feudality draped in “liberal citizens'” “honor,” torchbearers of the nation, artists, intellectuals, all agreed, laughing their heads off at the “me too, Polanski raped me when I was 16” jokes. To be in the in-crowd, among peers, this conniving of the powerful. Next girl in line, please, it's her turn.

We see it, this fear that someone may ask them to be accountable, that someone may go and scrutinize their lives and see how rapes, strategies of criminal power, masquerade, without a shade of a doubt, for normal, happy, liberated sexuality, a sexuality that has its “complexities” and its “contradictions.” We saw it, this fear of a “snowball effect”: what if all the others, all these worthless overnight girls, all of those who find themselves today, every day, in the situation Samantha Greimer found herself in in 1977, if all these insignificant numbers start having a face, a voice, an identity, some worth? What if they started talking, opening their traditionally heart-shaped mouths wide, breaking their tacit agreements and their lecherous secrets? What would these glorious exceptional men do from above the fray, the common people, the masses, these ivory towers keepers, these sensational, invaluable beings?

They would realize that all of this has nothing to do with this “political affair” or this “clash of cultures” that they are trying to sell us. That all of this resembles all rapes from all times, where the victim is never victim enough, where we're never certain enough that she did say no.

Because what is in play here is them versus the worthless, as they say, since it is common knowledge that you must be Someone for them to hear you.

PS The words and phrases between quotation marks are all actual quotes from the Polanski public debate.

Lola Lafon and Peggy Sastre.
Translation : Jeanne Kay  

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