03
May
07

Victimhood or Empowerment? Two Stories of Gang Rape from the Vancouver Sun

This morning’s paper had a startling juxtaposition of articles involving gang rape. In one section was an article about a new theatre performance called “251” opening in Singapore this week. Based on the tragic life of Annabel Chong, daughter of Christian parents who was brutally gang-raped in London and then went on to “work” in the pornography industry. The show’s title refers to a film she both produced and “acted” in which features 251 sex acts with 70 men in 10 hours. The article has an upbeat feel and celebrates the fact that Singaporean culture is open to a show about pornography.

At a recent Yale conference one third-wave feminist academic said that through re-enacting the gang rape Chong experienced, Chong was attaining liberation. What does this misguided notion of liberation look like? For Chong it means a lifetime of self-mutilation, struggles with suicide, and an eventual disappearance from public life. Not to mention that her violent film will induce other men to receive pleasure from sexual assault. Some liberation. This particular academic feminist was taking the notion of exploring the postmodern self to the extreme, utterly denying that there are very real consequences in the physical body and spirit of a person who attempts to interrogate the self through re-enacting violence.

The second article I read chronicles the horrid gang rape experienced by a Tutsi woman named Athanasie Mukarwego in Rwanda. She is an amazing survivor who has recently made a refugee claim in Canada and is now living in Montreal. During the slaughter in Rwanda she was raped by at least 78 men and has permanent physical, not to mention psychological, damage from the violence. The men told her, “We have killed many with machete’s, knives and through beatings. You we will kill by rape.”

How would many third-wave feminists react to the juxtaposition of these two stories? One could say that Annabel Chong acted out of “choice” and Athanasie Mukarwego from the place of a victim. But are these two women’s stories so easily dichotomized? Both involve horrid, systematic sexual violence. Both were very nearly killed by rape. Why do we popularize the story of one and mourn the story of another? Perhaps because we have so twisted the notion of choice that we are unwilling to name as sickness the pain that propelled Chong to re-enact her rape. On the other hand, the genocide in Rwanda was so clearly evil that we do not hesitate to call Mukarwego a victim. While the setting of both rapes were different, clearly both women were violated through and acts of sexual violence that do not warrant popularization nor re-enactment. Instead, the women deserve our solidarity and respect.

Annabel Chong has chosen to disappear from public life and has made no comment on the show. She is currently working in the IT industry in the United States. Athanasie Mukarwego has made a new home in Montreal and is working to help women who have experienced violence. Both are experiencing healing and are rebuilding their lives.

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