On his way out of court, Daniel Holtzclaw can be seen mouthing to the jury, “How could you do this”? This phrase perfectly encapsulates the tragedy of this case, because this man is still in disbelief that he got sentenced to jail for raping women he believed we probably shouldn’t care about.
In a way, he was right wasn’t he? Look at the type of women he purposely went after. A drug addict, a prostitute, a teenage runaway. the type of women that don’t make for “good” victims, the type we can collectively have compassion for, the ones we would readily march for. These are the types of women to whom we’d all say that they were probably asking for it, because they are not “respectable women”.
This is evident as shown by the type of tactics used by the defense team. The women’s characters were put into question, because who would rape women like that anyway right? Women who were “street smart like you couldn’t imagine, Women who were high at the time of assault” (CNN). Women who probably expose themselves too often to situations where they’d be harrassed. I mean can you rape a woman if she’s already selling her body for sex? These are all arguments about women’s bodies that this cop was well aware of, not because he was particularly brilliant, but because these are the subtleties we all endorse about who deserves sexual violence.
All women deserve basic respect for their bodies
We celebrate a successful sentencing of this man, but for me that is not enough. The true victory for me, will begin the day decide that we have to fiercely defend a woman’s right to own her body, with no allusion whatsoever to her background. This is on us, for having endorsed the idea that there are types of women who invite violence. For not speaking up whenever we witness a woman being disrespected because she doesn’t meet the standards of what we deem respectable.
We have to stand in solidarity for all women. Naked, short skirts, jeans, maxi dresses, prostitutes, lawyers, doctors, students. There ought to be no criteria to our solidarity. Dear people, your body is your own. Nobody, nobody, is ever ever entitled to your body even if yesterday you sold your body for sex.
Daniel Holtzclaw is the poster boy for the danger of rape culture and respectability politics. We almost never stand up for women who survive sexual assault when they don’t fit society’s standard of a “good” woman. This rapist knew that, and it’s our fault, it’s on us.
We must vow to take a stand for ALL women. #Yesallwomen. It’s all of us, or none of us.
Isabelle Masado writes about body compassion on her blog "The Dear Body Project". She knows all too well that the personal is the political, is the community. As such, there is no discussing body compassion without talking about the assault on black bodies, trans women, and people with disabilities. Her mantra is, "How can I live in a way that makes room for you too"? She writes to examine, to heal, to redeem.