During the trial in which Ulster and Ireland rugby players are accused of raping a young woman at a party, there has been fury at many of the comments made by the defence in court. When the young woman told the court she had consented to a kiss from Paddy Jackson but had not given consent to anything else, the defence barrister accused her of “teasing” Jackson, and asked her, “if you didn’t like him, why were you kissing him in his bedroom?”
Such comments point to the prevalence of rape culture and victim-blaming in society: the idea that the victim must have done something to diminish the attacker’s responsibility for their own actions. But many are disgusted by the treatment that the young woman has received, and completely reject this absolutely medieval and innately sexist idea.
Most of the capitalist media has been complicit in the aims of the defence, and of creating a slant that plays on backward ideas about women in wider society. Some papers have described in detail the style and colour of the clothes and underwear that the young woman was wearing on the night of the incident.
It doesn’t matter what she was wearing, or that she consented to a kiss, or looked at him; none of these things are equal to consent to sex. We must absolutely reject all attempts to paint any victim as responsible for their attack, and we must not tolerate it within the legal system. The courts have demonstrated in many cases that, in a society shot through with systemic oppression, they fail to act as houses of justice, but rather represent the most conservative ideas in society and defend the powerful. Many rape victims, most frequently women, are reluctant to report sexual violence to the police – as the young woman initially was in this case – because of the disbelief and suspicion they are treated with.
The trial is taking place in the context of people and particularly younger women becoming increasingly unwilling to accept sexism in any form. The #MeToo movement on social media exposed not only the scale of sexual violence, harassment and abuse in society, but also the unwillingness of many victims to stay silent. #MeToo exposed many high-profile instances of abuse in Hollywood – similar revelations have also come out of Westminster, the seat of British capitalism – but it also shows the extent to which sexism, objectification and rape culture permeate everyday life for ordinary people, particularly women. It makes clear that the status quo is unacceptable.
The movement in the south for Repeal of the anti-abortion Eighth Amendment, and the upcoming referendum, are major events on the world stage for women’s rights. Not only have they shone a light on the lack of reproductive rights in Ireland, but they have exposed the systemic nature of sexism and oppression, written into the Irish constitution, and have led people to question backward attitudes towards women’s sexuality and roles in society, which play a part in ideologically justifying church and state control over the choices of women and pregnant people.
By Eleanor Crossey Malone