“‘Well, my advice would be, as a matter of strategy, get a woman to represent you.’ He mentions two names” (Coetzee 40).
David, having had sex with one of his students, is facing the consequences. He was harshly reprimanded by Melanie’s father, and stands to face an inquiry by the school about both the relationship and the inconsistencies about the girl’s reported attendance. He meets with the lawyer “who handled his divorce,” or at least one of the divorces he’s had (40). This lawyer, as is stated in the quote above, recommends a female attorney for this case.
With this quote, I thought almost immediately about the Harvey Weinstein trial. While that man and David have many differences, they did both have a certain level of power over women. They did both assault a woman. (Despite David’s claim that the last time with Melanie was not rape, I firmly believe that it was, given Melanie’s resistance.) But the main reason I thought of Weinstein was because he, too, had a female attorney, even if that didn’t end up helping him.
I remember clicking on a news story regarding his decided guilt. I had been excited that a man who had hurt so many, who in many ways had come to represent the #MeToo movement, was getting what he deserved. But what struck me so profoundly was one of his attorneys who had “built her career defending men accused of sex crimes” (ABC News). In that video she gave an interview regarding the victims, saying, “when you make certain choices, there’s a risk when you make those choices.” She continued by denying she was victim-blaming; “if you don’t want to be a victim, don’t go to that hotel room” (ABC News).
When I shared that with my mother, she said-and I am inclined to believe her-that Weinstein and his defense time likely brought her on in the first place because she was a woman. Because that would somehow make the words coming from the men be more acceptable. Still, though, there are many women like this woman, who firmly believe in things like ‘rape happens for a reason’ and anti-choice. They may believe, too, that women are overreacting when social issues like these are brought forward.
It always surprises me to see these women. I try not to judge them, to try and understand why they believe what they believe. Upbringing, religion, morals can all play a part in shaping their worldview. It still doesn’t sit right with me, though. I really do dislike when women put other women down, especially when it comes to things like assault. Blaming victims instead of supporting them is only ever going to lead to their continued pain. It also, as I said, gives men who agree with them more power. To keep doing what they have been doing, and allows them to say, “Hey, look, here’s a woman saying this. She must be right.”
I would go so far as to say that Melanie was a victim, even if it appeared as though she was making her own decisions and had agency. This is made clear with the quote, “‘as teachers we occupy positions of power’” (50). Melanie was never going to be completely able to give consent so long as there was that power imbalance. Even with only one ‘straightforward’ example of rape, that remains true. And David getting a female attorney just for the fact that she is a female attorney, him using her as a shield and her opposing other women, will only stand to get in the way of that truth.
Why are certain (usually unfavorable) beliefs made more acceptable when coming from marginalized individuals?
Here is the video I referenced: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJYAwGqGKTs
Class Discussion and Impact:
My contributions: I spoke a lot today. I clarified issues of consent in teacher-student relationships, how that power dynamic impairs any notion of consent. I talked about ‘yes means yes’ vs. ‘no means no’ in terms of consent. I shared my QCQ and brought in the connections to Harvey Weinstein’s trial, pondered about David’s insecurity, clarified that the men on the trial wanted to help David out. Finally, I noted that we might have certain expectations of justice of causing remorse, when really it is just a tool to give punishments rather than a tool to ‘fix’ the perpetrators.
Others’ contributions: Korren brought up the scenario of reading from Melanie’s perspective, noting that she may have been confused and unsure of what to do. Other than that I think the most vocal voices were Sinead, Anna, and Hayley, though Jill stepped in to make a point about the agency/control that Melanie may have had.
I thought today’s discussion was interesting, though I do feel bad about talking so frequently. I think it’s just a topic I’m very passionate about. When talking about consent and power dynamics, I hope that I made some things clear that, more often than not, women do not have a great deal of power over what happens to them. That’s why consent is so important, because it is an opportunity for them to take back some of that power which should have been acknowledged inherently. I also think that our final thoughts on justice was interesting, because it made me realize that we really do expect a lot from justice. We want remorse, repentance, and so forth from the perpetrator, but at a certain point we do have to see that justice is about identifying a crime and punishing it, but our personal ideas of justice and what we truly want and expect might differ from that.