Despite the efforts by the US feminist movement over the last fifty years, violence against women in the US is currently on the rise.
Should we then thank Dominique Strauss-Khan for focusing attention on the problem of violence against women, on the ugliness of the powerful abusing the less powerful?
On May 14 Strauss-Kahn, a rich, powerful, white man and former director of the IMF, allegedly sexually assaulted a poor black hotel maid at the Hotel Sofitel in New York City. This can be viewed through the lens of sexism, racism, or classism depending on whether you want to focus on violence against women, white against black, or rich against poor. But regardless of how it manifests, an imbalance of power between two individuals, two communities, or two identity groups results in injustice and conflict.
Fortunately, in this case, there are third parties that serve to strengthen and empower the victim – the hotel management, union presence, and the rule of law – albeit after the fact. Unfortunately, other cases of abuse of hotel workers by guests go unreported in hotels that don’t want the trouble and have no union representation. The US has a relatively well-defined rule of law that recognizes rape as a crime rather than something the woman ‘asked for.’
Strauss-Kahn has a reputation for imposing himself on women. A French journalist intends to sue him for trying to rape her in 2002. In 2007, he was barely chastised for an affair with an IMF economist. It seems many Europeans are overly tolerant of the failings of the powerful. It is time to become less tolerant of this abuse of power, whether it manifests as a physical attack, financial bribes, or the exploitation of workers.
Might does not make right. It is time that that we recover a code of ethics and individually and collectively decide to do what is right because it is the right thing to do. Until abuse by the powerful against the weak is eliminated the world will not know peace, for peace and justice go hand in hand.