Thursday, June 2, 2011

mind body mama: Victim Blaming, Redux

Here’s how it be, chickadee.

Someone tells you about an incident of sexual assault or harassement. For argument’s sake, let’s say that they tell you that a woman fell asleep in the back of a cab and was assaulted by the driver. Or that the head of the international monetary fund raped a hotel housekeeper. Or that a US legislator had unwanted sexual contact with a subordinate over a period of years, making her job and financial security subject to continued sexual contact.

When you hear that this occurred, you say, “She shouldn’t have.”

She shouldn’t have had so much to drink.
She shouldn’t have been in that part of town.
She shouldn’t have travelled without a buddy.
She shouldn’t have let him corner her.
She shouldn’t have submitted to his advances.
She shouldn’t have protected him with her silence.
She shouldn’t have accepted his gifts.

I’m gonna stop you here. I know you could go on all day.

Lemme ask you this one.

When the fuck do you say, “He shouldn’t have”?

He shouldn’t have taken advantage of her vulnerability.
He shouldn’t have abused his power.
He shouldn’t have raped her.

Every single goddamned time you run your mouth about what she should have done you give the rapist a pass. You remove the responsibility for his bad act from him, and place it onto the person he acted badly upon.

I want you to practice this. The next time you hear about an incident of sexual assault, I want you to say, “He shouldn’t have raped her. “

(You shouldn’t have to wait very long for this role play because somebody is sexually assaulted every two minutes.)

When you find yourself stumbling over these words like a middle manager in his first active listening workshop, I want you to feel how unfamiliar it is to place the blame on the perpetrator.

When you find yourself the only person talking about what the rapist might have done to stop the assault while all around you speculate on what the victim might have done to halt the attack, I want you to notice the marginality of your position.

When you listen to a female academic researcher on NPR explain how the perpetrator's behavior was really completely reasonable and understandable, I want you to notice how confused you become, and how hard it is to hold on to the possibility that the perpetrator might be responsible for his own actions.

That crazy you feel? That isolation, that self doubt? That wondering if maybe she she should have done something to make him not rape her?

That’s the rape culture. You’re soaking in it.

Rape culture: Apologizing for sexual assault since the dawn of the patriarchy.

And now, babycakes? What the fuck are we going to do about it?

Sexual assault statistics available from RAINN


PaleMother said...

"That’s the rape culture. You’re soaking in it.

Rape culture: Apologizing for sexual assault since the dawn of the patriarchy."


I'll never forget trying to heave my feminine chin off the floor the first time my (twice ivy league educated and otherwise pretty swift) father-in-law related an anedote to me wherein his preschool-aged daughter demonstrated "precocious" eye-lash batting manipulative behavior ... behavior which he, in all deadly seriousness, attributed to manipulative tendancies being bred into the double X bones (as opposed to the XY bones of his first three children, who did ~not~ bat their lashes at him to get their way).

Um, sir, your wife is the most manipulative woman I've ever met. Might your daughter have LEARNED this behavior from her, for starters?

It took me years to articulate what I've known in my bones was wrong with his POV. The force at work there was terrible and sublime and I felt it, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it in the moment -- I felt, as you say, confused.

Behavior and perspective are shaped by the culture in ways we can't even begin to recognize... ways that make us our own worst enemy. Sleeping beauty, indeed.

Rape culture. Touche.

Amy Pybus said...

Halle-f'n-lujah for this post. Your clarity, determination, strength - why can't we accept these truths? And oh yeah - I cried a little.