Yes – following up on yesterday’s ranty post, I’m ranting again today. Today, let’s talk (again) about victim-blaming.
I recently read a story about a woman who was fired because she had an abusive husband. She worked in a school (religion-based, of course), and her abusive husband showed up one day in the school’s parking lot. So the school fired her and kicked out her kids. Super Christian reaction, right?
Even better, I read another story about a 13 year old girl who was raped and got pregnant. (I know, right? I’m not sure why she didn’t use her magical rape-pregnancy-fighting vagina powers, either!) Anyway, she chose to keep the baby, which you would think would please the small-minded idiots, but nooooo…once again, America proves itself to be as awful as the rest of the world thinks we are, as people in her community have been harassing her, calling her a slut and a whore. Vandalizing her home. Basically making her life a living hell and turning her into a recluse, because she can’t take the abuse every time she leaves the house.
Is it any wonder that so many domestic violence incidents and rapes go unreported? I only know a teeny-tiny bit of what that girl is feeling. When a classmate tried to rape me back in high school, it was stopped because some “friends” walked in. I use those quotation marks around friends, because when they walked in and saw me struggling, him on top of me, pinning me down, and saying “You want it, you want it,” their reaction was to exclaim, “Gina!” as if I were somehow responsible for what was happening. And I was young and stupid enough to allow myself to believe it. That somehow, I was responsible. But I know now that my only crime was being a girl. That was nearly 30 years ago, and we are still blaming the victim.
And I’ve spent nearly 30 years wishing that someone had told me I was wrong – that it was his fault and not mine. I realized it soon enough on my own, but not before I spent way too long thinking I ruined the prom picnic for my date and my friends (since I got good and drunk to self-medicate and forget after that happened). Luckily, I realized it before he tried it again a couple years later. And again to a friend a few years after that. Each time, the violence escalated from the time before, but luckily, I (and my friend) were strong enough to fight off his attempt (emotionally, of course, but also – given his early onset of pathetic alcoholism – physically). Still, I wonder now how many victims he has left in his wake.
The most troubling thins about all this victim-blaming is that it is deeply rooted in sexism and misogyny. For thousands of years (and in some countries, still today), a woman who has been raped or assaulted was herself punished, rather than her rapist. She could be beaten, forced to marry her attacker, or even killed. And it was perfectly acceptable.
And while in this country, we love to show our moral superiority over stories of things like the so-called “honor killings” in the other countries, our outrage over women and girls who are beaten or mistreated because they dare to be raped, or even possess any sort of sexuality, we aren’t doing much better. We need to get off our high horses and take a good look around. Because, no – we don’t literally stone a rape victim. But what is harassing and threatening her, calling her a slut, spray-painting “whore” on her house, then a figurative stoning? We put her photo all over the internet. We talk at length about what she was wearing. We sympathize with the rapists and their “ruined lives.” The wounds may not be physical, but an emotional beating hurts no less. No – we don’t kill literally a woman or girl who has been raped. But when she takes her own life after experiencing this treatment, her blood is on our hands. We are guilty of causing her death.
We’re surrounded by sexism. Some of it minor – seemingly harmless. But those little “harmless” instances lead to bigger ones. In my last post, I talked about “gateways” and “drawing the line.” Well, this issue is where we need to worry about those.
Because if it’s OK to have “girl” books and toys that are all about being pretty and nice, while “boy” books and toys are geared towards being smart and brave, then pretty soon we’ll have people asking if we’re OK with women being primary breadwinners. When we attack women for being single mothers, while ignoring the men who have left them that way, then pretty soon, we’ll have a bunch of idiots talking about “welfare queens” and forced sterilization. All of these “little things” lead to politicians who use terms like “forcible rape” or “legitimate rape,” who believe that the 32,000 women who get pregnant through rape each year just didn’t know how to turn on their magical vaginas, who believe that pregnancy rape is a gift from God. These “little things” lead to laws which allow rapists to sue for custody of those children. These “little things” lead to lawmakers who refuse to pass laws protecting women from their batterers simply because they don’t believe that all women deserve that protection. That the color of someone’s skin or their sexual orientation somehow renders them less of a victim. These “little things” lead to women being paid far less than their male counterparts for the same work.
So pay attention to these so-called “little things.” Start thinking about them and you’ll see more and more everywhere you look. I was hanging out with my 94-year old grandma the other day and she was watching Family Feud. In the course of one hour, I heard the following questions,
“How tall is too tall for a woman?”
“How many times a day do women look in the mirror?”
“At what age do women give up on finding Mr. Right and settle for Mr. OK?”
I’m still not OK with it.