Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Blaming the Victim

I apologize in advance to my friends who are smokers, I'm not picking on you, it's just an example. You'll see.

So, back in the 60s and 70s most people smoked and if you didn't you had to put up with it. There was no sympathy whatsoever for non-smokers, and it was considered good etiquette, in a non-smoking house, to a) allow visitors to smoke in your home, and b) provide ashtrays for such a purpose.

Wherever you were, in shops, offices, restaurants, non-smokers were surrounded by a cloud of smoke, and when we got home our hair and clothes stunk of it. But nobody cared about non-smokers. If we complained we were called whiners, or worse. Get over it, they said. So we just put up with it because that's just how it was.

If you wanted to get away from the smoke you had to go outside. Be excluded and left out. Get cold or wet to avoid it. The principle beind this was that non-smokers were the minority, and if you can't stand the heat? Get out of the kitchen.

For health reasons this all changed, and today the smokers are the minority, and THEY get to stand out in the cold or wet, to be excluded and left out.

Obviously, I see this as much fairer, as they are the ones creating the smoke.

There is another issue that has also changed over time, and it is that of how women's legs are perceived. Back in Victorian times one had to cover one's ankles to be decent. Skirts gradually got a bit shorter as fashions changed, knees were uncovered, and by the middle of the 20th century we had mini skirts.

Did it cause any problems? It's impossible to compare figures of sexual assault and rape between 1880 and 1980 because most simply went unreported in 1880. But ancedotal evidence tells us it was certainly not rare in 1880. Despite legs being hidden from men they knew they were there, and they were quite able to fight through a few layers of petticoat.

The reason unwanted attention from men was not often reported in 1880 was twofold, the women were simply not believed, and/or they were assumed to have been fully responsible for what happened to them. It took a long time for this situation to change, and today we know better.


We still hear constant reports of women being held responsible for how men behave towards them. Why?

The logical solution here would have been to remove the men doing the leering. They are the ones with the problem. But no, we are still blaming women for the behaviour of men.

Any man will tell you, his impure thoughts are not contingent on a short skirt. Whether he is 18 or 80. Boys will not be saved from this by having girls taken away. In fact their skills in impulse control will be compromised from lack of practice.

When I was young, I was out walking one summer evening with a friend and a young man from a Muslim country. The conversation began pleasantly enough, normal topics, and then he raised the issue of how daring we were to be out with someone we'd only just met, at night, and that it would never happen in his country. When we told him this was quite normal for us, and we were comfortable with it, he asked if we'd never found ourselves in compromising situations as a result? We said no. The conversation then took an unpleasant turn as he suggested western women were "easy". When we explained that wasn't the case, he cited our "daring" as actually a type of provocation. His attitude was based on what he was used to culturally, obviously, but he simply took it for granted that because we TRUSTED him, he could take advantage of that. His comments became lewd, and we told him it wasn't welcome, but he didn't get it. There came a point where we actually felt threatened, and with little more than a couple of winks and gestures, my friend and I conspired to launch a pre-emptive strike. We pushed him through a hedge and into somebody's garden, then we made ourselves scarce before he gathered himself up.

I can't blame him for his upbringing, but it had definitely affected his attitude. He believed, because he'd been taught, that women were responsible for HIS behaviour. No matter how illogical this looks to us, to those who believe it, it makes perfect sense.

All the time the men create the smoke, and everyone just shrugs and lets women stand in it, nothing will change. If you care about this situation, you have to be part of the solution or you are part of the problem.

I read recently that the message given when you tell your daughter not to wear a short skirt, is "let him rape somebody else's daughter". This is the truth. Common sense says women don't walk alone at night - yes, we get that. But all the time women are having to do ALL the work to avoid coming to harm at the hands of men, nothing is ever going to change.

I am aware I harp on about this topic, but I feel I must. Because I'm still hearing the view that it's women's fault for not dressing "modestly". It isn't. If you still believe that, please read this:

And if you are too lazy to read that (don't care) here's the soundbyte:

"But what [our research showed] was something completely different from the stereotypes -- sexual harassment occurring in crowded areas, even if the women were covered from head to toe."


  1. I commented but it may not have gone through so reiterating. We have a situation developing in our family because a member who demonstrated to his son that it is not only normal, but a sign of manliness to hit, despise, and otherwise abuse his sisters will shortly be expelled by decree absolute.

    Now if a piece of paper could do the work of a stout wall, all would be well.

    1. UGH. I'm so sorry you have that going on in your family.

  2. Trying a response again....

    Power and control rears its ugly head. I heartily agree, it does not matter what outer clothing are worn...could be covered, could be naked. The idea that 'anyone' has the right/power/authority to 'own' another is the bottom line. There's a big difference between a mutual agreement and taking over/abusing another.

    As much as it may be a cultural thing, or even something attributed to gender or testosterone, we cannot limit our own thinking--the possibility of this kind of 'danger' is everywhere and anywhere. One would think themselves safe within the confines of their own home, but that may not even be the case (as Kitty shows).

    The purpose of such people is to show us how "not" to be. It is up to each of us to have a sense of strength to counteract the extreme will of ownership and abuse that has a tendency to catch fire and run rampant. We are each firefighters in this way, I yes, providing the ashtrays may not be the best solution. ;) ~ Blessings! <3

    1. And....although I didn't mention it this time we have a duty to raise our sons and grandsons to be good men, Because for every man who simply doesn't get it, there's a mother I hold at least partially responsible.