Tag Archives: Rape

Why clothes don’t equal rape: a reply to Maureen Messent

Someone was kind enough to comment on a previous post saying that I write in a calm and coherent way about feminism, “a topic that gets people a bit defensive”. I do try to avoid angry writing, because I’m keen to banish the stereotype that feminists are a bunch of ranting, frothing-at-the mouth manhaters.

However. As a feminist (never mind that, as a human), I sometimes encounter viewpoints so jaw-droppingly awful they provoke a visceral response in me. My two sure-fire routes to rage are 1) when people blame victims of sexual assault for their clothes/drinking alcohol and 2) when women bare their snarky claws and undermine other women. As I checked the news on my phone this morning, I had a delightful taste of both: a steaming pile of victim blaming, served up a deluded female journalist, Maureen Messent.

This article is truly the most hateful pile of crap I’ve seen this week, and that includes Nick Griffin’s Twitter feed. The contemptible human who wrote it manages, in only about 300 words, to undermine both men and women – all of humanity, in fact. In her twisted view of the world, women need to dress conservatively and not drink – otherwise, men (i.e. half of humanity) will predatorily pursue and sexually assault them.

I apparently have a much higher opinion of men in general than this woman, since I believe the vast majority of men out there are civilised human beings, capable of speaking to a woman in a tight dress without raping and pillaging her. The idea that women have to dress defensively, sartorially fending off an attack, is so breathtakingly insulting to men. It implies that instead of being rational people with their own thoughts and opinions, they are drooling gorillas, panting after then physically attacking the first woman who walks past in a short skirt.

A male student friend of mine was robbed of his phone walking back from the student union recently. He was alone, late at night, had a few drinks. Oddly enough, when he reported this crime no-one said to him “alone late at night, were you? Bit drunk? Well if you were drinking, that diminishes the responsibility of the man who robbed you. You should have taken better care of yourself”. The same logic applies to all victims of crime. Robbers, rapists, criminals of all kinds are on the look-out for an opportunity. So if a rapist is combing a bar looking for someone vulnerable, that means he’s a predator. It does not mean the victim (or intended victim) deserves to be raped.

Last summer, I was out for dinner and drinks with a friend when a man came up behind me in a bar and grabbed me by the vagina. I was wearing black jeans and a blouse, a bit see-through. I bought this blouse because it was similar to the one Lana del Rey wears on the front cover of her album Born to Die, and I thought it looked nice. My buying and wearing this blouse does not diminish the crime of the man who grabbed me. Maureen Messent would like to suggest, to me and other victims of more serious sexual assault, that this is my fault. Sorry Maureen, but I have this radical view whereby I think people who commit rapes are rapists, and the people who are raped are victims. Also, way to go, Maureen, for validating the small amount of men who commit these crimes. Because as long as idiots like you continue to publically blame victims of sexual assault, these predators are self-justified in their attacks.

“Of course there are sadistic men who leap from nowhere on sober and soberly-dressed virgins returning from evensong, but the majority – the vast majority – of women know their assailants.” – Maureen Messent

Feminism: the conversational turd

Have you ever dropped into conversation the fact that you’re a feminist? I have, and some people continue to react like you’ve dropped your trousers, squatted, and taken a crap in front of them. You get a raised eyebrow accompanied by embarrassment, as if you’ve said something indecent.

The crazy thing is, if you broached the conversation in a different way, and didn’t mention the dirty F-word, most rational adult people would probably agree with you. They would think it’s pretty reasonable that women want to be paid the same as men, that trafficking women to use as sex slaves might be a Bad Thing, and maybe a bit unpleasant for the girls involved. Genital mutilation? That’s maybe not a lot fun either, and since they’re your bits, maybe you should have a say in what happens to them.

Stop complaining!
Some colleagues of mine made the point recently that as a working woman in the UK, I don’t have a lot to complain about. I do know what they mean. The UK ranked 18 out of 135 countries in the 2012 Gender Gap Index. I had a free education, and unlike Malala Yousafzai in Pakistan, no-one tried to shoot me when I went to school in the mornings. I live in a developed society where there aren’t rape-mobiles masquerading as legitimate forms of transport. I live in a country governed by laws that mean I could prosecute and seek redress if I were raped or sexually assaulted. I know all of that, and I’m genuinely thankful. But that doesn’t mean that feminism doesn’t have a place here.

Take gender inequality, and the following ire-inspiring research I discovered. A researcher at Yale University submitted 2 identical CVs for roles in science; the same qualifications, the same experience. One was male and the other female, and on average, the female was offered a lower starting salary – by $4000. Based on gender and NO other factors. Wouldn’t it be nice if people were paid based on their actual qualifications and experience, rather than their possession (or otherwise) of a penis?

Yes, I know that’s in America. But in the UK, that’s not a problem, right? Wrong. You don’t need to go all the way to the States to experience gender inequality – just toddle on down to your nearest Boots, where the science toys are stored under ‘boys’ and all the fluffy pink shit is left for the girls. You want a chemistry set? Sorry love, you look more a tea set kind of girl. Not for you.

Boots display of toys 'for boys' and 'for girls'

Then there’s sex. A fellow blogger spoke very eloquently how society views men who have lots of sexual experiences as players, while women are sluts. And there was the charming piece online (that I can’t now find) about how ‘nice girls are rarer than unicorns’. The gist was that we’re all to stay at home guarding our virginity, while the male writer has the freedom of unlimited sexual experiences. He’s joking, right? I’d love to think so, but sadly I think not.

Love sex, hate sexism

That brings me to the intimidating and sinister side of sex, and how women are treated in the UK. Passing over the incident where I was grabbed by the crotch in a club a few months back, last week I read that barrister Barbara Hewson proposed the age of consent be lowered to 13. I totally disagreed with her, as did many others. But here’s the creepy bit – people were tweeting this woman and threatening to rape her.

Let’s be clear, her suggestion was controversial and unpopular. But if a man had made it, would he have been subjected to that?

She’s not alone here – Rebecca Meredith, one of the Cambridge University students who objected to sexist comments made during a debate, received her own set of rape threats. Specifically, whether or not it would be preferable to rape her using a knife, or keep her as a sex slave. Because she and her fellow debater disagreed with some men. Call me crazy, but I don’t think that’s OK. And it’s just one reason why we still need feminism.