Saturday, November 26, 2005

i'm not thankful for patriarchy

so, i'm honestly not a big fan of turkey at thanksgiving, but the turkey sandwiches the next day are totally my favorite. i also love me some stuffing and mashed potatoes and rolls...mmm. thanksgiving was good, but nothing too notable to tell any of you about.

In my last comments, Kevin posted this article, which is about this report that was issued by Amnesty International about people's opinions of who is to blame for rape in the UK. I don't know how the percentages translate in terms of the US, but I'll assume they're at least the same (and would place a bet that they're actually much higher here).

For those of you who don't want to click through, a study was published by Amnesty that reported 1/3 (34%) of people in the UK think that women who flirt are partially responsible for their own rape. They also studied opinions about being drunk, if she said the word "no", if she was wearing "revealing" clothing, etc.

Not only do the results show a huge problem with the "blame culture" that exists surrounding rape, but I believe it proves a huge discrepancy between what rape really is and what it is perceived to be, as well as showing how The Patriarchy has caused people to devalue women's bodies, rob women of agency over their bodies, etc.

Firstly, I will link here. This is a page from the National Center of Victims of Crimes, which uses US justice department statistics to show the "true face" of rape. This page reminds us that 77% of REPORTED rapes are committed by non-strangers, or aqaintances, meaning that the person being raped, 3 times out of 4, knows the person who is assaulting them. It is important to note that these are statistics only from reported sexual assaults and that many women are raped constantly by their husbands/boyfriends and too afraid to report it due to threat of violence/death. As such, this % of aquaintence rape may actually be higher. I do not mean to make this only about women as abuse occurs within queer relationships and to men. However, since the study focused on attitudes towards women and rape, it makes sense to speak about it in that context.

So, if we accept the Amnesty statistics as true, and the US Department of Justice stats as true, we can already see the huge disconnect between what sexual assault really is, and what people percieve it to be. Apparently, rapists jump out of bushes next to bars if you are a woman wearing a low cut shirt. And while this sort "jumping out of the bushes" rape does occur, it probably more has to do with someone being in the wrong place at the wrong time rather than what they were wearing or if they were drunk. You see, if a rapist is waiting in the shadows, they would likely not have time to evaluate your drunkeness our your outfit.

However, it's more than likely that a male who sexually assaults a woman will have a relationship of some sort with her. So, when people blame women for their rapes because of actions leading up to the assualt, people are really blaming them for not being guarded with their sexuality AT EVERY MOMENT, for not wearing a turtleneck and long pants ALL THE TIME, and for choosing to be social, for being flirty, for trying to date, trying to make friends, and daring to drink alcohol unsupervised every once in a while.

It seems that the victim blaming effort is really an effort to shame women into giving up agency over themselves absent of a man, much like victorian days when you were property of your father and then your husband once you got married (of course, the fact fathers and husbands commit sexual assault would have no bearing on this in order for us to create the perfect "olden days" strawman).

People claim all the time that women have acheived equal rights (which is such a second wave white feminist argument), but really, women do not have the same agency as men in society (even if they did get treated the same and get equal pay, which doesn't happen either), which means that women inherently have second class status. I mean, the fact many female-identified people fear walking to their cars when its dark is a simple example of the limits on agency. This argument can also apply in different ways to other groups of people, but I won't get into that right now because this post would be even longer.

The article Kevin links to talks about what is socially acceptable, and what isn't, in society as it visualizes rape. The article uses the analogy of someone who has been robbed to show how values in society differ based on the crime. I think this is a mostly appropriate analogy because, if one is pro-choice, they likely hold the tenant that women's bodies are the property of the woman who has the body (and, dare i say, the belief that all people have a right to their own bodies, but i digress). Even as I write that, I am shocked that there are still people who would deny that a person has control over their body, especially the jerk who has been nominated to the supreme court, but whatever.

If you blame a vicitm of sexual assault, you are essentially claiming that because of some action, a woman has given up a right to her body. The example used in the article is that because a person gave money to a charity, they were asking for someone to take their money on the street (not acknowledging that it would be more likely someone close to them steal their money). The actions for which a woman can be blamed for her sexual assault vary, but essentially, they are actions in which a woman has chosen to act as her own person and not as someone who must constantly submit to modesty and submission to societies view of the "virginal" woman. In other words, many consider rape a punishment for uppity women who didn't know their place in society, and you can trace that all the way back to Eve in the garden of Eden, and now you know why crazy fundamentalists blame victims of rape. The fundies are not arguing that the consentual terms of sexual intimacy between two people were blurred, but that women need to be punished for being out of place.

I know that was a far jump in reasoning, but really, if rape generally occurs between two people who know each other, then there must be some other underlying societal reason that it is acceptable for men to forcibly take women's bodies or "property". The uppity woman blaming also plays so nicely into anti-feminist rhetoric about "traditional roles" of women. Obviously, if busted white racist feminists hadn't asked for equal pay in professions that they had access to because of their wealth, then rape wouldn't occur. The fact women dare to have some agency in our society is going to be its downfall, damnit.

As a side note, I would like to state that the survey by Amnesty was often ambiguous. What does "many sexual partners" mean? What does "intoxicated" mean? What does "flirting" mean? What is "revealing clothing"? None of these are absolutes where there is a line one can cross. IN fact, some would consider a woman having sex with someone out of marriage as being a reason she opened herself for rape (even if it was only one person), etc., etc.

Also, these sorts of things inherently take the blame off of the person doing the raping. Even my arguments against blaming the victim play into some larger structure of patriarchy that gives men the idea it's OK to rape women. However, if men stopped sexually assaulting others (whether that be other men, women or children) then occurences of sexual assault would be dramatically reduced. So, men not accepting the idea of sexual assault as OK for themselves, as well as men they are close to is a hella easy way to stop rape.

So, I'm just gonna say "fuck you" to that shit, and tell male-identified people to check rape culture within male circles (and also lots of other behaviors that impact other communities).


At 3:44 PM, Blogger Jared Seehafer said...

Laura, what the hell does "male-identified" and "female-identified" mean? Male and female aren't things you choose to be, anymore than gay and straight are things you choose to be. Using terms like "male-identified" lends credence to the nutcases who think that you can change someone's gender identity and/or sexual orientation.

At 8:14 PM, Blogger Pinky said...

not to get too far into an explanation, but being male and female identified is a way to acknowledge the fluidity of gender and also people who are transgender, transexual or gender queer.

if you want more of an explanation of what that means, feel free to ask.

also, if one believes gender is a social construct (not sex, but GENDER) then it actually works against the crazy fuckers who think you can change who you are. it allows for a spectrum of gender and sexuality that is sometimes related and sometimes not...

At 2:46 PM, Blogger Jared Seehafer said...

In cases of transgender individuals, then there is a contradiction between the neurological state and the physical state of the individual. They don't choose to be transgender, they *are*. So it's not an "identification" thing, which implies they have some choice in the matter.

And I don't buy your point that gender as a social construct works against the arch-conservatives. If gender is a social construct, it is *learned* and not a physical state, and therefore can be *unlearned*. That is the premise underlying the "Scared Straight" and other such programs. If you accept that gender is a biological state, that people have no choice in (no matter what that state is: heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, transexual, etc), then you make discriminating against it as foolish as discriminating against black people or short people or any other unchangeable biological condition.


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