Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Giant steps forward for Womankind: Why Dominique Strauss-Kahn belongs on Rikers Island

Dominique Strauss-Kahn in court with his lawyer Benjamin Brafman. Photo: AFP
The indictment, refusal of bail, and shipment of Dominique Strauss-Kahn to Rikers Island has the potential to be a giant step forward for man and womankind. I say potentially because of course, the process has just begun, and there’s no telling where it might go, who might get involved, and what the evidence might reveal.

However, if the events continue to unfold in the way they have begun, then we are on track to seeing a slew of serious social issues addressed in a public forum. The most obvious of course being the support of the victim, an immigrant, working-class woman who has been violated and abused through no fault of her own. And as a measure of the seriousness with which her allegations are being considered, that the judge of the hearings was a woman is another victory. Bravo also to the Sofitel for acting on the distress and testimony of their employee when it may have been easier to keep such violent events out of the public eye for the sake of their reputation. And bravo to the NYPD for arraigning Strauss-Kahn at JFK before he was airborne, before he was lifted like Roman Polanski to a life of freedom from the consequences of his lawless actions. In the US, everyone from Paris Hilton to Kenneth Lay has to take the consequences and take responsibility for their crimes, so I see no reason why the chief of the IMF should be given immunity. On what basis? Because he is rich? Because he is French? Because he is a powerful white middle aged man? We have reason to celebrate that the US doesn’t accept these as good enough reasons for exemption.

The French media as well as the Socialist Party politicians are apparently horrified and appalled at Strauss-Kahn’s treatment by the American media, by the lawmakers, and all concerned. Apparently, he should not have to suffer such “indignity.” How can Martine Aubry, the Socialist Party leader, as a woman, not even acknowledge the “indignity” suffered by the victim? And how can the Former Justice Minister Elisabeth Guigou not see the irony of her claim that the media treatment of Strauss-Kahn is “absolutely sickening.” His treatment of the poor woman who came to do her job in his hotel suite wasn’t sickening?  And one wonders what these women would expect the media, the law, the NYPD to do differently? This is America afterall, and this is what they do with all criminals — let’s get this straight, this is not a titillating sex scandal, it’s a crime we are dealing with here. This is not about a quick blow-job from one of the office interns in between meetings. We are talking about attempted rape.

The treatment of the IMF head has nothing to do with Kahn-Strauss being French, and everything to do with being a criminal. Strauss-Kahn’s treatment by the justice system and the media is no different from that of any suspect of a major crime in the US. Hold the mirror up to Kahn, and rather than seeing the US institutions treatment of him, we see every other ordinary criminal brought on charges for crimes they may or may not have committed. Let the “disgust” of these politically powerful French women be a cry for the breech of human dignity extended to all those who suffer the same treatment on a daily basis, who are made to appear manacled and unshaven before judges, those who might also be innocent, and whose faces don’t cover the world’s newspapers.

Even if Strauss-Kahn is innocent, even if the maid, or someone down the line from the hotel, to the doctors who treated her, to the NYPD, to the DA’s office, to the prosecutors, have framed him, why, one wonders is he staying in a $5000 a night hotel suite? When I was employed by the European Commission they asked for justification of all hotel bills over 100€ per night. Clearly, Strauss-Kahn is manipulating rules somewhere here. There have also been claims that he was framed. This makes no sense because if French politicians are routinely excused of their personal (including sexual) indiscretions, then why would anyone opposed to Strauss-Kahn running for President bother to expose his sexual violation of a Manhattan maid? This is not how French politics works. It just isn’t. What remains a mystery is why the French would not be grateful that this disgusting old man has been stopped in his tracks at this stage, rather than in two years time when he might have been President. Imagine the level of national humiliation then.

In another surprising allegation, there are Strauss-Kahn defendants who believe that his privacy should be respected for the sake of his family. If he was my husband, or my father, again, I would be grateful that his crimes are being made public. Allegations of this sort don’t happen to people who have no proclivity for such behavior. I don’t believe for a minute that was a happy marriage with a healthy sex life!

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