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Tag Archives: victim blaming

Dressing like a slut: 1 of 2

We’ve all seen Snog, Marry Avoid or other similar shows where the “sluttily dressed” go to get help to dress more decently and flatteringly. And we’ve all seen women who we think are baring too much skin. What counts as “too much” varies from person to person and between different situations; often, the age of the “sluttily” dressed woman is a big factor: it’s okay for young girls to bare their bellybuttons or strut around in tube tops or short skirts, but older women had better beware of  being ‘mutton dressed as lamb’ – a shaming, ageist phrase. And other shaming phrases exist, such as the whorephobic “dressing like a prostitute” and  the personal attack of “she’s got no self esteem” among others. These attacks often perpetuate other types of misogyny (such as whorephobia) as well as the slutshaming itself.

But did these distinctions and the aversion to bare flesh come from our minds? Surely not. When we were born there was no gene inside us that revolted against a particular amount of material or the way a garment is cut.

This is all from society; from our society in this region of the globe, at this particular point in time. And no, I’m not going to say the patriarchy. It’s all of society; all of us. Actually, it seems like women do the judging, shaming and gossiping about “slutty” clothes far more than men do. Is there a word for the privileged, prudish, hetero white female force? The Matriarchy? Because I do not believe we are fighting men here. We are fighting ourselves. We are fighting that part of us that is afraid of slutshaming – so desperately afraid that we’ll shame another woman just to make ourselves feel better. “I’m not a slut, SHE’S the slut! I dress good!” Yet when did bitching, cattiness and slutshaming one-upmanship achieve anything for feminism? It just makes our gender look like bullies obsessed over looks, modesty and trivial crap. Worst of all, it makes our youger sisters and our daughters copy our harmful behaviours and perpetuate the cycle.

Accepting that we should allow women the right to wear whatever they want to wear doesn’t mean you have wear the same thing. You don’t have to wear a bralet and a miniskirt just because another woman is; feel free to wear a burqa instead. The main issue is that women are freely choosing what they wear. Even if what they wear supposedly encourages objectification – or, conversely, is a symbol of female oppression in the Middle East – as long as a woman freely chooses to wear it, what’s wrong? Not all women can freely choose, especially if they’ve been indoctrinated from childhood. However just as not every woman wearing a burqa was brought up a fundamentalist Muslim, not every woman baring her boobs was indoctrinated by the patriarchy.

And if shaming other women for what they wear is a big part of your conversations, so that you’re finding it hard to quit, why not  try more traditional healthy entertainments such as socialising and having fun? Or buy the Nintendo 3DS or something.

 
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Posted by on December 5, 2012 in Feminism

 

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Rape the sluts: the ‘Men can’t control themselves’ excuse

The clothes that a woman happens to be wearing at the time of an assault are often used against her in court, in the media or in her own social circle. I remember as an 18 year old being told by a girl I knew about a newspaper article which reported that a rape victim’s underwear was shown in court to prove that she consented. This was because the underwear had been manufactured with the words “Little devil” printed on the fabric. More recently an article in the Daily Mail sparked outrage for claiming that rape laws were too harsh and were catching innocent men; an example used was that a 19 year old attacked by two footballers had been drinking and had the top three buttons on her blouse undone, so it could not possibly be rape.

Another tactic in using clothes to victim-blame is claiming that if a man sees a woman wearing revealing clothes, he cannot help not raping her, or that the clothes themselves confuse men or constitute consent (a dress is a ‘yes’).

However, the assertion that all men are filthy, sexualised animals who can’t see a bit of cleavage without attcking a woman makes no logical sense. Firstly, men (and women) tend not to commit sexual assaults when there are witnesses around. This is why most attacks on women happen in the victim’s own home, in a dark or secluded area (an empty classroom, a car, an ambulance, a quiet street), in the attacker’s home or are perpertrated by the woman’s partner or family member. So, if men are really beasts who can’t control themselves, why can they control themselves when they know they’re likely to be caught? Why don’t we see men committing rape in malls, busy classrooms or crowded streets? Even when they do abduct victims from crowded places, how are they able to control themselves long enough to get their victim into a secluded area (remember the 14 year old boy abducted from a mall and raped in a toilet in Marks and Spencer’s?) How can Daddy control himself in the street and when Mummy is around, but suddenly he can’t control himself if his wife leaves the house? The myth that men can’t control themselves is just a nonsensical excuse.

A disturbing fact is that we don’t accept the ‘I couldn’t control myself because of my gender’ for any other crime or for any other gender. Try telling a judge that you couldn’t help knifing that person or nicking that wallet because you’re a man. Try telling anyone that you couldn’t help sexually assaulting that man because you’re a woman. So why accept that excuse for men who rape? The excuse should either be valid for all crimes and all genders, or it should be invalid for all crimes and all genders.

Another fact: we don’t accept the excuse for men who molest children or have sex with underage girls. But it seems that if you’re over the age of consent, it’s all your fault for leading him on and he couldn’t help it. If he really can’t help it with girls over 16, why is he able to control himself with a 15 year old? Why is it all his fault if you’re 15 and consenting, and all your fault if you’re 16 and not consenting?

Yet another illogical aspect of this excuse is: If men can’t control themselves, wouldn’t that mean that women also can’t control themselves? So why are only men deemed to be animals, and not women?

The tactic of using clothes to victim-blame, or even just to slutshame women ordinarily, is a dirty trick. You see, that outfit that Jenny is wearing that seems slutty to you isn’t Jenny – it’s an outfit. You’re judging Jenny based on what she’s wearing. If you had met her two hurs earlier she would have been wearing a business suit. If you were to meet her two hours later she’ll be wearing a frumpy, mumsy cardigan and worn baggy jeans.Later, when Jenny’s wearing her fleecey PJ’s, you might be wearing a short see-through nightie. So if Jenny is attacked at 4pm, she will be wearing a suit and will be seen as a victim (unless she knows the attacker). But if her attacker decides to lie in wait for her until 5pm and stalk her, by the time he attacks her she might be wearing a ‘revealing’ outfit. So it’s her fault for being dressed that way. And if the rapist instead chooses to follow her home and then break in, she’ll be wearing her mumsy outfit and be seen as a victim. Women have no control and no choice over when they are attacked or what they’re wearing when they are attacked. We don’t dress in the mornings or change our outfits in the day thinking that we might be raped, any more than men dress to be raped. We don’t think that men are dangerous animals who will leap at the first chance to attack us; we’re not paranoid. Neither are men. Judging women and victim-blaming on the basis of dress puts victims under the power of their rapist. The attacker chose when to attack; he has that control. The victim doesn’t. By victim-blaming, you are giving the rapist the power to make his victim endure shaming and make her testimony less believable. You are giving him the power to negotiate and influence the wider disourse around rape, as well as the opportunity to escape prison if the victim isn’t believed. By assuming womens’ dress causes them to be raped, we might even end up with a society in which men try to attack women who are dressed a certain way, so that they will get away with it – a self-fulfilling prophecy.

And if men are biologically compelled to rape if they catch a glimpse of cleavage, leg or belly button, how are they able not to rape when they see women in bikinis on the beach? Or naked women in nudist colonies? Or topless women on the beach? When I was 8 I once saw a naked woman at the beach, pulling her two young children in a rubber ring and covering herself with her other hand. Nobody tried to rape her or even noticed her or cared. In fact, I, an eight year old female, was the one who was staring the most.

This final argument comes with illustrations (yay!). In Britain, it is ILLEGAL to wear clothing in public that would display nipples or genitals. Strip clubs, nudist colonies and BDSM club nights may have different rules, but when you step out of these establishments onto the street, you will be charged with public indecency if you aren’t covering those areas. So how revealing can revealing clothes even be?

This woman is wearing a bralet and short skirt, but all she is revealing is a little of her belly.

This is the most revealing photo I could find of people who appeared on Snog, Marry Avoid. However, the two womens’ outfits, while being as revealing as possible without being illegal, are actually less revealing than a bikini. And neither of them are revealing their nipples or private parts, so the most sexual parts of their bodies are covered. So they aren’t revealing anything at all – the erogenous zones are covered up, leaving only the mundane non-sexy bits showing.

Really, anyone who believes that men are so weak, violent and bestial that they would attack these two women just because their tummies, legs and decolletage are revealed is an idiot.

A man wouldn’t be compelled to attack a woman walking down the street naked any more than a woman would be compelled to attack a naked man, or an adult of either sex would be compelled to attack a naked child.

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2012 in Feminism

 

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Marriage: priveleged in public discourse on rape, emotional health and childrearing

This is another post I’ve been wanting to write for a while.

Marriage. Sure, we accept it can cause problems, especially that the definition of marriage is problematic. We accept that domestic violence and rape occurs in marriage more than it does in relationships where the partners aren’t living together. But marriage is priveleged.

I’m going to start off with the example of rape, then move on to emotional and mental health, and finally childrearing. For this post, I’m only going to be talking about heterosexual women because it seems like most of the discourse and marriage-privelege is centered around this group. This post will assume some knowledge/sympathetic views (will not have references, statistics or attempt to prove points).

Rape/sexual assault

When a woman experiences sexual assault outside her marriage – especially if she is a young single woman – she may be blamed for it. She was out late, she was walking alone, her clothes were a certain length, cut, or showed a certain amount of skin, she wasn’t sober, she shouldn’t have trusted that man, she shouldn’t have hung around with those guys, she was flirting, she should have realised she was in danger earlier, she shouldn’t have led him on…

So, the social norms of socialising, drinking, flirting, dating, and even shopping (a shop sold her the clothes, why not criticise the designer or the retailer if you think the outfit is too short/tight?) are out of bounds for raped women. It’s okay to go out for a drink with your friends, but if you get attacked coming out of the bar, you shouldn’t have been out so late. If you don’t go on dates you’re a loser, snob, frigid or ugly, but if you go on a date and things go wrong in the car or at his place, you have only yourself to blame for being stupidly naive or a flirt who led him on. It’s always okay to do those things – until you get attacked. Then it’s your fault for being a normal person with a social life, errands to run, a life outside your kitchen, and clothes that aren’t hand-me-downs from Granny.

So, a woman’s lifestyle or even career (in the case of sex workers) is blamed for ‘causing’ the rape. You got raped because you were flirting/drinking/socialising/outside your home after dark, or because you are a sex worker. Your behaviour or your job is the culprit.

Yet, when a woman experiences sexual assault in her marriage, the institution of marriage is never blamed. (Note: I’m not saying victims of domestic violence are not blamed; sometimes, people and courts might not take them seriously compared to a woman who is assaulted by a knife-wielding stranger, because domestic abuse sometimes doesn’t seem ‘rape-y’ enough.) What I am saying is: women aren’t usually* blamed for marrying. People don’t say ‘it was her fault she was raped, she was living in the same house as the guy so it was really easy to rape her’ or ‘She should’ve realised he was a rapist before she married him’ or ‘What was she wearing?’ or even ‘She was alone with him in the bedroom at night, what did she think was going to happen?’.

Even though the fact that you’re living with a man makes it very easy for you to be sexually assaulted – close proximity, less chance you’ll call the police, etc.

But marriage is never seen as the culprit. Nobody ever says, ‘You were raped because you are a wife’ or ‘See, marriage causes rape,’ ‘Marriage is dangerous and degrading to wives’. But it’s not that uncommon to hear or see victims blamed: ‘She was raped because she is a sex worker’ or ‘See, sex work causes rape’, ‘Sex work is dangerous and degrading to sex workers’. Nobody tells wives to “Stop dressing like sluts” in front of their husbands (the comment that inadvertently launched the SlutWalks) or that they must restrict their freedom of movement and be on their guard against rape.

Some of this is because of practicality – it’s hard to be on your guard in your own home. But being on your guard in your own home is no more ridiculous than being told to be on your guard in your own neighbourhood,. And there’s no reason why bigots couldn’t tell wives to watch how they dress.

 

Emotional/mental health

Marriage is still thought of as a stress reliever, especially in the case of parenting. We all know marriage can be stressful, but if a woman has emotional problems, it tends not to be attributed to her marriage unless she tells us so. We tend to think of work or family issues as the culprit. Whereas a single woman having a breakdown is often asked about boyfriends or sex partners, and we more readily assume that her sex life is causing the distress, before we think about her family or career as possible causes.

Sometimes it is still assumed that a single woman is looking for that special someone to eventually marry, and only then will she find true happiness. Some people still assume that a string of casual boyfriends is not true happiness, or is just the prelude to a long-awaited union with Mr Right. Marriage is still, in some circles, seen as the key to a woman’s happiness. Womens’ dating and sex lives are reduced to a lengthy search for Mr Right.

 

Childrearing

 

When kids misbehave, get into trouble with the police or don’t do well at school, parents and not teachers are usually blamed. That’s a subject outwith the scope of this blog, which only deals with issues surrounding my Diary (a young single polyamorous woman selling virginity to a rich open-married polyamorous guy for fun and thrills). What is within the scope of this blog is the fact that, although all parents of criticised children and adolescents are blamed, marriage is never seen as the cause of the child’s failures. Divorce, single motherhood, polyamory, parental dating and problem marriages where the parents argue continually are all blamed. But a marriage where the parents don’t argue is never seen as a cause for the child’s problems. Why not, if single motherhood is sometimes blamed – especially in the media – for juvenile delinquency? If a one-parent or separated/nonmarried/divorced background can be a cause, why not a two-parent/married background? Studies show that single parents’ children do as well as coupled parents’ children (when poverty and educational status are controlled for, which wasn’t done in earlier studies – see my post ‘Lone mothers: the Government, the media and the law hate you. Get married!’ for references and statistics.)

 

*Usually, in media representations and other forms of public discourse. I’m not saying family members don’t do it, ‘Oh you should never have married him, I told you he had shifty eyes! Isn’t that right, Doreen? [nudge] Eh?’

 

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2012 in Feminism

 

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