One of the most interesting aspects of the Roman Polanski arrest, which my co-blogger Ken has covered in all its sordid glory, is the split that it creates. Chris, who frequently comments here, described Polanski as an "OJ Simpson for the elites," and that's not too far off the mark. What one thinks about Polanski, whether he should come to a Los Angeles courtroom and face whatever may be coming to him, or whether the man should be allowed to continue raping little girls in the peace of his Gstaad villa, seems to be more a factor of one's attitude toward and deference to fame than whether one identifies as a liberal, a conservative (though admittedly few conservatives, if any, have spoken out for the man), a statist, or a libertarian. A similar, albeit lower rent, divide seemed to exist in views on the prosecution of Michael Jackson, as it was tried in the court of public opinion, before that prosecution imploded in a real courtroom.
But regardless of whether its members prefer Vanity Fair or the Economist, there is one group I would have expected, uniformly, to argue that Polanski should stand tall before the man. That group is: organized political feminists.
Some of the [television and film] industry's most prominent women said they believe Polanski, who faces a sentence as low as probation and as high as 16 months in prison for pleading guilty to having sex with a minor, should be freed. "My personal thoughts are let the guy go," said Peg Yorkin, founder of the Feminist Majority Foundation. "It's bad a person was raped. But that was so many years ago. The guy has been through so much in his life. It's crazy to arrest him now. Let it go. The government could spend its money on other things."
That would be Peg Yorkin, the founder and chair of the same Feminist Majority Foundation which owns Ms. Magazine, which reported breathlessly on a more recently famous alleged rape, and the same Peg Yorkin who funded a graphic art exhibition in hopes of "shocking" an America she felt needed to confront the "brutal crime" of rape:
In the artwork, which was created by Massey and funded by Yorkin, a female victim rises up on her elbows and attempts to crawl along the ground while her male assailants hang from a beam above her–strung up by their genitals. Nearly identical versions of the piece were unveiled simultaneously on Monday in storefront windows in Santa Monica, Chicago, Miami, Washington and New York. …
"I think we'll hear some screeching brakes," said Yorkin, who (with Eleanor Smeal) co-founded the Fund for the Feminist Majority, a women's rights advocacy group. Yorkin has produced plays in Los Angeles but "Morality/Mortality" is the first visual art project to win her backing.
Passing motorists can see the horrific pair of ghostly white men dangling in the window, but they must get out of their cars to view the anguished woman whose clothing, briefcase and purse are strewn around her. The scene is most dramatic at night, when illuminated by theatrical lighting.
But that was fifteen years ago. Fifteen years ago, Feminist Majority Foundation chairwoman Peg Yorkin wanted to see rapists, figuratively if not literally, strung up by the balls for their crimes against women. It may seem odd that Yorkin would show such concern today for Roman Polanski, given that genital torture was a real possibility had the Nazis caught him when he was a younger man, but in 1994 the hidden horror of rape was an issue that America had to "shocked" into perceiving. Even if it meant hanging virtual rapists by their testicles.
Evidently Yorkin succeeded beyond her wildest dreams. Why only two years ago, Yorkin's magazine felt that unproven and dubious allegations of rape against a handful of comparative nobodies should be reported as though they were gospel truth.
Today? Rape is sooooo 2007.
Yes, it's bad a "person" was raped by Polanski. But It's crazy to arrest him. He's been through so much in his life. We should just let it go rather than forcing him to sit through a sentencing hearing for a crime to which he pled guilty.
Perhaps we could hang the man by his testicles instead.
Update: And in fairness, Feministing has a nice roundup of how some poorer, non-millionaire feminists outside Hollywood react to the Polanski case. I suspect that these women suffer an inability to see the big picture.