I often find myself agreeing with Cathy Young of Reason Magazine and the Boston Globe. Her libertarian brand of feminism sets her apart from writers everywhere. So, naturally, I was surprised to find myself shaking my head in disagreement at one of her arguments. In a recent article in Reason, Young tries to ruffle feathers on the Duke lacrosse team rape scandal. It is Young's trademark to take the opposite position of conventional feminists. And most of the time she's right in doing so– calling feminism to task on its real goals. But this time it seems Young was simply playing contrarian.

    Her argument is basically this: feminism has gone too far in protecting at all costs the plaintiff in rape cases, and as a result, a good number of men are getting treated unfairly. Feminism, she argues, has cast women as the innocent victim and men as the lecherous perpetrator. She then drops the big question: "Do we really believe that when women have power—and there is power in an accusation of rape—they are less likely to abuse it than men?"

    This question has some initial appeal a "power is bad in anyone's hands" sort of way. Libertarians are always the first to ask cui bono? But I think there are bigger issues at work here. First, Young's question assumes a homogeneous class of women (she's usually good at refuting such assumptions!) who would "take advantage" of the power to make rape accusations. Second, if Young is to be taken seriously, there would have to be some sort of alternative to our current system. My guess is she's calling for restrictions on women's ability to bring forward rape or sexual assault charges. This position, to me, is unfathomable. The elegance of our legal system is that everyone has a voice. If you have any sort of grievance , concern, doubt, or fear you get to have your day in court. And we provide this right to sue while at the same time protecting the rights of the accused. This is the beauty of a judicial system in a nation that values individual rights. I don't think Young is arguing against this; I think she was just overeager to contradict the feminist mainstream. Thoughts?

Daniel Corbett

Advertisements