Politics & Policy

Feminists’ Failure on Rotherham

Feminists see “rape culture” in nail polish (and everywhere else) but now remain silent about real abuse.

Presumably the advent of a nail polish capable of detecting date-rape drugs in one’s cocktail would mark a high-water point in the empowerment of women against predatory men. Not so fast: The feminist backlash against the product has been vehement. According to ThinkProgress, such an innovation “actually reinforces a pervasive rape culture in our society.”

Feminists of the vocal, bathe-in-male-tears sort find proof of “rape culture” all about: in newspaper satire, in ’80s movies, in the verb “to force.” So one would think news that between 1997 and 2013 at least 1,400 children in Rotherham, England, were victims of sexual exploitation would confirm the feminist narrative and ignite their righteous fury.

Not so fast.

Released Tuesday, August 26, the “Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham,” commissioned by Rotherham’s Metropolitan Borough Council, details sexual abuse, including sex trafficking and gang rape, perpetrated over nearly two decades by older men against children in Rotherham. News outlets have released horrifying supplementary details. The U.K. Mirror, for instance, reports that “Emma,” a Rotherham-area girl, was raped once a week beginning when she was 13 years old. When she provided to police the names of 250 men she claimed had raped her, police ignored her. Hundreds, if not thousands, of girls in Rotherham and throughout England probably experienced the same.

In Rotherham there is a real-life “rape culture.” But you will not learn anything new about it from Salon, the Daily Beast, Jezebel, or Slate. It has gone unmentioned at Feministing, Bitch Media, or the Feminist Majority Foundation. There have been no outraged op-eds from Jenny Kutner, Jessica Valenti, or Samantha Leigh Allen.

These are, apparently, not the rapes they are looking for.

It is hard not to interpret the feminist blogosphere’s silence on Rotherham as an indication of the movement’s ultimate lack of seriousness. Perhaps they are not interested in confronting the ethnic and religious homogeneity of many of the perpetrators: Emma and the majority of the 1,400 victims were abused by “Asian” men — i.e., Muslim men typically from Rotherham’s Pakistani community. Local government leaders, social services, and law enforcement — for fear of being labeled racist — ignored numerous reports they received.

Or perhaps the rapes of young girls overseas are of no particular interest. The victims were, after all, often in and out of government housing, truant or absent from school, and sometimes around domestic violence. Many had gone serially missing. They are not the upper-class types likely to fall victim to sexist fraternity pranks. They are not prospective Salon readers.

Or perhaps rape culture is just much more palatable a subject when it does not involve, you know, actual rape.

As the examples of “rape culture” above suggest, for far too many self-proclaimed feminists, real violence against women is rarely the most pressing concern. Much like Al Sharpton and the racial-grievance industry, activists who are perpetually worked up about “rape culture” are much less interested in the realities of women’s situation (in which, contra The Rape of Lucrece, most men are not Tarquin and, with access to mace and concealed-carry permits, most women are not Lucrece) than in perpetuating an atmosphere of mistrust and fear.

Is it possible, then, that after years of tying “rape” to Disney films and fantasy video games, these feminists are at a loss for words when confronted with the real thing? And we’re talking about not just one rape but thousands of them, committed against girls as young as eleven, over a period of many years, with the full knowledge of many social workers and other complicit authorities. When a glut of horrifying crimes against women is revealed, feminist talking heads do not have the moral seriousness required to confront it.

In the end, it’s just a whole lot easier to talk about nail polish.

— Ian Tuttle is a William F. Buckley Fellow at the National Review Institute.

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