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.)
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?”
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.