The Lady Garden

Tea and Strumpets

Victim Blaming 101

Because I suspect we may get some people turning up here having Googled us thanks to Martin van Beynen’s piece, I am going to attempt some edumacation. Here’s a really quick point. When you are talking about people on the internet, even blogging feminists, it’s basic courtesy to supply a link. It’s also nice to give them a heads up. And if they have emailed you asking or a response, etiquette dictates it’s a good idea to respond. But hey, that’s fine. We’re not easily offended over here at TLG.

Education doesn’t come easily to me, what with generally being an Angry Slutty Feminist, rather than a Humourless Preachy Feminist. But here goes.

First of all, if you’d like to read how SlutWalk wasn’t about our right to dress as tarts (though why we shouldn’t be allowed to march for that if we want is beyond me), you can read some of the very many posts we’ve written here at The Lady Garden (caution, some of the comments on those posts could be triggering.) Also triggering, but extremely powerful, and a brilliant example of why SlutWalk and the conversation around them is necessary is this piece.

If you can’t be bothered reading those posts, or clicking on the links in them, here it is in one short paragraph. SlutWalk was a Take Back The Night redux. It was about saying “it doesn’t matter what we wear, how much we drink, who we’ve slept with, what colour our hair is, what our identified gender is, it’s NEVER OK TO RAPE US.”  It’s about saying “Don’t rape”, instead of “Don’t get raped”. It’s about asking people to stop putting the blame on rape victims, and put it where it belongs – with the rapist.

Because every time you make a comment about unlocked cars, or uncovered plates of meat, you’re blaming the victim. You’re saying that there’s something that a victim could have done to have prevented their rape. When really, all they could have done was not be in the vicinity of a rapist. which means never leaving the house. Except, OH WAIT, it doesn’t mean that, since the vast majority of assaults are committed by people known to the victim. Rape isn’t something you cause to happen to you, it’s something that is done to you. And you know what? People aren’t property. So please stop comparing women to cars or houses or wallets, or anything else that might be stolen. Rape isn’t theft. It is violent and traumatic, and something victims live with every single day for the rest of their lives. It affects relationships and career and lives. Don’t minimise it. And as Emma said in our original post, what you say about rape, you say to victims. Do you really want to say to the victim of a traumatic assault – well, maybe if your skirt had been three inches longer…”?

Victim Blaming feeds into a wider rape culture, that teaches women not to get raped. (Please read that link, if you read nothing else.) It teaches us to take self defence classes, to not walk down the street alone at night, to not get drunk with strangers, and to not wear short skirts, so we don’t get raped. And guess what, we do all that, and we still get raped. Rape culture teaches us that only pretty women with good legs get raped, and that only women get raped at all, which also isn’t true. It tells us that if we’ve had sex before, if we’ve been sluts, if we’ve dared to profess that we like sex, that we’re asking for it, that we deserve to be raped. And that’s never, ever true.

If you detect a note of frustration, that’s because I am frustrated. And that’s why this happened. That’s why SlutWalk. Because we are frustrated. Because we’re sick of that message. Because we’re sick of the onus being on us to not get raped, instead of the message being “DON’T FUCKING RAPE PEOPLE.”

So, Martin van Beynen, and the commenters over there who agree with him. When you say this:

While the protest was effective in attracting attention, all it really achieved was trivialising the issue and feminism by trying to rehabilitate a derogatory slur, thinking that would somehow empower women. It was a gimmick which sent entirely the wrong and possibly unintended message.

You are absolutely wrong. WE didn’t trivialise the issue, YOU did. By not listening to us, and telling us that it was about us wanting to dress like tarts. I’d invite you to watch this report, which except for the “scantily clad” comment in the preview, pretty much nailed it. (Also, featured Friends of The Blog.) When you write:

Go Girls, forget about public attitudes and sensible precautions because we are going to make a perfect ultra-sensitive, politically correct world in which rapists will simply disappear.

Actually, yeah, that kind of is the point. Is that bad? Wanting RAPE TO STOP? You actually want to advocate that we shouldn’t want to get rid of rape? Seriously? You actually think the fight for someone to be able to walk down the street without being attacked is politically correct and ultra-sensitive. Yeah, mate, screw you.

(Sorry, slipped back into Angry Feminist there.) Look, I am practically in tears writing this. Because I feel like I have written these words over and over again. We know one protest isn’t going to change the world, it isn’t going to change those public attitudes over night. But at least we’re doing something.

I know people who went on SlutWalk, who for the first time, stood up and said “I was raped. And it wasn’t my fault. NOTHING I did caused it.” And that was extremely powerful, and extremely important. So yes, I found a lot wrong with your column, Martin. Because there was a lot wrong with it. Because there is a lot wrong with our society, and we are sick of it.

11 responses to “Victim Blaming 101

  1. Deborah August 3, 2011 at 11:17 am

    Great post, Tallulah. I was gobsmacked by the title the subs put on his piece – “Yes, I expect my wife to keep her pretty little mouth shut”. That ought to be a loud clear signal to hm that plenty of people in his workplace think he’s engaged in incredible fuckwittery.

    I saw some fantastic women on the march, and the one who moved me to tears was the older woman, grey hair, no make-up, flat shoes, dressed in ordinary old trousers and a shirt and vest, who said to me, “I’m here because I have been raped.” How dare MvB trivialise this woman’s courage. And the courage of many of the women there who told us, “I have been raped.”

  2. Tamara August 3, 2011 at 11:44 am

    Thanks for this fantastic post and your untiring attention to this. I hope his commentators make it over here.

  3. Max Rose August 3, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    The think that worries me is the number of commenters who presume to know how rapists think. That’s either arrogant and ignorant, or disturbing.

  4. Boganette August 5, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    Great post. Really brilliant stuff. I’m sorry you have to keep saying the same things over and over again. I’m sorry we all have to keep saying the same things over and over again. But I’m glad people are speaking up. It’s brave to keep speaking up. Your bravery is recognised.

  5. MissGee August 5, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    Can I just say +1 to Tamara, Boganette and Deborah’s responses. Thank you, Talullah and TLG for continuing with the education and argumentation. Wish it weren’t necessary, but people like you make it more likely that one day, we won’t need columns like this. Kia kaha.

    • tallulahspankhead August 6, 2011 at 12:16 pm

      Thank you all, but I don’t feel I particularly deserve your credit. It’s very easy for me to sit and postulate and write these words, because I come at it from the privileged position of never having been sexually assaulted. So, I have no idea of the bravery it takes to write something like get this

      I do it because there are people in my life, people I love, who have been. People who have and haven’t dealt with it in various ways. They’re the ones who deserve the credit. I’m just futiley angry.

  6. TLS August 8, 2011 at 11:21 pm

    But Tallulah, rape does happen.

  7. Pingback: Facebook Link Roundup: 21-Dec-2011 « FeministActionCambridge

  8. Pingback: Facebook Link Roundup: 21-Dec-2011 « FeministActionCambridge

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