Takeaways from the DSK Rape Case

Hotel housekeepers are catching hell, plus two other lessons we've learned from the coverage of former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

By Akiba Solomon May 24, 2011

The Dominique Strauss-Kahn rape case has triggered a fusillade of coverage relevant to race and gender justice. Sadly, I don’t have the (wo)manpower to follow and synthesize all of it. So, as major takeaways emerge, I’m going to round them up. Here’s the first of a growing list:

Hotel guests see housekeepers as prostitutes.

According to the The New York Times piece "For Hotel Housekeepers, Sexual Affronts Are a Known Hazard," we learn some of the specific ways that guests prey on the people who clean their rooms:

"Housekeepers, nearly all of whom are women, talk of guests who offer them $100 or $200 for sex, apparently thinking that the maids, often low-paid immigrants, are desperate to earn more money. Some women complain of episodes in which they were bending over to, say, clean a bathtub, and a guest sneaked up and stuck his hand up their skirt."


"Kathryn Carrington, a retired housekeeper who worked 30 years at the Grand Hyatt in Manhattan, recalled several occasions when she went into a room to clean, only to have a male guest emerge from the shower in his bathrobe, which then suddenly opened.

In one case, she said, a guest propositioned her, saying, ‘I see a pretty dark girl. Can you do something for me?’ Ms. Carrington acknowledged that she used to carry a can opener with her in case she ever needed to defend herself from a guest."

It makes perfect sense that sexual predators would use the close quarters of a hotel room to violate and humiliate women who don’t appear to have power because of their immigration status and race. But I’m still shocked at how low these fools will go.

The IMF’s structural adjustment policies are particularly wicked to women.

In "The IMF: Violating Women since 1945," Christine Ahn and Kavita Ramdas connect the alleged crimes of the bank’s former director to the bank’s exploitation of its borrowers:

"For many in the developing world, the IMF and its draconian policies of structural adjustment have systematically ‘raped’ the earth and the poor and violated the human rights of women. It appears that the personal disregard and disrespect for women demonstrated by the man at the highest levels of leadership within the IMF is quite consistent with the gender bias inherent in the IMF’s institutional policies and practice."

They follow up with clear examples. There’s maternal death in Tanzania:

"In exchange for borrowing $5.8 billion from the IMF and World Bank, Tanzania agreed to impose fees for health services, which led to fewer women seeking hospital deliveries or post-natal care and naturally, higher rates of maternal death."

And lower school enrollment in Zambia:

In Zambia, the imposition of SAPs led to a significant drop in girls’ enrollment in schools and a spike in ‘survival or subsistence sex’ as a way for young women to continue their educations."

And more sexual slavery and rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo:

"In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), IMF loans have paved the way for the privatization of the country’s mines by transnational corporations and local elites, which has forcibly displaced thousands of Congolese people in a context where women and girls experience obscenely high levels of sexual slavery and rape in the eastern provinces. According to Gender Action, the World Bank and IMF have made loans to the DRC to restructure the mining sector, which translates into laying off tens of thousands of workers, including women and girls who depend on the mining operations for their livelihoods. Furthermore, as the land becomes mined and privatized, women and girls responsible for gathering water and firewood must walk even further, making them more susceptible to violent crimes."

The whole piece, posted on Foreign Policy In Focus, is a must-read. Get it here.

Power corrupts and loyalty has its limits.

If you haven’t already, read France’s celebrity philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy’s impassioned defense of his friend Strauss-Kahn here. It’s a textbook example of how some powerful men deny, deny, deny what their peers are capable of and instead cast them as victims. It’s a monument to sexism. France should revoke his pass, tout suite.