THIS. IS NOT. OKAY.

Published March 10, 2011 by Teresa

I still have a long-overdue Gallifrey One post to write, as well as a post about the Whedonistas panel/signing in L.A. (oh, and by the way, there’s a Whedonistas reading in BROOKLYN on Monday. Tell a friend) But it is Women’s History Month (and was recently International Women’s Day), and I came across something today that made me so fucking angry. Whenever anyone tells me that women have come so far that stuff like Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day are “unnecessary”, I think about stuff like what I’m about to talk to you about, and want to punch them in the face.

(**PLEASE NOTE – this post is about rape. Trigger warnings, etc. Also, it’s primarily about rape committed by men against women. However, I’m well aware, sadly, that rape happens amongst gay and lesbian couples, and that straight men have been rape victims as well. Rape in any and all of its forms is an unacceptable form of violence, no matter who the victim. What I’m writing about below, though, is more about “rape culture” with regard to women, and about it being generally OK and accepted that women be victims.)

Noah Cyrus, Miley's little sister. There have been several blog posts about how her mother shouldn't let her dress this way. Yeah, pedophiles and perverts aren't the problem. THEY don't need to change. SHE does.

This little girl IS NOT “ASKING FOR IT.”

I’ll repeat that again so there’s no confusion.

THIS LITTLE GIRL IS NOT “ASKING FOR IT.”

I don’t care that she’s got make-up on. I don’t care that her outfit is “suggestive.” THAT. DOESN’T. MATTER.  Her being dressed like this does not give anyone – ANYONE – the right to lay a hand on her. Period. End of story.

Though, apparently, that’s not the end of the story. Because what seems like common sense to me, and should seem like common sense to you, isn’t, in fact, common. I came across this blog post at Shakesville about an article from the New York Times on Tuesday. The article is reporting on an 11 year old girl in Texas who was raped by a group of eighteen young men and teenage boys. Sounds horrific, right? You’d think the article would be totally on the girl’s side.

And yet, it’s not.

The Shakesville blog post does a great job of breaking down the New York Times article and how it relates to rape culture, so you should definitely check that out. While I was appalled by the concern of the article with what would “draw” those men and boys to do something like this (um, something made them rape an 11 year old girl?), the effect on the community (um, how about the effect on the 11 year old who got RAPED?!), and the fact that those men and boys are going to have to “live with” what they did for the rest of their lives (um, that 11 year old girl is going to have to live with BEING RAPED BY 18 PEOPLE FOR THE REST OF HER LIFE!), the thing that makes me angriest is this total non sequitur in the article:

Residents in the neighborhood where the abandoned trailer stands — known as the Quarters — said the victim had been visiting various friends there for months. They said she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s. She would hang out with teenage boys at a playground, some said.

“Where was her mother? What was her mother thinking?” said Ms. Harrison, one of a handful of neighbors who would speak on the record. “How can you have an 11-year-old child missing down in the Quarters?”

This made me want to vomit. An 11 year old girl is raped, and the New York Times – supposedly a paper of record – deems it necessary to include the opinions of the people in the community with regard to the girl’s “lifestyle?!” Why? What is the purpose of these two paragraphs? What does this add to the article? What are they supposed to do?

They’re there to make an 11 year old rape victim and her mother look bad, that’s what.

And if not, what’s the reason? What the hell does it matter that she “dressed older than her age?” What does it matter that she wore make-up and hung out with older boys? And what about her mother? Why ask about her mother first? Oh, right. Because it’s only mothers who do the child-rearing, and it’s up to mothers to make sure their children have morals and values. That’s “women’s work.” Fathers are only expected to bring home paychecks, apparently. Except when children do exceptionally well. Then, they come from a “solid family.” A kid “goes wrong,” and it’s “where was his/her mother?”

This girl's not "asking for it" either.

Why is the onus of rape always on women and girls?

Well, obviously the men and boys did something wrong, I can hear some of you start to say – people I know and love, which makes me nauseous – but in addition to that, you can’t have a girl leave the house like that/dress like that/wear that make-up/go to certain places/hang out with boys late at night. If she does, she’s just asking for trouble.

NO. SHE. IS. NOT. And fuck you for saying so. Seriously, I’m sick of it. And if this makes you “feel bad,” good.

The fact that people of BOTH GENDERS are generally OK with letting rape be the woman’s or girl’s fault, OK with figuring out what the woman or girl can do to prevent stuff like this from happening to her, and OK with giving men a free pass for rape – which is essentially what you’re doing when you think Well, you know men. They can’t control themselves. So it’s up to women to make sure we don’t walk around tempting them, otherwise what do you expect? – MAKES ME CRAZY.

THIS. IS NOT. OKAY.

Men rule the planet and control all the wealth? Great. Then why don’t we expect them to take responsibility for their fucking actions? They can run governments, start wars, own corporations, and have societies divided into chunks marked by their last names, but they can’t be expected to control their own penises?!

Think about it like this: every time you tell your daughter that she can’t “wear that” because of “the message it sends,” you are letting a girl get raped.  I know, that’s the exact opposite effect you were going for. But by expressing and perpetuating the thought that girls have to control themselves and rein themselves in because boys can’t, you’re creating a world in which it’s okay, even expected, for a boy to rape a girl. It is your fault.

And the sad example of this 11 year old girl is an extreme (and she’s not at an age where she can consent anyway, even if she did, which she didn’t), but what I’m saying holds true for older girls. It holds true for women. Whether they’re raped by one man, or several; whether they’re attacked in the cliched “dark alley”, or attacked in a living room by someone they know; whether they say “No!” outright, or they’re in the middle of having sex, express a desire to stop, and their partner doesn’t let them. It is never OK to force someone to have sex with you. Ever. No matter what they’re wearing, or what you think they want. If they’re telling you to stop, that’s what you follow. It’s not open to interpretation.

What’s interesting, is that there are so many Patriotic Americans out there who think that it’s just horrible what’s being done to women in Other Countries. Who see things like head scarves as oppressive to women, because they force women to cover themselves so that men won’t be tempted. These Patriotic Americans look at the Middle East or India or South America and shake their heads at how women are treated. I ask these Patriotic Americans to look at how women are treated in their own fucking backyard, then look at themselves in the mirror to ask themselves what the fuck they’re going to do about it.

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28 comments on “THIS. IS NOT. OKAY.

  • Yes. Exactly. I’m tired of victim blaming. Rape is not about the victims, it’s about the perpetrators – they must change. And even if this case, for example, goes to trial, the legal system will enact another kind of rape, and further victimise the victim with attacks on her ‘reputation’ and accusations about what she wears and who she associates with.

  • It makes me sick how even in 2011 we blame the victim in rape cases. No no no no! Stop it! I don’t think children should wear mini versions of adult slut clothes, but even if anyone of any age is running around naked, if that person does not want to have sex, then that person should not be forced into it. Period. Little girls dressing too adult for their age is more a matter of not sexualizing children before they’re old enough to understand what that means. It’s an entirely different issue from rape. Rape is always wrong I’m glad you wrote this article Teresa. It’s sad that you had to. Shame on you New York Times, rapists, and defenders of rapists!

    • Yes, indeed! I’m gonna have to write that second post, because little girls dressing too adult is part of a separate issue in which CHILDREN are sexualized before their time.

      In this post, I was looking at it purely from the angle that usually, if someone is raped, the knee-jerk reaction seems to be “What did she do to bring it on herself? Could she have not walked down that street late at night? Could she have worn less slutty clothes?” And nothing is ever asked of boys or men. It’s that disparity that needs to be addressed.

  • So true. Glad you wrote this. Rape should never be the victim’s fault. Ridiculous for anyone to think so!!
    As for the way young girls dress, it’s a separate issue entirely. That’s parenting. Parents have the responsibility of keeping their children safe!! The window of innocence is so small. Let children be children. Dress-up is for playtime and should not be the norm for their daily attire. Unfortunately, the fashion industry creates mini versions of teen clothes for toddlers. As a mother, it is difficult to navigate the racks of a children’s clothing store.
    Although little girls aren’t “asking for it”, their are creeps out there who are “looking for it”!!

    • Yes! I’m actually going to be writing a second post about this. Because I agree that it’s a separate issue and that little girls shouldn’t dress that way. But it shouldn’t be about the “message they’re sending.” It should be about “you should be dressing for yourself, not for other people.” They should dress in a way that makes them comfortable, not in a way dictated by what their friends wear or what’s in magazines.

  • It made me so sick to read that article. The questions we should be asking? Well, we could start with “Where were the mothers of the RAPISTS!??!!” “Why in that whole group of men did nobody say ‘You guys are sick and I’m taking her to the police and testifying!’?” These are the questions.

    Even if she “dressed older” and talked to older guys, she’s guilty of the same thing every 11-year-old boy and girl is guilty of…wanting to be older and wanting to be accepted by older kids. That’s how kids are. It’s not even a bad thing, it’s a part of growing up. It’s in NO way a justification for any inappropriate behavior, let alone something this awful.

  • Terry… I had to stop SEVERAL times while reading this post and question my ability to continue reading it, as a woman and a mother to a daughter. I know that sometimes, u as a writer must write about things that although difficult to think about, bring light and awareness to the dimwitted. I want THIS article PLASTERED on the front cover of the Times.

    • I’m so glad you feel that way, and yes I know you have a special stake in this – like my sister who commented above – as a mother to a daughter.

      And I was debating whether I wanted to post this at all, which is why I posted it so late! :) I was thinking about it all day, because I knew I wanted it to be harsh, and I was afraid that people would take it wrong. But in the end, I decided that I don’t care if people get upset so long as I make them think about it for a second longer than they would have otherwise. Then, I’ve done my job! :)

  • SERIOUSLY. The victim-blaming is ridiculous. I mean, I get it. On a practical level, I think all the women I know watch themselves to make sure they’re not in dangerous situations. And I certainly understand wondering why a parent would let their child wander around in a bad neighborhood alone. But that doesn’t mean a person is “asking for it” or “deserves” it if they are in a bad neighborhood. And the fact that we police ourselves isn’t because we SHOULD or because it’s our responsibility. We do it because sadly, in our culture, it’s the only way to keep ourselves safe (or to give ourselves a chance at justice if something does happen, because then we can look like a “good” girl and not a tramp who deserves what she gets).

    And that’s not even close to a guarantee of safety, since most sexual assaults are committed by friends, acquaintances or dates of the victim. So really, to say someone needs to watch their behavior to “prevent” being a victim of assault, you’re saying they need to watch how they dress not just on the streets, but with friends and in their homes. That they need to watch what they say around every person they are ever with. Also, they should probably never be alone with a man. Ever. Or a woman, for that matter, since women can be assailants too.

    So to sum up: Always cover yourselves, never say or do anything that could be perceived as sexual and never be alone with anyone ever. How silly women are to not follow these oh so simple rules to protect themselves.

  • In South America? I’m from Brazil and women there are treated with a little bit more freedom than American women when it comes to our wardrobe… just take a look at the Brazilian bikinis! I feel like Americans are just a tiny bit more sexist than South Americans. Just take Janet Jackson’s boob “scandal”… while in Brazil everyone pretty much show their boobs on TV like… all the time. But I get what you’re trying to say.

    About the woman issue… Yoko Ono and John Lennin said it all when they composed “Woman is the nigger of the world”. Aren’t we?

    • Then again, in Guatemala women don’t have the right to own property and there’s an epidemic of killing women there. I probably should have said Central America rather than South America. :)

      Though even still, I think Brazil is probably more enlightened about certain things than a lot of their South American brothers and sisters.

  • It is horrible for a woman to be raped and it is even more horrifying for them to be blamed for it. I teach my boys to keep their hands to themselves.

    I think that everyone is responsible for themselves. Men do not have the right to touch a woman or girl that does not want to be touched. That being said, parents need to make sure that their daughters are not dressing like older women.

    You responded to someone about the sexualization of children. That is what I mean about not letting our daughters dress like women.

    In the case of men not being able to control themselves I call BS. They can. They don’t. I love the female form as much as the next guy. I like to see women showing off their curves. But I am respectful in that I do not stare and I do not touch those who don’t want me touching them.

    I wish the world was a better place where things like this never happend. Women deserve better.

    • And, what should whores be treated like?

      That’s part of the problem. The idea that a woman who has lots of sex should be treated differently (ie: worse) than a woman who doesn’t. Why? Because women who don’t have lots of sex are intrinsically better? But that’s for another post.

      My point here is that no one has the right to make assumptions about anyone based on what they wear. Certainly not assumptions about whether or not they would sleep with you. Even sluts have standards. Just because they’ll sleep with a lot of men, doesn’t mean they’ll sleep with you in particular. (I don’t mean you, obviously, Carly. I mean the hypothetical Guy Out There) And when they don’t want to sleep with you, it isn’t your right to call them a tease as if you were somehow entitled to sleep with them just because there were others who did. And if they get upset at you for calling them a tease, that isn’t an excuse to become physically violent or to coerce sex. No. Matter. What. Having sex with someone isn’t anyone’s “right”, no matter what someone is wearing. No one has the right to expect it from anyone else. It is a gift given (or in the case of an actual whore, a service provided). It is not something to be demanded. It is something to be requested, and if it is denied, it is something to be walked away from. End of story. And it’s not up to anyone to judge anyone for their sex lives. Or their perceived sex lives, as clothes often don’t reflect this at all.

      Some of the kinkiest, sluttiest people I know dress like librarians. :)

      • That’s stupid. Sorry, no sluts do not have standards, if they did they would not be sluts. The problem is that the word “judgemental” has a negetive connotation and it absolutely shouldn’t! U HAVE to be able to look at people and make snap decisions abt them cause if u don’t what makes the slut deferentiate between “Man out there” and “oh that guy looks ‘fuck-able’ so I will”

  • I’m so glad to see someone take this stance. The very idea of blaming a victim for what they were wearing is so ludicrous I can’t believe it. Especially considering how much opinion varies based on where you are. What is conservative in Brazil is not conservative in Boston. 100 years ago showing a bit of ankle was considered lewd. 50 years ago skirts had to be below the knee. To attack another person and force them to participate in sex is a horrible, horrible thing. Nothing warrants it and nothing justifies it. That, unlike social opinions on dresscode, will ALWAYS be wrong and should be punished as such.
    Just after I read this I saw a photo that prefectly summed it up: http://27.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lj59iqKaSr1qb2cxho1_500.png

  • There are some stories in my life I have not yet been brave enough to tell. Nor do I know if I ever will be. But, as a woman who knows what it feels like to have a gun pressed to her temple, manage to crawl and eventually limp away only to have an officer look her in the face and say “well surely you must have done something to deserve this,” I thank you. Thank you so much.

  • I believe u r saying two different things: I completely agree that the average rape victim is not asking for it but on the contrary it IS the responsiblity of the parents to shelter children. I would indeed look down on a mother who allowed her 11 year old to dress up like a hooker and hang out with older boys because THAT is negligent and asking for danger. Imagine the mother’s “shock” when her sweet little 16 year old went to a wild party at night with all her friends, meets a guy and ends up pregnant, it IS the parent’s responsibility to look after the child they bare… This includes not letting a child walk to and from school just to minimize the chances of something bad happening as much as possible.

  • So in your opinion, if I leave my super sports car parked in a really bad distric’s street and someone brakes the window to steal my radio, It is in no way my fault?.
    Yes, the one who steals my radio is guilty and needs to go to jail, sure.
    But in the other hand, if I were more inteligent I’d never ever leave my sports car in that street because I am putting the candy right at someone’s fingertips.
    So it’s not my fault to be stolen but, it is in fact, my fault too.

    • Everyone should be careful and employ safety procedures as best they can to protect themselves and the things they care about. The difference between your analogy and what I’m talking about is that if you were to tell your friends, family, and police that you had your car stolen, you’d get sympathy. Whether you could’ve been more careful or not, no one would bring that up to your face, because they’d know that, no matter what – you just had your car stolen, and blaming you after something like that happens is wrong. You don’t have people telling you every day “Hey, you should get a better security system” simply based on the kind of person you are (ie: your sex or gender).

      Let me ask you this. If someone you knew had their son or daughter abducted, is that their fault for being horrible parents? Is the first thing you would do to 1) not believe them? 2) Ask them what it is they did to allow their child to be kidnapped? 3) Talk to other people about what irresponsible parents they are? 4) Assume that they brought it on themselves? Or would you offer them a shoulder to cry on, and help them do whatever they could to help them find the person who harmed their child?

      What I’m saying is that in just about every other instance when someone is a victim of something, the victim is sided with no matter what – as they should be, because that’s what compassion is. No victim should be blamed or reprimanded for the crimes of others. If you had your car stolen, I’d tell you I was sorry. I wouldn’t look for a way to tell you all the many ways it was your fault.

  • I don’t know how is it in the USA, but here, many friends would, knowing HOW my car was stolen, tell me I were a bit idiot to park my car there. And I’d agree with them.

    So, if my friend’s doughter is kidnapped, of course I’d lend them my shoulder to cry on, but I’d like to know the circumstances and keep my opinion for myself in that moment.

    • Right. You would keep your opinion to yourself in that moment. Because you know it would be wrong of you to make the victim feel bad for what happened to their child.

      And your car analogy doesn’t really work, because people are not cars. “Having a car stolen” is not remotely the same thing as “being raped.” Women are not things, and when they are violated, it’s not the same thing as “property damage.”

      But the bottom line is this – it’s one thing for a woman to be safe: making sure that she stays on well-lit streets, or that she has something with her to defend herself in case she’s attacked, or takes a self-defense class so that she can get away if something happens. Those are things ANYONE should do, regardless of their sex or gender.

      The problem is the double standard. Telling a woman that she has to be careful what she wears, because her body being visible makes rape understandable is crazy! So, just by having female parts and having skin show, that’s enough to “cause” rape? Really? So she should cover that up, because she should understand that men can’t SEE women and control themselves, so it’s up to her to cover herself up all the time? What does that say about how we value (or don’t) women? That she should know better than to have her body out in public. Do you know what that does to a woman’s psyche? That she can’t leave her house, because if she decides to wear the wrong shorts that day, she might be attacked? And then to have the blame of that attack on HER instead of on the person who did it? That’s insanity, and no way to live. I don’t know where you’re from, but I was watching a travel show about Brazil and Rio de Janeiro the other day, and the men were walking in the street in short shorts and with no shirt on. How come no one tells THEM that they need to worry about what they wear? Because they never have to worry about being attacked for looking “slutty.” It’s a pressure that we put just on women, because men think women’s bodies are things – and that’s wrong.

      Lastly, what we should be doing is teaching boys and men not to rape. It’s never discussed. People teach young men about sexual conquest and “how to get a woman,” as if they’re hunters. But we don’t sit down with our sons specifically to say “A woman doesn’t owe you sex. If you offer to buy her dinner and take her out, that still doesn’t mean she’ll sleep with you, and you shouldn’t expect that. Even if you’re kissing, if she wants to stop, you need to stop, and that’s okay! You don’t have to have sex with a woman to prove anything. You should only sleep with a woman if she tells you she wants to, and is really excited about it.” It’s so simple, but it’s not a message that men are brought up with nearly enough!

  • Right, women are not things neither their bodies.

    The thing is that a crime need criminal and a victim. Most times the victim is absolutely uncoincious about the fact that it is atracting the criminal in any way (I’d say 99% of them), but some of them are aware of that fact or know that they are taking risks and atract the criminal just thinking they are safe for no reason.

    My sports car is relatively safe in an average street sunlighted, but I know it can tempt someone if I leave it in a bad street at night, so, there is a risk, I know it but for whatever reason I say to myself that it is not going to happen that to me.

    You have to take responsability of your own decisions and acts. So the rapist is 100% guilty. OK, and you, if you knew there were a risk and you ignored it, are also guilty for a little 1% too because you put yourself in risk consciously.

    In my opinion there are two kinds of rapists, the one who is absolutely blind and sick and rape with no understandable reason at all, and the one who can’t control himself but has started the act of conquist because of a (aware or not) woman’s signal.

    You have to do everything you could in order not to put yourself in the position to need to say NO to a boy trying to rape you. That’s true for the 90% of the time, the other 10% you can’t do anything because you are facing the first type of rapist.

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