Victim Blaming in The Media and Slutwalk
So I got up this morning and opened my email to see that a friend of mine had sent me a link to an article that was published in the Calgary Herald on August 2, 2011. For clarification I do believe that the author of this article was writing in as a member of the public and not a Calgary Herald journalist (not that that excuses it). I can’t find the original article “Why I am proud to call myself a slut” that this article was written in response to so if anyone can find it please do post it for me. However, I think I can safely assume (from reading other angry letters about it) that this letter was about, and in support for, SlutWalk.
The more I read blogs, articles, and opinion pieces about SlutWalk the more I realize that people don’t actually bother to look into SlutWalk before trashing it, saying things like “SlutWalk just encourages women to dress a certain way and accomplishes nothing”. First, SlutWalk does not encourage women to dress in anyway, it encourages women to dress however they feel like it. Second, Slutwalk has obviously accomplished starting a massive conversation globally which means it’s obviously not useless. And third, possibly my biggest pet peeve, taking back the word ‘slut’ is a very small part of SlutWalk and varies from walk to walk. It is not the aim of every walk and it is certainly not the point of SlutWalk. The point of SlutWalk is to talk about blaming the victim. Period.
Let me say that as a victim of sexual assault I support all avenues of bringing this issue front and center. SlutWalk has done something amazing by making victim blaming a conversation globally. It has been able to spark the conversation with people who support SlutWalk and with those who do not support it. Any organization that can accomplish this is not all bad in my books.
While I am on the topic another thing I am tired of is other sexual assault victims speaking for me about how I should or should not feel about SlutWalk. Let me tell you that every single victim of sexual assault has a different way of coping with what happened to them and what sort of advocacy against sexual assault they are comfortable with. We all have different types of triggers and we certainly aren’t all going to support every single walk or organization.
For example, for myself, as a victim of sexual assault, I am not comfortable with Take Back the Night. I personally feel as though it perpetuates the myth of the rapist hiding in the bush waiting for me. Every time I hear the name I think “Take Back the Night from What?” In the past I have also been critical about the limited participation they allow of men. For three reasons, first because men can be victims of sexual assault as well, second because without men we won’t win the fight against sexual assault. And third because it perpetuates the dangerous myth that women should be scared to walk alone at night out of fear a man is hiding in the bush. The fact is that in 85% (ish) of sexual assaults the perpetrator is someone the victim knows.
The following quote is taken from their website and I am very uncomfortable with it as it perpetuates my third problem with TBTN:
A woman walks alone down a dark, deserted street. With every shadow she sees, and every sound she hears, her pounding heart flutters and skips a beat. She hurries her pace as she sees her destination become closer. She is almost there. She reaches the front door, goes inside, collects herself, and moves on forgetting, at least for tonight, the gripping fear that momentarily enveloped her life.
The quote itself worries me as I wonder if any women see this and think they are in a significant amount of danger at night and then avoids taking a late night shift that pays better because they are fearful of someone lurking in the dark?
I am however wandering off topic a bit this article isn’t meant to bash TBTN I am aware that Take Back the Night is meant to be a solidarity walk for women, and victims of sexual assault to get a message out to men that it is not OK to assault us. And the fact is that there are still 15% of assaults that happen to women in which the victim does not know the assailant and could have very well happened in a dark ally (something similar happened to me). My point is that I don’t down play it’s worth and I certainly do not attack other sexual assault victims for their participation in TBTN because it supports surviours and more importantly TBTN fights to end sexual assault .
Among other things TBTN also has a great website with resources on it for victims of sexual assault in the United States. All organizations have their issues, nothing is ever going to be perfect because everyone has different needs. So stop telling me what I need, and what I support. I don’t tell you these things.
This brings me to the problem at hand. The victim blaming garbage that was published on the Calgary Hearld website. The author of this article states that SlutWalk will never further the cause because “The disregard for basic male sexuality that this thinking demonstrates is dangerous.” What? I am not sure I understand. Luckily for us the author goes on to explain: “healthy men are biochemically driven by their mating instincts and can be aroused by various visual and behavioural cues.” What?
I am a women, and I am frankly pissed right off for all good men right now. I can’t believe men in Calgary are not up in arms about this garbage. Men are not robots driven by their sexuality. Most men I have met in my life are good people that would never think this way and they certainly don’t have this mentality of:
” Women who dress provocatively, ‘sluttly’, and then claim thee should never be any negative consequences for their behaivour are blissfully, yet frighteningly, ignorant of male human nature. Actions have consequences. those who disregard boundaries of decency and respect do so at their own peril. Wise women understand and respect men.”
Let me tell you most men don’t think this way. It reminds me of when I was 18 years old and staying the night at my Boyfriends house. I had way too much to drink and was clearly drunk. I practically jumped my boyfriend wanting to have sex and frankly wasn’t wearing very much. Without hesitation he gently pushed me aside and said “Nic, I am not going to have sex with you while you are drunk it’s not right.” This was an 18 year old teenager, with the sex drive of a teenager. I say teenager and not man because believe it or not teen girls have crazy sex drives as well. It’s a myth that women don’t like sex as much as men. Anyway somehow he managed to control himself and not be driven by his “animal instinct”. In the moment I was a bit mystified and simply went to bed. However, when I woke up the next morning and reflected back on that moment I knew that this person was someone I shouldn’t let go. As an FYI, we just celebrated 10 years together. I can tell you that this man is nothing like the ‘men’ this author describes and frankly if men are like this they should all be locked up for being a danger to society. Lucky for us all men are not like this, and this article serves only the purpose of victim blaming and justification for sexual assault.
As if victims of sexual assaults don’t have enough shit to deal with. While, I don’t believe in censorship I do believe that media needs to take responsibility for the things they publish and this article was absolute garbage that served no other purpose then to justify blaming the victim. I am sickened.