Douchebag Decree: Peg Yorkin, Traitor to Womanity

I’ve got nothing but love for my fellow feminists out there in the trenches, working to raise money and fund programs and bring meaningful change. But when one of those feminists spits on and stomps all over our core values IN PUBLIC–I absolutely flame up like the Hindenberg. And my righteous feminist fury has been burning bright since last week, when I read this statement in the Los Angeles Times about the prosecution of sexual predator Roman Polanski:

“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.”

Of all the things I’ve heard about Roman Polanski, this is the most infuriating. There’s the use of passive tense that dehumanizes the victim–”it’s bad someone was raped”–and symapthizing with the attacker rather than the victim–“The guy has been through so much in his life.”–to the ultimate “rape is no big deal” kiss-off: “Let it go.” (For a line-by-line breakdown of all the WRONGNESS in that statement, you can read my “Open Letter to Peg Yorkin”). It’s douche-y in a way I’d expect from Fox News. Or Rush Limbaugh. But no, this time the douchery comes from within our own ranks, which makes it all the more disgusting.

Feminists disagree on many things, but the importance of prosecuting rapists and fighting rape culture is not one of them. If the founder and chair of the Feminist Majority Foundation–which funds and refers victims to sexual assault hotlines and survivor resources–makes a public statement like that, she must resign. The FMF later issued a press release, protesting that the comment was Peg Yorkin’s “personal opinion” and that Yorkin “wants to make clear she condemns rape.”

Yorkin has still not apologized, or repudiated her comments. And, frankly, the mere fact that the chair of the FMF has to clarify her position on rape makes it painfully obvious why Peg Yorkin should not be chair of the FMF. I’m not the only one who was furious at Peg Yorkin’s douche-y betrayal–check out what our sisters at Shakesville, Jezebel and Feministe had to say.

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12 Comments Have Been Posted

Time to switch teams!

May I politely suggest that Feminist Majority Foundation members who are disgusted by Yorkin's douchebaggery drop their memberships in protest and consider supporting the revitalized National Organization for Women? NOW President Terry O'Neill issued a press release on the case (up at stating: "When a prominent celebrity such as Roman Polanski is given a pass on rape, people start to wonder who else can be let off the hook.....they see daylight where there should be no debate -- rape is a crime. No excuses, no ambiguity, no get-out-of-jail-free pass."


Yeah, that was absolutely amazing that came out of her mouth. I'm still in shock.

Yeah, I agree with you on

Yeah, I agree with you on that.

NOW is certainly a worthwhile organization doing important things--and the last time I checked, no one over there thinks we should "let it go" when a man rapes a 7th grader--but I think they were way overboard on Letterman. No one's proved that he was into quid-pro-quo or hostile workplace harrassment. He may have lousy judgement about office romances, but IMHO, that's not worth our feminist ire.

Becky Sharper

Most Likely Unpopular Defense of Peg Yorkin

This comment will undoubtedly draw the wrath of a large proportion of the women who read this, but I feel it needs to be said. Many people may be aware that Peg Yorkin helped <a href="" rel="nofollow">start_the_Feminist_Majority_Foundation</a> with a gift of ten million dollars but I suspect fewer people are familiar with her strong stance against rape. In 1994 Peg Yorkin funded artwork by Ed Massey graphically depicting rapists hung by their balls from a beam above their victim. A thumbnail of that artwork which Ms. Yorkin funded, which is entitled
<a href="" rel="nofollow">Morality/Mortality</a> , is posted on Ed Massey's website along with links to newspaper articles reacting to it. An off-hand remark recently alleged to have been made by Peg Yorkin about her personal views with respect to cost-benefit analysis of the Roman Polanski prosecution has resulted in her being vilified.. According to a <a href="" rel="nofollow">CNN_article</a> the rape victim herself, Samantha Geimer is calling for the case against the 76 year old Roman Polanski to be thrown out. The CNN article quotes the now 45 year old victim as saying in Court papers filed in January that: "I am no longer a 13 year old child. I have dealt with the difficulties of being a victim and surpassed them with one exception. Every time this case is brought to the attention of the court, great focus is made of me, my family, my mother and others. That attention is not pleasant to experience and is not worth maintaining over some irrelevant legal nicety, the continuation of the case." Many feminists are incensed at the remarks alleged by the right wing LA times to have been made by Peg Yorkin about the 32 year old Polanski case, but it would not seem right to turn this one case into a vast left wing conspiracy to coddle rapists or constitute grounds to vilify Peg Yorkin. Even if one dismisses questions about a fair trial or cost-benefit analysis, that is still not a good reason to condemn long time feminist and women's rights advocate Peg Yorkin or mischaracterize her beliefs. She never took any position condoning rape or claiming anyone was above the law. Think of Roman Polanski what you will, but please don't disparage Peg Yorkin.

I don't think anyone is

I don't think anyone is saying that Yorkin "condones rape" or trying to target her with a "left-wing conspiracy." What they are saying is that she explicitly supports letting a brutal rapist go free, and in very offensive terms to boot. ("It's bad that someone was raped, but...?" GOOD. LORD.) Also, the terms of the law are not determined by criminals' victims; that's just not how it works. In the quote you posted by Geimer, I think it's crystal clear that it's not that she *wants* him to be excused, but rather that she wants the press to stop tormenting her and her family.

You know why your comment is

You know why your comment is going to be unpopular? Because you're supporting a woman who wants to let a sexual predator off the hook.

When she said that law enforcement should "let it go", that is saying that Roman Polanski is above the law. Peg Yorkin thinks Roman Polanski--a child rapist--should not be prosecuted. It's that simple, and no matter how you want to rationalize her words, she is WRONG. I realize that she's done a great deal of good work for women. I supported her organization financially. But she fucked up ROYALLY here, and in public, and deserves to be called out for it.

And I don't care if the victim has forgiven Polanski. Whether she has or not is irrelevant--prosecutors serve the people, not the victim, and the people are not well-served if we allow rapists to go unpunished, for whatever reason. This is also the basis of anti-domestic violence laws that allow the state to prosecute abusers even if their victims refuse to testify against them.

Becky Sharper

A Hope, a Distinction, and a Pedantic but Important Point,

Yes, I knew why my comment would be unpopular going in. It took some courage to make it. I am hoping that those who loath a person's viewpoint on one subject can see their way clear to separate the viewpoint in one case from the person who made it. Even if I happen to agree with you about this case (which I haven't studied up on enough and haven't found where Peg used the words "above the law" ) I still think Peg Yorkin is a good person who has done a lot of good for women's rights and feminism. I do understand your ire. There is one other point I feel I must make, pedantic though it might seem. The prosecution is not the people, nor do they represent the people. You are right about domestic abuse laws. Having seen the cycle of domestic abuse I agree that they often must be prosecuted without the testimony of the victims who are often terrified and in a cylcle involving low self-esteem and being convinced the abuser has changed. Three dirty dirty little secrets with respect to our legal system are that without over-charging and settlement our legal system would break down, that very often politics find their way into the justice system, and that people have emotions and biases. Sometimes it can be difficult to look at things with the eye of the jurist one is supposed to take on when hearing a case. I have been a juror. I found it to be agonizing and emotionally difficult but I did my job. By now I've probably put the readers to sleep with this. No hard feelings I hope, even if it turns out that we disagree about whether Peg Yorkin is a good person. I have yet to hear or read her own statement in full from her own lips, or read all the details of the Polanski case, but I don't condone rape.

you are badly informed

I have yet to hear or read her own statement in full from her own lips, or read all the details of the Polanski case, but I don't condone rape.

</i></p><p>You should do some reading, then. The LA Times article that quotes Peg Yorkin is linked in the Bitch post. She has issued no further statement defending herself, although FMF did issue one distancing themselves from her remarks.  As for the case itself, The Smoking Gun has the entire grand jury transcript available, and the victim's testimony is stomach-turning.  You might want to read that to better understand why people are so outraged by Yorkin's saying we should &quot;let it go.&quot; </p><p>As for your statement that  <i>The prosecution is not the people, nor do they represent the people, </i>you are completely factually incorrect. The prosecutor is an elected or appointed representative of the people in his/her jurisdiction, and represents the people of the state in all criminal proceedings. This is one of the most important elements of Anglo-American common law. For proof you need look no further than the full name of case against Roman Polanski: <b>The People of the State of California vs. Roman Polanski.  </b> </p><p>Becky Sharper</p>

lots of us have been jurors

...but I suspect few of us would think it's okay to "let it go" when a 42 year old man drugs and rapes a 13 year old girl. I don't know why Peg Yorkin does, and I don't know why you are either. It's alarming how quick people are to say "oh but...." THERE ARE NO BUTS HERE. THIS MAN RAPED A CHILD!

And you're wrong about the prosecutor not representing the people. The whole point of the US legal system is that it's the state (i.e. the people) who bring cases in criminal court, not the individual victims. I don't know why you made that assertion, but it shows that your knowledge of the legal system is pretty weak. Maybe you're the one expressing your "emotions and biases" here instead of sticking to the facts.

Government Versus People

Rather than take up a large amount of comment space pointing out all the places in the Bill of Rights that refer to "the people" where the prosecution is clearly NOT the people, let me give you a URL where you can read the words of a Supervising Deputy Public Defender in Kern County, CA.. The Guest column is entitled 'The People' vs. 'The government' "Prosecutors should not claim a euphemism that can apply to jurors"

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