Not everybody around the world knows why we still need intersectional feminism. But discrimination against women is unfortunately very present in modern day. And it consists of many different elements. Today I want to discuss one of them. One that can be subtle, because it’s a form of discrimination that is in line with most people’s gut feeling. I’m talking about victim blaming. Something I think many people do.
To begin with, what is victim blaming? Well, the name says it all. It means that after an incident, this can be a criminal offense, but also things which are not punishable, happens to a victim, we blame the victim for it. Victim blaming happens in many contexts. Two more general examples are bullying and phishing. In the case of bullying people might say: ‘She deserves to get bullied, she looks very funny’. And when someone is the victim of phishing we say they shouldn’t have been so dumb to open a suspicious e-mail.
But today I’d like to discuss victim blaming in the context of feminism. We usually see victim blaming after a sexual offense or domestic violence. And when we blame the victim, we create a rape culture. I wish I could say I never heard anybody say: ‘No wonder she got assaulted, look what she was wearing’ or ‘Why would she stay with her partner after all she’s been through?’. But there is never a situation in which a person asked to be (sexually) assaulted. Not if they dress scarcely, not if they dance a certain way, not if they go home with someone. No is no, whenever. Victim blaming creates a culture of shame and victims of sexual offenses usually feel a lot of shame. Even though there’s nothing to be ahame about. It’s our culture that’s shameful.
Victim blaming is wrong in many ways. To name the first thing: it assumes that if the victim didn’t do certain things, an incident would have never happened. It assumes that if we as women adapt our way of living, sexual assault would not happen. Besides that this is factually false, it’s also discriminating. I should be able to live my life like I want to. It’s unfair that women are expected to act a certain way, just because some perpetrators can’t control themselves. It shouldn’t matter. In theory, women should be able to walk through a street fully naked and still not get offended. We should be able to do whatever we want.
But the other problem is that we look for the solution in the wrong place. It’s the perpetrators who we need to change. There’s only one way to end rape: stop raping. Prohibiting women from walking or biking alone at night won’t solve the problem (and don’t forget: it’s usually friends or family who are the offenders, not some stranger in the bushes). People who rape are the problem. Changing anything but them isn’t going to fight the root cause. People.should.not.rape.
Embedded in society
However, we do the opposite. From a young age, I’ve been prohibited from biking home alone at night. Friends always tell me to text them when I get home. My dad gave me an alarm for when I leave the house, which I can always use (the noise that comes from it is extremely loud). When I go out, I am supposed to never leave my drink unattended. Traveling alone was a big deal too. In primary school, all girls from my class were pulled aside for a self-defense class, while the boys played outside. And in my high school, girls have been told to not wear inappropriate clothing (whatever that means). And the list goes on.
The thing is: I understand some of it. I’d do the same if I were a parent. I’d give my child an alarm too, and tell them to never leave their drink unattended. The world is not safe for women (yet).
The real solution
But the point is: those precautions are not the solution. The solution is to fight the people who rape. To fight rape culture. Because it’s a sliding scale. And victim blaming is a symptom of that culture. We should never ask the victim why they didn’t scream or whether they were drunk. We should never accept the phrase ‘boys will be boys’. And we shouldn’t doubt when victims speak up (50% of charges are thought of as false, while in reality, only 2-8% of accusations are false, and that’s only the group of victims that report).
Instead, we should ask the perpetrators friends why they didn’t see this coming. We should ask men why they don’t correct their friends when they catcall. Kids should learn from a from a very young age what consent is (I personally never learned about it in school). We should ditch the double standards between genders when they have many bed partners and accept women’s sexuality. And sure as hell, we should never engage in victim blaming.