Jillian C. York

Jillian C. York is a writer and activist.

Month: July 2010 (page 2 of 5)

Israeli Court Calls Lying for Sex Rape

For those stumbling upon this story months later, there is new evidence that suggests that this was in fact a forcible rape, not a “rape of deception”.  At the same time, it is unlikely that the Kashur will be re-tried; thus, we may never know what transpired. I think it is important to consider the possibility that Kashur’s attorneys did indeed bully the victim’s attorneys into accepting a plea, based on her sexual history.  Nevertheless, my stance on the judge’s verdict–given that he had limited knowledge of the facts–stands.

A recent case in Israel has stunned and baffled many; as the story goes, a young Arab man introduces himself as “Dudu” (his family nickname, but also a comment nickname for David) to an Israeli Jewish woman on the street.  Shortly thereafter, they have sex, at which point he ditches her while she’s still getting dressed and leaves.  According to most news sources, upon finding out the man was in fact an Arab and not a Jew, the woman called rape.

I’m incredibly sensitive to rape charges, and particularly, have advocated in the past to release the burden of proof from the victim (meaning instead that the perpetrator would have to prove that he didn’t commit the crime).  I’m also incredibly sensitive to the issue of calling a woman promiscuous in rape cases; women who have had multiple sexual partners are very often devalued as defendants in rape cases, deemed to have been “asking for it.”  In any case, in the below, I am working from the assumption–provided to me by the Israeli media and the victim’s testimony–that this “rape” did not involve force and is in fact solely deemed rape because the man was not up front about his ethnicity.

That said, my issue is not with the defendant (who, for all we know, may have actually been raped).  My issue is with the logistics of the case, and particularly with the judge’s ruling.

The judge, Tzvi Segal, stated that a rape conviction could be upheld when:

“a person does not tell the truth regarding critical matters to a reasonable woman”

The judge also stated:

“If she hadn’t thought the accused was a Jewish bachelor interested in a serious romantic relationship, she would not have cooperated.”

The implication here is that the defendant thought that the man slept with only a few minutes after meeting was a Jewish bachelor interested in a serious romantic relationship, and that, had she known he was of a different race, she never would’ve considered intercourse.  Perhaps more importantly, the court seems to have ruled that a reasonable Jewish woman would not have had sex with an Arab, presumably based solely on the fact of his ethnicity alone.

Problematically, much of the media coverage has implied, through headlines, that the man lied to the woman by saying that he was Jewish, when based on his testimony, it was actually a lie by omission.  Morally dubious?  Perhaps, but when you jump into bed with someone five minutes after meeting them, you should reasonably expect that a whole lot of information has been omitted.  You are unlikely to know your partner’s line of work, his marital status (the man was also married, incidentally), even their HIV status.

Given the general consensus in Israel on intermarriage (the latter half of Robert Mackey’s Lede Blog post today gives a good description), perhaps our man is simply being held as a scapegoat, a warning to Arab men that choose to get involved with Israeli women.  Or perhaps Israelis are finding other means, given this morning’s news item about an Arab man attacked for simply talking to a Jewish woman.

(Talk) Vivek Wadhwa: “Entrepreneurship: where are all the women and minorities?”

Today’s Berkman luncheon hosted Vivek Wadhwa, a “a senior research associate with the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School, an executive in residence/adjunct professor at the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University, and a visiting scholar at the School of Information at University of California at Berkeley.”

Wadhwa’s talk centered around entrepreneurship, and the general dearth of women and minorities across a variety of industries, particularly tech (in fact, he cited a stat that Blacks constitute only 1.4 percent and Latinos only 4.7 percent of Silicon Valley workforce).  Providing various statistics and tidbits (90% of successful entrepreneurs did NOT raise venture capital; entrepreneurs are not necessarily ivy league; tech entrepreneurs are typically not young; average is age 40, married, with kids), Wadhwa demonstrates that women and men entrepreneurs exhibit more similarities than differences, but that women still lag far behind in the area of entrepreneurship in general. Wadhwa also asks what’s stopping people from becoming entrepreneurs?  The strongest factor in survey, for both genders, is fear of failure or an unwillingness to take risks.

Wadhwa used a variety of examples from the Indian community, sharing a personal story in which he, looking to start up a company, approached various venture capitalists, all to no avail.  Finally, frustrated, he approached an Indian venture capitalist in Silicon Valley, who in turn advised him then introduced him to several others, who, as he said, were “fighting with each other to invest in his idea.”  When Wadhwa finally got the chance to ask one why he hadn’t returned his calls in the first place, he was told, “Because your people don’t make good CEOs.”  The moral of the story?  Racism, as well as sexism is alive and well in the field.

Wadhwa also focused on the issue of women as entrepreneurs more specifically, stating that women entrepreneurs are generally slightly older than men, are similarly likely to be married, but tend to be more educated and have better credentials.  If that is true, does that mean that it takes women more effort and education to succeed?  I was live-tweeting the discussion, which resulted in the question being asked by another Twitter user: “At my all women’s university, our dean warned us we’d have to be twice as good to be considered half as good. Still true?”

Looking at solutions to the problem, various ideas were discussed; starting at the early level.  He then introduced Roshni Academy as an example; the academy, based in New Delhi, works with young, rural, poor girls to help teach them skills in entrepreneurship.  It was clear from the interviews Wadhwa conducted with some of the students that the academy is doing incredible things for some of these girls, but is short-term intervention enough?  Will these girls succeed in the long run?

Bringing the discussion back to the US, Wadhwa pointed out that in many cases, women entrepreneurs are unlikely to help other women.  This point caused several women attendees to speak up; some spoke of women playing so many roles that they’re often too busy to play mentor as well.  Others raised the point that once women achieve a certain level of success, they’re often afraid to lose it and thus shy from helping other women.

Another attendee, seated next to me, pointed out that young women (let’s say, Gen Y) are less likely to identify as feminists and likely to criticize the approach of earlier generations of women in breaking down barriers, claiming that they were “too brash” or “too confrontational.”

Discussing the talk later with two female colleagues, this particular point presented itself again: Why are women of my generation so likely to renounce feminism?  One hypothesis is that (in the US, anyway) our landscape is just so different from that of our mothers: We grew up with women in leadership roles, and for many of us, college was encouraged, if not expected.  Thus, the barriers seem lesser now; we are less likely to fight loudly because the types of barriers with which we are presented are less institutional, more personal or local.

Here’s my thought on that: While it’s true that many of us have had many “elite” opportunities (college, an urban job landscape), the more successful we become, the more likely it is (especially in certain fields) that we’ll hit a gender ceiling.  While it may not be true of our micro-environment (our office, our company), even at higher levels, it could very well be true of our field or our area of focus.

One final point discussed amongst my colleagues was the idea of recognizing privilege: We may have access to certain things our mothers didn’t, but who’s to say that’s true for all American women, or beyond?

Finally, one thing I’m interested in is how to address this issue globally without being patronizing or neo-colonialist.  How can we realize and recognize the needs of women worldwide, and support those women, without talking down to them or imposing a Western ideal of feminism?

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