CW: Discussion of rape and sexual assault
So, victim-blaming – identifying it, calling it out, questioning it, figuring out why people do it – has been a big part of my conversations with people about women’s rights and peoples’ rights in general. Victim-blaming is an unfortunate part of a lot of experiences in marginalized populations, but today, kids, we’re talking about one of the most common forms of victim-blaming: the misogynist kind that follows sexual harrasment or assault.
We’ve all seen it, even if we don’t realize it. Once you know what victim-blaming is and what forms it takes, you see it everywhere. When a woman is sexually assaulted, and the first questions regard what clothes she was wearing, whether she was drunk, if she was alone, if she was sexually promiscuous or had ever committed a crime before or if she had a job that could be described as “sex work.”
But why? I understand, to some extent, why men do it, especially men accused of making unwanted sexual advances or committing assault. They are trying to at least partially alleviate some of the blame, so that they emerge with the least possible damage in terms of legal penalties, public opinion, future career prospects, etc. It’s horrible, and I don’t agree with it, but I understand the concept.
What’s a bit more elusive is why women victim-blame each other. I think we all do it, at least sometimes, or we’ve done it in the past, for no other reason than that we are socialized to think that way, but some women never outgrew this mode of thinking. Why is that? I have a theory that it makes us feel safer. As a woman in this patriarchal, violent world, it can be very scary. How many times have we had to hold our phones in our hands to feel safe, or fashion makeshift weapons out of our keys, or fear drinking a cocktail unattended, if only for a moment? To some extent, I think women who victim-blame other women do so because it makes them feel less likely to be attacked; they do it to create distance between them and the gruesome acts they read about in the news or hear about from their friends. They think, maybe, if I don’t dress that way or drink that much, if I’m always out with a group of girlfriends and restrict my sexual partners to committed relationships, if I look down upon exotic dancers, porn stars, and phone sex operators with disdain – I will be safe. I’m not like them. I’m a respectable woman. That won’t happen to me.
That’s just my theory and if it’s correct, honestly it sucks, but I get it. We all want to feel safe, and sometimes we tell ourselves whatever we have to do to get that feeling. I feel you, kittens, so let me give you a challenge for today or this week or month (whenever you find the energy and time and motivation) to reevaluate the premise of your own beliefs on this topic, no matter where your opinions lie. If you see fault in the actions of sexual-assault survivors, I encourage you to rethink that – ask yourself why you think that way, and try to imagine how someone else might see the situation if they had different experiences than you have. If you are more in line with my way of thinking and look down upon fellow women who victim-blame, I ask that you try to think of them with a bit of compassion in your heart. You don’t have to agree with what they say, but try to see their reaction as valid.
Ugh, Buddhism has ruined me for #NCN. What am I gonna doooooo.