I touched on this in my last Wikileaks post, commenting on how and why I felt that the fervor to “get” Assange on rape charges was politically motivated rather than indicative of any sincere desire to take seriously the charges against him in Sweden. I want to add that it is quite possible that both issues are perfectly and independently real and neither issue should detract from the other (the classic response “does it have to be either/or?” comes to mind here).
I already referenced Feministe’s excellent description of why the charges themselves are not absurd and why Assange and his accusers deserve their day in court (apart from the Wikileaks drama).
In this article, The rush to smear Assange’s rape accuser, Kate Harding lays out the other half of the problem — slut shaming the women who are pressing charges against Assange.
The fact is, we just don’t know anything right now. Assange may be a rapist, or he may not. His accuser may be a spy or a liar or the heir to Valerie Solanas, or she might be a sexual assault victim who now also gets to enjoy having her name dragged through the mud, or all of the above. The charges against Assange may be retaliation for Cablegate or (cough) they may not.
So it’s really kind of surreal. Governments rushing in to take seriously rape charges at a level that are laughed off in many jurisdictions (or at least, don’t merit high profile extradition processes), and punditry engaging in classic slut shaming of women who dare to accuse a man of rape.
We may have come a long way, but there’s still a long way to go.
ETA: to clarify: Absolutely, I think that national governments are using the rape charges to get ahold of Assange. Equally absolutely I think the charges in Sweden deserve to be taken seriously on their own merits. I regard the two issues as coincidental and of independent origin, with governments involved in the one seizing the opportunity to use the other. I dislike this as much as I dislike the slut shaming and the tacit rape-culture acceptance that the charges must be somehow trumped up.