I know, I don’t really use this blog for matters political, but in the recent discussions on rape and the ‘Slut Walks’ there is something that’s been said, over and over, and it’s getting on my nerves.
‘Of course women should be able to wear what they want,’ the line goes, ‘but if a woman dresses provocatively, then she can’t complain if she gets attention.’
Um, no. But ‘attention’ equals being looked at, maybe a compliment, or someone buying you a drink or asking you out. Rape is not ‘attention’. Rape is rape. Implying that a man is unable to see something or someone he wants and suppress his desires in the face of reluctance is damn insulting to men. Men aren’t animals. They’re not all helpless victims of their lack of self control and it’s facile, not to say extremely rude, to suggest they are.
And then the second point, the one that never fails to make me seethe, is the ‘unlocked door’ analogy. No, of course a woman in a short skirt isn’t to blame if she’s assaulted (Oh, thanks!) any more than someone who leaves their door unlocked when they go out is to blame if they’re burgled, but they have to accept that they didn’t do all they could to prevent the crime.
To which I say ‘bunkum’. And indeed ‘phooey’. It’s a pervasive analogy and it’s totally ridiculous. Women aren’t inanimate objects like empty houses. A woman in a short skirt isn’t just a body in a short skirt. She has a voice, and that voice can say no. The idea behind this analogy is that anything the woman says or does (saying no, crying, trying to escape, fighting back) cannot be expected to alter the impression given by her clothes. Really? I’m astonished anyone is happy to argue this line.
Really, the unlocked door analogy only makes sense if it goes like this:
If I’m in my house and the door is unlocked, a burglar might think that this is an opportunity worth taking. He* comes in. I see him and ask him what the hell he thinks he’s doing and tell him to get out. He doesn’t. He overpowers me (physically or with a threat of violence) and burgles my house.
He doesn’t only have to see the unlocked door in order to burgle me. He has to ignore my telling him to leave, and he has to physically assault or threaten me.
So, let’s have no more of the ‘unlocked door’ analogy, please. It’s ridiculous.
Also, it’s a red herring. What you wear has little or nothing to do with your likelihood of being raped. Being raped isn’t about being sexually desirable, it’s about being subjugated. Rape is not about sex, it’s about power. Witness the recent allegations about systematic rape of women in Libya, among many other examples of rape as a war crime. This fixation on the stranger rape of a woman in a minidress is a sideshow. Most women who are raped are wearing jeans, or pyjamas, and are raped by someone they know. Seeking to pin rape on clothes is an exercise in victim blaming, pure and simple.
Right. That’s off my chest. I’ll be back with some flowers or knitting or something soon, no doubt.
*Or she, I suppose.