There’s a good chance Dominique Strauss-Kahn isn’t guilty of raping a hotel maid, at least according to actor and economist Ben Stein. He’s not alone though. Many of France’s journalists and politicians have expressed the same apprehension — so many, in fact, that French feminist groups have gathered to rise up against the sexism ingrained in their incredulity.
The prevailing attitude in the United States is that Mr. Strauss-Kahn is guilty. The evidence is stacked against him, and he has long had a reputation of being aggressive toward women. In an article published by the American Spectator, though, Ben Stein (whom you may recall as Ferris Bueller’s economics teacher: “Bueller?… Bueller?… Bueller?…”) has offered up multiple reasons why former International Monetary Fund head and alleged rapist DSK could very well be innocent. For one, Stein asks: “The prosecutors say that Mr. Strauss-Kahn ‘forced’ the complainant to have oral and other sex with him. How? Did he have a gun? Did he have a knife? He’s a short fat old man.” Oh, so, because he wasn’t armed, he couldn’t possibly have raped her. That makes sense. From now on, if an alleged rapist did not have a knife or a gun, we might as well just throw the case away!
He goes on to assert, “In what possible way is the price of the hotel room relevant except in every way: this is a case about the hatred of the have-nots for the haves, and that’s what it’s all about. A man pays $3,000 a night for a hotel room? He’s got to be guilty of something. Bring out the guillotine.” So then, as soon as he stepped foot into his luxury suite everyone began plotting against him. “This guy thinks he deserves a hotel room like this? He thought wrong! The question is, what can we convict him of? Rape? Perfect!”
Finally, “In life, events tend to follow patterns. People who commit crimes tend to be criminals, for example. Can anyone tell me any economists who have been convicted of violent sex crimes?” Jon Stewart had a field day with this one, and came up with a list of all of the economists who have indeed been convicted of violent sex crimes. Hilariously, he concludes that, “Economists are the rapiest profession going”. (Watch the clip here.)
After a nonsensical defense of DSK, I’ll give it to Stein for making one good point at the end of the article. “I don’t know Mr. Strauss-Kahn. I have never laid eyes on him in person. He may well, in the future, be found guilty of atrocious conduct towards the complainant and maybe towards others. But, so far, he’s innocent, and he’s being treated shamefully.” Of course, we all know the law: he is innocent until proven guilty in court…and that should maybe be respected more, both by people assuming he’s guilty and people suggesting he’s not for ridiculous reasons (i.e. because he’s short and fat) and thus not taking the charges seriously. Of course, Stein is the minority in this country as a defender of Mr. Strauss-Kahn; maybe it’s not a bad thing that Americans are so quick to reprobate him, because the French sure aren’t. In France, Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s image is virtually indestructible. A poll found that nearly 60% of French people think that this rape case is a conspiracy (the poll in French, the analysis in English). Maybe these polar attitudes balance each other out.
Stephen Clark, the author of 1,000 Years of Annoying the French, recently wrote an op-ed article in the NYTimes about why France is so appalled at the charges against DSK.
“France may think it had a revolution, but in fact it just got a new, and even more powerful, elite. They believe themselves so indispensable to the running of the country that trying to topple one of them is a bit like threatening to shoot a prize racehorse for nibbling your lawn. You’re meant to shut up and let them nibble.
This is why the French establishment sees Mr. Strauss-Kahn — rather than the traumatized chambermaid the police say he attacked — as the victim. The same case would never have come out in the open in Paris. The woman would have been quietly asked whether she thought it was worth risking her job and her residence permit. She would have been reminded that it was her word against his, and frankly, whom would people believe? The witty, famous man with the influential friends, or the nobody?”
However, on Sunday afternoon (May 22nd), French women (and men) rallied near the Pompidou Center in the middle of Paris to protest the sexist reportage of the case–which went so far as to reveal the full name of the alleged victim (and her fifteen-year-old daughter) and to actually discuss her level of attractiveness. The revolt began after the feminist groups La Barbe, Osez Le Féminisme, and Paroles de Femmes wrote a widely published op-ed article that shed some light on the sexism that was being dished out as journalism. At the end, they called for the public to attend a rally and sign a petition, which said that they were “stunned by the daily flood of misogynist comments by public figures”. Approximately 3,000 people attended the rally, and as of yesterday, more than 14,000 people have signed the petition.