Working late is for MEN!

I’m going to respond to several arguments that were made in the comments of my post about blaming victims of sexual assault. Some of the arguments that were made were more common responses to anti-victim-blaming diatribes, and I’m going to try and address those. I will not address every argument; in particular, I will ignore those arguments where wild, blatant sexism is on display, i.e., if you are in a building by yourself, and you get sexually assaulted, it’s because you’re a weak woman and working late is for MEN!, etc. I will also probably avoid answering tautological arguments: “victim-blaming happens because women won’t report the crimes we blame them for.” As my CPS TA once told us, “saying something’s tautological is like saying ‘your mom.’ It’s not usually right, but if it is, that’s really bad.”

“Your argument essentially says that I shouldn’t lock my door or take any precautions to protect myself from crime.”

I’m pretty vigilant about locking my door. It’s not really a big deal – I turn around after I get in the house and turn a piece of metal. All done! I’m not saying don’t do reasonable things to protect yourself – I’m saying that telling women (or men, but let’s be honest – it’s always women) not go outside by themselves at night is unreasonable and intrudes on my freedom to go to finish my papers in the library and then go home. We tell all women, “don’t go outside at night. Don’t wear certain clothing. Don’t act a certain way.” And then we expect ourselves to live under these restrictions that don’t (and shouldn’t) apply to men while never actually making an effort to stop sexual assault at its core. You know what else would “prevent” women from being sexually assaulted? A curfew!

When Israel was experiencing an epidemic of violent rapes and someone at a cabinet meeting suggested women be put under curfew until the rapists were caught, [Golda] Meir shot back, “Men are committing the rapes. Let them be put under curfew.”

“What *will* stop men, at least some men, from sexually-assaulting women is for women to not put themselves into positions where men can easily sexually-assault them and get away with it.” (direct quote)

Commenter neogaia did my work for me:

“Reminds me I had a Gtown friend who took a cab (like all these safety tips tell you to) from a club to her dorm because she forgot her ID, and the cabbie tried to sexually assault her, what was she supposed to do? Never take a licensed cab by herself?”

“If you were buying drugs, we’d still blame you for getting robbed. So if you’re in an area that’s not well-lit, I’m still going to blame you for getting sexually assaulted.”

It’s true that as a society, we have a penchant for victim-blaming if we think the victim was doing something morally reprehensible at the time they were attacked (like going outside by myself at night – that’s for men!). But doing something “morally reprehensible” – unless you are removing someone else’s autonomy – doesn’t take away your own. I would say that if you’re robbing someone, I don’t really give a fuck if you get robbed. But buying drugs? Going outside at night? Drinking at a party? You haven’t done any harm. Maybe, as a society, we should reevaluate how we judge victims.

“Walking on Prospect Street at 4am is very different from walking past Copley at 4am.”

Why? It’s not like Georgetown is a closed campus. Walking past Copley does not make me feel any better or worse than walking past the houses on 34th Street. In fact, sometimes Prospect Street is busier on weekends than the area outside Copley. Everyone’s walking towards Tuscany to get pizza!

Just a few other things to consider:

  • Most people are sexually assaulted by someone they know. If I trusted the “wrong” man – my professor, my friend’s friend at a party – how am I going to be helped by not going outside at night?
  • When are we offering this so-called advice? As one commenter over at The Sexist suggested, “you don’t dispense this advice to someone in the ER as you take several bullets out of their chest” – even if they were in a “crappy” neighborhood.
  • Mrs. D., who also commented at The Sexist, adds, “sometimes you HAVE to leave the house at night, sometimes you DON’T have a friend around to watch your back.” Sometimes, I’m poor and have to live in a so-called shitty area. Sometimes, I have to work night shifts and then walk home in the dark because that’s the schedule my boss gave me and this is the job I have access to right now. There are things we do out of necessity. Tell those women not go to outside alone at night.

The main points I’m trying to make here are 1. that telling girls and women to do certain things to “avoid” sexual assault is ineffectual and doesn’t help them avoid sexual assault, 2. these things we absolutely have to do intrude on the freedom we allow men to have, even when most women seem to be reporting sexual assaults committed by men, and 3. we tell women to do all sorts of shit, but we accept a culture where masculinity implies power over women and we never fucking question it. We just keep going about our daily lives as if it’s totally okay that sexual assault happens. Instead of stopping it at the root, just lock your door. You’ll NEVER get assaulted, then.

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    • Eileen
    • May 27th, 2010

    I’m sorry you don’t like my argument.

    However, while I would never blame a woman for being raped, I do blame her for not reporting it the same way I would blame anyone who knew about a crime and chose not to report it. Part of living in a society is, well, living in a SOCIETY – we have a certain moral, if not always legal, responsibility to try to promote the general welfare of that society, whether it’s something as simple as letting that girl walking in front of you know that her skirt’s tucked into her panties or as difficult as coming forward when you find out that your brother-in-law is beating your sister. I know it’s hard. It’s fucking unfair that this burden falls on so many women. But it’s your moral responsibility to report crimes, whether it’s easy or hard for you to do so.

      • Mara Alyse
      • May 27th, 2010

      Except that when people report a burglary in their homes, we generally feel bad for them. When people report sexual assault, we’re like the fucking mafia – we go AFTER those girls! Did you see that video? “Remember, she WAS alone by herself at night.” As if it were her fault. When we stop treating victims like shit and stop telling them how guilty they are, more women will come forward. That’s part of living in a society, too, Eileen – not treating victims like shit. And acting like we have NO part in the low rates of reporting is to ignore the inappropriate societal response to this crime. “The general welfare of that society” falls on us, too.

    • Kate
    • February 11th, 2012

    Preach it, sister. The victim-blaming needs to stop now.

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