There’s a big difference between taking responsiblity for the massive bruise on your arse because you got too drunk and stacked it, or the friendship that needs repairing because you said something offensive while plastered, and saying it’s your own fault that some arsehole raped you. Seriously, how hard is this to understand?
Jennifer Wilson has a piece in today’s Online Opinion: Grown up girls take responsibility.
My first problem is the headline which, admittedly, Wilson probably didn’t write. Grown up girls? Grown up girls are women. We don’t need to be infantilised. Sure, sometimes I refer to my boobs as girls (“my girls need some good strong scaffolding”), and sometimes I refer to my vagina as a falcon (“my falcon needs a good strong perch”), but I am certainly not a “grown up girl”.
Wilson is writing about a piece on The Drum by Melinda Tankard Reist on Brian McFadden’s latest single. Some of the lyrics are:
I like you just the way you are, drunk and dancing at the bar, I can’t wait to take you home so I can do some damage
I like you just the way you are, drunk and dancing at the bar, I can’t wait to take you home so I can take advantage
(For the best discussion of this song, check out this piece written by Clem Bastow.)
Wilson – who is using the piece to have a rant about Tankard Reist and Nina Funnell – writes:
But there is a difference between drunk, and passed out, and having sex when drunk isn’t the same thing as raping an unconscious woman. I don’t think McFadden is singing about the latter.
What is nowhere mentioned in the article is that women are responsible for their drinking behaviours, and a culture in which women believe that getting insensible on drink is a normal part of a good night out is also a vile one.
A woman has a responsibility to take care of herself. Nobody else can do that for her. It is a nasty world at times, particularly if you are of the drink and vomit, vomit and drink culture.
Sure, we all have some responsibility when it comes to drinking, like not stepping onto the road without looking, but should the victim be held responsible because someone else breaks the law?
There are two problems with her argument. The first is that it tells women that if they don’t get drunk, they won’t get raped. This is such a dangerous message. The latest stats from the Australian Centre for the Study of Sexual Assault reveal that 57 per cent of women surveyed had been physically or sexually assaulted at least once, but only one per cent said they were raped by a stranger. (Because the survey was conducted over the phone, it didn’t include women who are homeless, in prison, those in remote areas and those who don’t speak English. It’s a safe assumption that if those women were included, the numbers would be even higher.)
The second problem is that it says the victim is to blame because someone else commits a crime. If you don’t hear someone breaking into your house at night because you had too much to drink, we don’t blame you for it. You got robbed because someone robbed you.
Tankard Reist doesn’t blame McFadden for rape culture – which is, among many other things, the idea that if you don’t get drunk, don’t wear short skirts, don’t walk around by yourself after dark, don’t open the door to strangers, then you won’t get raped – but says songs like this help legitimise it. And that’s true.
Years of feminist rage against men seems to have achieved very little, as MTR admits, at least in the world of pop culture inhabited by millions of young women. It might be time to consider turning our attention to educating those women instead of wasting our energies blaming men. This is much harder, of course, but it might have a more successful outcome.
Hands up who did a self-defence class at school because the school thought it was a good way to prevent rape? And how many boys did an anti-rape class? Hmm? I’m not wasting my energy blaming all men for rape. I am blaming the rapists for rape. Just like I blame robbers for robbery. And Wilson is wrong. There is nothing in mainstream culture that says all men are rapists, but everything that says women are somehow responsible for being raped.
The first thing we should be educating girls and young women about is taking responsibility for their own choices and decisions. If you’re going to drink yourself senseless, bear in mind that you might get gang raped while you’re unconscious.
We apparently can’t stop some Neanderthals doing this, but maybe we can do our best to stop young women putting themselves into the situation in the first place. This will involve the whole village, of course, including the pubs and the parents, and not just some hapless male writer of horrible pop music.
We should be playing Rape Apologist Bingo here. If you get drunk, you’ll get gang-raped. We can’t stop them because boys will be boys. It’s only Neanderthals who rape, so you can spot them a mile off and avoid them.
Women and girls have been told this shit over and over again for decades and it hasn’t made one bit of difference. It seems we have been wasting our energies after all.