I was talking about SlutWalk last night and the conversation kept coming back to personal responsibility. That you need to take personal responsibility for your own safety and unfortunately that means not wearing something too provocative.
I can see why this idea is so widespread, because on the surface it makes sense. But I call bullshit. Because when you say that, what you’re really saying is the other person is not responsible for their actions. And if you dig deeper into that, what does it mean? That women should have personal responsibility but men shouldn’t? That men are so controlled by sexual urges that they simply must stick their penis inside every nearby vagina? We all know that’s rubbish. Even douchebags know that it’s wrong to jump on someone in the street and have sex with them. And we know that even douchebags know this because we don’t see it happening. So how on earth is it my fault – or my skirt’s fault – if someone else decides to break the law?
Our culture pushes the idea that women can somehow prevent rape – by not wearing certain items of clothing, by not getting drunk, by not walking around alone at night, by doing self-defence classes – and all of this ignores the fact that it’s not strangers women should fear. I’m not sure why our culture keeps pushing this lie. Maybe it’s because women are so used to being the ones who have to change – we have to be more masculine at work if we want a pay rise, we have to be different in some way if we want to get a boyfriend, we have to give up our bodies to grow humans, we have to accept that six or twelve months off work will damage our careers forever – that rather than teaching people not to attack or rape others, it’s just easier to make it yet another thing that women should do. I hope this is the reason, because the alternative is just too heartbreaking: that when women are attacked it’s their own fault and so the attacker shouldn’t be punished. Can you imagine if we told men that it’s their own fault for being in public if someone king hits them in the street?
Which brings me back to SlutWalk. I don’t think it will stop fuckwits groping women, or raping them, or believing it’s their right to say something nasty to a woman about her body. You can’t rid the world of fuckwits. But you can get people talking about the shit that women have to put up with when they’re in public. And maybe a journalist will think more carefully about the words they use when writing about violence against women. And maybe when a douchebag makes a nasty comment on a news website, other readers will pull them up. Or the moderator will realise that it shouldn’t be published because it’s offensive. And maybe when some idiot says a woman was “asking for it”, everyone else will point out how ridiculously stupid that is.
If someone else breaks the law, what on earth does it have to do with what I’m wearing?